Los Angeles Organization of Ultimate Teams

My First Time at Nationals

Oct 13th, 2014 | By | Category: Articles

It’s pretty exciting when you can do something you love, and know that if you’re good enough, if you work hard enough, and if you’re willing to pay your own way, you may get to compete against the best people in the country at that thing.  Jump rope has a nationals.  There’s a national yo-yo contest.  You can play Monopoly at a Nationals level.  Hell, there’s even an Air Sex World Championship.  And that is just wrong.

We’re lucky as Ultimate players.  Not only do we have a National Championship.  We have it in lots of divisions.  Youth.  College.  Men’s.  Women’s.  Co-ed.  Old dudes and chicks.  Super old dudes.  Whatever demographic you fit into, you may one day get to play at the top level of this sport.  I say this because some of the “professional” Ultimate players still slum it down come October.  So even though there’s an elite group of “paid” players who have “salaries”… for the rest of us amateurs, Nationals is the top of the mountain.

For me, the big dance came late in my Ulty career.  I popped my cherry three years ago at the age of 39.  And it was the only one I went to.  (I’m not counting grandmasters in Colorado where my team qualified by simply existing, nor 2006 when I was Monster’s stat boy.)  I followed the Rich Hart strategy – the old LAOUT president  – who once said: “Don’t try out for a team.  Build a team of players who are all better than you.”  Done and done.

My recollections of Natties had very little to do with playing.  I mean, let’s be honest, I played like a dozen points.  No, for me it was more like a great vacation in Florida with my close friends.  The 3-story beach house with the rooftop deck.  Singing at the top of our lungs in the back of that huge party van.  The amazing white sand of Sarasota.  (It’s like freakin’ baby powder.)  Drunkenly heckling the observers at finals.  And of course, playing “WOULD YOU BE SHOCKED?” for hours in the hot tub.  (Just trust me.)  Those are the memories I cherish most.

With 7 Figures gearing up for their fourth straight trip this Thursday, it got me thinking.  I wonder what other folks remember about their first time.  So I asked a bunch of current and ex-LA players to tell me their stories.  And I got a lot of good ones.  I think you’ll enjoy this collection of tales, told in order of when I received them.  And I hope you get excited, like me, for the annual Fall event where the best play the best, and USAU’s servers invariably crash.

Diesel

Mike “Diesel” Weil

This is not my story to tell, but Jack Moxon wandering the beach at 2am and skinny dipping with Nicole is one of my favorite stories.

The other good one I have involving an LA guy is Andy Fisher attempting to buy a pitcher of Gin and Tonic with the gift certificate that ABBQ won at the Halloween costume contest.

The Nicole he’s referring to is Nicole Belle Isle.  And I should mention Nicole wanted to make sure it was known there were more people in the skinny dipping story, lest you start drawing your own conclusions.  (Like I did.)

Dan "Dot" Oettinger

Dan “Dot” Oettinger

I’m at Nationals in Sarasota in 2011, at the beginning of the first game of Thursday morning playing against Jonny Bravo. We get a turn in our endzone and I pick up the disc and walk it up to the front line. All our cuts are shut down so I make kind of a lazy pivot to throw to my dump and the huge, buff man marking me handblocks my throw, picks it up and throws to the dump defender for a score. This all happened in about 5 seconds. Before I even knew what happened, Bravo is all on the field celebrating. That’s when I realized that anything less than my highest level of effort and focus wasn’t going to cut it.

Truth.

Mark Miller

Mark Miller

The first is always the most memorable and with Monster it was even more so due to the circumstances surrounding the season. LA has always had decently talented players, just lacking one consistent deep thrower, the leadership and will power to make something of it. That season, we picked up a thrower (Julian), followed a leader (Will) and almost had the will power to make something of it. The circumstance that I think gave us some resolve was the loss of Douglas Baker, one of the founders of the team, in a tragic accident on his way home from Regionals where he punched his 1st ticket to Nationals with the Gendors. Our first game at the big show, was against the #1 ranked Furious George. Wow.  Awesome. We started on D – I was fortunate to have started.  A couple of memories stand out from that game.  Brian Zid taking Mike Grant, one of the most prolific players of the time, deep. If my brain serves me right, Jason Schissel was on key with the echo-response cheering, when Furious would start – we’d finish – a rousing “Furious Monster!” echoed across the field. We beat the spread. Mission accomplished.

I was there to take stats for that game.  Although Monster went winless that year, that game and the following game against Condors were great performances.

Krishna Nayak

Krishna Nayak

My first time playing in Nationals was in 2011 with Beyondors in the Masters division.  I was a role player on a team with a bunch of studs who had won Open championships when they were in their prime.  I played well, got more playing time than I expected, and had a blast.  We lost in the finals to the #1 seed Surly.  My favorite memory was winning two close games against the Bay Area team called Wheelchair that consisted of many people that I idolized when I was in college.  It was also cool to be on pseudo-TV (the finals were streamed online).

Oh shoot.  This is the finals where I was heckling the observers, that I mentioned at the top of this article.  So I hope that didn’t make it onto the video.

