While riding to work on Monday a car pulled out of an intersection ahead of me as I was descending a hill at close to 50km/h (according to my GPS). Despite aggressive braking, swerving and yelling there simply wasn’t enough time to do much more than accept that I was on a collision course. I smacked into the side of the car at about 30km/h.
The swerving likely saved me from a more devastating result. I hit the car at an angle, rather than head on. One side of my bars and my shoulder took the brunt of the impact. I left a decent dent in the side of the car and fell to the ground.
By most people’s definition, including my own for a while, I was ok. I came away with grazes on the usual pointy parts (shoulder, elbow, knee), a bit of bruising and a bit of swelling. From a material point of view my bike was a bit askew with the handlebars and levers out of place. Some of my favourite cycling gear was slashed. I also had a fairly large hole in the squishy bottom part of my right hand – my worst injury from the crash. I appreciate just how fortunate I was.
When people asked what happened, and how I was, I said I was ok. After a night off to rest I returned to training with some throwing on Tuesday night. This was after swinging past the bike shop to collect my fully repaired bike ready for more riding. So, I am ok.
Today I went for a run in my lunch break, which had been my intention for Monday. It wasn’t my fastest run, but it wasn’t too far off. So I am ok. Except I’m not ok.
I started my runwith a mindset of just getting in a decent run. No pressure to be fast, I’ve good cause to not be at my best. However it wasn’t long before my mind entered a negative place. Thoughts like:
- I’m getting puffed running up this hill. Do I normally get this puffed?Am I fit enough? Could I be fitter?
- My knee hurts when I’m running down hill. I’m favouring it a bit and can’t go as fast as I want. I can’t accept this latest setback. Why can’t I just be free to train as I want to?
- It isn’t fair that I had this accident now. I’m 1.5 weeks away from heading to London. I had my final prep planned out and now this has happened. What impact is this going to have? Will I be my best?
After about 4km of this I had a bit of an “oh wow” moment. In the last week, on encouragement from our team, I have been getting back into daily mindfulness sessions. I make heavy use of the Headspace app which has a large focus on training the mind to be able to observe thoughts and feelings rather than just living inside them. I was able to put this into practise and step back from my stream of negativity to realise that I was letting a setback get the best of me.
I then stepped back a little further and realised that I actually feel like I’ve been living in a huge cloud of negativity for quite a long time now.
When thinking about my worlds campaign, specifically the last 5 months, my general feeling is that I haven’t been able to achieve what I wanted to. Here’s the training plan I made for myself from February through to Worlds.
As a summary, 1-2 sessions per day (1.5 – 2 hours). Rest days on Friday. Away at a tournament/training roughly every 3 weeks.
When laying out that plan I envisaged my skills and fitness building throughout that entire period. Five months is too long to train consistently so I put in a couple of rest periods.
In the third week of that plan, at SMO, I injured myself. I was forced to the sideline at Regionals and spent 9 weeks working through rehab. I returned to the field at Nationals. Post Nationals I felt confident enough in my body that I re-focused myself on building. I felt like I’d spent the last 9 weeks maintaining my fitness rather than building. I had consistently worked on my throwing but rather than building leg strength, running and sprinting I was doing 90 arabesques per day to try and work through my nerve issues.
Post Nationals I had 6 weeks to get myself as fit as possible. There’s now 2 of those remaining and I’m covered in bandaids.
The point I’m trying to make is that I’m spending a lot of time training in a negative frame of mind. Feeling like I’m not where I wanted to be, and that circumstances have prevented me being all that I can be. To a degree I don’t think that is unreasonable, but what is worrying is that these thoughts and feelings haven’t limited themselves to my training experience.
I’m very busy. The training plan above doesn’t leave me with any spare time. In addition to my own plan I also incorporated sessions from our official trainers and, more recently, mental sessions from the team. I’ve also been trying to plan and book a month’s holiday after Worlds and working the usual 40 hours a week.
