Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Callahan Profile: Leila Tunnell (North Carolina)

Everyone who knows Leila Tunnell knows how special she is- skilled ultimate player, gifted leader, incredibly talented person, and amazing friend. I could go on for days about how much Leila has inspired me during the time that I have known her, but in this feature, I ask Leila some questions, then turn things over to her co-captain Lindsay Lang to tell us more about North Carolina's Callahan nominee.

1. Describe your role on Pleiades this season. My role on Pleiades has been a little different this year than in the previous seasons. It has definitely been a different experience playing college ultimate and doing grad school at the same time and I have found that for the first time in a while my primary focus has not been Frisbee (I’m sure that statement would seem completely ludicrous to any non-ultimate players). The team has still been extremely important to me this year, but I’ve found that I have been more of an on-field leader and done significantly less of the administrative and organizational aspects of the captain job this year. Also, as a result of having three very qualified coaches that I really respect and trust for Pleiades this season I have been able to just play and not worry at all about strategy or team management. It has been really wonderful to feel like just a player this year. I just do what my coaches tell me and fill the role I need to fill offensively or defensively and have complete confidence that it will work out. It has been so wonderful knowing that I can trust my coaches and teammates so much to always get the job done and do what is best. 2. O or D?
Because my throws are one of my primary strengths I have always thought of myself as an offensive player, but this past season has been the first time that I have really tried to switch my focus to defense. I have worked really hard this past year to get in good shape so that I can be a more active and aggressive player outside of just my throws and it has had a big effect on the way I play O and D. I guess it is pretty logical, but I find that the better shape I get in the more I enjoy and look forward to playing defense and it has been really fun for me to explore a different aspect of my game this year. I imagine that I will always primarily be an offensive player, but it is nice to discover that I am not only an offensive player.

3. What is one of your favorite ultimate memories?
A lot of my favorite ultimate memories have taken place since I have played for Pleiades. Pleiades is such a fantastic and supportive community of friends and that environment makes most tournaments and practices really memorable. However, probably my favorite memory was making Nationals for the first time with Pleiades my junior year when I transferred to UNC. I loved my teammates at Connecticut College, but it was so exciting to play for a nationally competitive program of such talented and motivated players.

4. If you had to pick an animal to describe yourself, what would it be and why?
This is a tough question. I really want to pick some badass, awesome animal like a leopard or a dragon but neither of those are at all appropriate. What is an animal that is really sleepy all the time and looks kind of scary but is really pretty harmless? Maybe a non-aggressive bear? Yes. I think a bear because I would be so happy if there was an entire season of the year that I could sleep in a cave with no sunlight.
5. What does the Callahan award mean to you? I think the Callahan award is a fantastic system for valuing and honoring sportsmanship in ultimate. It is so great that the greatest honor a college athlete in our sport can receive is for their positive contribution to the development of our sport rather than recognition for their athleticism or skill alone. Fortunately, there are so many positively contributing members of our sport that it is very hard to narrow the award down to one deserving candidate.

And now some questions for Lang...

1. How has Leila changed UNC women's ultimate during her time on the team? Leila came onto the team 2008, the same year as I did- she as a junior transfer and I as a freshman. We have gone to nationals every year since, and I think a large part of our team’s success is due to Leila’s leadership. Her presence, from her incredible experience to her innovative ideas for practice, has certainly bolstered our program’s burgeoning strength.
2. Give us a few fun facts about Leila: Things you probably know about Leila: #18 has a full-field backhand, she throws like her mark doesn’t exist, and she skies everyone in her vicinity
Things you probably don’t know about Leila: She has a beautiful voice (listen for her singing the national anthem with Kaitlin), she often falls down on the field (with unintentionally hilarious results), and her high school team adores her so much that their favorite cheer involves some combination of the words “Leila” and “love.”
3. How has Leila impacted your ultimate experience? Ever since I began playing for Pleiades, Leila has been a tremendous role model, teammate, and friend. On the field, she garners respect from her opponents with her determined defense, unparalleled field vision, and offensive mastery. Off the field, she inspires me with her contributions to the sport of ultimate: she has not only been a beloved counselor at NUTC for many years, but also a dedicated coach to Jordan high school and the North Carolina YCC Girls’ team, Queen Anne’s Revenge. Leila also co-founded and captained the nationally competitive club women’s team Phoenix in its first year in 2010.
4. Give us 5 words describing Leila. encouraging, calm, visionary, positive, smart. bonus: sleepy bear

In the eyes of my team, I know Leila will always be Pleiades’ Callahan winner. Her talent and spirit are obvious on the field, and her love for the game is obvious in her life.

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