Toronto-based Elites Ultimate is an exceptional organization led by some of the best coaches in Canada. In fact, both of its founders, Carla DiFilippo and Evan Phillips, have been named Ultimate Canada's Coaches of the Year for their work with juniors teams competing at WFDF World Championship events.
VC Ultimate CEO Adriana Withers sat down to chat with Evan at VC's Toronto HQ recently, where he's also part of VC's sales and youth community engagement team.
Adriana Withers: Thanks for the bite of breakfast sammie. Let’s start at the top – what is Elites?
Evan Phillips: Elites is a competitive juniors ultimate club. We organize competitive touring teams that travel to play in Ontario, Canada and, hopefully this year, to the United States.
Players are aged 13 to 18 and we’ve grown from about 50 players in 2013 to 150 last year. The growth has been pretty cool. We are most proud of the growth of participation at our tryouts – there was close to 200 players at tryouts last year.
AW: What does Elites actually do?
EP: We offer an all inclusive experience for players where you sign up for the season and all of the logistics are taken care of right off the bat. It’s a simple experience for parents because very little organization is needed to be done by them. We book planes, buses, hotels, etc. – which, we feel, is a contributing factor to the popularity of the club.
One of our main goals when we started Elites was to appeal to the parents and to make ultimate like any other rep team sport. It’s legitimate, extremely well coached and well organized. It’s at times easier for parents to understand more established sports such as hockey and basketball, so the idea of making ultimate look like a more similar option was a way to make it more clear to parents when they are signing their kids up for a sport program.
AW: What about the ultimate aspect? Coaching and the like.
EP: Firstly, the kids play a tonne. They will practice once or twice a week (usually twice) combined with 4-5 weekend training sessions. Each team has two or three extremely dedicated and talented coaches. We feel extremely lucky to have the committed coaches with Elites. Two of our regular coaches have represented Canada on the world stage. They have 1 gold, 2 silver’s and 1 bronze hanging up at home. We’ve also had consistency with our coaches across the years, which means that we’ve been able to develop similar strategies and skills coached throughout the teams.
Spirit of the Game and self officiating are very high on the list of things our teams promote. Obviously we push competitiveness and winning, but you need to also make sure the kids are having fun. At the end of the day, ultimate is a sport that you can play your whole life, and play at a competitive level your whole life, so at this age, you’ve got to make it fun and focus on the SOTG aspect to make it engaging life long.
AW: Tell me about your team structure.
EP: Last year, we had 4 boys teams and 2 girls teams. Starting with the girls, the two teams were called Toro (top girls team) and Uproar (a development team, but still quite competitive). For the boys, Toro and Uproar are the top two teams. Energy is our third team and Havoc is our fourth team, which is geared towards players 15 and under. Energy evolved as our third development team mostly out of demand since there were so many players at tryouts that want to be playing competitively.
AW: So Elites is based out of Toronto. Are all of your players from the city?
EP: No, so we draw from as far as Barrie, Newmarket and the Durham region. The older kids are able to drive in to Toronto, but the bulk of players get to practices and the like on public transit.
AW: Have you had any support from local leagues or organizations?
EP: We have. Our local city league – Toronto Ultimate Club – has been essential to our success, mostly by providing access to fields. In Toronto, there are so many different organizations and sports vying for limited fields. For a new organization to come in looking for fields, it’s almost impossible since a lot of standing field contracts are auto renewed each year.
AW: How have the teams done and what are your goals for this year?
EP: The first year we formed Elites, Toro girls and boys both won Canadian Nationals – the first time a Toronto juniors team had ever won a juniors national championships. That was 2014 and since then Toro boys won again in 2015 and last year were in the finals. The girls were rebuilding in 2015 and finished with a bronze medal in 2016. Our aim to have both Toro teams compete for a medal at CUC’s with a focus on competition AND fun. We also want to prepare our players for the 2018 world championships. We’ve seen a big jump in players making the Canadian National Teams from our programs and we want to see that continue. It’s really nice for the players and coaches to see that happen. To see that commitment and hard work does pay off.
Learn more about Elites by visiting www.elitesultimate.com and register for tryouts for the chance to compete in some of the nicest sublimated ultimate jerseys on the fields... #VC