As a result I’ve had to leave some of the core parts of myself out of my life. Aside from my commuter, I haven’t touched my other bikes this year. I haven’t been able to support my partner and contribute to our relationship sufficiently. The house and garden aren’t being maintained at the standard I like. Anything that happens outside of my strictly controlled working/training plan is a hassle. There’s no scope for issues to arise and when they do they either need to be dealt with immediately or ignored until the second half of the year.
Those feelings of negativity that I am getting in my training rear up in my daily life. When unexpected things happen I get upset about it, grumpy that there’s yet another thing for me to deal with. Stressed about the impacts it is going to have, and the time its going to take.
I didn’t commit to this campaign without knowing that there would be sacrifices. I knew there would be challenges but I didn’t understand how they would evolve. The discipline and mental fortitude required has been beyond my expectations. I can’t fathom how the people on my team with children survive. I’m neglecting our pet rabbits enough as it is.
At times I get glimpses of the mindset that I want to achieve. I realise that thoughts of “what might have been” don’t matter. I realise that I’m choosing to focus on negative thought processes rather than accepting that I have done the best I can in the circumstances that arose. There’s not long to go before Worlds and I’m apprehensive about the pressure. I really hope I can get some more clarity and refocus myself into a more positive frame of mind in the coming weeks. I’ve worked really really hard for around 12 months now and this is going to be an amazing experience, if I can allow myself to notice.
The Australian Ultimate Championships (Nationals) were held last weekend in Ballarat, Victoria. Thanks to our performance at Eastern Regionals the Wombats were in attendance. In true Jase-fashion I spent the week before in trepidation with the following concerns buzzing around in my brain:
- Despite being a member of a masters team, this would be my first National Championships. I had previously played regionals tournaments and Div 2 Nationals for Tassie but had never been part of a team that was strong enough to qualify for Nationals. I knew this would be the best competition I had taken part in.
- My hamstring issue is still lingering. I had spent the last six weeks focused on rehab and recovery, as opposed to building and improving my fitness. Nationals is a four-day tournament and I wasn’t sure my fitness was up to scratch in terms of the length of the tournament or the level of competition.
- The game-schedule had flagged our team as playing in the showcase game on Friday night. We would we have a live crowd watching the game and also cameras on site to record and stream the game live for people at home.
If I’m honest, the pressure of the showcase game was the issue my brain decided to latch onto and worry about the most. I felt significant pressure knowing that we were going to the focus of so many people whilst playing! I recognised that this was going to be great experience for Worlds, but I was still stressing about it regularly.
After 8 games across the tournament The Wombats came out in 13th place. As a team this isn’t the result we wanted and we were disappointed. Initially we had a tough pool in which we finished third out of four. Some tough games in the crossovers and a close game against Sublime that didn’t go our way saw us dropping out of contention for placings more in line with our expectations. You can see the full results here.
So we have some work to do. There’s some thoughts and analysis going into where we need to improve and I’m sure we’ll see some results and actions at our upcoming Training Camp.
After a few days of reflection my personal thoughts around the tournament are as follows:
As a D-line receiver it can be tough to get on the field
We’ve got a fairly large D-line, which is necessary. However if you’re not getting breaks and winning points the D-line’s opportunity to get on the field can be minimal. As soon as we score all the D-line players are pumped to get on the field so there’s a bit of competition to get on the line. There’s a fine line between asserting yourself and being a good team mate.
In addition, if your D-line isn’t getting on the field regularly then it is likely that, when the opportunity comes, it is a crucial point in the game. The composition of the line can be quite selective in order to maintain momentum.
I had some mental low-points in the tournament
Most notably, in our game against Sublime, I made a couple of mistakes early on which contributed to scores for Sublime. Initially there was a deep cut that I should have covered and then a few points later I stuffed up the force during a transition which resulted in some easy flow and a score.
In isolation these aren’t huge issues but I want to perform better. I started feeling negative about my ability to assist the team and relegated myself to the sideline for the rest of the game. When it is already difficult to get onto the field (see previous point) its quite easy to let others take your spot if you’re not feeling positive.
