This past Monday marked one of the most anticipated announcements from NexGen in 2013: the release of their full official roster (save one “mystery player” spot). Along with the release of the official schedule last month, Founder Kevin Minderhout and the NexGen team are anxious to hit the road for this summer’s NexGen Tour.
The competition will be fierce, facing Club Open’s Elite teams from San Francisco Revolver to Raleigh’s Ring of Fire. Add on top of that a tremendous amount of travel time (by bus) and it quickly becomes apparent why only a select 15 are chosen to be NexGen athletes. But perseverance is not the only prerequisite for NexGen, there are a number of attributes a player must possess; a number that only Minderhout knows.
Club Level Success
“There are many factors, obviously, but the number one criteria is success at the club level,” Minderhout explained.
While some may see the NexGen tour as a collection of emerging college stars, in reality club performance plays a far larger role in the selection process. All members of the 2013 roster except two played for USAU Select level or higher clubs during last season’s series. Club success must also, of course, be paired with remaining college eligibility.
Additionally, public perception of a college team’s attitude and style of play can also factor in to whether or not a player for that team makes the cut. College ultimate players of the mid-2000s, for instance, probably still have a bad taste in their mouths when recalling certain National Championship teams. The reputation built by some “bad taste schools” still reflect negatively in the minds of their opponents. This is exactly what Minderhout wishes to avoid in his selections for the 2013 Tour.
Obviously, there are countless examples of “good taste players” on “bad taste teams,” but Minderhout believes there is one quality in true NexGen Tour players and hopefuls that can change that.
“These guys are good ultimate players because they want to win,” Minderhout explained. “It’s built in.”
Minderhout went on to illustrate that the chance to fulfill their inherent need to conquer all competition is what gives players the positive attitude they need to become NexGen athletes. Typically a team’s reputation comes from the reputation of that team’s star players. If the stars aren’t enjoying the chance to get out and compete, it reflects negatively on their outward attitude. This, in turn, reflects negatively on the team’s outward reputation as a whole. This also, in turn, negatively effects those stars’ chances of securing a NexGen roster spot. Yet another example of the power of positivity.
It’s in the Technique
In the current state of ultimate, college participation at the club level is still a large, successful talent-pool of players. In order to zero in on those who may have what it takes to become part of the NexGen Tour, Minderhout keys in on an important aspect to any player’s game: technique.
“It’s something to do with the way the players hold the disc, handle the disc, that says a lot,” said Minderhout. “College players see the field differently than club players.”
Many times the difference in what a player can see on the field comes from what they can throw. So it’s no surprise that throwing technique is high on the list of attributes NexGen seeks.
Athleticism is also on the list, but to be frank, all the top college players these days are athletic. We have amazing, growing high school ultimate programs to thank for that. Minderhout stresses knowledge of fundamentals along with athleticism as criteria for making the NexGen squad.
Help Wanted: NexGen Athlete
Does the checklist of attributes sound all too familiar so far? Club experience; team attitude; technique; athleticism. Hurry! There’s still time! The final roster spot is still up for grabs, and the search is still ongoing. “Exceptional handlers” are preferred. The final roster spot will more-than-likely be chosen after the College Championships, in which Minderhout plans to attend.
“I will be there, I hope to walk around and get a good look at some people,” Minderhout revealed.
The College Championships will be the final act in a long selection process for Minderhout. One that includes more than attending tournaments and scouting players. Listening to third party recommendations and opinions on certain players is also highly regarded in the selection process. All online submissions are carefully considered (okay, maybe not Adam Velk) and Minderhout says he wants more.
“I encourage even more names to be put out,” Minderhout said.
Whether the final roster spot is filled by someone at the College Championships as Minderhoust expects, or from a late-submission, the final player to join NexGen will have to posses a skill set that mirrors his teammates’. A highly-successful college and club player who will ultimately earn a great opportunity for the first time. A great opportunity to be surrounded by ultimate with 14 other elite players, more than half of them touring for the first time themselves. An opportunity so great, six have come back for a second consecutive tour. Simon Montague returns after a one-year hiatus from the tour. These six now veterans bring not only expertise in what it takes to be on the NexGen Tour, but also a whole additional year of college playing experience as a bonus. All previous tour members are invited back for the next year, and although it’s hard to see a reason to pass it up, the eight brand new recruits are certainly happy that some of last year’s spots have been cleared.
Feature photo by William Brotman (Ultiphotos.com)