Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Northeast Captaining 101 Clinic Recap

A couple of weekends ago, we were privileged to host the Northeast Captaining 101 Clinic at Swarthmore College.  It seems that every time we visit the state of Pennsylvania, things don't go our way.  Keystone Classic has been a magnet for bad weather and bad luck the past three years, and while the weather was beautiful for the Captaining Clinic, the weeks leading up to the event were nothing short of a logistical nightmare that included facility issues, two round trips from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, and both of our lead organizers ending up in boots (no, not the fashionable kind).  

Thankfully, lead organizer Emily McAfee and the Swarthmore Warmothers did a tremendous job of troubleshooting every situation and overcoming every roadblock to the clinic... their dedication and perseverance allowed us to overcome many challenges.  We were able to host 80+ players from 20 different teams.  A new Captaining 101 Clinic record!

We were privileged to have Mary Kate "Uzi" Hogan (BENT), Molly Moore (Hot Metal), Amy Hudson (Scandal), Amber Sinicrope (Brute Squad), and Tracy Woo (Brute Squad) as our coaches for the event.  They brought a ton of knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm to the clinic.  One player said that her favorite part of the clinic was "getting to hear awesome stories from the Without Limits coaches cause they are all awesome players and people!"  We agree and felt very lucky to have such an awesome crew of coaches, all of whom have been dear friends for many years.

One of the more humorous parts of the clinic was after Michelle, Uzi, and Amy shared their tales of woe of leading college teams and broken hearts after not qualifying for Nationals.  Tracy stepped up to the front of the room to share her bio and said, "For me, there was no difficulty.  We won College Nationals my first year and were ranked in the Top 4 all year long."  Glad to know it works out for some people, Tracy!  ;)

We had a number of outdoor sessions that included Offense 101, Defense 101, Skills & Drills, and Scrimmaging with a Purpose.  We also held sessions in the fieldhouse and classrooms, covering topics such as Mental Toughness, Strength & Conditioning, Planning Practice for Small Spaces, Recruiting for an Established College Program, and Nutrition & Off-Field Preparation.

Another clinic participant had this to say about the weekend, "I felt like this was the first time in the past two years (since I started captaining) that I was getting really pointed feedback on my play from someone who knew the game really well. It was really empowering to have someone watch me play and take time to really give detailed instruction."  We hope that we achieved our goal of teaching the next generation of college leaders, and giving them tools to take back to their college teams to help them grow even more.  The future of college ultimate looks bright!

A huge thank you to the Swarthmore ladies for hosting the clinic.  Your hospitality was appreciated by all and can be summarized by this player's feedback, "LOVED staying with the Swarthmore girls. Our host was awesome, and she read us some of her original slam poetry and we had an awesome time."

Thanks to all for a great weekend!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tournament Season Wrap-Up

Fusion this past weekend was the last Without Limits tournament of 2012!  Needless to say, I am half a person right now as I was both playing in and running the event.  It has been a whirlwind of a year with lots of unanticipated challenges, but I hope we provided lots of quality playing opportunities for teams across the country.  Thank you to all who attended our events!

We have one last clinic planned for November ( and we are already ramping up for 2013.  Stay tuned to the Projects page as we confirm events for next season.

I was thinking today about how much of the tournament running process relies on friends.  I feel like every tournament has a story of sorts... and those stories all center around people.  Friends are the backbone of the events we run-- they are the reason for investment and they make all of the effort worthwhile.  Living in a hotel for a few days before Fusion reminded me of all of the wonderful people who housed me as I traveled from event to event this year and took care of me on the road.  I started making a list... forgive me if I missed you!

- Erin Hurd (Kansas State)
- Kami Groom (Wash U)
- Tobey Beaver (DeSoto)

- Lindsey Hack (Phoenix) and Raj Prasad (Truck Stop)
- Kate Wilson and Angela Lin (Ozone)
- Natalie Espino (Bucket)
- Emily Lloyd (Georgia / Ozone), Anraya Palmer (Georgia), Lane Siedor (Georgia / Ozone), Julia Fuster (Georgia), and Courtney Farrell (Georgia)

- Laura Glassman (Tufts)
- Shannon Waugh (Colorado)
- Adriana Withers (VC Ultimate)

- Kelly Wright (Loyola / IBEX) and Sara Nolan (Loyola / Gambit)
- Steve Meyers (VC Ultimate / Haymaker)
- Julie Habbert and Emily Luck (Wash U)
- Janel Venzant, Hayley Manning, and Elise Bjork (Texas)
- Paige Hill (Grinnell) and Hanna Liebl (Grinnell / panIC)
- Danielle Fortin and Kate Werry (Capitals)
- Herscus (Colorado College, Harvard, and Carleton)

- Sam Huo (Wash U)
- Carly Maconaghy (Penn State)
- Anna Schott (Molly Brown)

- Lindsey Cross (Molly Brown)
- Lauren Nelson and Stephanie Arker (Brute Squad)

- Lori Eich (Nemesis)
- Katie Dolara (Nemesis) and Dane Olsen (Machine)

I was overwhelmed by both the quantity and quality of people on this list.  Thank you to all of these friends who allowed me to crash their couches and spare bedrooms, do laundry, and steal internet.  I am certain that Without Limits would not have made it through 2012 without you.  And I'm not sure I would have either.  Thank you.

Thank you again for all of your support this year, and I hope to see all of you at events in 2013.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

AGE UP: Vote Now!

Seattle Riot player and friend Hana Kawai asked us to share this piece about AGE UP, a program that she helps run in Seattle.  The program needs YOUR help to win an online voting competition.  Help this awesome program get the funding they need!


HELP US WIN $5,000!!

All Girl Everything Ultimate Program (AGE UP) is a South Seattle-based girls’ leadership and empowerment program that brings together middle school and high school aged girls with world-class female athletes.

AGE UP is in the final stages of an online voting competition – and they need your vote to win big.

The group is taking part in GOODmaker’s “GOOD Summer” contest, an online vote competition that determines the awardee of a $5,000 grant. At the time of this writing, AGE UP is near the top of the pile, sixth in a field of 146 project ideas.

AGE UP is run entirely by volunteers, and every dollar the program raises goes directly to supporting young women taking their first hucks, pulls, and no look scoobers into the world of Ultimate.

But this is about so much more than just Ultimate. AGE UP uses the positive influence of the sport to engage girls in long-term intentional work, developing critical awareness, leadership skills, and positive identity. Just wrapping up their second year, AGE UP grew out of the rapid expansion of youth Ultimate in South Seattle, and is dedicated to working with low-income girls of color from this community - home to the most diverse zip code in the United States.

“The thing I like the best about AGE UP was the fact that we learned about social justice and women’s empowerment and really like helps because it’s different from school. Because guys talk about girls and b-words and you know, so it was really empowering to learn about discrimination and stuff, to rise above that,” says one participant.