In hindsight I recognise that a large part of the issue was the closeness of the match. I had a similar experience at SMO in a tight game. I’ll need to reflect on this further to decide how to handle it.
Despite these issues, I played well.
I believe I made a positive impact for the team in pretty much all the points I played. I was largely successful in fulfilling my role on defense (my player rarely got the disc). When we got a turn I was able to generate options or create space for others to do the same.
More specifically, I feel like I further settled into my role as a defensive receiver. I started to operate in line with the team’s expectations and achieved the desired results. I also eliminated some of the behaviors I’ve had feedback on throughout the campaign. I didn’t take risky options with the disc and can only remember one throwaway.
This is quite a satisfying result, particularly when the areas I needed to improve on were largely mental improvements which I’ve had little game-time opportunity to work through.
I also feel like I’ve made a notable improvement to my throwing over the last 6 weeks. Thanks to my throwing buddies Rob and Leo for facilitating multiple times per week in the dark!
I want more!
Whilst I am feeling more settled in my role I want more out of myself. I want to start excelling in the role and being a more dominant player. This is underpinned by a desire to get more field time if possible.
To that end I’m resolved to start working harder on my fitness. I got through the weekend without any issues from my hamstring. It’s a lingering niggle that is noticeable all the time, but it doesn’t seem to be preventing me from anything and isn’t getting any worse. As such I am keen to start building more fitness and speed rather than focusing on rehab. There’s going to be a lot of running in my future as we progress through the final phase of the campaign. I can’t wait to get back out there.
And in summary…
A weekend of mixed feelings. Positivity about my performance outweighed by some disappointment in the team’s result overall. We played some good ultimate, excellent at times. However we need to keep working and improving, both myself and the team, if we’re going to feel satisfied at Worlds.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to watch us in action there’s a couple of games online:
This past weekend The Wombats had their first training camp. I approached the weekend with a mix of apprehension and excitement.
As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been working on recovering from a hamstring issue. Progression has been steady, but slow. Prior to the training camp I had worked my way up to doing a bit of light straight-line running. No serious efforts, hard turns or jumping. Definitely no game time. Not ideal preparation for a weekend of ultimate.
Without knowing what was planned for the training camp my physio gave me the all-clear to participate as much as I thought I should based on how my hamstring felt along the way. Injury concerns aside I was excited to spend a weekend with the team, focusing on our improvement as a unit without the pressure of competition that comes along with playing tournaments.
After the usual flurry of flights, whatsapp messages, hire cars, google maps and Melbourne traffic we ended up at Carlos’ place on Friday night. We were treated to a very respectable BBQ consisting of delicious hamburgers, amazing chilly dogs and some tasty beverages. Thanks to Carlos for a great relaxing night to kick-off the weekend!
We started off with a mental training session which I found very interesting as an extension of some mental exercises I’ve done in the past. From there we moved into some dump/reset plays with associated practise.
After this we split into two teams. One team continued to do more drills whilst my team took to the field for a short game against Heads of State. I had felt reasonably good through the warm-up so decided to play a few points to see how my hamstring held up.
I had a great game! Mostly it was just good fun to be playing ultimate again after a long break. However my injury didn’t bother me very much and I was able to be competitive throughout the game. I was pleased to pull down a couple of hucks from deep cuts. I also worked well cutting under, threw a couple of assists and managed to limit my throaways to only one.
The rest of the day was spent on further plays, primarily our horizontal offence. We split into our offence and defence lines (I am on the D line) and played a few scenarios against each other. I was pleased to be able to play throughout the day. I took more subs than I would normally but was able to continuously work hard and contribute on the field. After being unsure whether I would be able to participate at all this was a big relief.
The only low point was a “rush of blood” moment where I attempted a difficult throw to a bad option. It was a terrible on-field decision and right in line with the feedback I have been trying to address throughout the campaign. I received an appropriate reality check from the coach who made it quite clear that my chances to iron this issue out are nearly gone.