Matt Hennessy

Matt Hennessy

I remember it well.  Leading up to the tournament we were taking things to drastic heights.  Living on the West Coast preparing for Sarasota, we began getting up zero dark thirty to be at our respective pods by 6am, to simulate the start of Day 1 Game 1.  Apparently the loss of sleep was of little concern. But we were doing it together and that was what counted I suppose.  Struggling together so that we could feel come game time, that the practice was the hardest part.

I remember we (LA Metro) went to the fields Wednesday evening, the day before the first pull to get a feel for the fields and humidity.  And I was jittery as hell.  But it was a true pitch from heaven.  Flat, grassy, fast, in an arena set by palm trees and sun.  Or at least thats what my memory tells me (were there actual palm trees?  Who cares.).

I remember warming up on Day 1 watching the inexhaustible Tesla-engine of Scott Mahr and hearing, for the first time, the distinct cloppity-clop-clop of the polo fields.  Being proper polo grounds, the grass is laid closely cropped to sand and the thick stuff down below.  I remember thinking, we are horses.  Buckle up, it is time to run!  And I begin the mixing of metaphors.  (MORE)

For those of you who remember Henny, you remember his great recaps.  The boy can write.  There’s a lot more to this story.  So if you want to read the whole thing, click here.

Chuck

Chuck Town

My first time at Nationals was 2004 with Chicago Machine, and I was diagnosed with Mono two weeks before, so I was medically NOT allowed to play. I WAS allowed to take antibiotics and have red spots all over my skin, so I looked like a freaking pro-vaccination campaign picture, and I was also allowed to meet my girlfriend’s ex who was the captain of Team USA and a legend in the sport, and also she made more money than me, and also I was insecure. At least we went 0-7 and finished last while I watched from the sideline crying on the inside. #heartofachampion

Chuck always makes me laugh.  And now, he gets to make lots of people laugh as a broadcaster for the AUDL.

Crissy Vega

Crissy Vega

The coolest part of Nationals to me was having it in Florida where my mom could actually come and see me play.  It was the 1st time she had ever seen ultimate frisbee played and it was at a National Level.  Needless to say she was impressed about how huge of an event it was and said she never knew the sport was “taken so seriously”.  She was cheering, learning all the frisbee lingo and super into it.  I felt like I was 12 again, both embarrassed and proud.  She still thinks every frisbee game I go to, is the size of Nationals but I don’t feel the need to correct her.

I can certainly relate.  My dad was with me for that same Nationals, who also lives in Florida, and it was also his first time seeing Ultimate.

Ali "Q" Webster

Ali “Q” Webster

I was a college freshman with only one year of ultimate under my belt, and BLU was going to Nationals.  A vast number of images flood my mind when thinking back to that Memorial Day weekend.  Scoping out the fields the day before the tournament.  Noticing how the emptiness gave a peaceful feeling; the calm before the storm.  Feeling the perfectly soft, deep-green grass between my fingers.  And dancing the night away at the tournament party.  But the biggest thing about nationals is the intensity.  Everyone brings their A-game.  Everyone is good.  Players are running hard and bidding left and right, sacrificing their bodies for their respective teams.  This heightened level of play elevated my own game, helping me to improve tremendously in just four short days.  When I came back to school to start the next season, I was continuing to play with the intensity of nationals still fresh in my cleats.  I knew the level to which I could elevate my game, and became hungry to drive that ceiling even higher.  To me, nationals is an experience where you can push your limits and discover how good you really are.

It’s fair to say I never specified club or college Nationals when I asked everyone this question.  Although I meant club, I didn’t clarify.  So I got a few college stories which are good too.  Such as the following:

Jen "Poof" Sanderson

Jen “Poof” Sanderson

When I first made it to nationals in college many moons ago my first thought was:
“YEA! But, nationals is during exams. I am going to fail college. It’ll be worth it.”

~the end~

Poof is actually a San Diego player. But she did play with 7 Figures, so that’s good enough for me.

Sam Regnier

Sam Regnier

My first nationals experience was with Monster in 2006.  I was a defensive specialist with a capital S; I prided myself on playing shut-down D, and then getting out of the way once we got a turn.  The inimitable Andy Bandit came with us to take stats, so I know my complete offensive output for the weekend: 13 throws.  Dumps: 10/10.  Upfield: 2/3.  Beat that.

That’s all true.  In fact, in all the years I’ve ever taken stats, no one has come even close to the percentage of most dumps per overall throws.

Eric Brach

Eric Brach

My first time at nationals was 2001 in college (watching), and my first time playing was ’03 — still college. There are plenty of bits and pieces I recall from those, but it’s true that they just weren’t the same as my first club nationals.

I was living in DC at the time, and had just made my way onto Truck Stop in 2006, when it was still a relatively new team. (Back then, the team’s name was significantly longer, too, and much more… risqué? Let’s just say it was more in line with the kind of name I’m used to seeing on my party teams in L.A.)

Anyway, the memories that really stick out for me were just glimpses, snapshots really, but they’re so deeply embedded in my mind that they might as well be shellacked.