Voting on the GOOD site is simple and easy, and every vote supports the growth of Ultimate and the development of the next generation of women Ultimate players and community leaders. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On Beginnings

I've been having a lot of conversations with college players as they process the end of their season and begin regrouping for whatever comes next.  As tough as endings can be, with them come new beginnings, and those can be tough as well.  :)

It's a bit hard to summarize all of my thoughts on this topic, especially as I struggle through endings and beginnings myself, but I thought I'd share a bit of Melee '08 with you as your team begins the next part of its journey.

Coming out of the '07 season, we lost our best all-around player, our best thrower, our coach who spent many years molding Melee as a team, and a group of seniors who had taken the team from being a low finisher at Nationals to a semifinalist.  I was not in a great place as I felt a lot of personal responsibility for our loss in the game-to-go, just a year after I had experienced the same thing my senior year at Cal.  To top it off, I was sad to see the seniors depart in such a disappointing way in such a chippy game.  Losing is hard; losing while watching all of the teams in your Region cheer against you is devastating.

Leading the team in the wake of this ending was difficult and required a bit of "fake it till you make it" on my part as I turned the devastation into motivation as best as I could.  The great thing about new beginnings is that the possibilities are endless.  You decide what you want your future to be.  For me, a strong sense of TEAM and a re-commitment to a better relationship with our opponents were incredibly important, and after taking a couple of weeks to process the end of our season, I set out in earnest to accomplish these things.

Next season has already started and the evolution of your team is already underway.  We're making decisions on a daily basis that are shaping the direction we're headed.  Running, throwing, lifting, setting personal and team goals, spending time with teammates, figuring out the perfect release point for that io forehand, making plans for fun tournaments this summer, dreaming about next year.  Every day is a new beginning for what is to come.  And it's the process, not the ending, that matters most.

Below is an excerpt from a message I sent to Melee that season.  It details a bit of our team's vision and what we set out to accomplish.  Sometimes we were successful and sometimes we weren't.  And you know, I remember the wins and the losses to some extent, but what I remember most is that it was one heck of a journey.


"Others may have far more ability than you have. They may be larger, faster, quicker, able to jump better, etc. but no one should be your superior in team spirit, loyalty, enthusiasm, cooperation, determination, industriousness, fight, and character. Acquire and keep these traits and success will follow. Define success for those under your leadership as total commitment and effort to the team's welfare." - John Wooden

We have all put in a lot of work over the past few months, but the hardest work lies ahead.  Winter workouts, spring training, months of intense practices, and some of the most competitive tournaments in the nation stand between us and Nationals. 

At the end of these six months, the nation will know what Texas Ultimate is all about.  We respect our opponents by playing intense, competitive ultimate, we play with a love for the game and our teammates, and we respect the other team’s calls, expecting our opponents to do the same.  We always strive to model Spirit of the Game, playing with the utmost respect for our opponents and our teammates. 

One heart, one mind. 

Something that sets a GREAT team apart from good teams is heart… the willingness of every single player to lay it on the line for the TEAM.  There is no room for selfishness or personal glory here.  When the team wins, we all win.  When all 23 of us are on the same page, no one will be able to stop us. 

One point at a time. 

Every time we step on the fields is a chance to improve and make this team better.  Take responsibility for making that happen and hold your teammates to the same standard.  Game to 1, every time we’re on the line. 

Soak up every moment of the next six months.  It’s going to be an incredible journey. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Callahan Thoughts

There are a number of worthy nominees for this year's Callahan Award, but I wanted to write a post detailing my thoughts on four candidates in particular.  Without Limits is dependent on "partner" teams- the college and club teams who co-organize our tournaments and clinics.  These four players have been the backbone of Without Limits during an especially uncertain time, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with them.  It has been their commitment to growing women's ultimate and their dedication to their teams, their events, and the division as a whole that have strengthened my belief in what we are trying to achieve. 

As voting for the Callahan Award begins, I wanted to write a few thoughts about each of them and give them a small bit of recognition for all of the hard work they have put in.  Leadership and dedication to the sport of ultimate are two core values of the Callahan Award and I believe that these players have demonstrated that no one can rival them in those two categories.

Janel Venzant (Texas)
I have been Janel's captain at both the college and club levels, and it has been an absolute privilege watching her grow as a player and person over the past five years.  Janel's play her rookie year led our team back to Nationals and helped us take down eventual semifinalist University of Washington in pool play.  Something that has stood out to me about Janel as a teammate is her willingness to lay it on the line for the people she cares about.  I worked hard to get her stick with the team during her first few weeks of college, and that effort was paid back a thousand times at Regionals and Nationals.  She didn't fully understand what it meant to qualify for Nationals, but she poured everything she had into achieving that goal because she knew she was fighting for the seniors who wanted nothing more in the world.

This year, Janel was the lead organizer for Women's College Centex, the largest and most competitive college women's tournament in the country.  Until this season, Janel's strengths as a teammate and leader have primarily been on the field, so fewer things have meant more to me than seeing one of my last college rookies stepping up to run an event that has been the center of my work for the past few years.  The job of organizing Centex is not one that you can truly understand until you've been a member of the planning team-- the amount of work done behind the scenes is overwhelming, and Janel oversaw all of that this season.  Watching Janel pour her heart into this event on top of leading Texas back to Nationals in her fifth year has been incredible.

Kami Groom (Wash U)
I had the privilege of watching Kami at her first tournament ever- 2009 South College Regionals.  Her outstanding play earned her FOTY honors and helped catapult Wash U to the top of the region.  She was absolutely dominant and has only gotten better since.  
Kami is outstanding on the field, proving herself as gamechanger at both the college and club levels.  She is a game changer.    

Kami led the team back to Nationals in 2010 and 2011 and has been a key leader in Wash U's development.  Only those who have seen the development of this team from 2008 until now can fully understand how much this team has grown.  As their former regional rival, I have nothing but respect for what this group of players has accomplished, and much of that should be attributed to Kami.  Every team is a reflection of its leadership, and the Wash U girls are among my most trusted partner teams because of Kami (and the leaders who came before her).  Their "whatever it takes" attitude and their commitment to growing ALL of women's ultimate (even when it doesn't benefit their team directly) gives me great hope for the future of our sport.  Wash U has quietly donated hundreds of dollars to other teams to help them create new opportunities, and has done an incredible amount to grow women's ultimate in the Midwest, both with Midwest Throwdown and beyond.

Earlier this spring, Kami and three of her teammates drove 11 hours round-trip to attend a captaining clinic I ran in Iowa.  Why would the captain of a 3-time Nationals Qualifier attend this clinic?  That's just how Kami is- she's always striving to get better, and that in turn makes everyone around her better.

Lindsay Lang (UNC)
The best part about working on QCTU for the past two years has been working with Lindsay Lang.  She is an amazing organizer, leader, and person who has vision beyond her years.  I really cannot say enough good things about Lindsay.  She does so many things and does all of those things well.  Even though I should be used to this by now, her work ethic and organizational skills still floor me.

