Katzenbach Talks Spinners and Southpaw

by | August 20, 2012, 3:28pm 0

Back when the AUDL season was in full swing, I caught up with northeast veteran Trey Katzenbach. As a captain of both the AUDL’s Philly Spinners and USA Ultimate’s Philadelphia Southpaw, Trey had plenty to say about how the teams are intertwined, how the long season could impact Southpaw, the Spinners’ beginnings, and more.

Since Trey and I spoke, the Spinners captured the inaugural AUDL title. The Philly men will start their USAU campaign at this weekend’s Chesapeake Invite in Poolesville, MD.

Much of the Spinners roster has also played on Southpaw. What changed for the team when it started playing in the AUDL?

Southpaw has always been a young team with a disciplined approach. We take the hard-nosed attitude of our coach and it is not unusual for us to run ourselves into the ground after tournaments and practices.  As Southpaw has gained experience over the last two years, the maintenance of this team attitude has fallen more on the shoulders of the captains and players.

The Spinners are an extension of Southpaw. We have melded the two together very well. We have always had a strong family message and this has been fortified over many hours interacting on the bus.  I liken the travel to what I expect the lower levels of professional baseball are like.  Because of our familiarity with one another and our success in the fall series, we definitely have a bull’s-eye on our chest.

Katzenbach with Southpaw at 2011 Mid-Atlantic Regionals.

In the AUDL, we are now a part of something bigger. With this comes more responsibilities such as league and team promotion and branding, ticket sales, fan education, mentoring, player development, sponsor recruitment, etc.  These new responsibilities add to the family feeling that the entire Spinners organization strives to cultivate.

Do you expect a hangover when you transition from the Spinners back to Southpaw in August?

I am very concerned about burnout as the Spinners players’ transition to Southpaw and play in the fall series.  It has always been a difficult thing to keep players focused through an entire season and to double peak.  Throw in that we started practicing in March and have been playing under different rules for the last six months and there is a set up for underachievement this fall.  Also, given the lower level of play in the AUDL as compared to the fall series, I don’t think Southpaw is adequately prepared for the season at this time.

But the concern over a possible fall hangover and my own personal angst about how Southpaw will perform this fall is worth it given the progress that the Spinners have made for our sport. We have done more to promote the sport of Ultimate in 6 months than I have seen in my 12 years of playing the sport.  I would not change anything about my decisions this year.

So the AUDL’s level is lower?

At this stage the level of play in the AUDL is less skilled than that found in the USAU fall series. This is just a product of the talent level of the players involved.  This doesn’t mean that the game is any less exciting to play or that the goal of a championship is any less sweet.  In many ways the obstacles of being a trailblazer and fighting all of the roadblocks that were put in the way to prevent a professional league from succeeding make our success even more rewarding.

How did you get involved with the Spinners?

I play ultimate for the competitive rush and the pursuit of excellence. The AUDL started off as just another opportunity to compete. I was skeptical when the league was first announced. I would check the website and see the schedule listed but there were no other updates for months. I never thought that it would come to fruition.

I was not going to commit to the team until I found out that [Southpaw coach] Jeff Snader was involved in the management.  We have been talking for years about where we want the sport to go and this opportunity landed in our lap. Jeff pushed the idea of being trailblazers for the new league, setting the standard for what we want a professional team to look like and getting in on the ground floor and having as much input into the product as possible.

Our first combine session let me know that we could get the Philly players enthusiastic about the team. Most of Southpaw and a few Truck Stop players attended.  The level of play was great and the idea of the team was inspiring.  The greatest motivation for an athlete is to play in front of a crowd, and when we had nearly 2,000 fans at our home opener I knew that we were onto something.

Now that the AUDL season is a wrap, where do you see the second season going?

Because of the one game format and the new rules that speed up play, I expect the level of play in the AUDL to surpass that found in USAU once the best players in the United States commit. All of the players that I have spoken to from North Carolina to New York to Boston to DC to Pittsburgh are eager to have a professional team in their area. When people look back on the AUDL I don’t think they will remember whether the level of play was substandard.  They will remember when professional Ultimate started.

I feel like the Spinners have set the standard for what I want a professional Ultimate team to look like. It is really no different than what I ask of my NBA or NFL team. Our leadership has put the best players on the field, promoted the sport well to fans and potential sponsors, produced a great show for the fans and made the working environment for everyone involved outstanding.

I think there is a role for both a professional league and USAU.  Their goals are not discordant and I hope that they realize that if they work together they are more likely to accomplish these goals.  Selfishly, I just want more opportunities to play and watch the sport on a bigger stage.

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