The last few weeks have brought me a great deal of joy and made me super thankful for an incredible year in ultimate in 2017.
Here are 10 memories that came to mind as I was reflecting on the last year:
(1) Starting the Film Study Group
Last fall I stared a Facebook group to study ultimate games. The idea for the group came from wanting to look carefully at the 2016 USAU Nationals semis game between Riot and Fury. After looking at that game we moved on to the Ozone vs All-Stars game from 2016 and then on to 5 or 6 more games. As I write this post we are just starting to look at the Riot vs 6ixers game from 2017 USAU Nationals.
I can’t say thank you enough times to everyone involved, and especially to Anna Nazarov and Gwen Ambler who have been incredibly helpful with ideas and comments. We’ve got around 1,500 members now. Can’t wait to see what games we get to study in 2018!
Here’s a link to the group for anyone who would like to join:
(2) Getting to know and learn more about players from Australia
I’ve been really happy to learn more and more about Australian ultimate since writing about Michelle Phillips last year:
One of the biggest thrills for me this year was **finally** getting to meet Michelle in person at Nationals!
In the film study group, we spent about 6 weeks studying the Australian bronze medal game and got to see some amazing players like Adelaide Dennis, Holly Reeve, and Kerilee Coote.
The Australian ultimate community also did a great job promoting two exhibition games between their World Games team and Japan’s. Those games were super fun to study and I got to see three former All-Stars – Kim Spragg and Rebecca Brereton playing for Australia and Shiori Ogawa playing for Japan!! I also really enjoyed learning about Alex Prentice and watching Cat Phillips absolutely shine. The throw for the goal in the clip below was one of the best plays I saw all year:
I wrote about Cat Phillip’s here:
(3) The World Games
It wasn’t just the Australian and Japan World Games teams that were fun to watch. Team Canada really impressed me in their exhibition game against Team USA at Potlatch. Laura Mason played out of her mind, and Catherine Hui, well . . .
And Manuela Cardenas at the end of the Colombia vs Canada game – just wow! Another one of the best plays of the year –
(4) Getting to learn about more international players
There’s so much film around these days that it seems as though you can watch just about any game you want (other than the European women’s final 😦 ). All of that film allowed me to learn about a ton of great international players this year. I loved watching Mantis in the Austrian finals:
There was also an incredible highlight film of the European women’s final which could double as an Essi Inkinen Callahan video! Inkinen was part of the Eurostars tour this summer, but unfortunately I didn’t catch many of their games.
Finally, I loved seeing Revolution play at the US Open. Although this clip is a Molly Brown score, it also highlights the team speed and incredible coordination of the Revolution players – what a team!
(5) Anna and Surge
The two most emotionally difficult blog posts for me to write this year were about Anna Nazarov and Surge winning gold with team USA at the World Games. It is hard to think of two players who I could cheer for harder than these two. Anna’s journey from not making the final cut for the World Games team 4 years ago to winning gold this year is such a terrific and happy story. Surge’s climb back to the top of the sport after knee surgery is so inspiring. They are both incredible role models.
This was the 3rd year for the awards I’ve been giving out in the women’s division. This year I started a 3rd category for coaching. This years True Veteran award winner was Opi Payne, the Michelle Ng Inspiration award went to Anraya Palmer, and the Robin Davis coaching award went to Robyn Wiseman. I’m continuously amazed by how much time and effort the players in the ultimate community dedicate to growing the sport and also by the amazing people the sports attracts. Can’t wait to announce the next set of awards in February!
Here’s a clip of Anraya Palmer playing against the All-Stars that just blew me away:
Here’s the full blog post about the awards.
(7) Molly Brown’s season
I was lucky to be able to watch lots of Molly Brown games this year. They are an easy team to like, and my office is starting to have quite of lot of Molly Brown mementos!
It broke my heart to have Megan Cousins and Hannah Leathers on the sideline with injuries this year. I’m cheering for their return to the field as hard as I was cheering for Surge an Anna’s World Games journeys.
I wrote three blog posts about Molly Brown players this year – can’t wait to learn more about them and from them next year:
(8) The incredible young players in club ultimate right now
If ever there was a time to say “where to start . . .” this is it. I struggle to remember a time where there were this many young and insanely talented players in club ultimate. U24 Worlds in Perth is going to be completely bananas.
I’m super excited to see Julia Schmalz and Jaclyn Verzuh on the field together for team USA.
I’m also excited to see Carolyn Normile get more publicity with the U24 team. She was a fantastic player (and maybe the 2nd youngest) with the All-Stars back in 2015. Oh can she play!
Another incredible Team USA U24 player I learned about this year was Maddie Gilbert of Riot – holy cow is she good:
In addition to the Cardenas sisters for Colombia, and Prentice, Reeve and Spragg mentioned above, I was so excited to learn about Canada’s Anouchka Beaudry this year. She had an unbelievable game to help the 6ixers win their first Canadian championship – already at 19 she’s one of the best throwers I’ve ever seen. Here’s a peek at a scoring play we were were looking at in the film study group today:
(9) Seeing the sport’s super stars shine on the field
Learning more about Carolyn Finney’s game from the world games and from watching Fury this season was a treat. There aren’t many players that make me feel genuinely bad for their defenders. I want to send Finney’s defenders sympathy cards.
Riot’s Julia Snyder is another super star player that I loved watching this year. Her field sense and positioning are both off the charts, and her movement away from the disc to create space for her teammates might be as good as it gets. I’m so excited to see more of her next year.
The blog post I’ve used the most with own kids was about Cree Howard. She came back from an injury this year and caught the winning goal in the national championship game. I wanted to share the story of her season this year with my boys to help them understand the highs and lows of sports:
Finally, for this section at least, I wanted to give a shout out to Beth Kaylor who had an amazing season with Fury. Her play with the All-Stars left me completely amazed. Her game in college and with the All-Stars was so wide open and free and I think the transition to playing in Fury’s system was probably not as easy as she made it look. It is so satisfying to see incredible players climb to even higher heights – what an amazing season for Kaylor!
(10) Rage Blogging
Lastly, my two most popular posts of the year weren’t about film study or great play, but rather they were reactions to obstacles that players face.
“Expect less” was written in response to comments about women in ultimate that Anna Nazarov saw on line:
“But . . . her mustache” was written after learning about the Molly Brown situation at US Club nationals and is the mostly widely read blog post (math or ultimate) that I’ve ever written:
And, though not a blog post, this rant about the commentating at the World Games was also widely shared:
I don’t mean to end on a down note because it was a great year in ultimate overall. The players I got to see this year – from players I knew well to players I didn’t know at all before 2017 – were so phenomenal. I know how hard the work, I know how hard they train, and I know how much effort they put in to making the ultimate community better. The negativity directed towards them – from seemingly small phrases in commentating, to outright hostility on line – drives me insane.
30 years after I started playing the ultimate community remains a source of great joy to me. What the players I saw, learned about, and wrote about are doing to make every aspect of ultimate better makes me super happy. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!