Friday, April 15, 2016

Fort Collins Club Ultimate - The Katfish Written History - Part 2: 2006-2008 - The End of an Era

If you haven't read part one please take a few minutes to catch up on it here.

2006 - DTL

After the devastating pre-quarters loss at nationals which ended DTL's season in 2005 (and subsequent chance at a world's bid for 2006), the team underwent some big changes. I don't know exactly how 'all-in' many of the core players were for 2005, but I can only assume with the world's bid a significant goal that year, that the core planned to remain intact for the 2006 season.

With worlds off the table many core team members moved on. Brian and Melissa Rupert moved to the midwest.  Mickey Thompson, my college captain, wandered up to the pacific northwest where he would win club championships with Shazam Returns out of Seattle. Veteran big man, Gus Goodbody, retired. Brett Kolinek moved down to the Denver/Boulder area and joined Johnny Bravo along with my good friend, Adam Zwickl. 

The team welcomed in several new, talented members, recruiting heavily from both college teams at CSU, but the overall experience level and throwing depth dipped significantly.

Despite the losses of many key members, I went into the club season quite excited. I had spent most of the 2005 season learning, absorbing and improving. For 2006, I felt like I was going to be a significantly more essential player for the team. 

The team leadership spent a lot of the early season rotating a lot of new players into different roles, trying to re-establish a team identity. I was frustrated because I felt ready to define myself as a core handler, yet struggled with fluid line structure around me and confusion about what exactly my role was intended to be. 

At the GRUB tournament in Boulder this came to a boiling point. I wasn't angry about lack of playing time; I was angry about inconsistent play time. One game I would play just a couple points, then another game I would play half the points. I was struggling to find a rhythm and build chemistry with my teammates. 

One very specific point I still remember to this day: we were playing one of the Denver/Boulder mixed teams (Ripe? Boomslang?), and I got a layout catch block on the goal-line corner. The other team immediately set a hard trap (there was a slight-upwind) and we completed maybe three passes total for negative yardage before we just took a shot downfield that more or less amounted to a punt. They quickly scored.

I was livid. Not because they scored, but just because I felt so helpless in that offensive possession. I felt like we barely had a chance to complete passes let alone score the point. 

At the end of games Saturday, I sat down with Holly and Josh, the team captains, and aired my frustrations. They listened, gave me good feedback and handled my criticisms maturely. Even so, I didn't leave the meeting feel like my issues with chemistry and rhythm were resolved. 

I quit DTL after GRUB. 

Now I want to step back a moment here. I was completely in the wrong in almost all facets of this situation. Ten years later, being a much more seasoned leader and much more mature person in general, I look back on 2006 me and want to smack him.

Running a team, in any capacity, is a very challenging job. Leadership is in the position they are in for good reasons. Nobody is perfect and a good leader will listen to reasonable feedback and suggestions, but the audacity of a 22 year-old kid (myself) to presume to tell seasoned captains of a nationals-level club team what they're doing wrong was ridiculous. Yes, I had two years of college captaining under my belt, but regardless I look back at that moment in my career and I am thoroughly disappointed in myself. The fact that I quit the team only makes it that much worse.

Anyway, DTL continued through their season with the new-look, younger team. An upset loss at the hands of RIPE in pool play at sectionals led to a semis match-up against rival Bad Larry, which DTL would lose on universe point. Faltering in the 2nd place bracket after the semis loss, DTL finished fourth in the section.

At regionals, DTL played well, breaking seed to finish fourth overall, but losing to second place finisher Gendors in bracket play 15-11 and being eliminated from nationals contention. 

I am unsure of how the team felt about this result, since I was no longer a member. It was certainly a blow to go from four straight years at nationals to fourth place at regionals. But the team was developing a very talented core which had a lot of promise.

2007-2008 - DTL/MSX/FCU

In 2007 I traveled down to Denver to tryout and play for Sack Lunch (the non-Bravo men's team for Denver/Boulder), leaving the Fort Collins club scene for the first time in my career. 

DTL continued on with their younger core, losing standout Andy Stringer to Johnny Bravo mid-summer, but maintaining a solid group, heavy on younger, college players.  

Elsewhere in Fort Collins, another core of players came together and formed a mixed team called "The Mystery Shot Experience." (I'm not 100% sure, but I believe MSX may have formed the year or two before, but did not participate in the UPA series until 2007). Mystery Shot had some solid players, but put an emphasis on a fun atmosphere and team camaraderie. This wasn't to say DTL didn't also emphasize those things, the two teams just had differing core philosophies. 

2007 sectionals again saw DTL fall further, finishing 5th in the section with MSX finishing 7th, both earning bids to regionals in San Bernadino, CA.  They finished 6th and 12th respectively at regionals but this was the final blow for DTL; it was their final regionals and the end of an era. 

Barrio, out of Arizona, would win the region over Bad Larry. This was the first year since 2004 a Colorado team hadn't won Southwest mixed and it wouldn't be until 2015 that a Colorado mixed team would again climb atop the region, albeit redrawn to the Southcentral (Love Tractor finally did it this past club season). 

In 2008, the two factions of Fort Collins Ultimate combined. For years, dating back to the Daredevil Cats and DTL of 2004, the town was split. There was a core of DTL players with significant ties to the college teams and there were other Fort Collins players with different ultimate backgrounds. In 2008 the recognition that the divide was hurting the competitiveness of the town came to the forefront and the remains of DTL united with MSX and other Fort Collins people to form Fort Collins United.

I had graduated college and moved to the California central coast at this point, so I had absolutely no idea how all this came about, but it seemed like the right move for the area. 

The unifying concept of the team was sound, but it just didn't work out. The team melted down at sectionals, failing to qualify for regionals (although later receiving a supplemental bid). I have little to no first-hand information of this situation, but the fall-out of the team, and negative attitude that was associated with it would lay the foundation for the most significant club changes for the next 3-4 years in northern Colorado. Lance Everette had a vision.... part III

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