For all those great teams to have become great, there had to be a starting point. You think the University of Alabama just magically got good at football? Although Nick Saban might as well be a Houdini, magic isn’t the answer; No, they had to have a good management, dedication, and a solid foundation. For all of those teams starting up for club season right now, and future college captains for young teams, this is for you. This article is going to highlight the major points on what to do when building a team from Stage 1.
Now, I’ve never won a national championship and my team has never had a .500 record, but I’ve also never doubted that my team is destined for greatness. My small D-III college team started three years ago, going to Regionals two of those three years. Our captains have good heads on their shoulders and balance realism and large goals nicely. That’s the key to our success: our leadership. Every year we’re thrown a batch of kids who haven’t ever played Ultimate before, mixed with last year’s roster of 1-year “veterans”. I cannot tell you how tired I am of running the basic ‘Go-To’ Drill and teaching people how to throw flick hucks. It’s exhausting. But for greatness to be present, the fundamentals have to be there. While building a new team, the captains have to be patient with the newbies on the squad, while representing a strong work-ethic to motivate the vets not to slack off. Along with the captains having good attitudes, they have to be smart with their money and time. Should a brand new team have two or three practices a week? Should they go to this tournament or that tournament? How much money should the team owe without being repelled away? There isn’t a correct answer to any of these. But for a brand new team, I’d definitely suggest having two practices a week for at least two hours, to cover specific skills and also having time for scrimmage. Go to all sorts of tournaments. Local ones, easy ones, hard ones. But the best are the far away tournaments; nothing builds chemistry like a 9-hour car ride. Money can be tough depending on how much support you get from your school/community. Do the essentials: USAU Membership (If you can remember your log in information), cleats, gas.
Find me a championship team where dedication wasn’t present. Dedication is probably the most important part of any squad. You know the Fort Minor song that goes, “10% luck, 20% skill…” yada yada yada? Well I want you to forget everything about that song and realize that it’s 1% skill, 99% dedication. As a captain, you can be thrown 18 ultimate players who have no desire to get better, and lose every game at every tournament. If there’s no will to get better, there’s going to be zero success. Any basketball fans out there? Let’s compare the 2013 NBA Championship with the 2014 NBA Championship. In 2013, the Miami Heat rolled the entire Eastern conference to the Finals, and ended up beating the San Antonio Spurs in a seven-game series. The Heat were cocky, obnoxious, and overconfident after winning the championship. They were the best in 2012 and 2013, why should they bother getting any better? Well, now it’s 2014 and the Spurs have by far the best record in the NBA. They obliterate a historically good Western Conference to get a rematch for the 2014 Finals. Spurs win 4-1 and prove that dedication is everything. They changed their style of play up, improved as a team, and instead of viewing the NBA as their job, they saw it as an opportunity to become a great basketball team. Dedication is everything. Without it, you are at best the 2014 Miami Heat.
How did great players become great? Well, first they had to become good, and before that, they were okay. And even before that, they were *gasp* bad! If your team is full of bad ultimate players, there’s hope. You’ve got to start somewhere and there’s no rush. Teach your team the basics: How to throw, how to catch, how to run a horizontal and vertical stack. Before you know it, they’ll begin taking initiative on their own and watching videos of Ultimate Rob on how to pull. You’ve got to learn to walk before you can run. If you’re a senior captain with a bunch of freshmen on the team, I’ve got bad news for you: You probably won’t make it to nationals. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. Leave a legacy and build a foundation that is made to last. Develop those rookies into the best rookies they can be so next year they can use what YOU taught THEM to develop the next batch of rookies. Build a foundation made to last so growth will come naturally. Last year I was a Senior on a squad of mainly freshmen. We didn’t make it to nationals, we didn’t even stand a chance at regionals. But I saw the rookies develop from bad ultimate players to okay ultimate players. When I come back next year for my Super-Senior year, I’ll get to watch and develop them into good ultimate players. Then I’ll be gone and won’t get to witness them become great ultimate players while they develop rookies. The cycle never ends, ladies and gentlemen. Besides attempting to get a degree, I’ve spent my four years at college helping to build a team from ground-zero with my other co-captains. It’s a process that takes time, but I promise you, if you build your team with good management, have a good foundation, and a lot of dedication, you’ll develop a team ready to succeed.