— Getting a kick block on the mark as the chase in a 1-3-3 zone against Big Ass Truck, and being elated. Then being immediately deflated when the guy I kick-blocked caught his own macked disc. Uh.

— Looking out across the Sarasota polo grounds and just seeing ultimate all the way off to the horizon.

— The close-cropped grass. The early morning dew.

— Sitting in the (free!) beer garden with my whole team on day one after we went 0-fer and realizing that our record didn’t matter — we were having a damn good time.

— My entire team sporting matching unicorn sweatbands. I still don’t fully understand why, but it was a thing, and we loved it.

As I get ready for nationals 2014 — probably my last club nationals — I guess I kinda like being able to look back and see how different the sport is (and how different I am!) now. This will be my fifth club nationals (3 men’s; 2 coed)… I hope it’s a good one.

Last club Nationals?  What?  Say it ain’t so!

Spike

Russell “Spike” Gaskamp

Qualifying for Nationals was a milestone in my Ultimate career. It signified some sort of quantifiable achievement for all those hours I spent going to tryouts, doing track workouts, throwing under the lights, giving up Saturday/Sunday/Summer plans to go to practice and all that money I’ve spent traveling to tournaments.

For those of us who didn’t go to a college with a strong ultimate program, we have to use our mid-twenties to learn the skills that college kids learn when they are 18. Club teams rarely have coaches making it that much more difficult to take your game to the level it needs to be to make a National caliber team. I had the desire to make such a team, but was incredibly intimidated playing with players that were on that level. One of the players I personally was intimidated by was AJ. It wasn’t anything he did or said to me. He was never rude or mean. I simply found myself afraid of making mistakes in front of him, and therefore – I made lots of mistakes around AJ. So what did I do? I joined Marshall. I forced myself to play with the guy who scared the disc out of me. And it worked. I gained the confidence that I needed to make the team that I wanted. Figure out what scares you and face it. Thank you AJ.

I’ll never forget beating American BBQ for the second time on that Sunday in Arizona to steal the 3rd Southwest bid. I’ll never forget all 3 of the captains (knowing it was the first time I’d punched my ticket) coming up to me and congratulating me on the accomplishment. Nationals is a blur, but facing my fears and achieving that milestone will stay with me.

I still don’t like to make mistakes around AJ, and I’ve played with him for 15 years.  I get it.

Jeff Landesman

Jeff Landesman

My first trip to Nattys came in 1987 in Miami. It was very exciting and overdue because in 1982, as a senior at Pitzer College, we had beaten the reigning National champion Condors to knock them out of Nationals, but lost to the Portland Fun Hogs in the game to go (that is a story for another time).  In 1985 we had lost to the soon to be National champion Flying Circus in the game to go, and in 1986 we were seeded 2nd at Regionals, but imploded and ended up in 5th.

In 1987 we played our first game against Boston’s Titanic. We came out strong and were winning the entire game. Alas, we snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory and lost by 1 point. Our second game was against Life Before Plastic from New Jersey. This game we should have won easily, but we couldn’t get the taste of the Boston game out of our mouths. The most memorable part of this game was the 1/2 hour delay due to the “Miami Vice” Incident. As we were playing, someone noticed a bunch of guys with guns on the other side of a fence next to the field. We all ran for cover until we realized it was a police training camp. Needless to say it was hard to finish that game. Funny thing is, if we had won that game we would have made semis in our first appearance at Nationals. The tourney ended with a really fun game in which we defeated the reigning champion St. Louis Tunas. Then we got to watch NY NY win the first of their championships.

Luckily for me I was able to compete in over a dozen more National Championships. I never won a title, but I did lose in 3 finals.

Every time I went, I treated it as my last time, because you just never know. Enjoy every moment of the weekend. It might be the first of many or the only one ever.

You just knew you were gonna get a great story from Jeff.

George Van Pelt

George Van Pelt

My first time at Nationals was in 2008 with the Condors. So it was a lot of dudes being really aggro and clique-y and upset about PT and then angry at their teammates for making mistakes in big games and that kind of thing. Not a lot of fun.

In pool play we saw both Ironside and Jam–both of that year’s finalists–and posted respectable close losses. And then we faced some random first-time team of jokers no one had ever heard of with the face of Patrick Swayze’s (spelling?) character from “Point Break” emblazoned on their hideous jerseys. Even their name was a joke: Bodhi. They were young and dumb. And they played like they had nothing to lose. And they had FUN. And they beat us.

While we didn’t “officially” get eliminated until the next morning, that game was deflating. Some of the veterans retired or moved north; the Condors effectively restructured their Santa Barbara base after that (a very smart move, in retrospect). In short, that game changed things quite a bit.

But that Bodhi game also taught me something invaluable: that competitive club ultimate could be FUN. And I was inspired to spend the next few years playing on teams with people I liked, trying to get back to the Big Dance.

Which he did, with 7 Figures three years later.  I heard that team was pretty fun.

Wendy

Wendy Copeland

I remember it was sooooo Windy in Sarasota, and thought “Man no one can throw in this!” Then, even though I never got the disc unless I was catching a score, I watched Joe Forbes do it over and over. It was awesome!

