Friday, July 22, 2011

Virginia is for Layouts:: Birds, Vests, and Museum Exhibits

How many of your friendships start with a dead bird's head being handed to you in a napkin?


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Yes, you read that correctly. At Midwest Throwdown a few years ago, two Wisconsin players (who will remain unnamed) walked up to me and handed me a dead bird's head in a napkin. I screamed, threw the napkin aside, and proceeded to freak out, much to the delight of the crowd of Wisconsin players nearby. My relationship with Bella Donna hasn't been the same since. In the years following that incident, they've been my teammates and housemates, and a few of them even attended my best friend's wedding in May. I've also been gifted two more dead birds by other players (one of whom is now my club teammate), and I live my life in perpetual fear of winged creatures. But that's another story.


One of the best things to come out of that bird incident was a friendship with then-Wisconsin star, and current Brute Squad and Smith College player, Amber Sinicrope. Our friendship mostly involved random Gchat conversations, bonding over our shared jersey number, and me making fun of Amber's love for vests. Over the years, Amber has become one of my dearest friends. She has been a big supporter of my work, and is probably one of the few people who has any insight into non-frisbee Michelle.


Last year, Amber transferred to Smith and helped lead the team to a Quarterfinals finish at the USA Ultimate D-III College Championships. I was fortunate enough to watch the team's breakthrough win against Middlebury at Keystone Classic, and then see their impressive run at the D-III Championships. While the season ended on a high note for them, I also saw some of their struggles. Rag-tag uniforms, rejection from nearby middle-tier tournaments, the growing pains of getting the buy-in it takes to compete at the next level. Those things were all very real challenges (and opportunities) for Smith this past season, so when given the chance, I jumped at the opportunity to do more for them.


This fall, LunaDisc is partnering with my club team, Molly Brown, to run Virginia Fusion. The goal was to help Smith make some money to create more opportunities for next season, but things quickly snowballed into something bigger. The Smith girls, who are a truly fantastic bunch, have decided to run a tournament focused on D-III and on-the-cusp teams next spring. The tournament, Virginia is for Layouts, has been specifically planned to reach that "next" tier of teams, the ones looking for opportunities to improve, and who often get overlooked by the big name, "elite" tournaments.


But that's not enough. We will also be offering the next iteration of the Roundup Division at this tournament. We want to bring in club players to mentor and guest coach young teams, and to help take them to the next level. We're in preliminary talks with a nearby women's club team, as well as some other players from around the country, and we're hopeful that we can raise the money and support that it will take to make this happen. It's a daunting task to get a new tournament off the ground, not to mention creating a development opportunity like the Roundup Division.


If you want to help, there's more information here:
http://virginiaisforlayouts.wordpress.com/roundup


So, why today for this post? Well, not only is Amber an accomplished frisbee player, she's also quite talented in her life off the field. Her exhibit, Surface Tension: Reconsidering Water as Subject, opens today. Check it out if you're in the Northampton area, or click here to read more. Kudos, Amber! :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Texas Captaining Clinic 101

We're still waiting on a few more posts from friends, but we've also been hard at work making some new projects happen.

In case you missed the announcement, we'll be running a clinic in Dallas in November:
http://withoutlimitsultimate.com/projects/texas-captaining-101-clinic

Laura Weinman, former UNT captain and current Hot Mess captain, approached us a couple of months ago about helping with some kind of clinic in the Dallas area, and after reconnecting last week, we decided to move forward with this project. The past few days have been a flurry of looking for fields and getting the word out. If you know a player or team that might be interested in this opportunity, please point them to us! By my count, there are over a dozen schools within reasonable driving distance who could benefit from this, and we've already heard from quite a few of them. This location allows us to reach women in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Louisiana, and we've also reached out to our friends from further away.

I'm very excited about this project for a number of reasons:
1. I believe this type of leadership development opportunity is much-needed in the South.
2. The camaraderie among college women's ultimate players in Texas has increased a ton over the past few years, and I hope that we can continue to encourage the growth of that community.
3. It's an excellent opportunity for club players to give back and invest in the next generation of ballers.
4. It's exciting to see some of the younger teams in the state taking a leadership role in the growth of women's ultimate.
5. Being a new college captain is daunting, and we can reach a ton of teams with this clinic.
6. Profits from this event will benefit other clinics and guest coaching programs.

Laura has been awesome about figuring out logistics and getting the word out to the Dallas community, and her enthusiasm for women's ultimate and for the growth of our sport is inspiring. Laura was an attendee at the Roundup Division at Midwest Throwdown in 2010 and she didn't even hesitate when I asked her to pay that opportunity forward by helping to make something similar happen at Virginia is for Layouts.

