I’ve been having a lot of conversations with college players as they process the end of their season and begin regrouping for whatever comes next.  As tough as endings can be, with them come new beginnings, and those can be tough as well. It’s a bit hard to summarize all of my thoughts on this topic, especially as I struggle through endings and beginnings myself, but I thought I’d share a bit of Melee ’08 with you as your team begins the next part of its journey.

Coming out of the ’07 season, we lost our best all-around player, our best thrower, our coach who spent many years molding Melee as a team, and a group of seniors who had taken the team from being a low finisher at Nationals to a semifinalist.  I was not in a great place as I felt a lot of personal responsibility for our loss in the game-to-go, just a year after I had experienced the same thing my senior year at Cal.  To top it off, I was sad to see the seniors depart in such a disappointing way in such a chippy game.  Losing is hard; losing while watching all of the teams in your Region cheer against you is devastating.

Leading the team in the wake of this ending was difficult and required a bit of “fake it till you make it” on my part as I turned the devastation into motivation as best as I could.  The great thing about new beginnings is that the possibilities are endless.  You decide what you want your future to be.  For me, a strong sense of TEAM and a re-commitment to a better relationship with our opponents were incredibly important, and after taking a couple of weeks to process the end of our season, I set out in earnest to accomplish these things. Next season has already started and the evolution of your team is already underway.  We’re making decisions on a daily basis that are shaping the direction we’re headed.  Running, throwing, lifting, setting personal and team goals, spending time with teammates, figuring out the perfect release point for that io forehand, making plans for fun tournaments this summer, dreaming about next year.  Every day is a new beginning for what is to come.  And it’s the process, not the ending, that matters most.

Below is an excerpt from a message I sent to Melee that season.  It details a bit of our team’s vision and what we set out to accomplish.  Sometimes we were successful and sometimes we weren’t.  And you know, I remember the wins and the losses to some extent, but what I remember most is that it was one heck of a journey.

“Others may have far more ability than you have. They may be larger, faster, quicker, able to jump better, etc. but no one should be your superior in team spirit, loyalty, enthusiasm, cooperation, determination, industriousness, fight, and character. Acquire and keep these traits and success will follow. Define success for those under your leadership as total commitment and effort to the team’s welfare.” – John Wooden<

We have all put in a lot of work over the past few months, but the hardest work lies ahead.  Winter workouts, spring training, months of intense practices, and some of the most competitive tournaments in the nation stand between us and Nationals.

At the end of these six months, the nation will know what Texas Ultimate is all about.  We respect our opponents by playing intense, competitive ultimate, we play with a love for the game and our teammates, and we respect the other team’s calls, expecting our opponents to do the same.  We always strive to model Spirit of the Game, playing with the utmost respect for our opponents and our teammates.

One heart, one mind.

Something that sets a GREAT team apart from good teams is heart… the willingness of every single player to lay it on the line for the TEAM.  There is no room for selfishness or personal glory here.  When the team wins, we all win.  When all 23 of us are on the same page, no one will be able to stop us.

One point at a time.

Every time we step on the fields is a chance to improve and make this team better.  Take responsibility for making that happen and hold your teammates to the same standard.  Game to 1, every time we’re on the line.

Soak up every moment of the next six months. It’s going to be an incredible journey.

Written by Michelle Ng

Michelle currently captains North Carolina Phoenix, and has captained five other seasons at the college and club levels. She currently serves as one of the Women’s Division representatives in the USA Ultimate Club Working Group. She is a 4-time Club Nationals Qualifier and 2-time College Nationals Qualifier. She was also a Callahan Top 3 finisher in 2006, an All-Region selection in 2008, and won the Kathy Pufahl Award in 2010.

Michelle started running tournaments in Fall 2005 out of a desire to create more playing opportunities for her college team. When she moved to Austin in Summer 2006, she saw a huge disparity between the number of opportunities she had on the West Coast and the opportunities she now had in the South Region. With the help of her college teammates at the University of Texas, Michelle strove to change that. Michelle’s efforts have continued to grow over the years and she has run dozens of tournaments and clinics all over North America, the majority of which have been fundraisers for college teams. Michelle also works as an Events & Relationships Manager for VC Ultimate.