Sunday, August 14, 2011

Platinum Level Sponsor #2:: Showdown and Hot Mess

Full disclaimer: Showdown, an elite women's team comprised of players from all over Texas, is my former team, and I have known several players from Hot Mess, a new women's team from Dallas, for over five years.

At the end of last spring, Laura Weinman, one of the captains of Hot Mess, contacted me about a clinic she wanted to run in the Dallas area. I was overwhelmed with work and Without Limits projects, and not in a good place to be taking on more, so I sent her a quick email with some ideas and didn't give it a second thought. Laura followed up with me in July, and her email resonated with me in a number of different ways. Her passion for growing women's ultimate in Texas, the challenges she was facing in getting a new team off the ground, and her desire to do something were incredibly inspiring, and it was really exciting for me to see a young player in the Region excited to make a difference. I did a lot of thinking and soul searching when I read Laura's email and after some joint brainstorming, some cool ideas began to develop. The Texas Captaining 101 Clinic was born.

Around the same time, I was trying to figure out how to get Roundup off the ground at Smith College's spring tournament, Virginia is for Layouts. Laura had previously attended the Roundup Division at Midwest Throwdown, so when I asked her to consider donating any profits from the Captaining Clinic to make Roundup v. 2.0 happen, Laura jumped on board. Laura had this to say about her experience at Roundup:

My last year captaining at UNT, I was fortunate enough to take the girls to Midwest Throwdown to compete in the Roundup Division, where we had guest coach Dominique Fontenette teach us how to be badass all weekend... we all came back so much closer and confident as a team. For me, it really made me feel more confident as a captain because up until that weekend, I hadn't. I was still learning how to play ultimate but had to step up to the captain role because all of the older girls had graduated. That is why I think the Texas Captaining 101 Clinic will be such a great opportunity for so many girls who will be stepping up into those leadership roles this upcoming year. To have those kind of resources early on can take off so much stress and really let you focus on yourself and your team without all of the pressure of "Am I doing a good job?" and "What if I'm teaching them something wrong?". And going back to our experience at Midwest Throwdown, knowing that all of the money made from this clinic will go to helping make Virginia is for Layouts happen for other teams to experience is pretty awesome in and of itself.

So who is Hot Mess?

A recent graduate of UNT looking for the opportunity to play women's ultimate competitively, Laura and two other like-minded individuals, Amanda North and Sheena Connell, decided to form Hot Mess, a developmental team geared toward high school and college players who want to develop their skills on the field, as well as learn how to becoming stronger and more confident leaders for their respective school teams. The team is comprised of women from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, UT-Arlington, UNT, UT-Dallas, Texas Women's University, and Marcus High School. They even have a player who will be attending LSU in the fall, and many of their players will be captaining their respective teams this upcoming college season. Laura said:

Looking at the bigger picture, we were hoping that by working with these girls and getting them ready for the upcoming school year, it would help high school and college programs have some foundation to work off instead of having to start from scratch, which in turn would hopefully strengthen North Texas' women's teams and help grow ultimate in Texas / the South Region. Locally, we have a weekly Wednesday practice for Hot Mess, but it is open to any girls who would like to come out and play... Because the Dallas area has had so few resources / outlets for women's ultimate, we have had to rely a lot on each other for ideas for drills, plays, conditioning, recruiting ideas, even transportation just to get girls to practices... It's been awesome because not only are all of the girls learning from each other, those teaching the drills have become more confident speaking up and helping out.

Their vision for the growth of the women's division is directly in line with Without Limits' vision, and we are extremely grateful to have their support for both the Texas Captaining 101 Clinic as well as with joint sponsorship of a coach for Virginia is for Layouts.

Where does Showdown come in?

Two of the most influential people in my ultimate career have been Cara Crouch and Tina Woodings. Their abilities as leaders, their desire to build women's ultimate in Texas, and their love for the sport have been incredibly inspiring, and both Cara and Tina were formative in my development as a player and leader, as well as a huge part of the amazing time I had living in Austin. Those years were defined by hours at the IM Fields with those two, as well as countless meetings at Whole Foods and Austin Java talking strategy and building our team.

As a rookie on Melee in 2007, I was inspired by Cara and Tina to keep building upon the strong foundation they had built for the Texas Ultimate program. I was fortunate to spend my last year on Texas under Cara's tutelage as a coach and then played my rookie year on Showdown under the leadership of both Cara and Tina. Last year, I had the privilege of leading the team with both of them, and can say with certainty that I have never encountered players as passionate and invested as they are.

Cara served as a coach at the Roundup Division in 2010 and is one of the current captains of Showdown. Tina serves as the President of the Ultimate Players League of Austin (UPLA), has been an integral part of Women's College Centex for the past three years, and remains on the core for Showdown. Both of them have been key to the clinics that the team has run over the past few years. Tina had this to say about Showdown's involvement in the community and with Without Limits' projects:

The South Region has always had lower participation relative to other regions in the women's division. Showdown recognizes that many college teams do not necessarily have the luxury of experienced coaches or organizations to lean on for support and training. By participating in Without Limits events, Showdown is able to pass along skills and inspire players to take it to the next level. Showdown has already seen a huge benefit to assisting with Without Limits events; we have had over 25 college women attend tryouts- more than a 50% increase from last year, and this new talent accounts for more than a third of our team.

Over the years, Showdown has been involved in running Women's College Centex, mentoring local college players, and leading clinics all around Texas. Last year, they teamed up with Brute Squad to run the inaugural Fusion tournament. So, as I worked to get two new projects, the Captaining Clinic and Layouts, off the ground, it made sense to go to them to ask for help. I asked Showdown to help me run the Texas Captaining 101 Clinic and to use the proceeds to sponsor a coach for Virginia is for Layouts, and I got a resounding YES.

All three Showdown captains (Cara, as well as Holly Greunke and Shelby Kuni) will be instructors at the clinic, and numerous other Showdown players and alumni will teach sessions over the course of the weekend. While I no longer live in Texas, and will be lining up across the field from Showdown in a few short weeks, I am incredibly thankful for all of their support.

Showdown and Hot Mess are raising the bar for women's ultimate in Texas and beyond. Do you want to get involved in what we're doing?

Sponsor a coach. Coach. Be coached.

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