In case you can't tell, we're PUMPED about this clinic. if you're a player looking for more information about attending, or someone from afar looking for a way to support our work, please check out the clinic page and get in touch!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Women's College Centex:: A Melee Perespective

Rachel "Creepy" Hokanson is the kind of teammate and player every captain dreams about. She is smart, works hard, is selfless, and is a workhorse on both sides of the disc. I first met Creepy when we were both rookies on Texas. I nicknamed her one day at practice, and for better or for worse, the name stuck. The next year, I captained Creepy, and her work ethic and consistency on the field were a driving force in our return to Nationals. She took over as President of the Texas Women's Ultimate program two years later, and we had the privilege of working on Centex together. It has been such a privilege to watch her grow as a player and person over the past five years, and I feel fortunate to have gotten to spend Thanksgiving with her family, to have taught her how to throw (only to watch her surpass me as a handler), and to watch her develop from being a quiet freshman to running the biggest college women's tournament in the country. In this feature, Creepy shares her perspective on Women's College Centex, and it's importance both to her and to the Texas program.

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The first thing
I learned about Centex was the dance-off. Not even kidding. I was a clueless freshman who was still getting to know the whole frisbee thing. If someone had told me that three years later, I would be hosting the tournament under the direction of Michelle, I would have called them crazy. But more on that later.

So there I was, a na├»ve little first year player, and I was told I have to learn a crazy dance that included taking off my shirt in front of a hundred people I didn’t know. At this point I could still hardly even talk in front of some of my teammates because I was so shy (this is part of the reason I earned my nickname; ask Michelle Ng for full details). Well, I did it, and I was one step closer to understanding the frisbee community and one step closer to being addicted to the game.

My first season with the University of Texas Melee was 2006-2007. At that time, Centex was still run by Cultimate. It had a strong reputation as one of the best tournaments in the nation, and it was great having teams come to Texas so we could play with some of the big dogs on our own turf. However, one cannot deny that Centex at that point was a tournament for dudes, by dudes. Whatever personal opinion you have of Cultimate aside, this was something that was not going overlooked by women’s teams. In a post-Title IX era, this was unacceptable. We can vote! We can go to college! We can be CEOs! We can… run our own tournaments?!

In some ways, the split of the open and women’s divisions of Centex signifies the natural progression of the sport. For the same reason we now have observers at our games, we also have separate open and women’s tournaments: the sport is growing, and it is becoming more competitive. There are more female players and more women’s teams, and we need places to play!

Taking the initiative to break away from Cultimate in favor of a women’s only Centex tournament was one of the first steps in what has grown into a nation-wide women’s ultimate movement. I don’t think any of us thought our single tournament would lead to the inception of Without Limits and a year-round series of exemplary women’s tournaments (except maybe Michelle, whose meticulous planning and endless efforts pretty much allow her success in whatever area she chooses to pursue).

Melee first acted as the sole host of Centex in March 2009. It wasn’t an easy transition, but months of planning, the dedication of club officers and Michelle, and community support from groups like UPLA (Ultimate Player’s League of Austin) and Showdown (Texas’ elite women’s club team) made it possible for the tournament to maintain its competitive status. The following year, a second division was added to the tournament and social events were added to the agenda. I had the opportunity to contribute to the planning of the tournament in 2010, and it was an amazing learning experience to see the work that goes into every minute detail of a tournament. A foundation celebrating the values of community, spirit, and female solidarity was slowly shaping; these values went on to form the mission of Without Limits.

I have great memories from my four years playing Centex. It was so exciting to have teams from around the nation come to our fields to play; I always felt this hum of energy, even at 7am when first arriving at the fields! I love the simultaneous feelings of competition and spirit; being able to joke with your opponents while also trying your hardest not to let them touch the disc. I truly appreciated the chance to extend the tournament to more teams, giving new or up-and-coming teams the opportunity to play in a well-organized, established tournament. I was blessed this past year to coach the Texas-B team, Mayhem, and participate in another year of Centex with yet another, different role.

Women’s Centex 2011 featured the best set-up yet: four divisions of competitive women’s ultimate, an astounding 52 teams, a coach’s clinic, and social events both Friday and Saturday nights. The past three years of hard work have paid off; Centex has retained its reputation and its growth has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Community involvement continues, and college teams consider the tournament a staple to their spring schedule. Centex is a testimonial to the rewards of hard work and dedication and an invaluable resource to women’s ultimate in the future.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Women's College Centex:: Ultimate Mecca

I have organized a couple dozen tournaments over the years, and people frequently ask me which one is my favorite. Each tournament has been memorable in some way (for better or for worse), and nearly every tournament has resulted in the opportunity to form new friendships with amazing people. For me, the relationship-building is the most rewarding part about running tournaments. Some of my dearest friends are people I have run tournaments with or met at the tournaments I've run.

My favorite tournament as an organizer is undoubtedly Women’s College Centex. I first attended the tournament in 2005 as a player, and have attended each year since. In 2008, my last year playing college, I took on a small organizing role as one of the captains of Texas. In late 2008, Melee decided to begin running the tournament without the help of an outside organization. The foundation for the success of a Melee-run Women’s College Centex was formed at this meeting the year before.

