After the whirlwind that was the 2013 College Championships finally settled, Skyd got a chance to talk shop with 2013 Callahan winner, Dylan Freechild.
Skyd: What exactly does the Callahan award mean to you? Is it a reward for all the hard work this season and previous seasons? Or just a nice bit of recognition?
Dylan Freechild: Everybody plays the game a little different from one and other and everybody puts importance on different parts of the game. People’s skills differ based on what aspect of Ultimate we are talking about. The fact that my formula of how to attack the game (mentally, physically, and emotionally) is what my peers deemed the most valuable for a team is something I can’t even wrap my mind around. I am by no means the best at everything. I am not even the best at one thing. But through hours and hours of playing, thinking, strategizing, developing, and working with different teams, players, and coaches, I have created something that works for me. So, it is simply an honor to have been named the 2013 Callahan Award winner.
Were you surprised when your name was called to win the 2013 Callahan Award?
I was more relieved. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t something I thought about every so often. I think all the finalists probably did and although I don’t think it took away from practices or my game or anything of that sort, it certainly occupied a small place in my head. That relief would’ve occurred regardless of who had won. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if any of the guys standing next to me had been called out. I think Brian, Jimmy, Tyler, and myself had all done enough to give ourselves a chance at winning. I just wanted to stay positive and confident about what I had done and just hoped my name would be called come Sunday. With all that said, of course I was surprised. By no means did I head into that ceremony believing I was going to win. So even though I felt like I had a chance, it was definitely a little surreal to hear them call out “the University of Oregon.”
There were a lot of great nominees this year, what do you think set you apart?
I am not exactly sure. I think that is a question you would have to ask the people who voted for me. Everybody had something going for them. I think Tyler was the best player on the best team; although it was hard to say before semifinals who the best team was. I think Jimmy has the best ability to take over a game.
Brian was clearly the heart and soul of Wisconsin (again, people couldn’t quite see that importance until he got injured at nationals) and was one of the best defenders I’ve faced. Will and Jacob have both not only had to carry the load on the field but have done tremendous jobs as leaders of their entire program. I think I am blessed to be on a great team that puts me in position to make plays and to do it on the biggest stage. I am blessed to have a coach that allows my personality to be expressed on and off the field. Lastly, I am lucky to be what I think is a pretty diverse player.
Do you think playing youth ultimate helped you achieve success in college and club? Or was it the coaching and structure of the college game (as compared to youth) that really allowed for you to succeed? Or both?
Playing youth Ultimate has definitely helped me. I think there is a direct parallel between times played and refined skills/knowledge for the game. Obviously some people are naturally more athletic or pick up the game faster but if you put time in you get results. When I was younger and playing youth Ultimate I craved watching older and better players. I constantly went to Club tournaments to watch and I treasured my time playing pick up with Ego players. This helped me to see what was effective in higher level games. It also allowed me to work on skills that aren’t necessary for success, but can give you an upper hand against competition that haven’t honed the same [skills]. Of course my biggest jumps in improvement have come from U20 Worlds, my first year on Ego, and my first year with Rhino. The learning curve was just much higher than what I was previously used to. So, coaching and structure of higher level Ultimate and playing youth Ultimate have both been vital in my development as a player.
You now have a target on your back. Every team you play will know who you are and put their best defender up against you. How do you plan to counteract this to continue to have success during the rest of your college career? And beyond?
Well I play with a small chip on my shoulder anyway and I think that that has always given me an advantage against any defender. I don’t take any matchup lightly and I respect the defender that is assigned to me and I take what is given to me. I think that is the best way to react towards defensive match ups and nothing will change there. The pressure of already being named a Callahan Award winner will definitely be something to deal with. But with new publications such as Skyd and Ultiworld and constant streaming of games, players in the last four years have become subject to a lot of scrutiny and/or praise and it is a mildly new aspect of Ultimate that players have to deal with. I have already dealt with different pressures and I can’t say I have succeed all the time but I am getting better at it. If anything being recognized on this level affirms my self-confidence and keeps me working towards something greater and doesn’t make me scared of performing or what others might think. I am going to have to continue to work hard on and off the field; harder in fact. I’m going to need to ask more questions, question more answers, apply new strategies and techniques through trial and error, becomes faster and stronger, and see if I can keep giving my opponents new and efficient looks that can hopefully stand the test of time (the duration of my playing and possible coaching career).
Plans to play club this summer, outside of NexGen?
I’ll be playing with Rhino this summer, I hope. I am not entirely sure yet because of money, but it won’t be anywhere else.
Ok, final question is an easy, random one. Headed to my first Potlach this year, what’s a good, silly game to play on the sidelines/during a timeout?
I don’t have any good potlatch games! I wish I did. I never think those up and currently can’t remember any of the fun ones I have played. Sad that I am missing Potlatch. Have a good time!
Feature photo by Alex Fraser – UltiPhotos.com