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.

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