Dominick Smyth, IFDA, Interview, Ireland, Sport, Ultimate Frisbee

Dominick Smyth interview, part two

By @SimonCocking

Second part of the interview, see part one here 

work 2

What then made you want to set up Dublin Youth Ultimate?

I love the sport and have got so much out of it over the years.  I would like to see the sport grow and see more people playing and enjoying what it has to offer.  I used to get frustrated that, try as I might to encourage other players to help spread the sport, they either didn’t have the time or inclination.  It took a while but I finally opened up to the idea that instead of putting my energy into getting annoyed, I could instead put it into getting people playing.  And thus Dublin Youth Ultimate was born.

At the top level our goal is to get more people playing, enjoying and competing in the sport.  Below that we also want to raise the awareness and profile of the sports existence.  If we go to a school and work with 25 kids, we can expect about 15% of them to get involved with playing again (the others may enjoy it, but they are either playing 3 other sports or have no interest in joining a team).  Instead of ignoring the other 85%, we want them to go home and tell their family and friends that they played a new sport with a Frisbee but it wasn’t really for them.

In time, we hope this leads to Jo Bloggs leaving work on Friday with the following conversation:

Jo – “Have a good weekend everyone.  I’m off to play a competition.”

Colleague – “Oh yeah, what’s the competition”

Jo – “2nd round of the All-Ireland Ultimate League”.

Colleague – “Ultimate?  Nice.  I played that in school a few times but never really got in to it.  Best of luck.”

After years of “You play what?  Does that have a dog?”, I hope everyone can agree this new conversation will be a lot nicer.


Has it developed in any ways you didn’t expect it to?

Not necessarily ways I didn’t expect, but definitely at speeds I didn’t expect.  4 years in and the Schools Ultimate League already has Open, Girls and Mixed divisions; we run an annual event in Kilkenny for schools in south Leinster and this year we will be adding the Naas Cup, the Lucan Cup and Monaghan Mixer.  We ran a camp in January 2014 and a juniors club over the summer as well.

All of these were in the plans and part of our targets but they have all come about a lot sooner than I would have expected.  The knock on effect is that I am continually having to figure out what comes next.  What is possible and what can we make happen.  Current ideas include:  Kildare League, North Leinster Cup, outdoor events in Spring and Autumn, junior clubs in different areas around Dublin, All-Ireland Juniors, taking a juniors club team overseas – perhaps UK Junior Nationals.


Ranelagh, the highs, the less appealing bits? How you deal(t) with the challenge of explaining, yet again, to the latest tyro, keeping the force, not throwing throws they haven’t got?

Being involved with Ranelagh has been great.  A structured group where attendance at training is required; clear team goals and playing structure; high expectations of everyone’s approach, attitude and commitment to the club; membership based on attitude, not personality or friendships.  I just wish I could have gotten involved when I was 23.  Would have added a nice structure to my ultimate career.


As I’m sure anyone could tell you, I have never been hesitant about explaining things to people.  With the buy in required for Ranelagh everyone is encouraged to share knowledge, push each other harder and help make the team as a whole better by improving the abilities of the individuals.  As a result, I felt comfortable talking with team mates about skills concepts, body positioning or anything else that came up.



Your favourite players to play with / dream team

So many people have played with immense skill over the years that it would be impossible to try pick out some of them. Instead, here are some people that left an impression on me for different reasons.

Del Robinson. Albany Summer League, New York.

The only man I’ve met who can play a great game and give play-by-play commentary at the same time.

Is this Del Robins, the English guy from Leamington Spa, who grew his own frisbee golf course, used to play for STAN, and top UK disc golf player for 2 decades?

Del Robinson – no, he’s American.  I met him playing in Albany when I was working at camp.  No connection to UK ultimate.  Heavily involved in the ultimate community in Albany either as a league captain or organising a team to travel to competitions.  In the middle of a point he would be saying something like “John has the disc looking to throw but his cuts are covered.  Dump is probably best option and then a swing – Anna looks in a good position to receive that.  Yep, there it is, now she can continue it up the break side to Del and he has Rich in the end zone for the score.”  I kid you not, that was how he would play.

Miguel Pratt. Patatas Bravas, Spain

A beach ultimate legend who not only combined the urge to play well and party hard but also fully respected everyone else’s right to party in their own way.

Ru Veitl. Woodies, Germany.

Full complement of skill, athleticism, spirit and personality without ever compromising his individuality.

David ‘Bob’ Girvan, Smurfs, Dublin.

Loved the sport straight away and wanted to learn.  Shame there wasn’t an environment to keep him involved at the time.  Had the ability to take on all coaching given, implement it in the next point, decide for himself if it was beneficial or not and then incorporate the new skill as part of his game.

Who is / was this guy? Did he stop playing too?

David Girvan? He was a school kid that played around 2004.  Great kid.  There just wasn’t anything to offer school kids back then.  In the space of one indoor game he went from throwing hammers every chance he got to faking hammers to move the defender and throwing simple breaks.  He also went from chasing people around on defence to covering the open side, covering the deep and setting up his body position to attack under cuts.  Pretty impressive.

Cian O’Morain, Johnny Chimpo, Dublin.

