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)

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!