A former Junior Worlds player and a member of Phoenix in 2010, Lang has become the cornerstone of the Pleiades offense this year and has turned heads all season.  She is the best player on one of the best teams in the country, who has all of the accolades that a Callahan frontrunner should have.  But I think few know how much she has done for the sport off the field.  She singlehanded grew QCTU in size and competitiveness, as well as added QCTU Qualifier to accommodate more locally and regionally competitive teams.  This was of no benefit to UNC; she did it because she saw a need and she knew she could fill it.  Lindsay has also coached high school ultimate in the Triangle area, has coached at Without Limits skills clinics, and has consistently served as an advocate of Without Limits.  

Because of Lang's abilities as an organizer, QCTU was never a tournament that "needed" Without Limits' help.  Instead, Lang used QCTU to strengthen the Without Limits lineup and has acted as a resource for other organizers and their events.  Lang has done more for me and Without Limits than I could ever offer in return.  When Virginia is for Layouts was struggling to get off the ground, we want to Lang for help and she (and her teammates) gladly gave us every resource they had access to.  Lang understands the responsibility (and privilege) of being the leader of one of the best teams in the country, and she has always responded to this challenge in an incredible way.  Her maturity and her quiet dedication to being the best at what she does make her a fantastic choice for the Callahan Award.

Amber Sinicrope (Smith)
Amber's range of experience is unmatched by any other nominee.  Amherst Regional High School player, two-time Junior Worlds player, 7-year Brute Squad veteran, and appearances at both D-I and D-III College Nationals are just the tip of the iceberg.  Her field sense, disc skills, and gritty defense make her a phenomenal player and she has a proven track record at the highest levels of the game, but it is her work with Smith, a small D-III school that should earn her votes.  Amber has poured her heart into the team and the proof is not just in their semifinals finish at D-III Nationals last year or in their top 8 finish at D-I Regionals this year.  It is in the development of the overall skill set of Luna and in their exposure to new opportunities and experiences.  Amber is not content to pick up the disc every time and make every big play for the team.  She is fiercely competitive but also understands that her role with Luna is to maximize every single one of her teammates' abilities for the long-term success of the program.  That kind of perspective is rare in the college division.

Amber spearheaded Virginia is for Layouts this year, by far the biggest Without Limits project ever.  Her vision for creating this opportunity for D-III, new, and on-the-cusp teams, and her drive to see it to fruition created a remarkable experience for hundreds of players.  Amber dreamt up a much-needed opportunity for these teams, drew in some of the best club players and coaches in the country to make it happen, and fundraised thousands of dollars to see it all through.  Amber's unique perspective as someone who has played at the top levels of the game allowed her to see that many teams outside of the elite tier have many fewer opportunities; not only did she recognize that, she did something to change it.

Few players in the college division have the combination of skill, heart, and vision that Amber have, and despite the fact that she is not one of the top teams in the division, she deserves recognition for everything she has put into the sport over the past decade.

Janel, Kami, Lindsay, and Amber-- thank you for being my collaborators AND my friends.  I love you guys and I will be rooting for you on and off the field in the many years to come.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On Endings

For me, the best part about qualifying for Nationals has always been the opportunity to spend a few more weeks with my team.  I have extremely fond memories of those precious extra moments earned at both Cal and Texas, (and with Showdown and Molly Brown), and these memories are perhaps sharpened by the heartbreak of the seasons sandwiched in between where I lost three games-to-go in two years.  I share some of the heartache of losing that third game here.  Endings are incredibly difficult, especially when they happen sooner than we'd hope.

It's easy to call a season a failure when we aren't the last team standing, but I believe that a season is defined by more than that.  The seasons I look back most fondly on had drastically different trajectories and outcomes.  I always point back to Berkeley '06 as an example of a unified and happy team that lost two devastating games-to-go and "failed" when it counted most.  But I would choose to go back to that team and season over other years where I've qualified for Nationals with teams that were far less unified and happy.  The success of a season cannot be measured by what you see on Score Reporter.  In my mind, the growth experienced by players on and off the field, the relationships built, and the legacy left for the team in subsequent years are all part of what makes a team successful.

As a small group of teams punch their tickets to Appleton and Boulder, and others close the books on the 2012 season, I wanted to share this 
excerpt from an email I wrote to a college player earlier this week:

"I have spent a long, long time blaming myself for premature endings of seasons, whether that be in games-to-go at Regionals or elimination rounds at Nationals.  As a leader, you are so invested that any outcome other than the one you had imagined seems unforgivable... There are always hundreds of things that you could have done differently, and you wonder if one little thing here or there could have changed the outcome of the season.  Sometimes I am still not sure that I've forgiven myself for the "mistakes" I've made... And the truth is, we can always do better... and hopefully we will, in whatever we face next.  I think the key is to always be looking to the future.  Of course, take time to be sad over the ending of a season and to reflect on the things you could have done better.  But ultimately, you are not defined by the past.  You are defined by how you take those lessons into the future."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pay It Forward

Tomorrow's clinic in Toronto marks the official end of the spring season for me.  On the eve of the end of the season, I thought I'd write about the idea of paying it forward, something which has been a cornerstone of my work for the past half a dozen years.  I mention it in this interview with Ultimate Interviews.

One of my mottos is “Pay it forward.” My hope is to cultivate a group of players and teams who are able to think bigger than themselves. I hope that my investment in them leads them to invest in others, and that the end result is something beyond what we can even imagine.

It's hard to explain exactly what this means to me because it's a bit of a life motto, not just what Without Limits is about.  Paying it forward is about giving to people.  It's about loving the people around you.  It's about being kind to strangers.  It's about using what you've been blessed with to bless others.  Just because you can.  Not because of what you might get in return.

I think that women's ultimate is in an incredible place for development.  We are a tight-knit community, which opens up great possibilities for collaboration and sharing of ideas and knowledge.  I strive to be a connector, and have high hopes for both our division, and our sport.  The idea of paying it forward has played a critical role in many of my past projects- Midwest Throwdown, Keystone Classic, and Virginia is for Layouts are all tournaments that would never have been created were it not for people's and team's abilities to pay it forward and think bigger than themselves.

I previously posted this quote:

Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand. - Nelson Mandela

Paying it forward is important to me because it's about more than just trying to advance our sport and create playing and development opportunities.  It's about more than raising money for college teams or trying to help programs get to the next level.  Those things are very important to me...

But more than that, it's about an attempt to have an impact on the lives of the people around me.  
It's about spreading positivity, confidence, hope, and love, because if we're spreading those things, then the world is just a better place.  And ultimate happens to be a great vehicle for this.

Sound idealistic?  Perhaps.  But here's my end-of-season challenge to you, and more importantly, to myself:

Care enough to make a difference for someone or some group of people.  Then sit back and see what happens.  :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Be Intentional

A lot of people have contacted me about my posts on "The Little Things" so I thought I'd write a bit more about that.  I think that one of the biggest ways to make the little things count is to be intentional.  By that, I mean act with purpose

Until somewhat recently, I was always someone who was very goal-oriented and focused on "the next step."  I went to one of the best high schools in the country (#28 on this list), graduated from 
Cal (#21 on this list) with a double major and minor in three years, and and got into several Top 10 schools in my field for grad school.  I graduated near the top of my class in grad school, got a good job doing something meaningful (I worked at a non-profit that designs and develops green affordable housing), and managed to play for teams that attended College Nationals (x2), Club Nationals (x3), and Worlds along the way.