We expanded the tournament from 20 teams to 32 teams in 2009, striking a careful balance between choosing the top teams from the year before, up-and-coming teams, and teams from our Region. Everyone realized that all three components were vital to the success of the tournament, as well as integral to our commitment to building ultimate in the South. The tournament grew to 52 teams split into four divisions this past year.

I believe the following things have contributed to the success of Centex:
1. Commitment | The Texas women are committed to building this tournament. It is more than a fundraising opportunity to them; it is their chance to build something incredible and to give back to the college women’s ultimate community. Rachel "Creepy" Hokanson and Suede Kam are the two Texas players who have made Centex into what it is today.
2. Local ultimate community | Each year, there are a core of Austinites who do tons of behind-the-scenes work to make the tournament a success. Tina has been the single most important person in ensuring the success of Centex, J helps us get travel deals, Punk organizes an observer crew, TUFF helps with weekend-of labor. The list could go on and on.
3. Friends | Every year, interest in the tournament exceeds capacity. This is only possible because our friends bring their teams to our tournament. We are also fortunate to have friends serve as “scouts” for us; we are able to get the best up-and-coming teams to come based on the leads we get from these people.

What sets Centex apart?
1. Competition | At Centex this year, we had 19/20 teams from 2010 Nationals and 18/20 teams from 2011 Nationals. This level of competition is umatched by any other tournament.
2. Community | You simply cannot rival or replicate the Centex Dance-off. It is both ridiculous and amazing, and teams love it. Pair that with some good Texas BBQ and you have teams staying at the fields Saturday night until the lights get turned off on us. Check out this footage from 2010, courtesy of Penn State Isis.
3. Big picture thinking | Every year, the organizers look for ways to improve the tournament and make it even better. In 2010, it was the addition of a Division III and a Women’s Leadership Forum. In 2011, it was the addition of B-Team Division and a Guest Coaching Program. The Texas girls set the bar high with their vision for the future of our sport.

If you haven’t been to Centex, I highly recommend putting it on your team’s radar. Many people have told me that Centex changed their team’s perspective on ultimate, and every year, new friendships are formed both on and off the field. Without Limits' role for 2012 is yet-to-be-determined, but if you are interested in attending, email us at contactus (at) withoutlimitsultimate dot com and we’ll pass your email along to the Texas leadership.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Iowa State University:: More from the Midwest

This afternoon, we bring another Midwest success story to you. In this post, Lindsey Gapstur of Iowa State Woman Scorned shares about her team's development and the role that Without Limits has played in providing her team with more opportunities. Woman Scorned has gone from a middle-of-the-pack team at Regionals just a few short years ago to finishing 10th at the College Championships this year. Read Gapstur's take on how this happend.

Want to share your story? We'd love to hear it. Reach out to us at contactus (at) withoutlimitsultimate dot com.

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My sophomore year of college I joined the ultimate frisbee team. The women’s team at Iowa State was far from new, and their intense workouts and dedication to having a good time were more than enough to get me hooked. I definitely didn’t take the entire thing very seriously at first, and I can actually remember thinking “this is a great workout to get me in shape, but there is no way I will stick with this for very long.” Needless to say, I was very wrong.

My story with Woman Scorned started in 2008, but it was by no means the beginning. The team was founded in 2002 and had 6 years of insanely talented ladies who pooled resources together and built a program that I was lucky enough to walk on to and reap the benefits of their hard work and dedication. In 2009, Woman Scorned installed our first 100% attendance policy and our season resulted with our first showing at the College National tournament. Woman Scorned placed 15th with only one win in the tournament, but we were given the opportunity to play teams from all over the nation (and Canada) who we had never before had the chance to compete against.

The following season was definitely eye opening for the team. After becoming a “nationals team” all sorts of doors started to open. Invitations to tournaments we had not previously attended like Centex and Philly Invite were extended to us, allowing us the option to play elite college teams like we had only seen at Nationals. Knowing our biggest hurdle the previous season was our lack of exposure to these teams, we took advantage and attended five non-series tournaments in the spring (three of which were run by Without Limits). Iowa State also hosted a winter scrimmage to gain more exposure to our regional competition and build relationships between teams. Unfortunately we were unable to pull together to perform to potential in this season. At Regionals, injuries and underperformance resulted in a 5th place finish for Woman Scorned, and powerhouse programs Wisconsin and Carleton again took the two Nationals bids for the North Central Region.

Although our 2010 season’s ending was far from ideal, we used it to fuel our 2011 season. One of our biggest focuses for the new season was team cohesiveness. It was important to us that everyone from our rookies all the way to our veterans we were working toward the same goals and accomplishing them together. We built depth by playing fall tournaments with open lines, and we continued attending highly competitive Without Limits tournaments in the spring. Through strong leadership, intense dedication, and hard work from everyone on our team, Woman Scorned peaked at a prime time this past season, winning sectionals, placing 3rd at regionals, and taking 10th place at Nationals.

