The Sydney Melbourne Open

March 1, 2016 at 9:34 pm 2 comments

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.

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Entry filed under: Ultimate Frisbee.

Becoming a Wombat… Eastern Regionals

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nationals | Not a Meerkat  |  April 28, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    […] 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 […]

    Reply
  • 2. Setbacks, struggles and stress | Not a Meerkat  |  June 1, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    […] 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 […]

    Reply

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