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.
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.