Although Woman Scorned has grown to become a more competitive program, we still maintain the same personality as a team. We have set our goals higher with each season but our core team values have not changed since we began:

1: Having fun is the most important thing. Winning does not dictate fun. If you play the game right and give all you have, ultimate is fun whether you win or lose.
2: We want to be the team that every team wants to play. Compete your hardest against every opponent but never at the sacrifice of spirit.

Woman Scorned does not make cuts and we are only just reaching the point where we can attempt to field a B team. We focus on developing every player to be well rounded, and we value dedication and spirit above playing ability. Most importantly, we hold each other accountable to ensure that every player is dedicated to the team and working towards the same goals. Beyond the game, we are all friends and that is truly what brings us together as a successful team. The sacrifices we make are not just for ourselves, but each of our teammates. This team mentality has truly accelerated our success as an ultimate program.

Success did not come to us over night or even in one season. It takes time and dedication, and often the ones who give the most don’t even get to experience it. In my opinion, however, the best way to become a better team and create a program is to give all of yourself and not hold back. Make the commitment and challenge your teammates to do the same. One person can’t make a team successful alone, but you can be the first one to step up and bring your teammates up with you. Every single person on a team has the potential to make an impact on that program; big or small, good or bad. It is when you truly make this commitment that you will realize how many resources are actually available to you.

For Woman Scorned, Michelle Ng and Without Limits have been one big resource in our success. One great benefit that WL provides is the guarantee of a quality run tournament. Don’t get me wrong, we are good at setting up our own fields, remembering to bring water because it may not be provided, and figuring out our own brackets because the tournament director is worried about the men’s division and tournament central is a couple miles away on the main fields. However, it is really nice to just have someone do all of this for you so the team’s focus can remain on playing the games. When Michelle is running a tournament, every detail is thought about and no issue is left unresolved.

Additionally, the opportunities WL provides reach far beyond playing competitive tournaments. Without Limits supports our core team values in many ways. Midwest Throwdown is a competitive tournament that works to spread the love of ultimate in the Central regions. This tournament has also offered skills clinics to share knowledge of the game from elite club players to college teams of every shape and size. The Centex dance-off and pool play spirit discs at Midwest Throwdown are just two examples of fun ways spirit of the game and networking between teams are incorporated into these tournaments. Woman Scorned is just one of the numerous teams who continue to benefit from the generosity and devotion of everyone involved in Without Limits.

The story of Woman Scorned isn’t extra glamorous, and it doesn’t include any national or even regional titles. However, I am very proud to say I am a part of it. It is the story of a small team who, through hard work and dedication, has built our program up to reach the goals we have set. By pushing ourselves as well as each other and reaching out to utilize the resources we can access, Woman Scorned has become one of the top college teams in the nation. Thankfully, our story is far from over. Who knows where our future will take us, but my hope is that with the expansion of resources like Without Limits, Woman Scorned and other dedicated teams will also continue to prosper.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

University of Kansas:: A Midwest Perspective

I still remember the first time I met Tasha. It was February 2008. Tasha was captaining Kansas and I was captaining Texas and TDing the tournament we were playing at in Missouri. Snow resulted in us losing both our primary field site and backup field site during the day on Saturday, and after spending all of Saturday night trying to find a way to pull Sunday's games off, I walked out of a coffee shop with a revised schedule, only for it to start snowing again. The next morning, my team capped off a rough weekend by losing to an in-region team we had never lost to before, and a coach, upset with his team's schedule ripped into me, reducing me to tears. A few minutes later, I walked over to Kansas and tearfully told Tasha that her team would have to have a double bye because the coach was taking his girls home. Tasha smiled, told me it wasn't a problem, and offered me a hug. We've been friends and collaborators since.

There is a small, but growing, circle of women's ultimate leaders in the South Central Regionwho have worked hard over the past few seasons to build both their respective teams as well as the overall state of women's ultimate in this part of the country. We have a listserve, we've held meetings at tournaments, and these leaders and teams form the backbone of every new tournament and endeavor Without Limits has undertaken in the South and Midwest over the past few years. Tasha is an integral part of this network and group of friends. She was one of the best players in the South Central before coaching Betty last year, and she is a co-captain and co-founder of St. Louis RevoLOUtion, a second year women's club team. In this post, Tasha shares her perspective on the state of women's ultimate in the Midwest, as well as how she feels Without Limits has contributed to her team's development.

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You’re probably heard it before—the interior of the U.S. is often behind the coasts. I’ve heard it with a number of things, including ultimate. We started playing later, we don’t have as many players, we adapt to new styles of playing later, etc. I’ve also heard many players say the talent in the middle of the country isn’t that of the coasts. In my short ultimate career, I’d have to say—I think those comments are fairly accurate. I’ve been playing since 2005 and the teams from the coasts are so impressive to me. I wondered all too often, “How do they do it? How do we get the opportunities that they have?” I’m slowly learning that it takes dedication, creativity, organization, and collaboration. I think Without Limits is all of those things, and more.

