Becoming a Wombat…

February 24, 2016 at 9:51 pm 2 comments

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Entry filed under: Ultimate Frisbee.

The road to 5000…. The Sydney Melbourne Open

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. forumjoe  |  February 25, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Great work, Jase! I can’t wait to read more about your experiences and travels.

    Reply
  • 2. The Sydney Melbourne Open | Not a Meerkat  |  March 1, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    […] 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 […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Tweet Tweet

Categories