The formalities were followed up with some beers in the sun at the fields, a shower and then a trip to Will’s for another amazing BBQ – steak sandwiches for all.
Thanks to the daylight savings shift we were able to get a nice long night’s sleep and also have time for a leisurely breakfast at Fifteen Pounds. I consumed some amazing porridge (candied walnuts!) and a couple of coffees. Great place for brekky!
Throughout the day we continued to work on various plays. Sunday saw us focusing on defence (pommy and clam) along with some end-zone play structures. We went through quite a lot of simulated points and finished up with a game between the O and the D line.
A training camp for a masters team is a challenging thing. There’s a lot of experience on the team and everyone has perspective on what has worked well (or not) on their various teams in the past. We also don’t have a lot of time to really drill our plays. As a result it was necessary to keep things simple and focus on principles rather than go into the finer details of every play. The flip-side is that, due to the experience across the team, the principles take hold quite quickly and start to form good plays. I commend the leadership team on their approach and efforts.
Personally I am very happy with the weekend. I was able to play through both days and came away with my injury feeling improved, rather than worse. I’m definitely not 100% but I know I am now ready to start ramping things up and can get back on track working towards worlds. I can’t wait to start working full gas on my fitness again.
In terms of my game, again I am happy after the weekend. I had three throaways across the weekend, one of which was pretty horrendous. That was a low-point and I’m not ignoring it, but it was somewhat outweighed by the consistency at which I was able to get into space, get the disc and continue the play. I’ve still got improvements to make but I feel like I am progressing, and with my injury concerns somewhat allayed I can keep working sooner than I expected.
Last weekend The Wombats attended Eastern Regionals in Canberra. After the tournament I was asked to write a wrap-up for the team’s Facebook page. As I was intending to write a blog post about the tournament anyhow I was happy to oblige.
However, I hope to add a bit of a personal element to the posts on my blog so in addition to the Facebook post here’s some more thoughts from me.
First up, here’s the post from Facebook:
This past weekend The Wombats rolled into Canberra to take part in Eastern Regionals. Being simple minded creatures we had one goal – qualify for Nationals.Saturday commenced with a leisurely breakfast, a logistical nightmare and some missing Wombats who later turned up wielding coffee (for themselves, not the team). After an informal presentation of our training uniforms we got underway with a warm-up under the watchful eye of our coaching team, Emerson Athletics.Our first game was the perfect start to the tournament with a comfortable win over Fyshwick University. This put us in a good head space to meet our primary obstacle to the quarter finals, I-Beam. We’d had a competitive match with I-Beam at SMO and were keen to improve. The team’s potential started to come through and we took another win, 15-8. The pool play closed out with another comfortable win over Gunslingers.After lunch (yes, three games before lunch) we lined up against Fyshwick United. A win in this this game and we were into Nationals. We knew we had a tough opponent between us and our goal. As expected, Fyshwick put up quite a fight. Clinical offense and some intense defense resulted in their taking of half at 8-5. During the game Canberra decided to get angry with a thunderstorm rumbling away on the horizon, clearly heading for the fields. As the wind and rain increased, the Wombat’s performance did likewise. Flashes of lightning prompted players to be called off the field. The Wombats scurried to a nearby burrow having achieved another break and leading 9-8.The Wombat’s burrow (change room) became a hive of activity as players tried to keep warm and active. Carlos provided some tunes which prompted some odd dancing by Greeny whilst all manner of foam rollers, lacrosse balls and tiger-tails were brought forth for stretchy recovery times. Once the weather had passed we emerged to go through a 20 minute warm up for 5 minutes of remaining game time. We got a break, the siren went, it was game to 11. Fyshwick scored, scored again and we were on universe. A huck from Mike Baker to Carlos with good backup from Alec Deslandes resulted in a win for the Wombats. Goal achieved!Saturday night was spent at the house of the Emerson Bros. We experienced a feast of meat and carrots. A view of their well-equipped training room/dungeon helped us feel a little guilty about how much food and liquid carbs were being consumed. Thanks for the BBQ boys!With our Nationals spot secured we relaxed into Sunday for some high-level intense games. First up we met Clench Butt for the second time this season and pushed them a little harder than our game at SMO. We ended up going down 15-13. Our second game was against Colony Pillage. This resulted in a win for us at 13-11 however by this stage we had some fairly tired Wombats and we lost our last game against Colony Plunder 15-9.Overall a great weekend for the Wombats. Qualifying for Nats was a satisfying result and the progression of the team as they build towards Worlds was encouraging. As we rushed off to get on the road, or get on a plane, we received the news that we had also won spirit which was the icing on a delicious cake.