Being driven and having life direction were never a problem for me.  And I say that with absolutely zero pride because all of these "accomplishments" mean very little to me, especially given where I am now.  But I give you this bit of life background so that you have some context for what drives me.

Dropping out of college for two years (a story for another day) helped me gain a bit of life perspective, but Club Nationals 2009 was the real wake up call for me.  My mom called me the night before our Quarterfinals game against Brute Squad with some serious health news.  When you get a call like that, suddenly nothing else matters.

A year later, I quit my job in Austin and moved to Boulder.  A few months ago, I packed up all of my belongings, drove across the country to store them in a friend's garage, and then hit the road, unsure of where life would lead me.  Many people have asked me what I'm doing with my life.  And for perhaps the first time ever, I honestly don't know. 

I am far from having a master plan for life, but I know that I want to love people and give freely to them.  And I know myself well enough to know that 
I can't be the teammate, leader, friend, or person I want to be by chance.  Being on the road, away from my family and friends, for the past few months means that taking steps toward becoming the person I want to be requires considerable effort.  I've realized that when I get busy or stressed, I can have the best of intentions, but my focus always shifts to the urgent instead of the important.  This is where being intentional comes in- it's a way of refocusing.   

To be a bit more concrete and tie it back to frisbee, my last season as a college captain, I wanted all of my players to feel loved and supported.  As with most teams, there was a handful of players I was very close to, and then an entire other group with whom I had very little in common.

From my written list of goals for that season:

1. Be a good teammate and captain- know what my teammates need from me and help them grow as players and people both on and off the field.

Over the course of a season, it's so easy to get caught up in the wins and losses, countless workouts, and practice and travel planning.  So in order to accomplish this goal, I knew I had to be intentional with the little things.

I committed myself to doing the following:

1. Writing each of my teammates a monthly email checking in and telling them at least one thing I valued about them as a teammate.
2. Hanging out with each of them, on their terms, at least once during the season.

I wrote previously about how over-focused I was on the team goal of qualifying for Nationals.  Writing those emails to my teammates and hanging out with them on their terms were a bit of a check for myself, a reminder to me that it's the people, not the goal or the end result, that matter.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

If you know what you want to accomplish, then take the first step.  Be intentional with the little things.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Privilege and Responsibility of Being a College Captain

This season, I've had the privilege of serving as a sounding board for a number of college captains.  (I say privilege because I don't take their trust lightly, and listening to their struggles also means that I get to see their victories.)  I definitely don't have magical solutions for them, but I'm always happy to give them an outside perspective, help them frame their situations positively, as well as just listen, because often, all they need is someone to talk to.

All of these conversations have caused me to reflect quite a bit on my own captaining experiences.  I've captained two college teams (Cal and Texas) and two club teams (Slackjaw and Showdown), for a total of five seasons.  In high school, I captained the boys' varsity baseball team, so the transition to captaining a team of women was quite a challenge.  Who knew that so many feelings could be involved?

I have learned a lot captaining over the years.  I have had the privilege of captaining a team at Worlds, have led teams to both College and Club Nationals, and have lost heartbreaking games to go.  I will be the first to admit that I've learned so much because I have made many, many mistakes.  One of my deepest regrets in this sport was being an absolute taskmaster when I captained Texas.  I was so focused on our team goal of qualifying for Nationals that I lost sight of a lot of important things along the way.  While ultimately we achieved our goal of qualifying for Nationals that year, if I could go back in time, there are a lot of things I would change about the way I led that team.

When I talk to struggling college captains, I try to broaden their perspective a bit.  One of the things I've learned over the years is that you can spend an infinite amount of time trying to address your team's problems.  No amount of stressing about people's behavior, setting team expectations for attendance and attitude, or engaging in one-one-on meetings with difficult players will be enough.  While it's important to spend time addressing your team's problems, I believe strongly that you must also invest time and energy into cultivating positivity.  Spend time on the teammates who are focused and engaged.  Grow their love for the team and the sport, and don't lose sight of these people by overfocusing on the negatives.

I believe that the role of a college captain is so much bigger than about just teaching a bunch of people how to play ultimate.  A college team is a family away from home during some of the most formative years in a person's life, and a captain shapes this entire experience.  A huge part of being a good college captain is investing time, energy, and love into your teammates.  If your teammates know that you'll do anything for them, that will go a long way.  Be the first one to practice, the last one to leave, and the person who will always make time for them.

I have two college rookies still playing college ultimate.  I ran Women's College Centex with one of them, a second-year Texas captain and Showdown player, two weeks ago.  I saw the other one at Keystone Classic last week-- she is playing her fifth year as a grad student at Cornell.  A third former rookie is on the Showdown core this year and works a FT job in Austin.  Another one of my rookies just graduated from Air Force Basic Training last month.  And my last rookie graduates from National Guard Basic Training tomorrow.  I am extremely proud of their accomplishments on the field, which includes trips to both College and Club Nationals and All-Region accolades.  But more than that, I am proud of what they have accomplished off the field-- that is my legacy.

This group of rookies had spunk to say the least.  When I asked them to pick up cones after practice, they'd refuse until I invented cone races and made it into a game for them.  They'd show up on my doorstep unexpectedly, friended my little brothers on Facebook, and would do things to aggravate me like wearing a glove while playing.  Despite the many mistakes I made that year as a captain, the one thing I am proud of is the amount of love I poured into that group of rookies.  I cooked them dinner, let them 
study on the floor of my room, wrote them encouraging emails on a regular basis, and even after I graduated, we'd meet for a weekly Bible study.  I even went so far as to accompany one of them to an appointment with an academic counselor to ensure that she could stay enrolled in school.

Captaining is a huge privilege, as well as a huge responsibility.  With the season winding down, what can you do to make a difference in the lives of your teammates?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

College Season Highlights and Lowlights

I have been on the road since Thanksgiving and am coming off a stretch of running 5 tournaments in 5 weeks and 7 tournaments and 8 clinics in the past 11 weeks.  It's been a pretty ridiculous few months.  

I thought I'd recap some of the highlights and lowlights of the season before I head to Canada for the next month or so...

I've omitted names so as to not embarrass people / teams.  Some of these lowlights are funny, and hopefully the rest will be funny in a few years.  :)

- Walking out fields at Midwest Throwdown.  Wind had blown all of the Portapotties over and I was wildly underdressed (as usual) and was freezing.  After walking out the fields, the other organizers and I gathered in the heated bathroom and vowed to never run the tournament again.