They do call him the Cannon.

Punky

Katie “Punky” Killebrew

When I went to Club Nationals, it was with Metro. I started out that season as a practice player and was ecstatic when they offered me a roster spot just before Sectionals. I had learned a lot being at practice, but tournaments were another level of learning about the game. It was a totally different experience than being a starter for the USC Hellions, I was new and at the bottom end of the playing rotation instead of being a team leader. My biggest take away was how pivotal sidelines were, especially in our game against 7 Figures at Regionals.  I knew that despite not playing many points on the field, I could still have a big impact on the game from the sideline and made it my mission to be talking every point of every game. I may have taken this job a little too seriously because by the end of Saturday I had no voice left. Zero. I couldn’t talk for a week. I was affectionately ignored and called Ghost of Punky, the Punkergeist.  But this Nationals experience left me with a deeper love and respect for the game and my teammates, and a burning desire to be a better player.

Very important lessons in here.  Good for everyone to remember.

Stephanie "Shaq" Schlosser

Stephanie “Shaq” Schlosser

first nationals … 2001?  2000 maybe?  in sarasota and with safari.  after 3-ish years of having my world revolve around the college season, i remember being called out by a really dumbfounded club player from another team who could not believe that us college kids were doing situps and pushups on the side line.  she told us that this was club nationals, THIS IS IT, and asked us what the heck we were doing… we told her that it was the start of college season.  (like, obviously, time to buckle down on training, duh).

Shaq was fortunate enough to go to Nationals with her then boyfriend and now husband Marty, who wrote this:

Marty

Marty Schlosser

First and only time at Nationals was 7F’s second season in existence and my second season playing Club. I was determined to make myself a great resource on the field and learn our system after a very humbling first year. I felt up for it and in great condition when I tore my ACL before our first tourney of the season. Nonetheless, experiencing our season from the sideline taught me a lot about our will and determination and I never felt like i wasn’t part of The Club. Being in Sarasota wasn’t necessarily my “dream come true”, but being there felt like a dream and I was honored to witness some of the grittiest Ultimate I’ve seen and represent with my one and only Team ever, 7Figure$.
For the CLUB!

How about a shout out to the injured players who spend the money and time to support their teammates despite the agonizing knowledge that they can’t help on the field.

Brent Russell

Brent Russell

My first time at Nationals was San Diego 1988 with the LA Drivers. We wore cotton t-shirts that Carl Brown custom designed. Those fields were brutal and known as “shell fields”. There are lots of small broken sea shells mixed in and you could get cut by them. One person needed stitches. I’m confident they would not hold Nationals there these days. I remember that Richard Gallagher got a concussion in our game vs this Mid Atlantic team Looney Tunes. We also had another close battle with Boston. Over the course of the next 3 years we would have a series of games with them all decided by one or two points. This was the last year as the LA Drivers and in 1989 we were the Iguanas.

I love the old stories.  Maybe Jeff or Brent will post some old photos of when they played in those games.

Enway Hsu

Enway Hsu

I loved the feeling of being on the field with my teammates because it was a goal that we reached together and worked so hard for as a team.

Indeed

Remy Schor

Remy Schor

2003 | Kaze | Chicago Mixed – I think I made it onto the team accidentally (like, they were thinking, okay, we’ll take her and we’re not even thinking about going to Nationals at this point, so it won’t really matter but then oh, uh, we made Nationals but never mentioned to Remy that she was really just a practice player so I guess we can’t tell her that now kind of thing).  I’d like to think that things are different for me this time around.

I don’t remember much from Nationals in 2003 – as a player, I was pretty new to the sport, and I wish that I had known more about the meaning of Nationals and the value of having been there.  I value it now.  And I can’t wait for Nationals 2014.

And I can’t wait for you to beat Blackbird on Thursday.  (Old wounds from 2011.)

Jess "Venus" Huynh

Jess “Venus” Huynh

My first nationals was an incredible experience. My first club nationals was 4 years ago with Texas Showdown. The first thing that came to mind was how expansive the Sarasota polo fields were! It was incredible to see several divisions, playing side-by-side, in one beautifully warm location. To be a part of an elite club team and surrounded by extraordinarily talented women in our division was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The big show is always the real deal… it is an earned experience.. but there will come a time where being in attendance is not nearly enough… but that first year sure was special. 🙂

Makes sense.  The first time you’re happy to be there.  The next time you wanna win it.

Josh Wiensch

Josh Wiensch

It was 2012. It was my first year of club and I had made it to Sarasota, FL. The most memorable thing about the tournament was getting to the fields early on the first day and almost no one else being there. The fields were empty and pristine, probably the best grass I’d ever played on. I was really excited and I took a moment to look out over the fields and let it all in, anticipating the ultimate to come.

It’s true.  That grass is pretty amazing.

