Saturday, April 6, 2013

What is happening to PRODiGY?

Wow. It's been awhile since I last posted something. This past month has been a whirlwind of illness and stress. Certainly there have been good things, but there's been a lot of stress, sickness and tears - but don't worry - when I say illness I mean really rotten cold and flu viruses, not anything serious.

The point is that the fog is lifting, and with that comes time and space to think about the upcoming summer.

For those of you who know me at all, you know that Ultimate Frisbee is a big part of my life. Not only do I enjoy playing it, but my husband is addicted to it, and I mean ADDICTED. The man eats, breathes, sleeps and lives Ultimate. Not a day goes by that we don't discuss some aspect of the sport in our home. The chatter of Ultimate always grows exponentially around this time of year though, because this when we really start to gear up for the main season.

Two years ago, in 2011, we were becoming better and better, and more interested in Ultimate. We enjoyed playing in the local recreational league, but we wanted to take the next step and start playing in tournaments (some call it club, some call it touring, some call it competitive Ultimate). There had been a team in Hamilton in the past, but their membership had dwindled as the leaders moved away or wanted a break from running the show (and perhaps there were other reasons, but I wasn't all that familiar with the team, so I'm not sure). There was a women's team in Kitchener/Waterloo, and a men's (open) team there, too, where some of the Hamilton players were going to try out so that they could play at the club/touring level. We also knew about a team in Guelph and some in Toronto, but there weren't any local options left.

That's when we got to thinking: why don't we create a new mixed (coed) team in Hamilton? Hamilton has tons of talented Ultimate players, ranging from young university students to more seasoned touring veterans ... why don't we have a touring team anymore? Why is everyone commuting to Toronto, KW, and Guelph to play?

Location was very important for us, as was a coed team. Bean was under a year old, so we didn't want to drive an hour each way to attend practices, and we wanted to play on the same team because it's something we really enjoy doing together. So, with a lot of hard work (especially on my husband's part) and some help from some other keen Ultimate players, PRODiGY Ultimate was born! We chose the name PRODiGY because we liked what the name meant: a person with extraordinary talent or powers. We believed that Hamilton was full of "prodigies," and we wanted to give them (and ourselves) a chance to show this to the rest of Ontario (and hopefully Canada) and play some good, fun, honest Ultimate.

There were certainly some lessons learned that year in regard to team management, etc., but overall it was a pretty successful year. PRODiGY did well at Regionals (basically Provincials) and competed in Nationals. Skills were developed, players grew and improved, and I think a lot of people started to really believe that Hamilton could have a real chance in competitive Ultimate again.

Last year I was pregnant with Pea, so I was unable to play, but I attended every tournament to show my support and to keep track of how much playing time everyone got so that we could keep things as even as possible. PRODiGY started off very strongly and pulled off some incredible wins against some highly competitive teams. Some improvements were made in terms of strategy, and leadership, but with it being only the second year for the team, there were still lessons to be learned. PRODiGY looked pretty solid heading into Nationals last summer, but then things spun out of control when Pea had to be delivered early in order to save both Pea and me. Fortunately, Pea and I ended up being safe, but sadly, my husband, the team captain, had to stay home from Nationals. From what we hear, many problems arose in his absence and the team sort of fell apart at the seams, leaving most of the players involved feeling frustrated and uninspired.

This year I'm excited to be able to play again, especially since I think my game has improved and I KNOW my attitude has. I used to be all about the ambition - wanting to be the very best, competing with everyone, wanting everyone to know how "great" I was. However, now I realize I'm far from being the best and that the attitude I had wasn't helping me any. Now when I step out on the field, I'm there to have FUN and to connect with my teammates and to encourage them and show them my support. When I line up at the end of the game to shake/high five the other team, I do so sincerely because I am truly happy that we have had enough people take time out of there busy lives to get together to play some Ultimate all together.

And this is why I'm so confused and disappointed this year. I have never been so excited to play club/touring Ultimate. I want to share my love of the game and my views and spirit of the game with others. I want to finally toss the disc with all of those talented players I watched last season as I sat with my growing baby belly on the sidelines. I want to be part of that team and be part of what makes it better and what makes it special. But here's the problem: our numbers are dwindling. Many (though definitely not all!!) of our talented players are leaving. They're going to KW to play women's or men's (open), or Toronto to do the same. And I don't know why. (After all, if all of our men and women from Hamilton area stuck together, we could have our very own highly competitive and women's and men's teams and shorten everyone's commute!)

I don't know why people don't believe in Hamilton. It seems to be an ongoing problem, and I just don't get it. I don't know if people think they're better than Hamilton? Or better than mixed (coed)? Or worse - do they think that they're not wanted or valued? What the heck happened last year at Nationals to make everyone flee? And why can't we work through it? Isn't that why we make mistakes? So that we can learn from them and improve?

I am pleased that there are still a number of people that want to play with PRODiGY this year, but will we have enough to form a team? I'm not sure. And what happens with us and the other people who want to stay local if we don't?

(It's the classic problem of the beautiful downtown core in a small town. Once the big box stores pop up on the outskirts of town, all of the shoppers are drawn away except for the loyal few. Unfortunately, quite often those loyal few aren't enough to keep the downtown business open. Despite the downtown business owner's belief and devotion to local business, they are forced to close their doors. Wouldn't it be a shame if this very same thing happened to Hamilton Ultimate?)


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  2. I'll try my best to answer your question. I can only speak for myself. I don't want to point fingers, I just want to give my view on what went wrong.

    This is something I have thought A LOT about.

    There were tones of great things about last year. We had a strong start because we had raw talent, we had a collection of great people who got along fine, and we had strong leadership.

    That being said, we never came together.It felt, to me, a team of individuals. There was no us, no unity. And so when the going got tough, we didn't just implode, it became downright toxic.

    How do you avoid that? That's a tough question, and one I'm trying to figure out this year helping to run a team myself.

    I think you're right: when we lose we have to learn. I think if Prodigy does that it could become the great team it should be.