As for myself, I spent the weekend on the sidelines. After SMO I had a bit of hamstring pain which I attributed to some collateral damage playing in a tournament. These things happen. However, it didn’t settle down so I eventually went to the physio to get assessed. It turns out I had irritated the joints in the lower part of my spine and was experiencing referred pain down the back of my leg. Whilst this is occurring the leg muscles are more susceptible to tearing whilst under load. As a result, no running for me.
Initially there was a chance that I would have time to recover before Regionals. My physio and I both worked hard to give me the best chance of playing but unfortunately the improvements weren’t enough to get me the all clear on the Friday when I was due to fly.
I spent my weekend helping the team with my voice (yelling from the sidelines) and also taking stats of the team’s performance using UltiAnalytics. Taking stats is quite challenging and requires considerable focus. However across 7 games we were able to collect a lot of data which will be used in future to develop the team.
So I have mixed feelings about the weekend. I was able to spend some quality time with my team, witnessing the continued development. The more time we spend together the more I appreciate the team dynamic, the leadership team and the experience as a whole.
On the other hand I am very disappointed to not have the opportunity to contribute to the team on the field. Our opportunities to play together, and develop as a team, are somewhat limited. Missing out on a tournament is not insignificant.
I also am extremely keen to continue improving myself. I still don’t feel that I’ve shown the team my full potential as a player. I know there are areas where I need to improve and I was looking forward to having an opportunity to demonstrate that I was moving in the right direction.
With that in mind, its time to do some stretching and strengthening…
Recently I wrote about my experience in becoming a Wombat, a member of the Australian Open Masters ultimate team for 2016. In early February the team came together for our first tournament, the 2016 Sydney Melbourne Open(SMO) in Sydney.
There was a lot riding on this tournament. I was excited to be playing alongside the group of guys that I met at the selection events, as a unit with shared goals. However I was also anxious about the unknowns associated with this tournament and my own performance.
In particular, I was aware that this tournament experience would be unlike any of my previous outings. Playing on a representative team carries some expectations along with some notable differences to the level of ultimate I was familiar with. In no particular order:
- There’s an expectation to perform. We’ve been through a selection process and chosen for our capabilities and it is up to each of us to honour that selection.
- Further to that, in the not too distant future we will be representing our country as a team. There’s an expectation (from previous Worlds campaigns) that we will be competitive.
- The team is large, compared to my previous teams, with around 22 players attending SMO. I didn’t know the specifics of how the lines would be managed or how competitive it would be to get on the field.
- For on-field work we have a leadership team that consists of a captain, two vice-captains and a coach. I wasn’t sure what their expectations were for this tournament, or how they would go about setting goals for the team and managing individual players.
- As per most tournaments I go to, I was worried about my ability to be competitive. I’ll admit that I suffer from performance anxiety and I find the days leading to any sporting event a challenge.
As it turns out, most of those concerns were readily allayed. The offence and defence lines were communicated a few days before the tournament along with a promise of further information about the team goals to come. I was on the offence line with 8 other players so getting field time was not an issue. Before the first game we came together as a team and the leadership team let us know that the main goal of the tournament was to find our feet as a team. Whilst we were expected to work hard, the focus was inwards on building our connections and on-field capabilities as offensive and defensive units. The results would be whatever they turned out to be (not too bad in the end!).