Simon Margolis

Simon Margolis

I have a hard time remembering who we played, or how we finished, or whether or not Jeff Chai was in fact uncoverable. I do remember landing in Tampa at 6 am after the redeye and driving straight to Siesta Key. I remember the sights and sounds of arriving at the polo fields on Thursday morning, to this day the most pristine and beautiful stretch of grass I’ve ever seen. I remember our team bungalows steps from the white sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico. I remember, somehow, through the haze of the drunken Saturday night pool party, calling Lauren to make sure she was having a fun Halloween (she was, and she couldn’t have been more pleased with herself after dressing Rufus up in a chicken costume).

Have fun in Texas ya’all!

I love that he doesn’t remember who they played, or how they did, but he remembers that phone call.

Nicole Belle Isle

Nicole Belle Isle

Brown Chicken Brown Cow was actually my second Nationals, but my first one wasn’t particularly memorable, so…

Brown Chicken Brown Cow (BCBC) was a non-practicing team of friends that was competitive but made a point of emphasizing fun above all. We hadn’t really planned on making it to Nationals, so when we found ourselves in possession of the third southwest mixed bid in 2009 we didn’t even have team shorts, which are required to compete in the championships. Given the irreverent nature of the team and the pink logo on our brown shirts, it was a no-brainer for us to decide to order the new hot pink shorts from Five Ultimate to complete our official team uniform. What I remember vividly about that Nationals was being able to easily spot my teammates from any distance across the wide expanse of the Sarasota polo fields. Practically no one else owned ultimate shorts that color back then, and every time I glimpsed that hot pink against the lush green grass, a warm glow of BCBC team love filled my heart.

Also we hosted a barnyard-themed Halloween party on the beach including moonlight skinnydipping. Did I mention the emphasis on fun?

Oh, the stories of what that BCBC team did in their hotel rooms that year are epically debaucherous.  I choose to believe they’re all true.

Evan Valdés

Evan Valdés

I started my journey to elite open club ultimate as the Los Angeles male talent gave up on the very thing I was striving for: building a program. In 2009, I was cut from Strike Slip after breaking my foot at a tryout. After falling short of nationals their first year, the majority moved to mixed leaving elite open club in Los Angeles a thing of the past. The next season, about halfway through my college career, I decided to tryout for the San Diego team. Starting the season as one of the bottom 5 on the roster gave me enormous room for growth. Because I was juggling full time work and full time school, finding time for weekend after weekend of long drives and countless solo track workouts meant little to no free time. I gave everything I had to play against the best competition the US had to offer that year – and I was hungry for more. Stepping on those nationals fields for the first time was a symbol of everything I had worked for… but there was still a void I needed to fill. San Diego made me realize that I had to redirect that hunger to helping to rebuilding the Los Angeles open program that had fallen off the map. I yearn for Los Angeles to experience what I had in 2010. We will.

Well said, sir.  Well said.

Emma Frankel

Emma Frankel

I was so nervous! I was one of two college kids on Brute, both of us rookies who had 25 role models to look up to all year. Even though I had been to college nationals once, I knew this would be something different, and big. There were people on the team who were up to double digits in nationals appearances, and even they had some nervous energy. I remember two things most clearly:

1 – I was in midterms, and I had a paper due Friday, so I spent Thursday evening staving off my dehydration headache by chugging Cytomax (it was HOT in Sarasota) while writing a 5-page paper. Apparently the Nationals adrenaline did me some good: turns out there’s nothing like a game the next morning to light a fire under you! It was the fastest I’d ever written (or ever wrote since)…and I even managed to snag an A, somehow
2 – We had a gritty, back-and forth prequarters game against our regional rivals. No one could pull away, and we’d battled this team all season. During a long point that we eventually scored, I had made a really aggressive, hard-charging in cut for big yards. As I stepped off the field to the usual round of high-fives, one of the vets said, “finally, you’re cutting like a big girl!” I guess I had arrived.

I’m so glad I wasn’t in college during Nationals.  I never would’ve gotten any paper done while I was there.  Impressive job.

Chad Christensen-Woods

Chad Christensen-Woods

My first trip to Nationals was in 2001 with the mixed team Blue Ridge Ultimate (BRU) out of Virginia. We started off as a rag-tag group brought together by a captain with an email chain of “what if we all played coed together” names.

We cruised through Sectionals and then took the 2nd spot at Regionals on a double-game point contested-Callahan turned huck-to-woman-against-male-deep-defender score: WE’RE GOING TO NATIONALS. Bags packed (cleats check!), RV for 6 loaded with 13, half our team set out for Siesta Keys to meet the others flying into Sarasota.

The first day and a half of Nationals was a blur where every track workout paid its full return. The wind, as most years, was a constant factor–steady at 15 mph with gusts 20-plus. On BRU, I was a first-line handler defender or zone marker on the D-line and transitioned into a downfield handler on O. With the competition of Nationals, this put me on permanent sprint duty.

I don’t remember if it was in a power pool crossover or in quarters, but we matched up against Spear, our Regional rival, for a great game. They were a more veteran team than us, and our Regional’s loss to them taught us their zone-O was better than our zone-D. We played a hard man-D sitting underneath their handlers and trapping to either sideline. On turnovers, it was jailbreak to the end zone. Offense converted when needed and onward we went.