In the last few years, I’ve observed a number of teams the Ozark Conference and the South Region grow tremendously. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this growth occurred at the same time as competitive playing opportunities like D-II and D-III Centex and Midwest Throwdown started catering to the lesser known teams. The reason our game is improving is because of these opportunities! In my opinion though, it’s so much more than just the games at each tournament. Yes… those are awesome because our teams get to see what high-level Women’s Ultimate looks like. But it’s the socials, the skills clinic, the guest coaches, and all of the incredible tournament amenities that put WL tourneys on the map. It’s the empowerment of other teams to start running their own successful tournaments. It’s paying it forward, and it’s inspirational. These are the things that are connecting female ultimate players on a deeper level.

I’ve been involved with ultimate at the University of Kansas for almost 6 years now (whoa!). We’ve been so fortunate to get the chance to compete at a number of Without Limits tournaments. After each tournament, I could sense the excitement in my team. It was bittersweet, but I had to miss Centex this year because I was on a rotation in Montana. When I talked to our players and captains after Centex, I heard so much about what they learned from their guest coach, Cara Crouch. The girls couldn’t stop talking about her! Throughout the reason of the season, the lessons (both on and off of the field) she taught my team persisted in our huddles. Same with Midwest Throwdown in previous years—my teammates were really excited to share what they learned at their own skills clinics. I believe the Bettys are still trying to find their identity—there has been a lot of transformation since my first season, and they are still trying to figure out how to achieve the goals they set for themselves. I think the exposure to ultimate via projects like WL has very much benefited us on our journey. Us aside though, WL has clearly made a huge impact in our Conference and Region. Each year, teams are becoming better. Each game is harder, and at the same time, each game is more fun. It’s been incredible to watch, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Grinnell College:: Turning Opportunities Into Success

Paige Hill is one of the co-captains of the Grinnell College Sticky Tongue Frogs, and we asked her to share about her experiences attending our tournaments. Paige wrote an extremely compelling post for us in May, shared her thoughts in our D-III podcast, and continues to be an advocate for D-III teams and for college women's ultimate in general. It has been our privilege to get to know Paige and her team over the past few seasons. Grinnell is, quite simply, one of those teams that makes us say, "THIS is why we do what we do." The Sticky Tongue Frogs have developed from a small, nearly unheard of team in the Midwest to a Quarterfinalist at the 2011 D-III College Championships in just a few short years. Their love for our sport, and their commitment to its development, are inspiring, and we encourage you to follow them in the coming years if you want to watch a team that's going to make a difference.

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In the weeks leading up to the Roundup Division of Midwest Throwdown in 2010, the Grinnell women's team was buzzing with excitement and planning. We were researching and debating who we wanted our guest coach to be, we were talking over which skills clinics would be best for each player and promising to remember everything to tell our teammates later, and we were pouring over the schedule and Score Reporter trying to decide which inter-region team would be our toughest matchup. The Sticky Tongue Frogs talk ultimate a lot, but in those weeks, we talked about it more than ever. The most exciting part was that it wasn't just the veterans gossiping about who was going to win an elite tournament, or if a well-known senior was going to take a fifth year in a last-dish effort to win nationals. Every single player was talking because instead of watching elite teams play in elite tournaments, we were thrust center stage of what promised to be a well-run, well-coached, interregional tournament where we got to be part of the action.

Once we got there, we were not disappointed. Every tangible element of an elite tournament was there: good fields, sweet swag, dedicated trainers, and great score reporting. The most important things at that tournament, and the things that keep us coming back to Without Limits tournaments, however, were the intangibles.

That weekend I was coached by multiple Callahan nominees and world champions. Cara Crouch coached all of our games and ran drills with us in between them. We still use the warmup routine she taught us, every single drill she ran, and hope that teams throw zone-D against us because of the zone-O she helped us create. Chelsea Putnam taught me a defensive drill I still use in the practices I plan. And Gwen Ambler taught me how to get vertical, a skill that my teammates used to make fun of me for but now compliment my steady improvements. Those experiences were incredibly powerful, and their impact has stretched far beyond the scope of that weekend. From my perspective as a member and captain of a small team in the Midwest where resources for the ultimate community are underdeveloped and spread out, it was an invaluable chance to bring those resources to us, and to give us the opportunity to capitalize on them. WL understands that there are hundreds and thousands of players out there who will devour any kind of ultimate you can dish out, and stand to grow tremendously from that, and it is just a matter of providing the opportunity for us to do so.