As for my personal abilities, I was able to make a positive impact fairly early in the first couple of games so stopped worrying too much about that before long. The support and encouragement from my teammates really helped here and I started to realise what a great bunch of guys we had pulled together. With those anxieties laid to rest I was able to settle into the tournament. I focused on embedding myself into the team, and also on my own contributions to ensure I was being as effective as possible throughout the games (both on and off the field).
From a team perspective, I feel that the weekend was a huge success. We played some exceptional ultimate, which was thrilling to be a part of. We played some tight games and were able to knuckle down and come out on top. We also played some easier games which allowed us to relax a bit and introduce a bit of flair. During all of this we all rallied around each other, developed some key connections and really started to gel. The end result was winning 6 of our 7 games. We lost our quarter final against the eventual tournament winners, Clench Butt (11-13) so we came fifth overall. We also won Spirit.
I had a bit of a roller-coaster ride in my personal performance on the field. I am pretty hard on myself so it is difficult to be sure, but I definitely had some low-points throughout the tournament. As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve not really played at this level before and I think it shows a little bit.
Imagine a scenario where you’re on an established ultimate team and you are playing with a new recruit. They are athletic, know where to run and are good at catching. They get a lot of disc but as soon as they have a hold of it they get a little stuck. They don’t know how to throw yet so may try to force some strange backhand around a forehand mark. More often than not half of your team will flood the area whenever they get the disc in an attempt to provide an easy dump. Does that sound familiar?
In some ways I feel a little bit like that new player. Throughout the selection camps, and now at SMO, I’ve thrown some throws I shouldn’t have. I’ve generated turnovers from taking silly options. I know I can throw, but I seem to be rushing and trying to generate options rather than waiting for options to eventuate. On a quality team it doesn’t take long for this sort of performance to be noticed. Whilst the team is very supportive it was pretty clear, both in conversations and via the state of play on the field, that I need to consider my role (receiver) along with the fact that there are more capable people on the field who should have the disc in their hands.
For clarity, I don’t mind that this is the case. It is important for me to fulfil my role and provide the opportunity for others to do the same. However I am finding the mental shift quite a challenge given I am generally one of the more capable players in the environments I am familiar with. I also know that I can throw better than I have demonstrated so I am determined to demonstrate that.
From a catching perspective, I performed well to begin with however it became apparent that I could be a bit more aggressive on the disc when completing my cuts. The level of the defence is higher than my experience so I need to make sure I am working to run through the disc every time. I started to put this into practise on the second day of the tournament and suffered a few annoying drops as I made the adjustment. An observant teammate pointed out that its important not to let the disc drop below your eye-line when running right through it so there’s some work for me to do there.
A particularly difficult point of the tournament for me was our quarter final. As per the score-line above, it was a close game and the pressure of the situation got to me. It was a weird situation as I didn’t really realise how invested I was until I made a couple of errors (much like those described above) and generated some crucial turnovers. After the points were over I received some encouragement from my teammates whilst walking to the sideline, but once I made it back to my bottles I struggled to keep things together. In hindsight I think it was a mix of emotions that primarily consisted of letting my teammates down and also being really disappointed in myself for making mistakes in exactly the fashion I had been trying to avoid.
I don’t want to end this post on a low point, and I think it is important (for me) to maintain perspective so I will mention that across the weekend as a whole I think I contributed strongly to the team. On the first morning I scored a respectable amount of goals. I was also able to generate movement and in-cuts when the play seemed to be stagnating at times. Despite being on the O-line I did play defence multiple times and feel that I was accountable in that role, along with generating a couple of turnovers myself through blocks or defensive pressure. All that said, I want to be more than all of that!
Overall I’m really happy. The team is fantastic and it is great to be a part of something of this magnitude. There’s certainly areas for me to improve but I am more than keen to do so. I’m really looking forward to Regionals in a couple of weeks’ time. Both in terms of another opportunity to spend the weekend playing ultimate with a great team and also as an opportunity to step up my own game.
Last weekend I attended the 2016 Sydney Melbourne Open(SMO) in Sydney. It was my first outing as a Wombat, a member of the Australian Open Masters ultimate team. We’re on a campaign trail that will culminate in attendance the World Ultimate and Guts Championships in London in June.
I had a great time at SMO with the team. It was an overwhelming experience at times and I intend to write about it soon. However it seems I should start at the beginning and so this post is about my experience in becoming a Wombat.
The first point to make is that I went into the selection process with absolutely no expectation that I would make the team. Being a masters team, I knew that there would be wealth of experience across the contenders. I also knew that my own experience was extremely limited in comparison. I have never played past a regionals level on an open team and have only been involved in largely uncompetitive Tasmanian mixed teams.
However I was currently involved in possibly the most dedicated mixed campaign in Tasmanian history so I knew I had some form and fitness. I also knew that I am still reasonably fast for a masters-level player.
Combine those things with some encouragement and belief from close friends and I got to a point where I registered my interest in attending the first selection camp, which would be in Sydney in late November. My friend Steve passed on some sage words from his mum:
Your regret the things you don’t do, not the things you do do
I figured I could go along and see how I fared. At a minimum it would be a great learning experience with no commitment to continue if I felt way out of my depth, or didn’t enjoy the experience.
Once the mixed season finished (culminating with a hugely successful and enjoyable campaign for my Tasmanian team kunanyi!) I resolved to keep up my training regime to ensure I was going into the first selection camp as fit as I could be. I had no idea what to expect. I’d never experienced anything like a selection camp. I was incredibly nervous in the week leading up to the camp. On the day I was flying out I remember having to take a moment out from work to go and sit in the car and talk to my partner, Maz, for a good 20 minutes about all the things my overactive anxious brain was mulling over. My stomach was in knots as we headed to the airport later in the day.
The selection camp turned out to be a real eye-opener. We were subject to fitness and throwing benchmarks and a whole variety of different game scenarios (3-on-3, man defence only, zone defence only, split into clubs with two teams playing best-of-3 games, full games). It was intense and I was fully exhausted by the end of it. The level of play was beyond anything I had experienced before. I think its fair to use the analogy of a medium sized-fish in a very small pond jumping into an ocean of big fish.
Despite that, there were two major revelations that occurred to me as I was flying home:
- Even at this level, I was competitive. I had the capability to contribute positively to the team.
- I really really wanted a spot on the team. The “treat this as a learning experience” idea was blown away. I was hungry to push myself, prove myself and do the best I could do to get onto the team if possible.
I left the camp feeling incredibly happy. I was grinning throughout the flight home. The fact that I could be a contender, with some notable strengths, was a bit of a shock. Albeit, a very nice one!
That said, the selectors had provided some very clear feedback about my performance. I was in a position whereby I was capable of being fast, getting into space and catching the disc however from that point I was a liability. There were two main elements to this:
- My throwing wasn’t up to scratch. It needed to level up, several levels, to be on par with the skill level exhibited across the rest of the team.
- My mindset was causing me to generate too many turns by taking bad or rushed options. I needed to remember that I wasn’t playing in Tasmania any more. I wasn’t one of the strongest players on the field and it wasn’t my responsibility to take ownership of the point and generate plays.
I resolved to work hard on both these elements prior to the second selection camp. This proved to be quite challenging.
I had been fortunate to have some dedicated training buddies throughout the year however they had all vacated for Christmas holidays. I was faced with improving my throwing alone. Upon some advice I converted an old bike work-stand into a throwing target by making a rectangular frame out of some PVC. I had two weeks leave over Christmas and took my target and 10 discs to an oval every day (except maybe Christmas). I stood 10 metres from the target and threw 100 backhands and 100 forehands at the target and counted the successful throws.
