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)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Striking a Balance

As of late, I have been doing a great deal of reading in the prep basketball scene in my home state, Wisconsin. There has been a lot of really great coverage on some smaller teams. I think my favorite article has been this one.

It talks about Jerry Petitgoue, the Boys Basketball coach at a small school in Southwestern Wisconsin. Most of you who do not drive through that part of the state as often as I do, probably have never heard of Cuba City, Wisconsin. Its school boasts an enrollment of 271 students.

Petitgoue, originally from Dubuque, Iowa, had a love for the game but lacked the skill to play at a higher level in college. He learned as much as he could and secured his first coaching gig in Gratiot, Wisconsin.

I see a lot of parallels between Petitgoue's story and college ultimate. This man has created a ton of excitement around basketball in this tiny town--but enough interest that people from all the surrounding towns flock to watch his boys basketball team near the top of the Division IV rankings every year. Kids from all around the state attend the basketball camps he runs in the summer.

As I pack to head to Midwest Throwdown, I can't help but think of how we are paralleling the same story. Throwdown started its Roundup Division and a small "Division 1" a few years ago. Now, it has balloonned into boasting a couple hundred participants and a huge skills clinic. Michelle Ng, with the support of many others, has done miraculous things to create this atmosphere of excitement. The hard part was engaging the community. But once she built it: we all came.

The article describes his leadership style as a balance between cheerleader and disciplinariaon, always "striking the right balance to maximize his players' efforts." Isn't that what we try to do as captains and coaches. Being successful is about striking a balance. We see the best coaches and captains as able to attain that balance, and maintain it throughout the season. They are able to get everything they can out of their players, and seem to do it effortlessly.

The article also goes on to discuss how he has adjusted his game plans over the years to play to the strengths of his players. Division 3 and smaller school leaders: Take a close read at this. Having to fight the good fight and determine what was successful. Cuba City competes at the Division IV level in the state of Wisconsin: the division for the smallest of the small in terms of enrollment. There are some schools at the D4 level that have as few as 53 students. Talk about a small talent pool to draw from.

I often hear the best players at smaller schools talk about leaving their schools to go to a big school powerhouse. I think that Petitgoue has some great insight into that:

Petitgoue says he has been tempted to leave Cuba City just
once. In 1997, he received an offer to coach at his alma mater, the University
of Dubuque. The team had won just once in the past 50 games, but Petitgoue's
son, Ryan, also was a player on the team.

Petitgoue turned down the offer.

"People always say the grass is greener on the other side until
you get there and you find out it's burnt out, too," Petitgoue says. "I always
felt we had something special here. I felt I was made to be a high school
basketball coach and probably not a college coach."

Even when it gets hard to fight the good fight. Keep doing it. You were made to lead and you were made to pioneer the way for others at your school to be excited about ultimate.

If you're at Throwdown, come say hey. And give Michelle a huge thanks.

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