- A college player I had never met telling me that I was responsible for the worst birthday of her adult life at Midwest Throwdown.  The weather was pretty miserable and I hope I have redeemed myself since then, but yikes!  :(
- A college player putting a dead bird in my messenger bag at Midwest Throwdown.
- Nashville field crisis.  3 weeks before the event, when I was re-confirming the total price to send a check, the Field Manager said that the price was not just the price per hour as stated in the signed contract, but the price per hour per field.  This caused the field price to skyrocket.  A migraine ensued.
- A team and guest coach dropping out the week of Virginia is for Layouts.  The result was chaos and a very tired planning team.
- A team not showing up for their first game at Virginia is for Layouts because they thought the tournament was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- Having to get a credit card sent to my parents' address and having my mother mail the credit card to a college player to bring to me at a tournament.  Pretty embarrassing.

- Sleeping in a van at the fields at Keystone Classic to prevent our gallons of water from getting stolen.
- Losing the Keystone Classic fields 12 hours before Sunday play without inclement weather or any advance warning... and then the next 24 hours that ensued.
- Seeing personal criticisms of me posted in public places.  I'm all about taking people's feedback to heart and constantly trying to improve, but at the end of the day, I'm just a normal person with feelings... and a pretty sensitive person at that.
- Seeing my "roommates" more at tournaments than at their house.  And by roommates, I mean the people who own the house and garage where my stuff is stored.
- My family and closest friends having close to zero idea where I am 95% of the time.  Being homeless is a pretty taxing experience.
- The way my brain feels right now: dead.

HIGHLIGHTS- The stuff that makes it all worth it!

- Getting to know Danielle Schrimmer, Kayla Emrick, and Margaret Rosano (Oberlin).  My friendship with these girls started in a small coffee shop in Grinnell, IA in January-- had Danielle not emailed me to set up that meeting, I never would have gotten to know them.  It's the little things.
- Breanna Stein (Vanderbilt) saving the day by securing fields for Music City Mash-Up.  It turns out that Bre is the little sister of one of my former club teammates, a connection we didn't make until the crisis arose.
- Getting to run a tournament with the last of my college rookies.

The players who trust me and give me a window into their lives.  These relationships impact me in a huge way and have reminded me that the most important part about my work is not the events.  It's about the relationships and the opportunity to make a difference for people.  
- Working with people like Adriana Withers and Steve Meyer who are among the biggest supporters of my work.  
- Friends across the country cooking me homemade meals and letting me do laundry.
- The incredible emails and conversations that have come out of Virginia is for Layouts.  Realizing there is so much more work to be done.
- Carly Maconagy, Nichole Smith, Jana Barmasse, and Tracy Custis having a "whatever it takes" attitude when it came to Keystone Classic.  I feel like our paths mostly cross in disastrous situations, but I am incredibly thankful to know people who are willing to go to such great lengths to help me.
- Anna Levine (Swarthmore) offering up two fields at Swarthmore for Sunday of Keystone, refusing to let me pay her team for them, and telling me "I read your blog.  I know what you're about- pay it forward."  First tears of the college season.

- Young alums from my partner teams (specifically from Texas and Wash U) who have done a ton of behind-the-scenes work for Without Limits this year.  These players are the small bit of hope I have that my work might have a lasting impact.
- Players from various teams (Michigan, Texas, Georgia, and Central Florida to name a few) being more than willing to help me with random tasks at tournaments- filling water, walking out fields, picking up cones and trash, carrying tents, etc.
- The positive interactions I had with the high school teams who attended my tournaments this year.  The future is bright.
- The few friends I have who are fiercely loyal to me and who love me even when I am hard to love.
- My family for being so supportive of this ridiculous journey.
- The few college players who keep me on my toes, keep better tabs on me than many of my friends do, and who make me laugh with their ridiculous behavior.
- The copious amounts of Diet Coke that teams brought me to tournaments.

I'm sure there's a lot more I'm missing, but off to Canada I go...

Thank you for being part of the Without Limits spring season.  Your support means the world to me.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Keystone Classic De-Brief

Thank you to everyone who followed our event from home this weekend.  We had quite an epic day and we wanted to give our fans and followers a quick rundown of some of the events of the weekend.

- Last weekend, another ultimate event was hosted at Classics Soccer Park.  The Field Owner and Manager were out of town and did not keep an eye on the damage being done to the fields at the event.  I knew that an event was being hosted at the park, but was hosting Women's College Centex in Austin and was not paying close attention to the conditions in Manheim.  I accept full responsibility for that-- had I paid more attention to the weather, I would certainly have asked the Field Manager about possible damage.

- In my pre-event conversations with the Field Manager last week, I was given ZERO notice about any damage or about the "fragile" condition of the fields.  No mention was made about the possibility of us being kicked off the fields or any concerns about wear and tear.  Having hosted multiple events at these fields before, looking at the forecast, I did not feel that we had any reason to worry.

- On Saturday morning, the Field Manager asked me to keep players on the perimeter of the soccer fields as much as possible (referring specifically to sideline traffic).  I announced this at the captains' meeting.

- On Saturday afternoon, the Field Manager texted me to check in on the condition of the fields and I reported that they were in very good condition and that there were 1-2 "problem areas"-- areas that were clearly worn, but that would not have posed a problem at any other field site.

- On Saturday evening, the Field Manager informed me that we could not use the fields on Sunday due to the damage from last weekend's event.  I was completely blindsided by this as the fields were in very good condition.  The Manager agreed that weather was a non-issue (the weather had not been bad and the forecast looked clear for the remainder of the weekend).  I spent over an hour talking with the Field Manager and Field Owner and made a number of offers to attempt to secure the fields for Sunday, including offering to pay an extra $5000 in seed money to go toward re-seeding the fields-- my primary goal was to secure fields for teams to play on, no matter the cost.

- When it became apparent that no offer would be accepted, my team of organizers and I called as many local contacts as we could come up with including the Penn State Club Sports Director, PADA board members, and a number of local organizers.

Never in my dozens of events of organizing have I ever canceled a day of play.  And that streak lives to see another day.  I know that cancelation due to weather is inevitable in this line of work.  However, I also believe in doing things the right way and in never resting until all leads have been run down and until all possible solutions have been explored.  I want to be able to look my friends in the eye and tell them that I have done everything within my power to help them.

When I emailed and called teams last night to let them know that our fields had been pulled, I felt 99% sure that games would not be played today because all of our leads were falling through.  After I wrote that email, I continued to run down other leads with the help of Carly Maconaghy.  Several players came though in big ways- Kelly McGeehan (Franklin & Marshall), Anna Levine (Swarthmore), and Julie Singer (Haverford).  Games today would not have happened without them.

The wee hours of the morning involved creating a new game schedule for today and walking out fields to ensure that we could guarantee every team a minimum of two games.  Carly, Nichole Smith, Tracy Custis, Jana Barmasse, and Beth Holzhauer faithfully assisted with the entire process.  A huge thanks goes out to them.

The sense of community and the amount of trust and respect in our meeting with teams this morning floored me.   It was important to me to handle this situation the right way, and in addition to de-briefing teams on the situation, we also offered them a partial refund.  The fact that we were able to play games with our fields getting pulled 12 hours before game time on Sunday with zero advance notice is easily one of the bigger miracles we've managed to pull off over the course of the past six years.