The results were not encouraging. Throwing through a static target was surprisingly challenging. The hardest part was the fluctuating results that I achieved day by day, and trying to remain mentally focused without getting frustrated when I knew I was producing a bad set. I would often return home feeling dejected and negative, even though I knew I was putting in hard-yards that would hopefully yield results. Thanks to Maz for trying to cheer me up after these sessions, and sometimes throwing with me so I didn’t have to face the dreaded target.
Despite the negativity I can confidently say that my throws improved remarkably from this target practise. It wasn’t until my training buddies returned that I was able to have a point of comparison (other than myself) and gain some context as to how I was performing.
Working on my mindset was even more challenging. The ultimate scene in Hobart is extremely quiet over Christmas and I knew that I needed game time to work on my execution and decision making. My only option for game time was a trip to Melbourne Hat in December so I registered for that tournament on my way home from the selection camp. A hat tournament is not necessarily an ideal environment to work on your game in a focused way, but I got some valuable game time out of it.
The second selection camp went well. I experienced my usual pre-ultimate nerves and anxiety but once things got started I settled into it. I felt significantly more pressure this camp. I knew that I wanted to succeed and go as far as I could through the selection process. I also knew that there were specific improvements that the selectors were looking for and I had put a lot of time and energy into trying to ensure those improvements had been made.
The selection camp followed a similar format to the first one. Again I was satisfied with my ability to be competitive and contribute positively to the teams I was on throughout the camp. The teams were different this time around so I got to play with some different people and it was encouraging to play alongside more amazing players who were also genuinely nice teammates! I became even more convinced that I wanted to be a Wombat.
From a performance perspective, I demonstrated some improvements in the areas I needed to. I wasn’t perfect, or even close to a level where I wanted to be. However I settled into my receiver role more solidly and was definitely less of a liability when I had the disc in my hands.
At the end of the camp it was explained that the team would be announced during the week that followed. However, as some of the contenders were also going for the Australian Mixed team it would be necessary to include some reserves on the Wombats team list in case those players were successful in their mixed team selections.
A few days later I received a call to let me know that I was to be one of the reserve players. At the time I took this news quite negatively. I didn’t feel like the team announcement that followed the next day really included me (or the other two reserves). By this stage I also had a good idea of what the Wombats campaign would look like in the lead up to London. The next six months of my life were hinging on this announcement. I told myself that I would be quite happy picking something else to dedicate six months to if I didn’t get on the team but in reality I knew that wasn’t true.
The mixed team announcement was made not too much later. By this stage I was getting quite anxious to know my fate. I tried to just get on with things but my mind kept turning to what-ifs and when-will-I know type questions. The pending news was at the forefront of my mind, even though I was taking a break from ultimate for a couple of weeks after having trained consistently from May through to January.
I was sitting on my couch watching TV when I received the email to say I’d been selected for the team. All the signs were there, but I hadn’t realised how pent up I was waiting for the announcement until the emotions spilled over a little when I read the email. It was great news!
Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to share the news very broadly until the final team list was officially announced by AFDA. For some reason this took a couple of weeks. I was in this odd place of knowing something awesome, and having people asking me about this awesome thing, but not being able to share the awesomeness. Once the AFDA announcement came through I was all too happy to share the news with people. The reactions (on Facebook in particular) where surprising and overwhelming!
So that’s the story of how I became a Wombat. It was one of the most challenging processes I have experienced. It was physically demanding but the mental element proved to be the real challenge. Putting my hat in the ring as a contender, dedicating myself to improving, the waiting game and performing whilst being analysed and compared to others were all difficult things to go through. Of course, it was also rewarding. I know a lot more about myself as an ultimate player now and can see clear paths for improvement. I’m also part of a great group of individuals who are extremely supportive, amazing ultimate players and all round excellent teammates. I am super excited for the rest of the campaign!
Stay tuned for a post about SMO in the near future.