Earlier this spring, I began making plans for Fusion v. 2.0 and was looking for a way to bring in the experience of a club team, while also finding a way to raise money for a college team. I had recently moved to Colorado, and the college team I wanted to work with was thousands of miles away. So, I went to my new captains and asked them to get our team involved. Virginia Fusion was born. Not only is Molly Brown partnering with Smith College to run Fusion this fall, but the team has also stepped up as the first club team to sponsor a coach for Roundup at Smith College's spring tournament, Virginia is for Layouts. Asking your friends and teammates for support can be awkward, but two minutes after I asked, I received an email saying "Holla! Do it up." I think that means "We're in!" around these parts.
First, a little bit of background about our team. Captain Anna Schott describes how the team was formed, and some of the team's philosophy:
Molly Brown was formed in 2010 to bring together the most competitive team possible in Colorado. That didn't necessarily mean all the best players- it meant the best players who were willing and able to commit to being a team and putting in the work needed to be able to perform at the highest level. One of our main tenets is that we draw on the skills of all of our teammates and we are constantly pushing each other to grow as players. Molly Brown is an incredible group of female athletes and being a part of this team means that you are continually developing as a player and learning from your teammates at every practice, tournament, throwing session, and workout.
Schott, who also doubles as my tennis hitting partner (we're awful) and coffee break buddy, had this to say about Molly Brown's commitment to the growth of our sport:
There is a lot of positive energy around what our team is about and it has been great to see that energy impact our local community. Several Molly Brown players help coach high school teams and help run youth skills clinics (in conjunction with Johnny Bravo players) which has been an incredibly rewarding experience because you get to see young players fall in love with the game.
Molly Brown players understand the importance of investing in the next generation of ultimate players. Current University of Colorado Kali captain and Molly Brown rookie Whitney Fose, had this to say about Molly Brown's involvement on the local level:
I think the connection between club and college ultimate is so important. College athletes look up to club players. After watching and playing with a higher level of ultimate, I feel inspired to come back to my college team and challenge them in the same way I was challenged. The club-college relationship continually raises the bar for college players and renews their competitive drive. Molly Brown women have come out to Kali's practices and spent one-on-one time with individuals. Kali's leadership has also tried to exemplify aspects of Molly Brown by bringing drills, work ethic, and team attitudes back to practice.
Kath Ratcliff, my former college teammate, and current teammate on Molly Brown, is a prime example of a club player who has invested significant efforts in the development of the next generation of players. As a former coach of the UC Berkeley Pie Queens and one of the current coaches of Kali, she is an accomplished player and experienced role model who has taught many young players the game... including myself. Kath describes the importance of the involvement of club players, and some of what she has gotten out of giving back, saying:
Most women's teams in my college playing days were forced to lead only through captains with a couple years of experience, and those who were fortunate enough to have dedicated coaches were always the better teams in the nation. Aside from the obvious benefits of refined strategic knowledge that a club player can bring to a college team, I think with women specifically it's important to have a strong, confident, positive role model - someone who the younger players can look to as an example of spirit of the game and fair play. My favorite thing about college women's ultimate is how self-officiating forces young women to confidently approach conflict and helps them to learn to stand up for themselves. This is something that an experienced club player can help to build in younger players. Personally, I coach for the moments where you can see someone understand or do something for the very first time. I also really enjoy being able to take a part in younger players realizing their potential as athletes and watching them increase in confidence as they recognize their own abilities.
Molly Brown players are heavily involved in the local ultimate community, serving as coaches, running tournaments, acting as mentors, and even working for USA Ultimate.
So, isn't that enough?
No. As an elite women's club team, we recognize our responsibility to give back to the community as a whole, and we know that there are teams around the country who don't have the opportunities we have. We want to do more.
Anna sums up the reasons Molly Brown has decided to sponsor a coach, saying:
In a sport where community has always been very important to those that play, the positive effect on the women's Ultimate that can be directly attributed to Without Limits is simply unparalleled. Without Limits has helped create positive relationships between college and club teams (as well between club teams and between college teams) that have already had a huge impact they way that women's Ultimate is played. It has helped foster a community where there is not only a high value on competition but also on respect between teams and giving back to the community. The women's game is going to continue to develop at a rapid pace because of these relationships and the support that is available for young players and programs.
Thanks to the generosity of Molly Brown, we have enough money to get Roundup off the ground. In the weeks leading up to Fusion, we'll be sharing some more stories with you, as well as giving you an opportunity to get involved. Want to sponsor a coach? Come coach at the event? Be coached? We're actively looking for sponsors, and we'll be releasing more information about how to apply for and fundraise to either be a coach or be coached at Virginia is for Layouts this spring.
Stay tuned to the blog and to the Roundup info page: