Although we went 0-6 on the weekend and finished in last place, a few things became clear to me. Compared to the other teams we played, we were on par with the best of the best in terms of intensity, athleticism, raw talent, conditioning, and spirit. In fact, I daresay that in some categories, the Nebraskans were superior. (Just ask any of the teams that faced the cup comprised our three state cross-country champions.) The only thing that our players lacked was experience.
I was chatting with one of the Idaho coaches (the other new team at the tournament this year), and she stated how proud and impressed she was with their kids, some of whom “have only been playing
Many teams have long-established youth programs and have tryouts where one or two hundred kids compete for a spot on the YCC team; we just brought everyone who wanted to play.
The scores of the games didn’t really reflect how well we did. For example, we fell 13-4 to DiscNW, but we were as close as 6-3 at one point. In two of our games, we lost to the eventual champions (DeVYL) and runners up (DiscNW). We led at various points early in games against both Pittsburgh (PHUL) and North Carolina (TYUL), and we managed to pound out 7 points against Cincinnati, our best score for the weekend.
What was truly exciting was watching our players evolve right before our very eyes over the course of the weekend. Stew Buckley turned into a quick, confident handler and field general; Joe Castillo learned to time his many, many layout Ds; Jeremy Dickes learned to play even bigger than he normally does; Nick “Big Bear” Jenkins awakened the beast that lives inside that large but quick frame; Logan Graeve (at age 14, our youngest player by two years) discovered that she can throw hard marks that cause good handlers to throw turnovers; and the whole team developed a disciplined, patient approach to moving the disc, fighting through a very difficult headwind.
Frankly, the Nebraska team that showed up on Saturday morning would not have been able to compete with the Nebraska team that left on Sunday afternoon.
One of the highlights of the tournament was the Spirit Circle, a new innovation that USAU brought back from Worlds earlier this summer. Basically, at the end of each game, the teams form a circle comprised of alternating players from each team. This gives both teams a chance to exchange thoughts on the game, compliment and joke with one another, and generally relieve any tension that may have built up during play. Invariably, each one devolved into a dance party, dogpile, raucous game of “battletanks”, or some other such tomfoolery that saw both teams part ways amicably, laughing and relishing the fun they all just had.
The best Spirit Circle I saw was at the end of a tough mixed semifinals game between Sunnyside (Fayetteville) and DiscNW. Although Sunnyside lost, they decided to act as if they won and started screaming and jumping all over each other in a tight huddle. The stunned DiscNW kids stared for a second, shrugged, and follow suit. Then, a DiscNW player stepped out of the huddle, faced the Sunnyside team, and opened his arms for a hug, which he received as the Fayetteville kids streamed over to jump into the DiscNW pile. Forty kids merged into one big heap of brown jerseys and white jerseys, cleats and arms and legs protruding every which way, howling with laughter, high-fiving and fist-bumping with players from the opposite team. Chaotic, hilarious, and definitely a good thing.
In fact, the spirit overall was incredible all weekend long. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what kind of attitude to expect from some of these hot teams, but almost everyone--coaches, players, spectators--were warm and welcoming. Everyone was glad we helped boost the number of teams in the tournament from 8 to 10, and they were excited to compete against a new batch of players from a different part of the country. Even on the field, in the heat of the game, the opposing players had good spirit. On the sidelines, they were happy to joke with us.
The atmosphere was so genial, in fact, that when the PHUL captain suggested we have a spikeoff during our Sunday morning game, no one thought twice about it, and we all had a lot of fun with it. Normally, even a mutually agreed-upon spikeoff would be a recipe for disaster, especially in a tournament game, but the kids from both sides had a field day with it.
One of the weekends’ events that I was admittedly nervous about was the Saturday night coaches’ exhibition game, which would put me on the same field playing pickup with nationals-level players. (Much to my dismay, most of them looked fairly young and in game shape.) It ended up being a lot of fun, though. I did OK, I think; I kept up with their speedy cuts and managed a nice air-born D block in the end zone at least, but I couldn’t help shake the feeling that I was the only person on the field without a national title. Fortunately, everyone was welcoming and gracious. One of them even tossed me a no-look backwards scoober that I got to bid for in the end zone, which would have been even cooler had I managed to catch it. (So close...yet so far.)
In sum, YCC was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to bring a team again next year! Maybe in 2011 we can field a mixed team and/or girls team, too...