If there is in fact a midseason of the USAU club series, . Most squads have played a couple of tournaments in addition to a tryout tourney or two and still have one more regular season event plus three eries events to look forward to. For 13 lucky teams on the men’s side, that last regular event is the Labor Day Championships in beautiful Santa Cruz, California. The field site is one of the most well-known spots in the country, having hosted ultimate events since the of the UPA Club Series. Both Open and Women’s squads suit up on the magnificent UC-Santa Cruz fields for two days of top tier competition capped off with Sunday night shenanigans before returning to their respective cities over the holiday.
For Southpaw, Madcow, Machine, Boost Mobile, Ring of Fire, Madison Club and Chain Lightning, this weekend means a rare back-to-back elite week that spans the coasts. Requiring the resources and commitment to attend and contend is not something every team wants or can do. So how are doing it?
What I gathered from talking to the leadership for these squads is that attending both was never in question. Seeking out the best competition regardless of venue was the top priority, so the prevailing consensus is that elite teams are expected to make multiple cross country trips in addition to the series these days in order to be prepared to the fullest. In addition to sights squarely set on Sarasota, teams like Machine are anticipating a one bid region so peaking at the beginning of October is the first priority. Not to mention, several players gushed over the beauty of playing at the Santa Cruz fields.
Madcow and Southpaw have had to operate under a condensed schedule because of the AUDL. Rodger Oakes emphasized this point, “We didn’t even get a real start on the season until August 18 when we traveled to Pitt.” Had the AUDL operated in past seasons, both of these teams might have opted not to attend Labor Day. Now, with new based season bids, this season has been a learning curve for club teams trying to punch their tickets to the dance, which includes the minimum requirement of games played to count for the rankings.
Cross-country plane tickets aren’t cheap, despite the seemingly rich propensity of players zipping off to tournaments far and wide for business and pleasure week in and week out. What initially seemed like a double airline weekend for these teams has been allayed by some beneficial geography. Madison, Machine and Madcow all had the option of a drive, some longer than others, to play at Heavyweights goes Cash Crop, Southpaw and Ring of Fire at Chesapeake. Boost has a short drive to Labor Day, with the only outlier being Chain Lightning, who had the option of a 10 hour drive to Poolesville or flight to D.C. and faces four time zone trip to one of the Bay Area’s major airports. The flights have only seemed to preclude teams from making it to Seattle. Taylor Pope of Ring says, “Plane tickets to San Fran from North Carolina are in the 200-300 range and tickets to Seattle are going for $500-800 this year.” Chain Lighting also opted out of ECC because of the airline expense.
Without a in competition, how are these teams preparing to once again do battle in hopes of retaining or gaining precious bids to Sarasota? For the most part, it’s business as usual. “Players are expected to do what they need to do to be re-focused and calibrated for another weekend campaign,” says Pope. “I am old school. If you can’t recover from a tournament in 1 week, you have other issues,” echoed Trey Katzenbach of Southpaw. “We tell the team to take care of their bodies during the week in order to rest and recover,” said Madison captain Tom Annen before going into the specifics for practices this week. All seven squads who are doubling up mentioned specific workouts and prep time going into Labor Day, ranging from pod workouts for Boost and Ring, rest and repetitions for Madison or EDGE training for Chain.
So, if the teams are healthy, players are recovered and prepping for another weekend, what’s been the biggest drain on having a full roster these two weekends?
“I was out for Chesapeake for a family wedding, and Ben Parris is out for Labor Day for the same reason” –Rodger Oakes, Madcow
“It’s a popular weekend for non-ultimate events like weddings and what-not so we are losing a couple guys to things they would probably not rather be doing.” – Taylor Pope, Ring
“We are down about 7 guys for each of Chesapeake and Labor Day mostly due to unforeseen injuries, weddings and moving.” –Trey Katzenbach, Southpaw
“We were missing 4 players at Chesapeake due to weddings.” –Joaquin Nagle, Boost Mobile
Sometimes, Ultimate is no match for love and friends.