AlleyCats Introduce New Coaching Staff
Brendan Ringwood @Ringwood321
As the AUDL off-season glides right along, most franchises are hard at work behind the scenes
in an effort to improve the onfield products that fans desire each week. For the AlleyCats, one of
the biggest areas of need was to implement a new coaching staff after the departure of previous
head coach Eric Leonard. Tim Held, President of the Indianapolis AlleyCats, has been working
to find the right people to build on the success that has already been enjoyed by the program
over the last couple years, and now the point has come to bring forward those new leaders.
Head Coach: Will Drumright
Coaches: Jake Phillips and Nathan Bussberg
New Head Coach Will Drumright takes over at the helm of an AlleyCats franchise that has made
the playoffs two straight years, including a trip to Championship weekend most recently. When
a franchise looks to bring in a new leader, it is usually in an effort to turn around what has not
been working, but Drumright is stepping into a very enviable position as the new skipper in Indy.
“It is a huge honor to get this opportunity and get to give back to the organization that first took a
chance on me in 2014” Drumright says, referring to his roster spot on the AlleyCats as a player
at the time. Drumright also has no shortage of coaching experience having been a coach of the
Fishers High School ultimate program, a team that dethroned the perennial Center Grove
program as state champions in 2019. He was responsible for building that program from the
start, agreeing to be the Head Coach in the first year of the program in 2014 and helping to
grow it from scratch. Along with coaching Ultimate teams, Will has been coaching and
mentoring athletes since 2011 and most recently with INFocus Sports Training where he is the
Director of Sports Psychology. Drumright has a Masters degree in Sports Psychology and his
coaching style involves a long term look at the mental side of the sport as well as the physical.
The AlleyCats will be taking a unique approach to the coaching staff this year, bringing in three
coaches in total to form a brain trust of sorts. The practice and planning will be a colaborative
effort amongst the group, but Drumright will be responsible for making the final decisions. The
coaches that will be helping alongside Will this season are Jake Phillips and Nathan Bussberg.
Phillips has experience playing in the Indiana Ultimate community as well as coaching many of
the players. Phillips has spent time on the top level teams in Indy, including the AlleyCats and
the club team Brickyard, but has refocused his interest in the sport to coaching. As a coach of
the Center Grove high school program, the Trojans have been the top team in the state for
years, winning the Indiana State HS State Championship all six years and being named the
Indiana Ultimate Foundation’s Coach of the Year three times. His time on the sideline also
included a few years opposing his new coaching partner Drumright, who despite being rivals in
the high school scene, is “Beyond excited to have [him] on the same sideline”. Over the six
years with Center Grove, Phillips was also able to elevate the program to the top spot on
Ultiworld’s rankings. Phillips will be fairly familiar with the AlleyCats roster as well, having
coached a half dozen of the players from the 2019 roster during his time at Center Grove,
including both Henderson brothers and Levi Jacobs.
Nathan Bussberg will be transitioning from player to coach during the 2020 season. Bussberg
spent the last two years on the AlleyCats roster, and is familiar with the culture already
surrounding the team. This insight will undoubtedly be helpful to Coach Drumright as he
navigates the already cohesive bond that has developed amongst the team. Bussberg took up
an interest in coaching early on and has been a part of different levels including college
athletics. Nathan’s impressive coaching record shows that he already has the experience to
help lead a team in winning ways and will only continue to add to gain knowledge and
experience as a part of the Cats staff.
The new coaching staff has been hard at work already this offseason, planning and learning
from each other since October in an effort to stem the learning curve associated with integrating
a new scheme. The 2020 season is already underway for this team and it is shaping up to be
another exciting time to be a Cats fan.
Eric Leonard Steps Down From Cats' Helm
Brendan Ringwood @Ringwood321
About a month after the New York Empire were crowned the 2019 AUDL champions and the
season was fading into the record books, the Indianapolis AlleyCats franchise had one last item
that needed to be dealt with. It was announced by the organization that Eric Leonard would be
stepping down from his role as head coach of the team, as he focuses on his career and family.