This tournament continues to present extreme challenges year after year, and some self-evaluation is certainly in order.  We'll leave you with this humorous bit in the midst of our crisis solving last night:

Michelle: Am I doing something wrong to make these things happen?  Or I am just the unluckiest person in the world?
Carly: You're just the unluckiest person in the world.

What a friend.  :)  We'll post some thoughts on the Without Limits spring season soon.  First, time to recover a bit from the weekend.  Thanks for your interest in our work-- we are deeply appreciative of your support!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Little Things (Part II)

People who know me well know that I love to tell stories.  A lot of people have been asking me to post more regularly, and a number of people contacted me about yesterday's post, so I'll share two stories with you about why the little things matter.

Over the years, I've been extremely privileged to have a small window of insight into the lives of a number of college players.  People come to me with problems ranging from personal playing issues to team problems to serious life crises.  I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know these players on a deeper level than just TD-player, but I often feel overwhelmed by my inability to actually do anything to help them.  I was commenting to one of my friends recently that sometimes I feel helpless because I honestly don't know how I can help these people.  My friend responded, "You care.  That's why they come to you, and them knowing that you care is enough."  Huh.

Today I received a really wonderful and thoughtful email from a player whose team has come to something like eight of my tournaments over the course of the past three seasons.  The team was a supporter of some of my early work in the Midwest, and is now one of the best teams in the nation.  Two years ago, I had a conversation with one of their players on the sideline of a tournament and it was clear that she was having a very emotional weekend.  While I consider her to be a friend now, I hardly knew her at the time, but texted her after the tournament to make sure she was ok.

Here is an excerpt from the email she wrote me today:

"I can't really tell you how much that meant to me. It meant a lot that some stranger cared enough to go through the trouble (with a million other things and people on your mind) to send me that text. It reminded me that people are good and caring, even when they don't have any stake in the situation. I was nobody and you still cared enough to check on me. Thank you.

I have changed a lot since then, and so has my team. I have become a better person I hope. I think I have learned to care about people more and take time to invest in friendships more. A huge part of that is because I learned I could be a better friend and person by knowing you... I didn't know if I had ever told you how much I respect you, so I wanted to be sure you knew. I know this tournament season and really just last couple of years have been crazy for you, but the fact that you are able to keep pushing on, caring for people, sticking hard to your beliefs, and taking chances even when it isn't easy means a lot."

It's the little things.

The second story is about something someone did for me eight years ago.

I was a rookie on the Cal B team and we were playing the Pie Queens at Sectionals.  We were getting destroyed and I was guarding (well, attempting to guard) the Queens' Callahan nominee, Andrea "Chowdah" Jung.  About halfway through the game, there was a particularly embarrassing point, during which I chased Chowdah around the field, trailing her by about 10 yards at all times.  She broke me for the score, and I turned to walk to the sidelines, feeling dejected.  The next part I remember vividly.  Chowdah stopped me, shook my hand, and said "Keep playing.  You're going to be really good someday."  It took her about 10 seconds of effort, but that moment has stuck with me over many, many years, and is a huge reason why I keep pushing myself so hard as a player.  I want to improve because I want to make her proud.  As a leader on the A team and as one of the best players in the country, she had little reason to talk to me.  But she made the effort anyway.

A few years ago, we were playing each other at a club tournament, and I got a layout D on her teammate on an O2 cut.  After that point, I walked over to the sidelines and Chowdah just looked at me and said, "See, I told you."

It's the little things.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Little Things

I'm headed into my 7th event of the season, my 5th of five in a row.  I've basically been on the road since Thanksgiving, most of my stuff is in a friend's garage, and the rest of my worldly possessions are in my car. Those who know me on a personal level know that this is not how I roll AT ALL. I have a graduate degree in Planning, and nothing in my life is planned right now. I'm not even sure where I'm sleeping tomorrow night.

But in the midst of a time of insanity and uncertainty, I've tried to remind myself that...

It's the little things.

In previous posts, I've talked about why I (should) care and about community and the power of positivity.  While life has certainly not been what I've expected it to be lately, I also realize that there will never be another time in my life where I have the opportunity to interact with so many different people.  It's a huge opportunity to make a difference, and I'm determined to take advantage of that opportunity.

But how do I even go about making a difference?  I don't have the resources to change the world, or even change our sport.  But... what if I can change one person's ultimate experience or one person's world?  That makes it seem a lot more manageable, though it's still quite vague.  I've been trying to distill that down to my interactions with people.  Can I have a big impact if I just make an effort in my daily interactions with people?  Will all of those little interactions sum into something bigger than I can imagine?  I hope so.

Here are a few interactions I had with people at Women's College Centex this past weekend that impacted ME in a positive way:

-  One of my project teams (See #4 in my previous post) showed up at the fields to hang out Friday afternoon.  They came over to say hi and asked a dangerous question, "Is there anything we can do to help?"  They then faithfully walked out fields and marked cone locations for me for the next hour.  While several teams this season have been more than willing to help me when needed (Michigan, Texas, and Vanderbilt to name a few), I have almost no relationship with this team, so their small act of kindness meant a lot to me.

- On Sunday, in response to me doing a small favor for a college captain I barely know, the player texted me, "I'll pay it forward.  :)"  This player has already impressed me with her positivity this season, and it made me smile to know that this player, at least, understands my life philosophy.

- At the end of a long, tiring weekend, I was uploading another batch of scores to Score Reporter.  I looked up from my computer and saw a coach, who had played on a rival college team of mine, approaching me.  After I answered her question about a consolation game, she thanked me for my role in building Women's College Centex over the past five years.  She acknowledged that very few current players have the perspective to know what the event was like before 2009, and we talked for a few minutes about the community we're a part of, and how committed leaders can make a huge difference.  I appreciated her taking a few minutes to let me know the impact I have had on her ultimate experience.  Sometimes (often), I lose perspective on what I'm trying to do.

Five more days until the end of the Without Limits college season.  What kind of difference can I make?  What kind of difference can YOU make?

It's the little things.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Women's College Centex:: Organizer Perspective

Women's College Centex is just a few short days away. Skyd already has a preview up, but I wanted to post a few personal thoughts leading into the weekend.

This tournament is important to me for more reasons than I have the time to write about, but I'll try to summarize briefly here:

1. Competition-- This tournament brings together many of the top teams in North America to compete in the last big pre-Series tournament of the season. It has only developed this way because of the support of many friends, and we are cognizant of the big trip it is for many teams. In 2008, we were very fortunate to get huge buy-in from teams like Wisconsin, Michigan, UBC, Stanford, UCSB, Cal, etc. That parking lot meeting is something that continues to motivate me to this day, even though none of those players are playing in the college division anymore.

2. Community-- While we've striven to build an extremely competitive event, none of the organizers have lost sight of the fact that we want to build community with Centex. The Friday Night Mixer, BBQ, and Dance-Off are all staples of this tournament. We include them because we've seen incredible friendships built out of the interaction that happens at these "extras." It's worth the extra work.