The idea of a tournament focused on DIII and on-the-cusp teams is inspiring, and in my opinion stands to be even better than the (already amazing) WL tournaments Grinnell has attended. The notion that up-and-coming programs will be playing in the championship bracket of the only division at a tournament is a huge step for the development of DIII ultimate and means that these teams will get exposure to high level, high stakes games during the regular season, something that I think is invaluable for DIII teams looking to perform in the post season. It also means that I will be surrounded by hundreds of players that are just like me and my teammates-- invested, passionate, and committed despite having the odds stacked against us. During whatever development opportunity that will be provided on Saturday night, I'm sure there will be a lot of individual informal conversations between players, and I bet a lot of relationships between teams will come out of this tournament. The networking and camaraderie that develops is going to go a long way in helping cultivate a community that is not only accessible to smaller programs, but focused on them. By just bringing us together and allowing us to believe in ourselves and each other, I think Virginia is for Layouts is going to have a huge impact on on all of the schools that get a chance to attend.

My co-captain and I have decided we are going to submit a bid to Virginia is for Layouts. This means a lot to me: I can tell rookies that their spring break will start with learning more about ultimate than any other tournament will teach them, and I'm excited for returning players to buzz with anticipation for skills clinics, awesome fields, and a VIP pass to a tournament that makes us feel as talented, skilled, and legitimate as we are passionate and scrappy. Mostly, I'm excited to cleat up for a tournament run by an organization that recognizes that growing programs not only have a tremendous capacity to learn and adapt, but also have a lot to offer the ultimate community in terms of competition, spirit, and love of the game... And I'm excited to prove that they are right.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Melee Years:: Dream Bigger

Since I am headed to Austin today, it seemed appropriate to share the story of my time on Melee. My two years in the Texas Ultimate program allowed me to develop as a leader and advocate of women's ultimate more than any other period of my career. I am grateful for the time I spent in Austin, and for friends and teammates who shaped my experience.

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My senior year at Cal, I applied to a handful of grad schools. I had two requirements: a good Planning program and a good ultimate team. A series of unlikely events unfolded between Summer 2005 and Spring 2006, and when it came time to make a decision, Austin became the obvious choice. Moving to Austin was probably the best decision I have ever made.

I moved two months after losing two games-to-go at Northwest College Regionals. It was difficult to leave teammates and friends after such a disappointing end to our season, but my new teammates welcomed me with open arms and made me feel right at home. My first season on Melee, we had a fantastic regular season and cruised through Regionals until the Finals game where we lost a heartbreaker to Truman State. The game itself was devastating, but even more difficult for me to swallow were the ticky-tack calls, and the fact that every single person watching that game, except TUFF, was cheering against us. I was crushed.

I had previously made plans to study abroad in Montreal in the fall to do research for my thesis. A few days after we lost at Regionals, I retracted my paperwork and decided to stay in Austin. I was voted captain for the following season and spent the summer in California, starting and captaining Slackjaw in an effort to get as much experience as possible before going back and playing my last season of college ultimate. My co-captain, Becca Shelton, played for Showdown that season, and we spent hours upon hours exchanging ideas, planning for the season, and challenging each other to become better players. When I got back to Austin, Becca and I spent just about every day at the IM Fields throwing, working out, and talking.

One of the areas that I pushed hardest in was that I wanted our team to take a leadership role in developing women's ultimate in the South. I had two reasons that I wanted to get more involved:
1) I wanted Melee to be one of the best college women's teams in the country, not just the best team in the South. Helping to raise the overall level of play around us seemed like a good investment.
2) I saw a distinct difference in the quantity and quality of resources and opportunities available in the South compared to what I was used to in the Northwest. I felt like I had a responsibility, as someone who had been handed tons of resources and opportunities, to spread the wealth.

I took drastic measures to invest in other teams, and I am incredibly grateful that I had a co-captain, coaches, and teammates who supported those decisions. Cara Crouch, one of my frisbee mentors, was one of our coaches that year, and she both fueled my aspirations, as well as gently reminded me that change takes time. It was important for me to have that kind of support as Cara understood the ultimate scene in the South much better than I did, and also had a very similar vision for what ultimate in Texas could be. I am lucky to have had her as my coach, captain, and teammate, and to continue to be able to call her my friend.

A few examples of the general "dream bigger" mentality our team developed:
1) Our team ran five events that year, including two out-of-state tournaments, AND hosted Sectionals. I often look back with regret at how much I pushed my teammates, but I am also very proud of them for how much they changed the landscape of the South that year. Tournaments like Midwest Warmup and Midwest Throwdown exist because of Melee '08.
2) We focused on relationships. We refunded teams' bid fees when tournaments weren't executed to perfection. We made a conscious effort to model Spirit of the Game both on and off the field. Teams we had fought with in the past became allies. At Regionals, teams cheered FOR us and at Nationals, the team we had beaten in the game-to-go at Regionals was on our sidelines cheering for us.
3) We served as a connector. In addition to developing OUR relationships with other teams, we tried to develop relationships between other teams as well. We got people talking and we tried to build a network of people who care about our sport.

