Or more specifically…why college players should play club ultimate.
Playing Ultimate shouldn’t be reserved just for half of the year. The feeling of skying someone who has been talking trash the whole day, getting to lay out for the winning goal and have grass stains infect your white jersey, and those long, game-filled car rides can’t be limited to just the College Spring Season. What an injustice to the sport. That is why God has given us one of the greatest gifts of all time: Club Season.
I currently captain a college team in Wichita Falls, Texas, The Midwestern State Cavalry. We are a young team – 2 years of competitive play under our belt – and quickly putting our mark on the map. The problem we have right now is we are stuck in the mediocre phase. Everyone goes through it. Good enough to get by against most players, but will get absolutely demolished by any veteran squad. Needless to say, this phase sucks. Also needless to say, we don’t like being mediocre. We want change now. We are so desperate to be relevant, but it’s hard to grow as a player in college season. Let’s face it, college ultimate is littered with mediocrity. Average players don’t get better by playing against other average players. If someone goes into the gym every day and lifts the same weight, they won’t get stronger. That’s how mediocrity is made. The way to get better is to play with – and against – stronger players than yourself.
Here’s where Club comes into play. Club teams have rosters with the best of the best players in the world. What makes these players so great? Most of it is because they’re freakishly good athletes, or they’ve been playing for a dozen years, but I guarantee you, they’d be nowhere near as good as they are if they never played for a club team. Club-level ultimate teaches things that the college-level doesn’t. Club is different, more intense, more challenging, more competitive. For all of you Brodie Smith lovers out there, it’s the “manned-up” version of college-level.
One of the biggest advantages to playing club is everyone seems to have the same focus on the team. On a college team, the focus is everywhere. Half of the team wants to have fun and make friends, while the other half wants to win a national title. The Cavalry is victim of this right now. There’s nothing wrong with people having different goals on the team, it’s just more helpful for the team to have a central focus. When someone tries out for Doublewide, the major club team based in Austin, TX, it’s a given that the team’s goal is to win games. Every year the team has the goal of winning a national championship, and if that isn’t your priority of playing, then Doublewide probably isn’t the team for you. Others want to have their focus be fun. A suitable team for them would be teams such as 27 Dresses, an Open team based in Dallas where the uniform is a dress. Literally the laughing stock the tournaments they attended, but they seemed to have the most fun of anyone. Whatever the focus, the most important part is the exposure to the club-level competition.
I don’t have any fancy numbers or charts to prove that playing club helps improve your game. But the closest thing to a statistic I have are the famous names in college in the past. Let’s have a look at the Callahan winners from the recent years:
- 2013: Dylan Freechild – Arguably best player for Portland’s Rhino. Plays for University of Oregon’s Ego. Also has the sickest highlight reel I’ve ever seen.
- 2012: Nick Lance – One of the best handlers Ultimate has seen in a while. Plays for Johnny Bravo. Played for Georgia Tech.
- 2011: George Stubbs – Boston Ironside stud. Played for Harvard University.
- 2010: Eli Friedman – Former player for Rhino, current Portland Stag (MLU). Played for Oregon and Colorado.
Obviously, to be the best, you need to play with the best. The players above were recognized as being the best in the nation. All have played for an elite club. For those of you who desire to be better and dominate on the field, the solution is simple: play club-level ultimate. Don’t expect to grow exponentially, but you can count on some definite growth.
Start small. There are plenty of B-level club teams out there that are for development. Crude, of Dallas, TX, is an excellent example. They’re the B-team for Plex, the elite team in Dallas. They strictly focus on getting players better to eventually put themselves on the competitive map of ultimate. They develop players so hopefully they can play for Plex, or any other team in the area. Plex is a step up from Crude, which (hopefully) filters into Doublewide. We all have to start somewhere. For a new club player, start small.
I think the best way to summarize what I’m trying to say was well said by current Ring of Fire player, Jarrett Bowen:
“Club ultimate is the hands down best way for a college player to at the same time have fun, and stay in shape, learn, and practice without living in a weight room or on a track.”
If you desire to become better at ultimate, don’t sit on your butt this summer. Play club.