I’ve always been impressed by his hunger to think and understand what is going on in a game.  Not everyone buys into the idea that an organised group can be far more powerful than an isolated star.

Yvonne Halpin, Throwin’ Shapes, Dublin.

Could very easily have rested on her laurels as the top female player in Ireland for a few years.  Instead, she consistently applied herself to improving, adapting and imposing herself more on games.

Brian MacDevitt – Ireland Open, Ireland

For 11 years the man bled green.  His dedication to the national team never wavered as he put his body, time and mind on the line.

Mark Earley, nearly every team, Dublin.

Everybody loves playing.  Everyone wants to go to competitions and play lots of games.  I haven’t met anyone willing to put as much time into making that possible as Mark.  The number of playing opportunities in Ireland would be a lot less but for Mark’s admin work over the years.

Simon Cocking, Pookas, Ireland.

With absolutely no reservations I say without Simon, Irish ultimate would be a shadow of it’s current self, if it even existed at all.  Each and every person playing the sport here needs to know that without the years of effort Simon put in, it is almost certain that any experience we might have of ultimate would be completely different and on a much smaller scale than we all currently enjoy.

(Hard though it will be to believe, I didn’t actually pay him to say that! As we can’t time travel yet, it’s hard to know either way).


Favourite throw / play

‘99 – ‘02 – an exciting catch, maybe a layout.

‘02 – ‘09 – all about the big throw.

‘10 – ‘14 – completions.

I’m annoyed that it took me so long to come to the realisation that completions were the best kind of passes to go for.  I got caught up trying to be the big thrower, the star player, chasing the applause and glory.  I was so busy hunting MVP prizes or vainly chasing the IFDA Player of the Year Award that I lost sight of what I should have been doing on the pitch.  I wish I had recognised that throwing completions would have made me a much better player, a better teammate and, more than likely, a better contributor to the teams I was part of.

That said, I did always love a good layout.  Block or catch, I didn’t mind.  As long as I got the disc.

Oh and I really like a well executed lead pass (of any distance).  Being able to recognise where my teammate is going, identify when they will get there and then execute the pass that will get there at the right time.  The combination of visual recognition, mental processing and physical execution I always found pretty cool.


The future for Irish ultimate ? 

The future is bright.  I wouldn’t like to predict as we are still in major flux.  Some of the things I wonder about:

  • What effect will the increased number of young players in Cork, Dublin and Limerick have on the national and international standard in 5 to 10 years?
  • What new clubs will form, in what areas of the country?
  • Will we ever get past the point of people wanting to commit to Ireland but not to a club?  Or the post international fall off?
  • How will we crack the world of adult beginners and social players?
  • How will proposed changes in All-Ireland competition structures affect participation and standard across the board?
  • What new competitions will come on the domestic calendar to capture people’s attention?  How will they fair against team’s desire to travel to competitions?
  • What direction will the association committee, local committees and the community as a whole travel in?

Any role in it for you?

I hope so, if people will have me.  As long as I’m able to contribute in some way, I would like to do it.  If I stop being productive then I hope either I would have the wisdom to step away or others will have enough respect to tell me.


Who had the biggest influence on you as a player?

You and me.

You because you got me started.  As with everything in life, the first step is the hardest.  To take me from knowing nothing about the sport to knowing that it existed and on to making basic throws was the biggest step in my ultimate career.

Me because I was the one who decided, consciously or subconsciously, to take on or ignore the information that was being provided to me.  Many people have offered coaching, shown me things and given advice over the years.  In all cases, it was up to me to take those things on board and put them into practice.  How well or bad I did at that is the deciding factor at how my career progressed.

A person can work with the greatest coach in the world but if they aren’t willing to listen and take on board what is being said, then the work is for nothing.  They may as well have gone for a walk in the park.


Any closing comments?

I’d like to clarify some of what I said about the depression I experience.

First, I don’t blame anyone for it.  I hope it didn’t sound like I was trying to point a finger at anyone saying they should have done more or different for me.  I know that everyone lives their life as best they can and does what they think is right.  I also understand that a time can come when they have to do what’s best for themselves.

If anyone is to blame, it would be me.  I made situations and relationships be, and mean, more to me than they were capable of.  I pushed beyond people’s capacity, asked more than they were willing to give and put them in situations they didn’t deserve.  To them, thank you for what you gave me and how much you helped me.  I’m sorry I wasn’t able to just let our friendships be what they should have been.

I’d also like to be clear that I make no claims over anything I have experienced being worse than what anyone else has dealt with.  Things have happened, and happen, in my life that, try as I might, I am just not able to deal with.  Other people may be able to deal with these events, but they might have their own fight.  There can be as many different struggles as there are people and no person or battle is any less or more important than any other.

I chose the dramatic step of telling my story publicly, others may choose to tell people close to them, others may tell a stranger.  Others, I am sure, believe there is no one they can tell.  If you have ever stood at the pulpit of “Please Talk”/”It’s Good to Talk” please consider that it is also good to ask.  You might have the strength to start a conversation that your friend doesn’t.


One thought on “Dominick Smyth interview, part two

  1. Pingback: 7 latest Ultimate interviews February 2015 | Sarah Paddle Swim

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