To tie those things together, I am confident that the only reason Without Limits has had any success is because of the investment of our friends. In the early years, people like Heather Waugh, Courtney Kiesow, and Sarah Griffith dragged their teams to our tournaments. We hosted out-of-state events because it was a way to make those tournaments more convenient and accessible, and our friends responded incredibly positively to that. Our friends trusted us to run good events, and we hope that over the years, we've rewarded that trust and earned their continued love and support. Today, our friends do more than just attend our tournaments; they have become our collaborators- Lindsey Hack, Leila Tunnell, and Lindsay Lang from UNC-Chapel Hill; Abby Stephens, Sam Huo, and Sarah Ebstein from Wash U; Melissa May, Carly Maconaghy, and Katie Erikson from Penn State. The list goes on and on. My time on Melee taught me a lot about thinking outside of the box, and about the importance of my friends in bringing those ideas to life. So, thanks Melee, and thanks friends, for believing in what we do and for shaping what we're all about.

Keystone Classic: A Parent's Perspective

Keystone Classic has been all about our friends coming through for us. In 2010, Carly Maconaghy and Melissa May saved the tournament from the brink of disaster before they had even met Michelle in person, and this year, Katie Erikson joined our team, helping us pull the tournament off in spite of some difficulties with the weather. In many ways, running a highly competitive tournament in the Northeast has been one of the more challenging things that we've done. It's a part of the country that we've never played in so our contacts are limited, the weather is terrible, and it's just plain hard to organize a tournament from thousands of miles away. We might also have really bad luck. Carly, Melissa, and Katie have been rockstar allies for us, and we hope that Keystone Classic continues to grow as a valuable playing and development opportunity for that part of the country. We're grateful for these ladies, as well as for friends on teams like Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Northeastern, and Cornell who have faithfully supported this tournament.

In this post, Corey Ayala-Fagundez shares her experiences as a parent and fan at Keystone Classic this past season. She has two daughters who play for Rutgers University Nightshade and Columbia High School Sparkle Motion, and is a huge advocate for both youth ultimate and women's ultimate. A huge thank you to Corey for sharing about how Without Limits has positively impacted her daughters' teams, as well as for being a champion of our work. As our sport and our organization continue to grow, we hope that the people we hold near and dear to our hearts, especially our family and friends, stay central to all of the work we do.

--

As I sit enjoying the easy relaxed months of summer, thoughts of the coming school year are starting to surface for me. When the school year starts, my mind goes directly to Ultimate Frisbee! I am a very active parent for Sparkle Motion, a high school level girls Ultimate team from Maplewood, New Jersey and have been so for five years now. I support the team fully and will volunteer in any capacity in order to try and pave the way for our girls so that they can concentrate on planning for tournaments and the game itself. I've named myself the chaperone, the driver, the sideliner, the fundraiser, the Gatorader, the first aider, the lugger and one of their biggest advocates! I have had the pleasure of traveling with our girls to many tournaments on the East Coast, Buffalo, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Atlanta, Vermont and Ohio. These tournaments are necessary in order for the girls to stay competitive. One tournament however sticks out in my mind... Keystone Classic which was organized by Without Limits. The girls played many other very talented high school teams and had the opportunity watch very elite college women's teams . Watching these teams play gave them the incentive and drive to continue in the sport that they had come to love, they knew that they wanted to be like these women who played amazingly.

On the first day, during some down time, Sparkle Motion was fortunate enough to be led by Michelle Ng in a Skills Clinic to help them improve their game strategy and learn new drills. In addition to the Skills Clinic, all of the participating high school girls teams were paired with a college team for the weekend in a program called Sister Teams. This was a very special program since it gave the high school girls the opportunity to hang out with, ask questions of, and get on a personal level with older players who wanted to promote college Ultimate and be sure that the girls had a great experience. Sparkle Motion was paired up with Ottawa Lady Gee-Gees! Those ladies took the time to root on our girls during one of Sparkle Motion's games, and our girls did the same for the Gee-Gees during our bye. Near the end of the day, both teams got together for a game of Ninja, some chit-chat and a photo op. The Lady Gee-Gees also brought along some Lady Gee-Gees gear, team jerseys and t-shirts, for girls they felt did a great job playing while they were watching earlier on! Sparkle could have talked and played for hours but Lady Gee-Gees needed to go after a while because they had made the finals and were the eventual first place winners much to our team's delight! It was a wonderful experience for all, and everyone agreed it was great that Without Limits decided to include high school teams in the tournament.

I cannot say enough about the experience and would encourage as many college tournament organizers to include a high school division if it is possible and for the high school teams to respond and attend. The experience is priceless for the girls. In addition we got to know more about Without Limits and rely on them for guidance and information in regard to other college tournaments coming up that they may be interested in participating in if given the opportunity. ;)

The blogs are informative and it has enabled me to learn more about other teams and programs that are inevitably in my future and the future of my two daughters. One is a rising sophmore and plays at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey for the ladies' team Nightshade, and the other is a rising sophmore at Columbia High School and plays for the girls' team Sparkle Motion. My advice to other teams and parents of those players would be to go out of your way to find or try to promote programs such as Keystone Classic because the experience for the high school player is priceless. Thank you to Without Limits for having the foresight to expose the younger girls to a whole new world of Ultimate by integrating them into college level tournaments.

Corey Ayala-Fagundez
Team parent for
CHS Spark-Mo-G-Frizz
Columbia High School Sparkle Motion Girls Ultimate Frisbee
Maplewood,New Jersey

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bay Area Mixer:: The Beginning

When I think about what has motivated me as a leader and organizer, 2005 Nationals stands out as a formative weekend for me. I have some vivid memories from the tournament, such as Stanford cheering for us during our crazy Pre-Quarters win against MIT, our impromptu dance-off with Colorado, and a blossoming love affair with Texas. I feel like this tournament was where I first realized how awesome the ultimate community is. My sports background up to that point was baseball. I captained the boys' team in high school, and the community had a very, very different feel to it. It is interesting for me to look back and to realize how many Stanford, Texas, and Colorado players I have been (or am currently) teammates with. I feel incredibly lucky.

Following my rookie year on the UC Berkeley Pie Queens and an awesome time at Nationals, I was voted one of the captains for the 2005-2006 season. To put it bluntly, I had no idea what I was doing. Upon being voted captain, I panicked and immediately did three things: registered for SFUL summer league, found a local club team to play with, and bought Ultimate Techniques and Tactics. I spent every waking hour of that summer either in Architecture studio (getting ahead so I wouldn't have to take a studio class in the spring) or doing something frisbee-related.
I felt like I had some extremely big shoes to fill as I had been a very quiet rookie who could barely throw a forehand. My love for the sport continued to grow and at the end of my summer studio session, my professor pulled me aside to tell me that "this frisbee thing" was just a game and that I could be an incredible designer if I put my heart into it. A few months later, he would write me a letter of recommendation that gave me some fantastic options for where to spend my last two years of eligibility. ;)

Late that summer, I was thinking about ways to build the Bay Area women's ultimate community based on all of the things I had witnessed as a rookie. I pitched the idea of a mixer to the Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Davis captains. The idea was warmly received, and the first mixer, held on the Stanford campus, was a success! The rookies had a ton of fun, the vets played a hilarious very non-PC themed showcase game... and most importantly, for the first time ever, we saw Stanford's fun side! (Just kidding, you know I love you guys.) The mixer helped to cultivate some awesome relationships among the college women's teams in the Bay Area-- they formed the base for a successful California B-team tournament in Spring 2006 and led to an end-of-the-season beach bash, shared graduation parties, and a year later, the formation of Slackjaw, a women's club team. I am very thankful for my Bay Area ultimate friends, and for everything that they taught me.

Little did I know that the Bay Area Mixer would become an annual event, and that over the course of the next 5.5 years, I would run two dozen tournaments...

Tomorrow: The Melee Years:: Dream Bigger

Without Limits:: The Stories Behind Our Work

As you may have seen on RSD, Facebook, and/or Twitter, we're rolling out two tournaments in Virginia. You can read up on all of the tournament details on the Projects page of our website: http://withoutlimitsultimate.com/projects

Our spring tournament, Virginia is for Layouts, is aimed at a group of teams that we haven't invested a lot of time and energy into (yet)-- D-III teams and on-the-cusp teams. Most of our tournaments have been designed for the "elite" teams- the teams that consistently compete for spots at the D-I College Championships. There have been a few exceptions over the years, and we always try to include the up-and-coming teams in our work, but the bulk of our work has been focused on elite competition. We've incorporated some development-related stuff into our work over the past year or so, but we decided that it's high time that we did something completely focused on this next tier of teams (more on how this came about in a later post).

In thinking about how our tournaments have evolved over time, we recognize that any success we've had is only because of supportive friends who have backed our work at every opportunity. We are lucky to have the backing of many of the top teams in the country, and we hope that with each event they attend, we can continue to earn their trust. Knowing we have that love and support makes the work of building tournaments and recruiting teams infinitely easier. Virginia is for Layouts is uncharted territory for us as most of the teams we are trying to reach are probably saying, "Without Limits? What's that and why should I attend their events?"

And so... in the next week or so, we'll be rolling out a mini-series with some stories, both from us, as well as from some of our friends and collaborators, explaining to you how Without Limits has made a difference. Our goal here is two-fold:
1) The obvious goal is that we want you to check one of our tournaments out. We'll do our best to make it a rewarding experience.
2) But even more importantly, we want to share our passion with you. For us, tournaments are more than a way for us to help college teams make money. They're a way for us to serve our friends, and to help build something that we can all be proud to be a part of.

Here's how you can help:
1) Read our stories. Then figure out the reasons you should care and do something in your local ultimate community.
2) Share our stories with the teams we are trying to reach. Who are the teams in your conference or region who could benefit from Virginia is for Layouts? Tell them about our work.
3) Share your story with us. Help us improve our work. Drop us a line at contactus (at) withoutlimitsultimate dot com.

Thanks for reading, and we look forward to telling you some of the stories behind our work.