Semis was against Red Fish Blue Fish from SF and more. I went to college at Humboldt State so I knew a lot of their male players and one in particular was a mentor from my college days. Playing another veteran team, we stuck with our prior success with trap-line, man-D and steady, patient O against their zone-D. The score line wasn’t a route, but we ran away from them to earn our spot in Finals. Student defeats master–fist pump!

Sunday brought a little less wind and everyone felt a little more relaxed for it. Our opponent was Trigger Hippy from Montana and every ski town in the Pac NW. Our informal scouting reports said they played through their tall handlers to their fast and indefatigable women. Truth. We traded a couple scores early on and they went for a run of 4 or 5 points in a row. Our earlier successes of fronting handlers and trapping the line played us right into their strengths, and we were getting lit up. A timeout, some adjustments and we traded points again until half. After half, it was a Trigger Hippy show. For every move we made, they were two ahead of us. Congratulations 2001 UPA National mixed division champs: Trigger Hippy.

For a consolation prize, we got a bid to the 2002 World Ultimate Club Championships in Hawaii. Mahalo!

Hell of a consolation prize.  I’ll take it.

Grant Boyd

Grant Boyd

Every Nationals feels like the first to me. This isn’t to brag: I’ve only been to 3. Each is truly special. Nationals is the culmination of a group of people – your team: your friends – who have worked for and with each other for over 6 months to climb to the top. You arrive and it’s like any other tournament except there’s a simultaneous sense of ease and rush of adrenaline. There’s no longer a bid to earn and there’s no further tournament for your body to endure; but you still want to prove your team has what it takes to climb higher, to be the best of the best. I digress…

My first time to Natties (I like to pretend we’re on a first-name basis, if only) was just how we drew it up: a solid roster of returners and a few young-guns to set our D on fire. Puppet Regime was the first Elite team I had played on. Having practiced with them the summer before, I felt that earning my spot in 2008 was part of the progression: good, better and…well, I didn’t really know what came after that. Being the best team from the greater NYC area but practicing outside of Manhattan in the fancy suburbs we had that gruff New York pride mixed with the wall-street professionalism that seeped into perfectly trimmed, beautiful grass fields in Scarsdale. We fought hard throughout the season to earn a strength bid and we finally made it to the Big Dance. So it was with extreme pride and poise that we stepped onto the short bristly battleground that is Sarasota.

Better yet – like all true New Yorkers – we were the underdogs! Seeded 14th made us last in our pool on day 1 which basically meant: “Time to show ’em what we got!” That is what Nationals is all about; and we did just that: we went 3-0! But Day 2 pitted us against two very tough teams; and with gusting winds revealing the cracks in our armor, we were humbled by the skill and athleticism that surrounded us. Given it was my first year playing for them and my first year at Nationals I didn’t play much during those huge games; but I watched intently as the next step in my progression as a player became clear: consistently be the best. At Natties you are playing with, running with, breathing with, jumping past, faking out the best players on the best teams in the country. You have to flip that switch: there’s no room for mediocrity. Now does that mean you have to be the best at everything? No. You have to be the best at your role. We soon lost the game to play in quarters; but we kept fighting – New York through and through. I played quite a bit in those placement games and grew confident I could run with the best. Our team realized we could play better and we came together to tackle east coast rivals and finally earn 5th in the Nation. We didn’t win it all; but we tried…we tried really f@#$ing hard; and man was it fun.

What do I remember about my first Nationals? I remember the ease, the adrenaline, the fight, the fun, the friends -both new and old -, and a taste of the best. I’m hungry…

HA!  New York sports = underdogs.  Of course it does.

Lindsey "Screech" Cross

Lindsey “Screech” Cross

My first Club Nationals was with LA Metro in Sarasota (RIP). I don’t remember much about the tournament itself, but I do have some random memories from it:

– We had buddies on this team, where you would give them a cool gift at Nationals to help fire them up. Martha loved to use the phrase a lot “Go ___ a bag of dicks”. It really pumped us up. So KK, as her buddy gift, gave her a bag of mini hot dogs, aka, a bag of dicks. Or was that Regionals? Let’s pretend it was Nationals for the sake of it.
– Our team ate really well for our dinners, as we had Barrs as our head chef
– I was a travel n00b and took a flight that had a layover in Denver. Sadly for me, there was a freaking snowstorm in Denver, and my original flight was cancelled. Fortunately, I got on one that got into Tampa super late, and Docta Jones was nice enough to wait for me and pick me up from the airport. We had a nice car ride down to Sarasota in the super hip Jeep Wrangler he rented
– Brown Chicken Brown Cow also made Nationals that year, and decided to have a farm themed party on the beach.
– I always remember the nerves I felt when they played the National anthem before the first round on Thursday. To see hundreds of the best athletes in the world just stop made the whole experience real to me. The girl who could barely throw the year before made frisbee nationals!

Such modesty.  I have reams of stats on Screech from USC (back when she was “Curly”) and she could flat out ball.

Brit "Mash" Belsheim

Brit “Mash” Belsheim

my teammates and i were loading up my rental car when a guy from another team ran up and slapped our car before running back to his own friend-filled car. i ran over and slapped his car as it was pulling away. thus began a forty minute game of car tag on the road culminating in a dangerous – okay, it was illegal – chase around the grocery store complex. it was a shining example of why the people have always been my favorite part of ultimate. 

Couldn’t agree more.

Orin Moore

Orin Moore

I played Frisbee passionately around the turn of the century. In that time I was on the losing end of about 7 games to go to nationals without any wins. I wanted to go so much.

Once I made it with the Condors in 2006  something funny happened- while the tournament was fun and super high level I realized it’s just another tournament, especially if you don’t win the whole thing.  This brought me to the understanding that each season isn’t just about the fall series. It’s about enjoying all of it. Ironically, since this realization I’ve had much more success making Nationals.

People say the games before regionals really don’t matter. They are wrong and right because, in a sense, none of the games matter and all of them matter.

What I’m saying is, we do this to have fun. That said, I’m still psyched every time I’m part of a club that goes to Nationals.

A great statement to end things.  Hope you guys enjoyed reading these.  And thank you to everyone who contributed.  Now let’s go 7!!!!

6 comments
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  1. Just great! Thanks to all for sharing!

  2. Agreed! Thanks for soliciting these stories Andy.
    I was late on mine, but here it is anyway. I was on that BCBC team with Nicole that squeaked into Nationals in 2009. I remember Hawkins and I dressing as farmers and trying to round up all the naughty farm animals on our team for our party. I fondly remember team skinny-dipping and how easy it was to talk people from other teams into joining us. Especially Metro – Go L.A.!
    I remember the heat and humidity and how hard it was to throw a forehand more than 10 yards cause of the sweaty grip. Though I also remember a couple deep backhands… 🙂
    Mostly I remember playing hard and losing all of our games on the first two days. In placement games on day three we were DETERMINED to win and break seed. I was feeling confident going into the first game on the final day, not because I thought we were better, but because we were so focused. Who else would care so much about placement in the bottom bracket? It turned out our opposition did. We did win that game – and the next – by a point. It felt amazing, and so well earned. I’m sure there have been teams that were “just happy to be there,” but I didn’t see any team give anything away on the field that weekend. I loved how the setting elevated every team there. I remember the satisfaction and sense of community that came from everyone at Nationals giving everything they had to that few days of their life.

  3. Was lucky enough to play with Krishna on the Beyonder team in 2011. Great teammate and great player…made me wish that i had the opportunity to play with him before that year.

  4. Too caught up with silly things to get my story in.

  5. Randy Sanchez Was too busy to get my story in. Was cut from Faded in 2006. Mentioned this to Ben Theilhorn at LEIOUT and he said if it happened again to call him because he could use me with Ironwood. “You play hard D and you don’t turn the disc over”. I was already 46 playing Masters and had never gone to the show. Knew the window was closing if not already closed. Travelled with Faded to Chico, was cut, called Ben and the next thing I knew I was flying to Denver for a Masters tune-up tourney. Played well, made the team, and was informed the following weekend was sectionals in Tempe. Drove to Tempe, got out of the car, laced up my cleats and it was on. We beat the open team Sprawl and a couple of other teams. Next stop, regionals in Riverside. Two road trips to play in my own back yard. Arrived at the fields and players thought I was with Depends, the local pick up team that created the second bid to Nationals. Donned my Ironwood jersey and went 2-2 in pool play losing to Faded and Old & In the Way. Old was a lock to go and everyone else was playing for the second bid. When the final point was scored I could not believe I finally made it to the show. I was heartbroken because I knew how hard Faded worked and wanted to be there with them, yet excited to fulfil a life long dream. We were shut out at Nationals. We had talent, but little chemistry, but the feeling of arriving at the fields on the first day made the hair on my arms stand up. Beautiful fields. Standing across the best teams in the nation, every cut was harder, every throw more crisp. Watching the teams arrive at the airport in Tampa you knew this was special. In 2009 UPA started Grand Masters and I picked up with a team from Austin. I was not going to re-live my Masters experience. I was involved and it was a much better experience. Less discipline, more fun knowing we were a pick up team. Created chemistry, played to my strengths and made a difference with the Austin Antique Roadshow Players, aka AARP. This was in Denver and once again, magnificent fields. Did a lot of handling that weekend.Randy Sanchez Was too busy to get my story in. Was cut from Faded in 2006. Mentioned this to Ben Theilhorn at LEIOUT and he said if it happened again to call him because he could use me with Ironwood. “You play hard D and you don’t turn the disc over”. I was already 46 playing Masters and had never gone to the show. Knew the window was closing if not already closed. Travelled with Faded to Chico, was cut, called Ben and the next thing I knew I was flying to Denver for a Masters tune-up tourney. Played well, made the team, and was informed the following weekend was sectionals in Tempe. Drove to Tempe, got out of the car, laced up my cleats and it was on. We beat the open team Sprawl and a couple of other teams. Next stop, regionals in Riverside. Two road trips to play in my own back yard. Arrived at the fields and players thought I was with Depends, the local pick up team that created the second bid to Nationals. Donned my Ironwood jersey and went 2-2 in pool play losing to Faded and Old & In the Way. Old was a lock to go and everyone else was playing for the second bid. When the final point was scored I could not believe I finally made it to the show. I was heartbroken because I knew how hard Faded worked and wanted to be there with them, yet excited to fulfil a life long dream. We were shut out at Nationals. We had talent, but little chemistry, but the feeling of arriving at the fields on the first day made the hair on my arms stand up. Beautiful fields. Standing across the best teams in the nation, every cut was harder, every throw more crisp. Watching the teams arrive at the airport in Tampa you knew this was special. In 2009 UPA started Grand Masters and I picked up with a team from Austin. I was not going to re-live my Masters experience. I was involved and it was a much better experience. Less discipline, more fun knowing we were a pick up team. Created chemistry, played to my strengths and made a difference with the Austin Antique Roadshow Players, aka AARP. This was in Denver and once again, magnificent fields. Did a lot of handling that weekend.Randy Sanchez Was too busy to get my story in. Was cut from Faded in 2006. Mentioned this to Ben Theilhorn at LEIOUT and he said if it happened again to call him because he could use me with Ironwood. “You play hard D and you don’t turn the disc over”. I was already 46 playing Masters and had never gone to the show. Knew the window was closing if not already closed. Travelled with Faded to Chico, was cut, called Ben and the next thing I knew I was flying to Denver for a Masters tune-up tourney. Played well, made the team, and was informed the following weekend was sectionals in Tempe. Drove to Tempe, got out of the car, laced up my cleats and it was on. We beat the open team Sprawl and a couple of other teams. Next stop, regionals in Riverside. Two road trips to play in my own back yard. Arrived at the fields and players thought I was with Depends, the local pick up team that created the second bid to Nationals. Donned my Ironwood jersey and went 2-2 in pool play losing to Faded and Old & In the Way. Old was a lock to go and everyone else was playing for the second bid. When the final point was scored I could not believe I finally made it to the show. I was heartbroken because I knew how hard Faded worked and wanted to be there with them, yet excited to fulfil a life long dream. We were shut out at Nationals. We had talent, but little chemistry, but the feeling of arriving at the fields on the first day made the hair on my arms stand up. Beautiful fields. Standing across the best teams in the nation, every cut was harder, every throw more crisp. Watching the teams arrive at the airport in Tampa you knew this was special. In 2009 UPA started Grand Masters and I picked up with a team from Austin. I was not going to re-live my Masters experience. I was involved and it was a much better experience. Less discipline, more fun knowing we were a pick up team. Created chemistry, played to my strengths and made a difference with the Austin Antique Roadshow Players, aka AARP. This was in Denver and once again, magnificent fields. Did a lot of handling that weekend.Randy Sanchez Was too busy to get my story in. Was cut from Faded in 2006. Mentioned this to Ben Theilhorn at LEIOUT and he said if it happened again to call him because he could use me with Ironwood. “You play hard D and you don’t turn the disc over”. I was already 46 playing Masters and had never gone to the show. Knew the window was closing if not already closed. Travelled with Faded to Chico, was cut, called Ben and the next thing I knew I was flying to Denver for a Masters tune-up tourney. Played well, made the team, and was informed the following weekend was sectionals in Tempe. Drove to Tempe, got out of the car, laced up my cleats and it was on. We beat the open team Sprawl and a couple of other teams. Next stop, regionals in Riverside. Two road trips to play in my own back yard. Arrived at the fields and players thought I was with Depends, the local pick up team that created the second bid to Nationals. Donned my Ironwood jersey and went 2-2 in pool play losing to Faded and Old & In the Way. Old was a lock to go and everyone else was playing for the second bid. When the final point was scored I could not believe I finally made it to the show. I was heartbroken because I knew how hard Faded worked and wanted to be there with them, yet excited to fulfil a life long dream. We were shut out at Nationals. We had talent, but little chemistry, but the feeling of arriving at the fields on the first day made the hair on my arms stand up. Beautiful fields. Standing across the best teams in the nation, every cut was harder, every throw more crisp. Watching the teams arrive at the airport in Tampa you knew this was special. In 2009 UPA started Grand Masters and I picked up with a team from Austin. I was not going to re-live my Masters experience. I was involved and it was a much better experience. Less discipline, more fun knowing we were a pick up team. Created chemistry, played to my strengths and made a difference with the Austin Antique Roadshow Players, aka AARP. This was in Denver and once again, magnificent fields. Did a lot of handling that weekend.

  6. O.K. A little late, but here it is. 1992 San Diego ,CA. I had literally just started playing with a team called Disc and Jane. Somehow a L.A Master’s team heard of a younger person who could play. Masters womans age was 28 at the time and played with all the other National people. We were called Crow’s Feet. Kelly Green was on the team, Julie Hirsh, and I really don’t remember who else. The prestige of certain players and teams had not registered with me at all. Jeff played with the Iguanas and the time and we were dating, so that was fun. And that tournement was really my introduction to real ultimate. I went again in 95 with Fly Girls in Birmingham, AL, and again for Women’s Masters 9 years ago when it was a separate tournement in Boulder and made it to the finals. Full circle. Goo times!

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