3. Personal History-- I first attended this tournament in 2005 with the Cal women's team. It was a huge catalyst in our season that year, propelling us to a Quarterfinals finish at College Nationals. Melee also choreographed a dance for us that year. I will never forget Cara Crouch pouring Gatorade all over herself (thinking it was water) or the look of shock on the Melee players' parents' faces. Priceless. In 2006, my experience at Centex and the care of a few special Melee alums facilitated my decision to attend Texas for grad school. The snow on the ground when I visited Cornell and Columbia sealed the deal, but Centex has a lot of meaning to me on a personal level.

4. Catalyst-- I see Centex as an opportunity to get a few younger / less developed teams a chance to play with the big dogs. Every year in the fall, I look for a few teams I can help-- teams who are flying under people's radars and who might be struggling financially, but who are on the cusp of greatness. We invite them to Centex, and I make it my undercover mission to help them succeed in whatever way I can. After seeing what a world of difference opportunities have made for Wash U, I've re-committed myself to helping "random" teams. There doesn't have to be a "reason" to help-- if a team is working hard and wants to get to the next level, I want to make a difference for them. Centex is a wonderful catalyst for that.

5. Melee--
This tournament is extra special to me because I work with my old team to run it. This year is perhaps even more special because the lead coordinator was one of my college and club rookies when I captained Melee and Showdown respectively. It makes me proud to see someone I've invested so much into stepping up to take on a huge role that serves a lot of players and teams in the college ultimate community. The Melee girls put an incredible amount of work into this event, and their attention to detail shows. I also appreciate that they're always willing to facilitate my crazy ideas and to try new things. There is a high level of trust in our relationship, something I appreciate immensely.

We have a ton to do on the ground in the next two days, but we're incredibly excited to host so many of you in Austin. Travel safe, and we'll see many of you tomorrow night!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Virginia is for Layouts Recap

From an organizer's perspective, it is a bit overwhelming to try to describe what happened at Virginia is for Layouts last weekend. 28 teams, 28 guest coaches, games, skills clinics, development sessions, classroom sessions, teammates, rivals, old friends, new friends. 6+ months of planning culminating in the pinnacle of the Without Limits season.

I've organized dozens of tournaments over the years, and I can't shake the feeling that what we accomplished this past weekend is truly something special. There are many tournaments that serve the top of the women's division extremely well, and as they have expanded to include more divisions and qualifiers, they are doing an increasingly good job of serving the middle of the women's division as well. But what about the B teams? The new women's teams who can barely field 7 people at practice? The D-III teams who are faced with a new competition structure and few resources? Who serves them?

Enter the idea for Layouts.

The tournament and its multitude of challenges have weighed heavily on me for the past 6 months. To be honest, a few months ago, I was fairly certain the tournament would be a huge disappointment, but after a meeting with the other organizers and a conversation with one of the Grinnell captains, I fell back on one of my major life mottos, "Refuse to fail." T
errified of letting these people down, I poured my heart and soul into the event. I ran clinics to help fundraise money, I begged my teammates and friends for their support, I emailed teams repeatedly until I got a response. The number of teams committed to the event grew from 5 to 28 in less than 2 months' time. And when the time came to find guest coaches for all of these teams, Lindsey Hack wrangled a dozen of her teammates from Phoenix and Ember to come coach, and players from Showdown, Molly Brown, Brute Squad, Ozone, RevoLOUtion, Ring, Cash Crop, Ironside, Haymaker, and The Ghosts joined them. The level of coordination required to pull off an event like this is something I cannot even begin to describe-- there are so many moving pieces, and as the event took shape, I began to realize the utter insanity that was sandwiching this event between tournaments sized at 52 teams, 42 teams, 40 teams, and another brand new tournament.

The weekend did not go perfectly. We survived a guest coast dropping the week before the event, a team dropping the day before the event, and a mix-up in the tournament location causing a team to miss their first round on Saturday. Some of the classroom sessions were smaller than I had hoped. The usual craziness of hosting an event for hundreds of people took over at times. Organization behind the scenes did not always go smoothly, and we talked through difficult issues. But in the end, I think we accomplished what we set out to accomplish. We created an amazing playing and development opportunity for D-III, B-teams, and on-the-cusp teams. And that is something we can be proud of.

Over the course of the weekend, I saw clear admiration in the eyes of many college players as they hung on to their guest coaches' every word. Some of them had spirit circles at the end of the weekend to thank their coaches, and at one point, I saw Tufts B marching two-by-two as their guest coach, Frances Deschenes, led them to their next development session. I saw some of the best players in the club division break down basic skills for young college players, I saw strategy being explained to teams, and I witnessed one-on-one instruction happening on the sidelines. I saw coaches rushing the field out of excitement when their teams scored, I saw a brand new women's team win 3 games on the weekend, and I got to witness what happens when you put players from 10 different club teams together at a dinner table. I had amazing conversations with captains, players, coaches, and even parents. I left the weekend feeling incredibly challenged.
I had the privilege of (unexpectedly) teaching a development session on "Building A College Program," and the focus and engagement from the players in attendance floored me. It reminded me that these players love their teams and our sport as much as my teammates at the elite club level. I believe that the development of the women's division involves raising both the ceiling and the floor. It is not enough to just serve the top of the women's division, and the opportunities for the middle and lower tier teams may have to look radically different than it does for the teams at the top.

The feedback surveys are showing overwhelming positive feedback about the coaches. "I learned so much" and "(Insert Coach Name) was AMAZING!" are recurring themes in the feedback.
My inbox has also been filled with emails from college players over the past few days, more than a few which have brought me to tears. One of my guest coaches, a young club player, whom I have invested a ton into over the past year, wrote me an email yesterday saying, "I can't stop thinking about how awesome this tournament was, it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced. Thanks for letting me be a part of it, I hope to do it again next year." That was enough to make me realize that maybe, just maybe, we have done something worthwhile.

While I am still exhausted from the weekend (with two of my biggest events on the horizon), my brain won't let me stop thinking about where I go from here. Looking back on a very uncertain few months, and looking forward to two more months on the road, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how Layouts fits into the bigger picture, and the kind of difference I want to make in the ultimate community. To organize a good event or to raise money for a college team are both great things, but I want to do more than that.
It's 5:00 AM and I still need to put the finishing touches on the Women's College Centex captains' packet, so I'll close with two quotes that have me thinking.
Sport and physical education play an important role at the individual, community, national, and global levels. For the individual, sport enhances one's personal abilities, general health, and self-knowledge. On the national level, sport and physical education contribute to economic and social growth, improve public health, and bring different communities together. On the global level, if used consistently, sport and physical education can have a long-lasting impact on development, public health, peace, and the environment. - United Nations International Year of Sport and Physical Education

Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand. - Nelson Mandela
Layouts would not have been possible without the help of many, many people. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this event-- your love and support have meant the world to me, and I hope to pay your investment forward many times over as I seek to make a difference not only in our sport, but in the lives of the people who make up this community.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Community and the Power of Positivity

My friends have been encouraging me to blog more, as the past couple of months have been filled with some interesting experiences. Hilarious / ridiculous things happen to me on a somewhat regular basis (more than I care for), and I've also been learning A LOT about myself, my work, and what Without Limits is and can be. I've also met a lot of great people along this journey, and for that I am exceedingly grateful.

