I had the opportunity to speak with North Texas's women's team. Envy embodies everything that I have been focusing on lately in my reading on sports development and outreach. They have worked to go from barely there, chippy, and not really aware of the greater movements in the ultimate community to a team that is fully engaged in ultimate, giving back, and revamping their reputation.
I have followed their season closely, as a friend of mine from Iowa has moved down to coach the team. Cara Massey and Blake McGlaun answer some questions, and shares some insight on her 2011-2012 season with Envy. (Disclaimer: This interview took place prior to the South Central regionals, for which Envy qualified.)
Robyn: Tell us about playing ultimate at North Texas? What is the "ultimate scene" like?
Cara and Blake: The ultimate scene here at North Texas is somewhat of a hidden gem in the sense that not many students or teachers know it exists. There is a certain community that is established within the North Texas Ultimate Club that extends much further than the playing field. Envy has developed a strong support system of people who love and care for one another.Envy's alumni are always interested in our growth and development and often join in on traveling to tournaments just to show their support along the sidelines. Both the men's and women's teams are also very supportive of one another. Several members of the men's team come out to Envy's practices on a regular basis to give a few tips here and there or just to watch Envy in action. We often get together for "game night" or have a "bake off" just to hang out with each other.
How did you (Blake and Cara) get into ultimate?
Cara: I first got into ultimate through Grapevine League the summer before I transferred to North Texas in 2010. I did not think much of the sport until my captain had encouraged me to attend the Summer Solstice tournament in Tulsa, OK. That was the first time I had met and played ultimate with Envy. I immediately fell in love with the team's welcoming vibe and energetic persona and thus, fell in love with ultimate.
What I really enjoy about ultimate is that it's based on 'The Spirit of the Game.' Before I've only played sports with a referee, and calling your own shots was refreshing because the calls depended on honesty between opponents. I see some teams take advantage of this rule and they lose my respect when they do, so with my team I try to emphasize the spirit of the game as much as possible because I believe it's important to play fair.
What have your goals been over the season?
Blake: When I came to college, I tried many organizations to see where I would fit in and have the most fun. Ultimate Frisbee instantly stole my heart. The vets, at the time, were super welcoming and already cracking jokes the first day I met them. I was stoked to start playing frisbee and travel with Envy because I just had this feeling that there was going to be many adventures I would never forget. The environment of ultimate is like no other I've experienced; it's chill, lively, and a complete blast with all the crazy, unique people. I love ultimate and I never want to stop playing.
What have your goals been over the season?
Cara and Blake: Over this past season, one of the main goals was to increase Envy's competitive nature. In the past, Envy has had the reputation of being a free-spirited and fun-loving team, but was never really looked at as a competitive threat. This year is different because although we are still free-spirited and love to have fun, we have the athleticism to show the ultimate world what Envy is really made of. Another goal was to develop new players so that they will be prepared to lead the team when the vets are gone. It was important to not only develop the rookies' skills, but to also show them that Envy abides by the "Spirit of the Game" and is more concerned with enjoying the sport of ultimate rather than gaining an unfair advantage over competitors. Our rookies have shown an unyielding passion for the sport that has been an awesome addition to Envy.
What is your team's practice attendance policy? Were there problems/difficulties in putting into place?
Cara and Blake: Our attendance policy gained a much more serious tone in January. We implemented the rule that if you miss practice, you are running sprints. None of the girls seemed to be bothered by the rule. In fact, many of the girls are enthusiastic when telling us they are doing their sprints or had just finished them. The rookies are always adamant about coming to practice; it is seldom when any of them miss.
What are your long-term goals past the season?
Cara and Blake: Long-term goals are more along the lines of creating a bigger name for Texas teams. We aspire to one day attract big names like Iowa and Wisconsin to tournaments like "Big D in Little d". We place a more personal focus on sustaining a positive name for Envy in the ultimate scene (through recruitment of incoming athletes and development of current team members).
What is your advice to other teams?
Cara and Blake: Advice to other teams would be to never let people's opinion of you or your teammates stop you from pushing yourself and your team to achieve its goals. Advice to any captains would be to always hold yourself to a higher standard than the rest of the team. In regards to practice, there is fine line between having fun at practice and working hard to become better. We believe that it's always important to practice like you would play in a competitive game setting. Also, there is a difference between calling a teammate out while at practice and giving constructive criticism in a positive way. The latter is much more beneficial for team moral.
Anything else you want to share?
Cara and Blake: One more thing we would like to share is the importance of giving back to the community. Our coach, Paul Utesch, has reached out to us from within our community and has helped us to believe in ourselves and to push ourselves like we never have before. Envy has never had a coach figure until now, and it has made all the difference in our playing. We think it is important for people who have the insight and the know how to share that knowledge with the community so that ultimate can continue to grow.