Knowing that he would be unable to commit the time and energy that he understands is
paramount to that role, he felt that the team deserved someone who could.
Prior to being named as the next head coach of Indianapolis’ franchise, Eric Leonard was an
assistant coach for the team from 2014 - 2015. He got his start playing ultimate in 2002 at
Purdue were he played for four years. Leonard fell in love with the sport so much, that even
when he tore his ACL in 2009 and was unable to keep playing club with all of the teams that he
had been a part of, he could not just leave the sport all together. Eric decided to take his
passion for the sport off the field and onto the sideline, where he began coaching instead.
Before joining the ranks of the AUDL, he cut his teeth while coaching men’s and women’s teams
both at the college and the club level.
Eric Leonard took over the helm of the Indianapolis AlleyCats before the 2017 season, inheriting
a team that had gone 8-6 in the previous season and missed the postseason for the first time.
At that time the AlleyCats still had a lot of the talent that it boasts today, including current goal
leaders Cameron Brock and Keenan Plew, MVP Candidate Travis Carpenter, and All-Star Rick
Gross, but were underwhelming in the season long results. Leonard got to work instilling his
coaching style and play into the franchise and was able to work with the talent on the roster and
refocused it, setting goals for the team and the players. The first year under the new coaching
staff the team struggled to get any consistency, ending the season at 5-9 but with a positive
goal differential (+7). It was a trying year for everyone, but all the signs were there that this team
had the talent and the potential to compete with any other team in the league.
After a full season of the team learning together, the start of the 2018 season saw a roster with
much renewed energy and excitement surrounding it. Coach Leonard worked tirelessly to turn
the franchise around, and it paid off. The season would see the team return back to one of the
toughest teams in the Midwest enroute to an 11-3 regular season record, the best mark for Indy
to date, and a wildcard berth. The team then went on to beat the Minnesota Windchill in the
playoffs before losing to the eventual season champion Madison Radicals. The turnaround was
incredible and exciting after a few down years.
Leonard than had the challenge of backing up his success as the 2019 season rolled around
with much of the league still doubting the success. The Midwest division was sporting the
defending champions as well as some extremely talented rosters in Chicago and Minnesota.
But the culture that he had created surrounding the AlleyCats was one that every player bought
in to, a “team first” mentality that allowed everyone to contribute at all times. Although the
AlleyCats would start the season with a loss to the Radicals, Leonard would rally the team to
accomplish something they had been unable to do before 2019, go on the road and beat
Madison on its home turf. It was a huge three point win that propelled the team with confidence
on the way to the first division title since the 2012 inaugural season. After making it to
championship weekend, the team would unfortunately get cut down by the eventual champions
again, this time the New York Empire as they rolled to an undefeated season.
One of the most notable changes that Leonard was able to make was not with the already star
filled offense, but rather on the defensive side of the disc. In 2018 and 2019 seasons with
Leonard leading the way, the AlleyCats posted the third best numbers each year in points
allowed per game, allowing only 19.9 and 19.29 points. Two of the biggest factors leading to
that included great defensive schemes that allowed the team to switch off marks with easy, but
also an incredibly patient offense that consistently grinded the clock with excellent swing
passes. In a division that is known to be slightly more physical than the rest of the league, this
approach often led to low scoring close games, and the talent of the Indy offense figured out
ways to also defend a lead and strike at the right moments.
Coach Leonard finishes with a 24-16 regular season record and 2-2 in postseason games,
however that might not be his final AULD record. When asked if he would ever consider a return
to coaching, Leonard did not shut the door on the idea. “Yeah, absolutely. I think if the
circumstances are better I can see a return to the sidelines. It's frankly pretty hard to turn this
part of my brain off right now.”
The departure of a head coach is never easy for an organization, especially one that is also in
the midst of such success, and the AlleyCats will be very diligent in the search for a
replacement. Hopefully, even with Leonard gone, the team retains much of the lessons and
culture that were put in place as they look to continue the journey to a championship season. In
the words of Eric Leonard, “It was run, good lads”