I've had a couple of conversations with college players recently about energy, mostly as it pertains to team. I'm a firm believer that there is no such thing as being neutral in a relationship. You're either pouring positive energy into the people around you... or you're sucking energy away from them (which can also be looked upon as injecting negative energy). I know that for me at least, the energy I put into / take from the people around me is highly correlated with external factors (whether my team is winning or losing, how people treat me, how many hours I've driven that day, etc.) I've been pushing these college leaders to turn on the positive, no matter what the circumstances are. We all have the ability to be positive, and I believe that it's a choice we make. Sometimes that choice is harder than other times for sure, but I think we always have the ability to choose.

I've been striving to apply this concept to life and my circle of friends and acquaintances, or my community, if you will. Being on the road for 6 months leaves a lot of time for thinking (and hopefully challenging myself and growing), and this week, I've been thinking a lot about what community is exactly. I have a M.S. in Community and Regional Planning, so I have a fair amount of experience and training in building community. Over the past few years, I've been focused intently on the women's ultimate community. But lately, I've been thinking that there is more.

Yesterday, I did an interview with BTW21, a local television station who will be covering Virginia is for Layouts this weekend. I had a long talk with the News Director before the interview and it made me think more about the impact that this event is having on the local community. The sport we play is great, but not just because it's fun to chase around a flying piece of plastic. It's about the power of sport-- to create relationships, to test your personal limits, to learn life lessons, and to impact the people around you. And that community, our sphere of influence, is greater than just our team, or even the small group of teams we play against over the course of a season. Our ability to pour positivity into our community extends to the front desk clerk who checks us in at the tournament hotel, the checker at the grocery store when we buy field food Friday night, the local who stops by to catch a few points of one of our games, the attendant at the gas station... the list could go on and on.

Maybe this is just another one of my crazy ideas... but what effect could the power of positivity have if we broadened our definition of community and poured positivity into all of our relationships? What if we took the extra effort to invest fully into our teammates, acquaintances... and into all of the people around us?

The world might be a better place. :)

Layouts is this weekend. We just announced Heavyweights. We'll be hosting our first international clinic next month to help our friends raise money for Worlds. And planning for Virginia Fusion has also begun. It's a busy stretch ahead, and I'll be striving hard to keep the focus on investing positively in the people around me. Hold me accountable!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Midwest Throwdown:: Year 5

It's hard to believe that this is the 5th year of what started out as a small event to build the South Region. Over the years, the tournament has grown tremendously. This year, we'll host 52 teams, a 400% increase in tournament size.

The planning team is one of the best I work with-- the organizers have a huge vision for their sport, understand the privilege (and responsibility) of being an elite college team, and pay attention to the small things (a detailed timeline of Thurs / Fri / Sat / Sun responsibilities is always included in our tournament planning).

I just finished "The Tipping Point" yesterday, a book whose subtitle is "How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference." While I definitely don't think we've started an epidemic, it is interesting how I can point back to one weekend that has been the lynchpin for this event.

South Regionals 2007

Two very important things happened that weekend.

1. Texas didn't qualify for Nationals for the first time in half a dozen years.
2. After we knocked Wash U out in Semis, I saw one of their captains sitting on the sideline of the Finals taking notes on the game and planning how to take it back to her team for the following year.

So how did those two things lead to the development of one of the biggest tournaments in college ultimate?

1. Not qualifying for Nationals was a humbling experience for Texas. The team recognized that in order to be relevant on the national scene, we needed to build the teams around us. We went to the other top teams in the region and established a collaborative relationship with them.
2. Abby's
display of crazy commitment and desire to improve stayed burned in my mind until I had the opportunity to meet her 6 months later at Harvest Moon. And so began a 4-year partnership with Wash U.

How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

QCTU Qualifier Preview

Queen City Tune-Up Qualifier in Chapel Hill this weekend is the first Without Limits tournament of 2012! The highest finisher (besides UNC A) will advance to Queen City Tune-Up in Charlotte next weekend. The Qualifier features ten teams from the Atlantic Coast region, and is a quality local playing opportunity for a number of teams.

The Pleiades are the clear favorite going into the weekend, but the team knows that they need to remain focused, not only to do well at the tournament, but to prepare themselves for tougher competition at next weekend's event. The team's most notable loss is 2011 Callahan winner Leila Tunnell, and in order to make another strong run this year, the team will have to adjust to the loss of their best thrower and all-around player. Other notable losses include 2nd Team All-Region players Janna Coulter, Britta Jones, and Kaitlin Baden.

Captains Lindsay Lang and Shellie Cohen will shoulder much of the burden for the Pleiades this season. Lang received All-Region honors last year and Cohen was voted FOTY, and both have spent time playing with North Carolina Phoenix (Lang in 2010 and Cohen in 2011). Their leadership and skills will be key to the Pleiades' success this year. The Pleiades also return coaches Lindsey Hack and Raj Prasad, who will do a great job molding young talent to play their best in April and May.

Elon takes the 2 seed into the weekend, coming off a strong showing at Wolfpack Invitational, with their only losses coming against 2011 Nationals Qualifiers UNCW and Virginia. Elon will be looking to qualify for next weekend's event and will be led by captain Lauren Krizay. UNC-Greensboro and Duke round out the top four, with Elizabeth Longmire and Meredith Chase leading their teams respectively.

Liberty is a second year team with a ton of athletic potential. Last year, they pulled off impressive wins against UMass and SUNY-Buffalo at Easterns, and also competed at Conference Championships for the first time. They will be looking to build on last year's successes and despite some personnel changes, have a dedicated coach and advocate in Jason Barett.

Wake Forest is one of the most interesting teams competing at the Qualifier. The team qualified for D-I Nationals in 2008, but has been rebuilding since. Gone are studs like Lucia Derks, Kennedy Wolfe, and Claire O'Brien. Coach Tammy Moose has departed as well. But this year, Wake Forest will be renewing their focus and competing in D-III. They will be a dangerous team in the Atlantic Coast and should easily contend for a bid to Nationals. This is the first step in their journey.

Davidson, UNC-B, JMU-B, and Virginia-B round out the field of teams. Of note, Kate Leslie of Bay Area Zeitgeist is now coaching UNC-B. Mary Schone will be a player to watch for Davidson, and JMU-B and Virginia-B represent some of the tremendous growth and development that is happening in the Atlantic Coast women's region.

In addition to tournament play, Triangle Area club players will be hosting a skills clinic on Saturday afternoon. The clinic is open to all QCTU Qualifier and TYUL participants.

Registration info is here: