I was recruited by Michelle Ng and Without Limits to write about my experiences in my final season of College Ultimate. 2011 has many possibilities...let's see how they pan out. E-mail me (robyn-fennig@uiowa.edu)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The B-Team Diaries

1) I'll be getting active again in the blogging and writing spheres for the ultimate frisbee world. I look forward to working with Maya Ziv (who seems really awesome!) on expanding college women's division coverage. Additionally, I'm starting a bi-weekly-ish column focusing on development. If you or anyone you know has an interesting, compelling story about overcoming some sort of challenges (whether they are financial, facilities-related, recruiting, developing skills, improving, training, etc), please contact me. (robyn.fennig@gmail.com)

2) I will be honest with all of you. I have been wrestling with a difficult decision.

I was a little hesitant when I was asked to help coach a B team for the Saucy Nancy program at the University of Iowa. Not because it's not what I want to do, because, quite honestly, I have always wanted to coach a B team. I was hesitant just knowing what I would want to do as a coach, and wondering if I'll have time to do it.

Luckily, I have some wonderful co-coaches on board and ready to contribute to making this B team not only happen, but be successful. I'm also extremely excited to be able to have three coaches, meaning that one-on-one time is maximized.

I'm really excited to share the process of this with you wonderful readers. I think that's the turn my blog will likely take during this season.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Goal Setting

Here's an e-mail I sent to the Saucy Nancy 2011-2012 team. As rookies and veterans alike are working hard this fall to earn a spot on Saucy Nancy, they are starting to prioritize what they want to get out of the game, what they want to improve on. As I take a brief break from my obscene amount of paper writing in preparation for Club Nationals next week, I though I'd share it with all of you. Goal setting is important. Goal setting is what drove me as a player.

If you want Nationals 2K12, it starts TODAY. I can tell you something. I know for a fact that other teams are doing sprints, lifting, and practicing more days per week than we are. (I make it a point to know how hard my opponents are working so I can work harder. So I can want it more).
What is Saucy doing?
As people start thinking about skills they want to work on, I'm more than happy to help you out too. I may not be able to make many practices to help coach this semester, but it doesn't mean I don't care. I want this team to succeed. It starts by achieving individual goals.
I know a thing or two about setting individual goals. I have been playing ultimate for 4.5 years. My throws did NOT happen overnight. But rather, they were a result of specific goal setting techniques that Lou Abramowski helped me develop.
--You start with your end goal. "I want a good flick huck, even in the wind."
--You then, break it into mini-goals.
--Finally, break those mini-goals into tangible process goals that I can keep myself accountable to:
Goal: Be able to have a good flick huck, even in the wind.
Mini-goal 1) Get stronger
-Process goal 1: Work with my coaches to make a lifting program
-Process goal 2: Stick to my lifting program, complete it 3x per week.
-Process goal 3: Eat healthy
-Process goal 4: Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
Mini-goal 2) More consistency
-Process goal 1: Throw 50 (or more) flick hucks per day
-Process goal 2: Throw 25 (or more) IO mid-range flick throws.
Mini-goal 3) More distance
-Process goal 1: Work on developing proper footwork to use momentum.
-Process goal 2: Throw 25 (or more) flick hucks per day with this footwork
-Process goal 2: Throw 25 (or more) flick hucks from a stand-still, as far as I can.
-Process goal 4: Do the grip/wrist exercise homework Mikey assigned at No Wisco.
With this goal scheme, I am only throwing 50 flick hucks per day (25 from standstill, 25 with footwork), and an additional 25 IO mid-range flicks (total of 75 throws), which takes me ~10-15 minutes when I'm business and concentrating 100%. I would leave an additional 25 backhands to keep me on my game there, for an even 100 throws per day.
You can do this for any aspect of the games. Improving defense. Improving short or mid-range throws. In order to develop a huck (25+ yards), you have to have consistent mid-range throws (15-20 yards). In order to develop mid-range throws, you have to have consistent short-range throws (5-10 yards). Consistency = hitting my receiver at least 90% of the time (Inside-out, outside-in, and flat).
It all happens somewhere. It starts within. It starts from motivating each other. It starts with wanting to get better at ultimate.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Leaders Are (or the revival of my blog)

For the past three months, I have been fortunate enough to have had a phenomenal internship doing hazard mitigation planning for the State of Wisconsin in Wisconsin Emergency Management (Department of Military Affairs). Today, our newly appointed WEM administrator held his “orientation” for all of the WEM employees. I sat in this presentation thinking, “Wow, this stuff applies to ultimate way too much.” He was talking about leadership.

He was talking about the equalities I want my team leader to possess on and off the field.

This entry is the “revival” of my blog.

Leaders are….

There was a slide in his presentation that I wrote down everything off of it. Eagerly. It fit too well to let this opportunity pass.

Leaders are motivators.
Leaders are imaginative.
Leaders are able to see the “big picture.”
Leaders think critically.
Leaders create relationships.
Leaders know when to act.
Leaders are agile, flexible, adaptable.

Leaders are motivators.
This is so true. Many times, it’s the team leadership that is able to get teammates excited to contribute to the whole. Leaders make people WANT to come to 6 am workouts, or perform an extra sprint workout to the best of their ability. Leaders inspire their teammates to go the extra mile to succeed.

Leaders are imaginative.
Leaders should be creative to come up with new ways to accomplish the same goals. They aren’t afraid to try something new. They “think outside the box.” They come up with new plans. They come up with different ways to get their teammates on board.

Leaders see the “big picture.”
They never lose sight of the final goal or vision for the season. They assess if progress is being made to reach that big picture goal, and can re-evaluate objectives to get there.

Leaders think critically.
Self explanatory. Without critical thinking, a leader, and their team will fail.

Leaders create relationships.
If you’re like me, you’ve been part of teams where you have a teammate who you do not get along with. They pit teammates against other teammates (sometimes themselves) in stupid battles that ruin team camaraderie, making your team function much like a broken machine with major operator error. Promoting the formation and maintaining of antagonistic relationships is the fastest way to train wreck. The leader, who can get people to put that B.S. aside and willingly work together and support one another (heck, at least tolerate each other), is a leader of a successful team on AND off the field, which is the ultimate goal.

Leaders know when to act.
Sometimes as leaders, we get caught up with attaining perfection, that we forget to do what we said we would do. Talk is cheap. It can serve as a motivator, or even a guise to get people to follow you…temporarily. But that’s all it is: talk. Until you actually DO something, your followers will drop like flies, and no one will buy into the team.

Leaders are agile, adaptable, flexible.
We don’t know what is going to happen on the field come game time. We don’t know who will actually be on the line, we don’t know who is going to have an off day, or who is going to play well. We don’t know what the other team will throw at us. We can’t even accurately predict the weather. The degree of uncertainty in sports is crazy high. Sometimes there is no way to anticipate what comes next. But a leader who can change strategy, personnel, or adapt on the fly, is someone whose team is successful.

What are your thoughts?
What do you want to see in your team leadership?
What things do you that are successful to be a leader on your team?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Guest Post #4: HFS

HFS. You may have seen these three letters written on our bodies at Nationals. You may have heard us yell them at the top of our lungs between points or before a game. You may see it tanned into our bodies after a tournament.

I think that all teams have a "go-to" cheer or team motto. I think it's important to think about it. Reflect on it throughout the season. What does it mean to you, and what does it mean to be part of the team?

In an attempt to clean up our act in preparation for Nationals, Saucy changed our go-to catch phrase from "Hot F***ing Sauce" to "HFS." Over the season, HFS has evolved. And well, each and every member of the team has come to have their own interpretation.

"To me, HFS means confidence in yourself, trust in your teammates, and love for the game. It means party cat and ghetto stomp cheers on the sidelines and giving everything while on the field. HFS is saucy love for each of my saucy sisters, always."
-Alyx Averkamp #12, Junior, Handler, Co-Captain

"Hot F**in Sauce. To me it means that we're Saucy Nancy.  Don't mess with us. Because we will F***in destroy you, and look hot while doing it."
-Victoria Castillo, Sophomore, Cutter

"HFS is being part of a team that not only wins tournaments and plays amazingly but also are best friends and would do anything for one another.  These girls have helped me become a better player and a better person, and I love them all!"
-Carolyn Sleeth #14, Junior, Handler

"HFS represents the heart and soul of Saucy Nancy. We may not always look the cleanest, but we most certainly work the hardest and have more desire than any other team out there. We're a scrappy group of passionate girls all working towards the same goal who love each other while doing it."
-Chelsea Russell #11, Senior, Cutter, Golden Girl

"When our team yells HFS we were giving ourselves, our skills, our time, or thoughts, and our hearts to each other. HFS is our promise to the team and our team mates that we, as an individual, will work hard and give every last effort to each other. The world outside HFS doesn't matter, not to us because we have each other."
-Bekah TheROFL Hickernell #13, Junior, Handler

"HFS is all about what connects us to one another: the love of the game, the love we have for each other, the unconditional support on and off the field, the mutual respect. It's about digging deep and never giving up, even when the odds are stacked against you, because with your teammates you can do anything."
-Robyn Fennig #44, Grad Student, Handler

"To me, HFS is about passion. Changing the cheer to "hot f***ing sauce" instead of just 'hot sauce' added a little umph because we are so passionate about ultimate and so passionate about our team. That kind of passion is what makes me love to play on this team and love to scream HFS!"
-Anna Prichard #33, Freshman, Cutter

"What HFS means to me is Hilariously Fun Saucies. I have never had so much laughs on a team like that which I have experienced just in one season on Saucy Nancy. I love everyone on the team and wouldn't trade a single moment for anything. HFS!"
-Jenny Graham #28, Freshman, Cutter

"HFS is the spirit of Saucy Nancy.  It is what pushes us to be better together as a team by bringing us together.  It represents the bond we have with our teammates and the chemistry we have developed to beat any opponent by continuing the fight during games."
-Sara Timko #4, Junior, Cutter

"While HFS is a cryptic cheer that was created to hide an expletive so that we didn’t get in trouble with USA Ultimate at Regionals and Nationals, it’s also our secret Saucy cheer that only a Saucy Nancy can ever fully understand and appreciate its true meaning, because the meaning is different and unique for every Saucy. For me, HFS embodies all the special memories I had with the team and let me tell you they are the best memories I have and they leave me with the happiest of feelings, that is why shouting HFS after every cheer gets me pumped up and ready to rage on the field!”
-Katie "Rage Kage" Johnson #7, Senior, Cutter

"Play hard and leave it all out on the field. No regrets."
-Audrey Erickson #6, Sophomore, Cutter

Thursday, June 2, 2011

2011 College Championships: What it Meant to Me

(Note: You'll also find this on the Without Limits Media blog. http://www.withoutlimitsultimate.blogspot.com/)

The 2011 College Championships have come and gone. I'm back in Madison, working my internship. Heck, I've even started playing Summer League already. I've been doing nothing but reflecting about what my journey through college ultimate has meant, particularly the 2010-2011 season with Iowa.

SOL takes 3rd in the Central in 2010. There were 2 bids.
I started playing in spring 2007. Looking for something to fill the void that college softball left when my numbered days as a catcher ended, I chose ultimate after experiencing an indoor 6 am practice with 8 players at Wisconsin-Eau Claire. At Eau Claire, I have experienced, with my teammates, the heartbreak of 4 consecutive losses in the backdoor bracket: once in backdoor semis in 2007, and three times in backdoor finals in 2008, 2009, 2010. We were SO close every single year. Literally, as close as you can be without ever going.

There are countless talented players and talented teams that fall short of their goal to qualify every season. I relate to the experience of continuing to fall short year-in and year-out. I was certain that I'd never get the shot to compete with top teams at the College Championships. Robyn, face the reality: It's just not in the cards for a vast majority of the over 12,000 college ultimate players who compete in our sport. It's just not in the cards for me.

When I decided which graduate school I would attend in Fall 2010, I chose the University of Iowa, not for its strong tradition in ultimate like many of the grad students I see in the game, but for the Urban and Regional Planning program and educational/professional opportunities the school offered. The fact that there was a women's team was a plus and the fact that they finished in the top 4 of Regionals in 2010 was an even bigger plus. What I did not know was that I was walking onto the most talented college ultimate team I was given the opportunity to play in the brief 4.5 years of my "ultimate career."
Saucy busting off the line on D at the 2011 College Championships
This team worked harder than any ultimate team I had ever been part of, club or college. Every single player lifted, ran sprints, and pushed themselves harder than they ever had. Some of us overcame the physical and psychological challenges posed by knee surgeries, broken bones, stress fractures, months of extreme back pain, pulled quads, knee injuries, and severe ankle injuries to contribute to the team's success. More players made immense progress in their skill sets and physical abilities than I have ever seen before in just one short year. We had gone throughout the regular season kicking butt throughout the country. Winning Midwest Throwdown. Winning Easterns. Taking 4th at Centex.

Throughout the season, I felt the weight of the challenge to make it to nationals fall heavily on my shoulders. I'm not entirely sure why. The group of girls was extremely talented and hungry for improvement and success. My big fear is failure. I did not want to see my teammates fail. It wasn't really a problem until we got to the post season and the challenges increased with difficulty and consequences were harsher for failing.

The pressure mounted. Up until this point, our team had lived the Cinderella season. We hit a road bump at the West North Central Conference Championships. After playing extremely well in the 45+mph winds at Northern Iowa (imagine the Open Finals in Boulder, but it was 30 degrees and wet outside), our field chemistry was lost on Sunday without the wind. We struggled to play man-to-man offense. We looked gassed and nothing was working. We dropped a game to a talented Iowa State team. All of a sudden, everyone was questioning our legitimacy as a team. I felt like it was my fault. I felt the need to defend my teammates and our team.

We didn't defend it with our words (well, sometimes we did). We stepped up with our play: our actions on and off the field. We bounced back, winning decisively in the 2nd place game and headed into Regionals with the attitude that we controlled our destiny. We would not let anyone take our goal of getting Saucy Nancy back to the big show for the first time since 2005. Not a team could stand in our way. We overcame so many obstacles. We won the "pool of death" featuring both Wisconsin and Carleton (the teams with the most appearances at Nationals in our region). Breaking for a win in Regional Semis despite the elements and talented players in our way, sealing a bid to the College Championships was a dream come true. Looking around me seeing my teammates crying out of pure happiness. We had accomplished our goal. We had qualified for Nationals. We captured the 5th seed out of a talented pool of teams represented in the field of competition.

Saucy Nancy huddle at the 2011 College Championships
I'll be honest. Up until this point, I had been slightly disappointed. In my mind, I was absolutely convinced that our team was a semis team. Not reaching semis was devastatingly bittersweet to say the least. Writing this has been extremely cathartic. It has helped me to understand just how immense of an accomplishment the Saucy Nancy season has been. We proved that it doesn't matter how low your team or program goes, you can get the greatness back with some good old fashioned hard work and drive. I feel a sense of pride in myself and in my teammates for getting to Nationals and performing well. We accomplished the goal we set. It paid off.

Mikey Lun, my coach and friend, once told me that I'm a player who plays the odds, and that the dice just seem to fall in my favor. I'm not entirely sure what he meant by that statement, but I have my interpretation. I played this season like I do Blackjack (I like Blackjack because it's a simple game that I can understand...and when I play it in a casino, I feel like I have a chance to win). I sit down at the table, make my minimum bet and win a few hands before I start betting more. On the field, I choose my battles when the odds were with me, and I played them right most of the time. I tend to be a high risk/high reward player when the stakes are high and the rewards even higher. Sometimes, I don't even know how I come out with the disc when I'm out of position or complete a huck that should never have worked. Sometimes, I think "how in the world did we score that?!" But here's the secret to playing the odds in ultimate: believing in your teammates to beat the odds with you.

Saucy practicing in Boulder. Mountain backdrop. Sick.
This season, my teammates did beat the odds. Hucking upwind with a 20 mph wind to a receiver in double coverage sounds crazy. But when that receiver is Katie Johnson, the 5% decision, becomes an 80% decision if I can get the disc flat. Taking away an around on D on a team's best handler, giving her the huck down field becomes harder to complete when Audrey Erickson is on the downfield cutter and about to sky her. Placing the disc right on the line is okay, because I know Liza Minor is going to toe the line and make the play anyways. Putting a huck way in front of speedy little Jojo Peterson will probably get completed, even if she's covered by a team's best defender expecting to "pwn" on our noob (news flash: our rookies ARE good).

You have to trust your teammates to beat the odds too. You can't beat the odds by yourself (unless you're really good at throwing to yourself...and in that case, you should probably be playing disc hoops anyways). This team showed me how to believe in everyone  the same way I believe in myself. This team beat the odds by working hard to give every advantage possible. A percentage or two or ten in our favor allowed us to play and beat the odds all season long.

Me with my sisters at 2011 Nationals.
So, what did the 2011 College Championships mean to me? Spending hours spray painting neon colored shirts for my teammates at my garage in Muskego and getting a little dizzy in the process. Freaking out about how I'm going to get 20 t-shirts and like 40 long sleeve jerseys to my teammates in Boulder (those TSA workers better not TOUCH them).

Me with my mom at College Nationals in 2011.
Nationals meant sending a lone Saucy on her Geology Field Camp trip in Montana her Nationals Jersey and a spray paint t-shirt, trying to tell her how much I would miss her smile and wonderful attitude in Boulder while she was hundreds of miles away. Being re-united with my teammates after their brutally long car-trip to Boulder with hugs and smiles (driving through Nebraska is the worst). Spray painting about 60 Saucy tats on my 21 teammates.

Dave takes home the silver in '11.
Nationals was playing a showcase game vs. Stanford...while two of my best friends announced the game (sorry I only sported the Jeadband for a few points). Watching ultimate and learning more strategy and things to bring back with me. Seeing people that I love and respect cheer on me and my teammates on the sidelines. Making it to quarter finals, and putting up the final fight in a game that the other team thought they had already won. Throwing a forehand huck with the mountains serving as the backdrop. Celebrating one last time with my teammates. Not having a voice 5 days after the tournament is done. Cheering my boyfriend and his team onto a 2nd place finish in the Open Division. Hugging my teammates and not wanting to let go.
Most important: sharing the game that I love with my closest friends and family, one last time as a college ultimate player. This experience is unmatched by any that I have had in the college women's game.

I recently filled out a tryout form for a women's club team. It asked me to include my "ultimate resume." Yeah. I can say "I was part of a top team in the Central Region for 5 consecutive College seasons." or "I made all-region in x,y,z years." or "Team finished 5th at 2011 College Championship" or even "helped to build a new successful college women's program at a small school." Who cares about that stuff. I already know it. Chances are my potential employer (or in this case, potential captains/coaches) already know it too.

I was always told that my resume was supposed to be short, to the point, using active voice to describe my strengths and experiences I bring to my potential employer. My cover letter is supposed to highlight the specifics that the resume can't speak to. The intangibles, if you will.

The most important intangible that allows me to keep beating the odds: the fact that I know my teammates like I know myself. Being a good teammate, working with them in and out of practice, helping them improve, supporting them at Dance Marathon, making them dinner, bringing them coffee before an exam when they are so tired. Holding yourself accountable to the same standards you hold your teammates. That huge list of things I listed, specifically about my experience at nationals this year, and taking the time to appreciate them.

After 2011, I know what my "ultimate cover letter" will detail: all the intangibles that help me beat the odds. After all, it's these intangibles that I finally realize only after the 2011 season and the College Championships that define me as a player and my college ultimate experience.

Indefinite free time. No more college ultimate. But I'll always remember these girls.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Robyn's Birthday Extravaganza

Me at Nationals with my sisters
I would assume if you're reading this, you are an ultimate frisbee enthusiast. I also know that the chances that any one reading this ACTUALLY being in Madison, WI is slim. However, If you'll be in Madison, let me know (i.e. send me an e-mail), and celebrate my 24th birthday with me.

After having just wrapped up my final college ultimate season, I want to celebrate it right by playing some pick up ultimate, grilling, and having some fun. We'll be starting up after the MUFA Youth Clinic on Saturday ~3:30 pm. Location TBD, based on turn out.

Much Love,

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quarter Finals: I'll Always Love Free Time

(I apologize. This is straight up stream-of-thought writing...)

It's Sunday May 29, 2010. It's 4:30 am. I can't sleep. Why?

It's quarterfinals.

I'm reflecting on this season and the seasons of my college past. The trip to where I am. And as the rest of my teammates sleep, dreaming of layout D's and making plays, I'm scouting and planning match-ups.

Up until the 2011 season, I was 0-3 in backdoor finals games. Nationals was always outside my reach. It didn't matter if I had neon pink hair, or how many D's I got, or how many handblocks my teammates got, or if it was horizontal sleet raining, or there was 2 inches of mud. I always tried my hardest, and I know that I left it all out on the field.

As I left the fields last night, hand in hand with Dave, I finally realized how far I've come. Personally and with this team. How much I've grown. If you would have asked me, "Robyn, do you think you'll be ready to play a bunch of points in Colorado at Nationals" back in December, I would have laughed. I approached this season as if knee surgery didn't set me back. That I didn't miss a beat.

My teammates. They're playing "balls-to-the-walls" D, and calm, collected O. We can do this.

We can do this.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Second Team Feature: Ottawa


Check it out. I think this story about the Lady Gee Gees is great, particularly for developing teams in the Midwest. Don't let the winter weather discourage you from developing a championship worthy team. Anne Mercier and co-captain Kathryn "Kpoh" Pohran were phenomenal to work with for this story.

More stories coming soon! :-D


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest Post 3: Nationals, Past and Present

As I take a break from writing Without Limits team features, I havae had some time to reflect on some things, as well as talk about some experiences from some important people.

This is the first time I have ever had the opportunity to play at college nationals. As such, I remember my first time competing at Club Nationals in 2008 with Alpha Cobra Squadron. I was nervous to the point of almost being scared. I was intimidated beyond belief. Here I was, a 20 year old girl, and youngest on my team (besides Erika Baken, but she has experience to boot), going to nationals for the first time. In fact, the biggest tournament I had ever played in up until then was college or club regionials, and I thought those were HUGE deals. I remember sitting on the plane ride to Sarasota. Big tournament jitters.

After getting there, I realized, it's just like any other tournament, but the competition is stiffer....and a bigger deal, honestly. Quite frankly, the main thing that made it any different was that I was getting the opportunity to play against the best from around the country, and I hadn't seen any of them play ever before. This was a pretty cool thing to be part of, yet very scary at the same time.

What makes college nationals different from club nationals is that, in many cases, teams attending have already played against most of the teams there. I think about the teams attending that Iowa has already seen play or played against, and I can't think of a team that goes unseen by me or my teammates. I don't feel so unprepared, nor should my teammates. I can say I go in less unprepared in my first college trip, but I can't say it is any less of a big deal. In fact, to me it's bigger. I can't wait.

In the journey to nationals, I have taken some time to learn more about Saucy Nancy as a program. Learn more about how the team has grown...the journey it has taken to get Saucy back to nationals again for the first time since 2005. Unlike where I did my undergrad, this team has a ton of history....being around for over twice as long as SOL. I think this is crazy. I want the current players to feel connected to the Saucy Nancy of the past. The guest perspectives of this post are from Saucy Nancy 2005 and earlier. Players who played for this program, understand what it means to be a Saucy, and what it feels like to go to the big show. Enjoy!

       "The weekend includes a lot of long, intense, spread out games. If only two to three games a day does not sound like a lot, it will certainly feel like a lot once the day is over. Take care of your bodies throughout each day, especially with the higher altitude and drier weather than what you guys are used to. Make sure you all are eating enough during the day, with some salt intake. Nuun or other type of electrolyte tabs are great for this. Keep in mind how much work you guys have put into the season to get to you to this point. Every practice, track workout, lifting session and bonding sess should give you all the confidence to play your hardest and best vs. any opponent (no matter the school or player). Nerves are a good thing going into a weekend like this, it shows that you all want it and will be able to go out there and prove it! Confidence and positive thinking will keep you all on top all weekend! GOOD LUCK and make all of us old Saucys proud!! saucynancylove"
-Leah Borsheim, Saucy Alum 2002, Coached at Colorado Kali at 2009 College Nationals

      "I went to college nationals 3 times as well as quite a few club nationals.  They are some of my best memories so no matter what happens, try to always be having fun.  
      One thing I always loved about playing on Saucy was that we always expected to win games.  As a team, you should go into nationals very confident.  Expect to win each game (which is different than thinking you can or hoping you might) and have complete faith in your teammates.  If you find yourself down a few points, DON'T STRESS.  You probably just need to make an adjustment or two and you can get it back no problem.
       Personally, it helps me to visualize the night before games.  Picture yourself throwing the game winning throw or getting a layout d.  
       During the games, focus only on playing your heart out for that point.  You can always sub out the next point so no need to conserve anything.  I always look at the girl I'm matched up on for D and think to myself, my only job is to not let her get the disc.
       Rankings/seedings don't mean anything at nationals.  I can guarantee you that there will be upsets.  Don't think about whether teams are supposed to be good or not...just focus on your own team and winning every point.
       As Leah mentioned, nutrition is key.  You must be eating all day and drinking gatorade.  There are long breaks between games so you should have time to digest.  Bring foam rollers, ankle tape, hamstring wraps, a lacrosse ball or any other devices you might need to work out cramps or sore muscles.  no hot tubs after games until you are done.  ice baths are the way to go.
Good luck Saucy Nancy!  We'll be rooting for you!"
-Sarajo "SJ" Hill, Saucy Alum 2005 (Nationals 2003, 2004, 2005)

       "Some of you know me, most of you may not, but my name is Mackenzie and I was the captain of Saucy during the 2002-2005 college seasons.  I am still on the email list and have LOVED reading about how hard you gals have been working and have enjoyed following your success.  I want to wish you the best of luck at Nationals!  You have all worked so hard conditioning and practicing this season and should feel proud of your success and confident in your abilities.
        I miss playing with Saucy!!  Most of my best friends from college (girls and guys) came from ultimate and are still the people I keep in touch with today.  Be thankful and enjoy your time together.  You have all worked extremely hard and hopefully partied just as hard throughout the season!  When you start your first game at Nationals, look down the line and feel blessed with the teammates who are lined up beside you...then kick some boo-hiney!!  Don't be content with getting to Nationals, let every single game be an opportunity to show what you are made of.  Support each other, cheer for each other, and laugh with each other if someone bites it running down the field.  Then, at the end of the day, toast each other for leaving it all on the field.  Nationals is it.  Some of you will be back next year, some will go on and play club, and some will stick with summer league but this is the last chance that you all have to play together and I can think of no better memory for you all than a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!!  And you all know you can do it!!
       Everyone has an important role on the team and every single player can be the player who makes the big play.  Energy feeds off energy.  Be the catalyst.  Know that you have worked hard lifting, running, throwing, and growing together as a team all season.  Trust each other.  Trust Mickey.  Trust yourselves.  Know that you are ready to face any team who has the misfortune of falling in your path.  Do not be intimidated!!  You deserve to be there.  Of course there will oops's, don't sweat it.  Just make up for it later. 
       I'm so excited for you guys!!  There is something different in the air at Nationals.  An excitement that you will all soon be a part of.  Take a breath, take it in, then play ultimate!!  The game that brought you all together and is now a part of you forever.  Someday you'll be old, married, and have a kid (like me!) and look back at college ultimate as one heck of a fun chapter in your life!!  Have fun and live it up!"

-Mackenzie Groteluschen, Saucy Alum, 2002-2005

First Team Feature on the Blog

After chatting with several of the teams heading to the Division 1 College Championships, I'm pretty proud of my first feature on the Burning Skirts. Check it out here:


As Division 3 coverage comes to an end, Division 1 will take the full feature. Most of the team features I'm writing will be up starting tomorrow. I'm really excited to share all the wonderful things about the teams attending.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Without Limits Nationals Coverage

Until I get some more guest posts ready, my blog will likely be taking a hiatus for the few weeks leading up to Nationals. Michelle Ng asked me to collaborate on some media coverage for the Women's Division of the College Championships in Boulder. We have some great story ideas for you guys. I'll be writing all sorts of things. So go check it out. Coverage begins Monday 5/16/2011.

You can find our coverage here:

USAU and Without Limits are the prime supporters of the endeavor...besides the super passionate contributors we have lined up.

Okay, realistically, my blog won't take a hiatus. It will probably just take a backseat. Fear not.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Guest Post #2: JMo and Robyn, Being a Grad Student

Being a Grad Student on a New Team
Saucy Nancy 2011: North Central Region Champ
Robyn: My friend Juliana (aka JMo) from Maryland bounced this idea off of me to discuss the experience of what it’s like to be a grad student playing at a new school. Both of us have had experiences playing with a growing team at a small school and then transferred to a new school to pursue graduate degrees. Walking onto a developing team with a bunch of young talent without being a captain can be a tricky balance to maintain. Here’s a little insight to my experiences this season with Saucy and Juliana’s experiences during the past two seasons with Maryland’s Helpful Corn.
Juliana:   For quite a few grad students, the success of the ultimate team is a factor (or at least a perk) in deciding which school to attend.  Once the decision is made, we face the challenge of integrating into a team with a different culture and potentially different goals than we have.  Figuring out how to have a meaningful season as a new grad student takes some work, so here are a few of the things we’ve learned along the way.
Juliana: Coming from a small DIII school in the Northwest (Whitman College), I had never had a coach or won a tournament.  Although I had played 5 years of ultimate, I knew that the kind of coaching I could get at Maryland would be more personal and more intensive than I would get elsewhere.  At the club level there is far less instruction, while teammates, captains and coaches just expect you to know how to play good ultimate.  The level of feedback from a college coach is one of the major benefits of continuing to play in grad school.
JMo in action at College Nationals in '10

Robyn: I was fortunate enough to have a great coach as an undergraduate in the Central (Wisconsin-Eau Claire). We were a new team, and Pat Niles was able to give us individual help in and outside of practice, but much of it was captain driven. The captains of SOL met with Pat and planned practices, while Pat helped carry out our practice plans. It was a really cool vibe. When I decided to come to Iowa, Saucy Nancy had no coach. I had numerous conversations with my good friend and mentor, Mikey Lun, convincing him to come to Saucy (I can’t take all the credit, I just tried my best to give compelling arguments). He was looking to coach, in my opinion Saucy was the perfect candidate to embark his knowledge on. He had the right style and he wanted to make a difference. Saucy had a young player base eager to learn from someone with experience. I looked forward to letting the reigns go to someone else.

The Age Gap
Juliana: I began playing ultimate at towards the end of my sophomore year of college, but due to study abroad and injuries, didn’t play in the college series until my senior year.  After working for a couple of years, I came to the University of Maryland for grad school with two years of eligibility left.  The women’s team, Helpful Corn, had made it to nationals and then lost in the game to go to nationals the two years before I came to the school.  Needless to say, I was excited. 

This year on Helpful Corn we had no seniors and one other grad student.  As the oldest person on a team with an average age of 20, I brought experience to the team.  I knew how to teach newer players about throwing, defensive positioning, zone strategy, etc.  I did my best to set an example at practice by playing hard and maintaining focus. There were also times when I disagreed with the way drills were explained or the way our strategy was playing out.  But that feedback was best given outside of practice so that our captains were still the clear leaders of the team.  As a grad student you can help teach new players, you can give feedback without it seeming too critical: your teammates will listen to you.  However, because I wasn't a captain, I had to strike a balance between active leadership and supporting leadership 

Me at Regionals 2011
Robyn: I too started playing during my sophomore year. Coming right into grad school after completing undergrad, I was still much older than most of my teammates. We have a million juniors on our team. Most of the team isn’t 21 yet. It’s crazy. It was weird coming to the team with being one of the oldest on the team, but not in a captain role. By the end of fall, I found my groove. I was surprised that everyone was entirely cool with the way I tried to lead... In fact, it felt like this was what my role was supposed to be all along. I mean, I’m not making any decisions or really any criticisms. I’m just trying to give more one-on-one attention. I feel like that is really what my role is: use my knowledge to help my teammates improve. For me, it took the form of one-on-one time, whether it be in practice or outside of practice. It has been fantastic. The time that I have gotten to know my teammates has been phenomenal. I feel connected to each of them personally. I really have a grasp on what they are working on and what they want to improve. I love when they get the lightbulb to go off. I mean, I am often not explaining anything new…just in a new way. I feel that being a grad student on a new team in a non-captain role, spending one-on-one time is the best thing you can do.

Once I realized that I need to own up to that leadership position, everything clicked. There is a difference between leading and controlling. I don’t need to control what goes on. But I enjoy helping others realize their potential. Spending one-on-one time with someone after practice or on the side during a drill is a great, easy way to lead without over-stepping your bounds. That way you don’t take away from the captains or coaches, but listen to what they say, and help your teammates carry out their vision for the team. It’s much easier for people to carry out an active role this way, which is crucial to success in a program like this.

Juliana: One of the most important things to pay attention to as a new grad student is the match between your goals and those of the team.  Both Robyn and I lucked out our first years in grad school by playing on teams with the goal of going to nationals.  I wanted to push myself to play harder than I had before (even at the club level).  Thankfully Helpful Corn wanted that too.  This was a pretty major time commitment on top of my graduate studies, so if you are not prepared to put in the time, it could be a disservice to the team.

However, some grad students will find themselves on a team with less ambitious goals. While this may be a disappointment, it is possible that with your help, the team can improve to the point where the team resets its goals.  In order to get to this point though, a new grad student needs to be committed to being a part of the team (win or lose), and not just coming to practice or tournaments when you need a good workout. Earlier this spring, after Helpful Corn lost 5 players from our A-team and we finished 19th of 20 at Queen City Tune-Up, I wondered if this season would be worth the time commitment.  I couldn't leave the team though - I had made a commitment.  In the end our squad of 12 players developed amazing chemistry and took 5th place at Regionals

Robyn: Grad school is much more time intensive than undergrad ever was for me. In my first semester, I ended up only going to two of the team’s four tournaments. It killed me. I purposefully took a light course load during the spring (luckily all the classes I need and am most interested in taking coincided with this), anticipating taking more next year when I am out of eligibility. The more you invest in your team, the more connected you feel. The easier it becomes to take time out of your schedule to make plans with your teammates, to help them improve. It’s a great feeling, greater than I get from reading my assignments…I’ll be honest.

I came to Iowa without really taking into consideration ultimate. Which is silly, I guess. I mean I knew they had a women’s team. Everyone seemed super nice and excited to play with me in Spring 2010. Saucy had a strong regional performance in Spring 2010, finishing one spot behind my team at the time, SOL. I was super excited when I found out that the girls had been drilling in the summer…playing Mixed club…and really eager to learn. The expectations were that we were going to be a good team with making nationals as a goal.

Team Culture
Robyn: I like to think that I played a role in helping to build SOL. I was there when we barely had enough to do a drill at practice, and saw it through until I graduated when we had 25 people on the team. It was nuts. SOL played an integral role in my falling in love with the sport. They’ll always hold a special place. I have always been told that my grad school team will never be the same…from numerous friends from around the country.

I beg to differ. Saucy, has been a much different experience. I have fallen in love with this team from the first day they invited me to drill with them at the end summer 2010 when I moved to Iowa City. KP, Dre, and Timko did an amazing job making me feel like part of the team from day one. They provided so much support while I was recovering from knee surgery. I’ve spent so much time lifting, doing pool workouts, throwing, practicing…it’s nuts. I’ve fallen in love with every single girl on this team. In preparation for nationals, I'm learning all about the team history. Saucy's last national's appearance was in 2005. I'm friends with some Saucy alum and they are really helping me to connect between Saucy alums and current players.

Maryland Helpful Corn 2011
Juliana: On any new team, you will find a new culture and way of interacting with your teammates.  Since most women's players learn ultimate in college, your undergrad team will always have a special place in your heart (Shout out to the Sweets: Whitman men just made it to Nationals!). 

Switching allegiances and being an integral part of your new team will take time to adjust.  Learning the team history, being a part of the cheers, hanging out with your teammates outside of practice are all so important for making a meaningful season.  For example, people always ask why our team is named Helpful Corn.  I love being able to explain with pride that it is a reference to an episode from Season 1 of Daria, and so what if you haven't seen the show or you think the name is silly, we are Helpful Corn and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are Helpful, we are Golden, we are UMDFU.  Helping my teammates grow and watching the improvement of girls who just discovered the sport is as fulfilling as being a coach, except I get to play.  What more could you want?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guest Post 1: Saucy Nancy 2011, A Rookie's Perspective

Jojo Petersen, Rookie on Saucy
The first of a series of Post-Season Guest Posts comes from Saucy Nancy's very own Jojo Petersen. Jojo is a freshman at the University of Iowa. She is a bit more quiet and reserved than many of the players on our team, but she has just as much heart as the rest of us. As she describes, Jojo came to Iowa with no knowledge of the sport of ultimate.  In the fall, Jojo and I had an opportunity to get to know each other as I sat with her in the University of Iowa Hospital emergency room as a result of a bad ankle injury sustained during practice at Hubbard Park. For many rookies, that sort of experience might deter someone from sticking with the sport, but not Jojo. Instead, she attended practices in her crazy cast, and eagerly learned everything she could while there. With much hard work and dedication, she has developed to a contributer on the field with her speedy cuts, ability to get open deep, and defensive energy. She always has a smile on her face and can make any one on our team smile. I can't wait to watch her continue to grow as a player and person. With a heart of gold, she has a bright future ahead of her. Okay, enough of my rambling, here's Jojo and her experience being a new player on Saucy 2011.
As a freshman coming to college, knowing no one, I knew I had to find something to meet knew people. I found a flyer for Ultimate Frisbee in the entry of Slater Hall and thought it was worth a try. I emailed one of the captains and started going to practices shortly after. It was a lot different than I expected. They ran drills and there were so many terms, I didn’t know if I could handle it, but after the first tournament I was hooked.
The energy of Saucy Nancy is incredible. It’s an indescribable feeling being part of a team so close and goal oriented. The entire season our main goal was to make it to Nationals. Winning against Wisconsin the Sunday morning of Regionals and gaining that spot at Nationals seemed completely unreal. I still don’t think it has completely set in. I think the best part of that victory was looking at each of the older girls faces. I could tell how important it was and felt proud to be part of it.
Each member of the team contributed to the team’s success, whether it was on the field or keeping the energy up on the sidelines. I still have a lot to learn about the game and look forward to improving with Saucy Nancy, my ultimate family.

Nationals and this blog for the rest of the season

It has been 5 seasons of college ultimate. My team has earned a bid to the Divison 1 College Championships in Boulder, CO. The journey has been amazing. The people I have encountered along the way have changed my life. Everything hasn't hit me quite yet...concentrating on finals, end of semester projects, wrapping up assistantship duties, and preparing for my summer internship in Madison. It's slowly sinking in, though. I could not be happier with the teammates I am surrounded by. It has been a rewarding season, and I am so proud of each and every one of my teammates and coaches and thankful for their contributions.

Proud of Saucy Nancy 2010-2011.
My blog will be taking another turn over the next few weeks leading up to nationals. I figured, you all have heard so much from me lately, why not share some other great voices with you? I will still be writing, but the main focus will be on guest posts over the upcoming weeks. I have recruited an all-star list of guest bloggers to share some really great stuff with the ultimate world. Saucy Nancy is an incredible program with an extremely supportive network of alumni, family, and friends. I hope you enjoy their posts and perspectives. These players have come through the Saucy Nancy program and are all people that I have a great deal of respect for on and off of the field. Enjoy!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Pumped Up: Saucy 2011 Highlights, Reflections

For all of you directed here from the Without Limits Blogroll...sorry I've been dominating that lately. I have to get thoughts out there prior to Regionals. It is what it is: I'm an active blogger. Look forward to some guest posts in the upcoming week or two.

Sedg Dad (Gordon) hard at work.
First and foremost, I wanted to take the time to publically thank Gordon and Chris "Sedg" Sedgwick for everything that they have done for our team this season. They have been wonderful supporters of our team throughout the season. They have been traveling around with us. Chris, a former IHUC stud, and his Dad, Gordon, are kind caring individuals. Our team would be lacking our chemistry without these two valuable components of the whole. Thank god I have Gordon and Chris Sedgwick to help me get through this week. Without them, I'd have to imagine our games from the season all by myself. But, they've been putting together highlight videos of our team from Easterns and Centex. I'm watching film that features both highlights and lowlights from the season. It is making me visualize every piece of the game I want to see happen this weekend. Without further adieu, here is the culmination to this point:

The above link is a highlight video is of Saucy REMIXED at Centex. Catching the highlights, there are so many contributors on the team. So much depth. I can't say enough how excited I am. Gordon's Vimeo Page has links to all of our games from Easterns (parts 1 and 2 are posted, which feature games through semi-finals) and Centex (all games are posted individually). Feel free to check them out! [SIDENOTE: All the Centex vids feature remixes from IHUC's on PharmDJ (Alex V)...you might remember him from the 2010 College Nationals Party.]

My focus for the weekend:
My regional previews and seeding musings have been posted in the appropriate locations. Look for a North Central Women's preview on USAU Site. It's up. Too bad I submitted before the whole bid thing got worked out. Whoops. My bad.

My pump up song setting the tone for my last college ultimate season has been "I Made It (Cash Money Heroes)" by  Kevin Rudolf, Birdman, Jay Sean and Lil Wayne. It's set the tone to the way I approached this season. The past four years of college ultimate have built up to this season, this moment. We control our destiny this weekend, Saucy. I'm thankful.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Robyn's North Central Musings (Revised): Last 4 bids and Seedings Discussion

**NOTE: I have edited this post. Bids to D3 Nationals have been revealed and I have rethought seedings a bit.

Where are these bids going? I mean here's who we've got going where...as of what I know
(Only including teams eligible for regionals for discussion purposes)
D1 North Central Regionals: 12 bids total
D1 West North Central Conference: 5 bids**
1) Iowa State**
2) Iowa**
3) Carleton College**
4) Minnesota**
5) Nebraska**
6) Winona State (DECLINED)
7) Minnesota-Duluth (DECLINED)

D1 Lake Superior Conference: 2 bids allocated**; 1 bid reallocated$$
1) Wisconsin-Eau Claire**
2) Wisconsin**
3) Wisconsin-B$$
4) Wisconsin-Milwaukee (pending acceptance$$)
5) Wisconsin-Stevens Point

D3 North Central Conference
1) Luther**
2) Carleton-B--Accepted bid to D3 Nationals
3) Grinnell--Accepted bid to D3 Nationals
4) St. Olaf--Accepted bid to D3 Nationals
5) Macalester (pending acceptance)
6) Gustavus Adolphus (DECLINED)
7) Drake
8) St. Bens

Question 1: Who gets the next 4 bids?
So last night, Beth Nakamura gave me a lesson in "team wait list." So after the bids go to the original place they are allocated, they must go through a "waitlist" process. The next highest team in the waitlist gets an offer. In our Region it has gone something like this: 1) West North Central (WNC), 2) North Central D3 (NCN-III), 3) Lake Superior (LS) until the bids are all awarded. After the D3 teams accepted bids to D3 nationals, their bids were reallocated as follows:
WNC--Winona State (declined)
NCN-III--Macalester (Pending)
LS--Wisconsin-B (accepted the bid to D1 regionals)
WNC--Minnesota Duluth (declined)
NCN-III - Gustavus Adolphus (declined)
LS - Wisconsin-Milwaukee (pending)
WNC--No teams eligible
LS--Wisconsin-Stevens Point
There are rumors flying around that the location of the regional tournament (Appleton, WI) seems to have discouraged teams to attend with such short notice? Perhaps. I think it is the low number of players on each of these teams, and missing 2-3 due to work schedules means they may only have 5 players.
Question 2: Seedings?
The top 6 teams have crazy results.

*must be below Iowa State, but ahead of Carleton
-1-0 vs. UWEC
-3-1 vs. Iowa State (has to be seeded behind ISU from Conference results)
-2-0 vs. Wisconsin
-2-0 vs. Carleton (has to be seeded ahead of Carleton)

Iowa State
*must be ahead of Iowa and Carleton
-1-3 vs. Iowa (seeded ahead of Iowa)
-0-1 vs. Wisconsin

Wisconsin-Eau Claire
*must be ahead of Wisconsin
-0-1 vs. Iowa
-1-0 vs. Wisco

*must be below Iowa State and Iowa
-0-2 vs. Iowa
-1-0 vs. Wisconsin

*must be behind Eau Claire
-0-2 vs. Iowa
-0-1 vs. Eau Claire
-1-0 vs. Iowa State
-0-1 vs. Carleton

*must be behind Iowa State, Iowa, Carleton
-1-1 vs. Carleton
-0-1 vs. Iowa State
My thoughts:
1) Iowa Stateàwin in the Western North Central; beats Iowa, who otherwise would be 1 seed; loss to Wisconsin is in March irrelevant based on stronger results as of late
2) Iowaàloses to Iowa State in finals, but strong results vs. everyone else in top 5; head to head win over Eau Claire; wins over Eau Claire against common opponents all season
3) Carletonàloses to Iowa in 2nd place game (has to be behind Iowa); strong results all season long against tough teams throughout the country
4) Wisconsin-Eau Claireàhas no wins over the top 3; perform below top 3 in common opponent games
5) Wisconsinàloss to Eau Claire at Conferences; strong performance in regular season
6) Minnesotaà Beat Carleton at Conferences in pool play, but lost in bracket play; head to head win vs. Luther at Midwest Throwdown
7) Lutheràhead to head loss vs. Minnesota;  
8) Nebraskaàhas no head to head against the others below them, but they finished in the top 5 in the toughest conference in the Region
9) Wisconsin-Bàhas to be behind Wisconsin, but ahead of Milwaukee
10) Wisconsin-MilwaukeeàHas to be behind Wisco-B based on Conference loss; if they accept the bid
11) Macalester, if they accept the bid
12) Drake or Stevens Point, depending on who accepts bid

This is crazy. I've edited this post 4 times already!