Thursday, February 28, 2013

Midwest Throwdown:: Year 6

I have been slacking big time on the blogging game, and people have been bugging me to post more, so I will try to share some content in the coming weeks.  I'll start with a pretty light post about this weekend's event.

Midwest Throwdown is incredibly special to me because of the team I partner with, as well as because it's a tournament I've had a hand in building from the ground up.  I started this tournament in 2008, and this tournament and Centex are probably two of the best metrics I have for how far college women's ultimate has come since then.  This year marks five years of partnership with both Wash U (my college regional rival) and Texas (my team in grad school).  Building a tournament is a huge undertaking, and almost nothing about building Throwdown has been easy, which makes me appreciate the event even more.

A few personal snapshots of Throwdown:

1. Weather
One cannot talk about Throwdown without talking about the weather.  This weekend looks dicey and we've had challenging weather four out of the past five years.  The first year, we lost our primary fields and backup fields, and our backup backup fields got double booked.  I should have given up then.  ;)  The next year, someone was in a Portapottie that got blown over.  Maybe next year, things will turn around...

2. Birds
I have a crippling fear of birds.  In 2009, Wisconsin found a bird head at the fields and decided it would be an awesome idea to give me this "gift" in a napkin.  I freaked out and every year since, a team has given me a dead bird. The team and methodology change from year to year, but I am now at the point where I will not accept any presents at Throwdown.  And after last year, it appears that I can't leave my personal belongings unattended either.

3. Friends

This weekend, I am staying with Abby Stephens, a Wash U alum, former Throwdown TD, and good friend of mine.  I posted a bit about how we met here.  How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference.  I am thankful for my friendship with Abby, which stemmed from that small interaction at Regionals.

Abby always asks me the tough questions, checks in on me even when I am invisible on Gchat for months, and for several seasons, has helped behind-the-scenes by proofreading all of the tournament formats and captains' packets.

I can point to many friendships that have stemmed from organizing Throwdown, and I am incredibly thankful for these people.

4. Pay It Forward
I re-posted this on Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday.  One of the reasons I work on Throwdown year after year is because Wash U is a team that understands this concept.  This year, we have half a dozen alums helping with the tournament.  In past years, the team has donated large amounts of money to projects that do not directly benefit their team.  When I began working on QCTU several years ago, they were one of the first, and only, out-of-region teams to get on board.  Their loyalty, and their commitment to growing college women's ultimate, mean the world to me.

Here's to less bad weather, no birds, and lots of friends and paying it forward.  Looking forward to seeing many of you in St. Louis this weekend.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Southeast Captaining 101 Clinic Recap

This past weekend was the Southeast Captaining 101 Clinic in Tallahassee, FL.  Since I played this past season in the Southeast (Club) Region, I had been hoping to bring one of these clinics to our region.  When I started trying to plan something last summer / fall, I got some initial interest but couldn't nail anything down.  Fast forward a few months to CCC and a chance meeting with Sarah Clark, the president and one of the captains of the Seminole Ladies. Sarah graciously agreed to look into hosting the clinic and within a month, we had a date and location set.  A huge thank you to Sarah and her team, as the clinic would not have happened without them.

Jenna (Florida) and Mariel (Central Florida) face off in one-on-one defense drill
Some of the best players in the state representing Florida State, Central Florida, Florida, and Tabby Rosa attended the clinic.  Chelsea Murphy of Ozone came down to coach at the clinic, and did a fantastic job leading a myriad of sessions including an awesome session on Mental Toughness.  Chelsea's wide range of experiences as a player and leader made her an invaluable resource to all of us.

Mental Toughness session
Florida features three college programs that could all break into the Top 20 this season.  While qualifying for Nationals is a goal for each of these teams, cultivating successful programs that are increasingly competitive is a long-term goal that each is striving to accomplish.  Training younger leaders, distributing playing time, getting team buy-in, and planning effective practices that fit into a season-long plan are all challenges facing these leaders.  We had an awesome time discussing all of these things, as well as honestly tackling the topic of SOTG and the difficulties in building an elite Florida women's club team.  I was really impressed by the honest and productive dialogue in all of the sessions.

Having some fun with the agility ladder outside
One of the most rewarding parts of the weekend was seeing the friendships being developed between teams.  Florida State, Central Florida, and Florida have had an extremely competitive relationship, and we all got to do some bonding over a pasta dinner, our shared struggles with the agility ladder, and the realization that all of our teams struggle with some of the same issues.  I am hopeful that the friendships formed and solidified this past weekend contribute to spirited play in the Southeast and help to form the basis for a unified and successful Florida women's club team.

Happy clinic participants outside in the sun after a rainy weekend
Thank you to everyone who came to the clinic this past weekend!  We look forward to cheering for you this season, and competing against you all this summer / fall.