“We are healthier and stronger,” says Chain Lighting Captain Mark Poole.
If you were told that one of the biggest and fastest teams in ultimate, stocked with elite physical specimens, spent the season focusing on getting bigger and faster, you’d probably feel pretty good about their chances on the field. Atlanta’s Chain Lightning is planning on your good feelings being accurate. This season, Chain Lightning and their city’s female counterpart, Ozone, tapped into EDGE Ultimate, a fitness company built around Strength & Performance coach Pete Dreisbach. EDGE’s workouts focused on four core elements: strength, resistance, overspeed, and quickness. Two or three times a week, players would strap themselves into a variety of resistance band contraptions to perform Ultimate-specific movements, building attributes that translate directly to the field. Nationals puts a unique type of strain on the body and only the teams whose bodies are prepared come Saturday are going to have a shot at bringing home the trophy.
Atlanta’s elite ultimate squads aren’t the only ones taking a more focused look at team fitness. The rise of Tim Morrill and Melissa Whitmer as leaders in Ultimate performance training demonstrates that every team is looking for an edge, a pun Poole is eager to point out that they literally have.
“We retooled with some great players. Everyone is healthy. All of these guys are capable of having a monster tournament.”
A distinct effort on Chain’s part to increase physical fitness and output should pair well with Chain’s deep pool of athletes. With a full roster of contributing players, Atlanta has depth to burn, which is exactly what you need for a four-day tournament against nothing but elite competition. It helps to bring in experienced additions like Jared Inselmann, who has made a distinct impact to the team’s offensive line and fits in with their fluidity and versatility. Not only has the defensive line added new young bodies, but emerging players like Elliott Erickson and Andrew Hollingworth are taking on more field time and spreading out the work load. After a season of developing the roster, Sarasota will be a true test of Chain’s components, and being able to emerge from tough pool play games could mean all the difference.
“The most disciplined team? Probably not. Are we the most prepared? As best prepared as possible.”
Chain Lightning’s on-field persona is one of Ultimate’s most identifiable. They are known for being a fun and spirited group that plays a loose game with a focus on putting the disc downfield for their bevy of receivers. “Chicks dig the long ball,” is pretty much the team’s mantra. A look up and down their roster would leave any fan or pundit struggling to find someone who isn’t a threat streaking towards the endzone. If relying on deep throws and athletes to win one on one battles is a double-edged sword, the southern regional champs’ blade might be the sharpest in the game.
Chain has not been as successful in 2012 as in past years, opening with a less successful regular season. At the Championships, they face a corresponding lower seeding as well as lowered expectations from the the ultimate community. But Chain has ratcheted up the focus and preparation. They’ve undertaken a custom tailored physical regimen from expert professionals at EDGE Ultimate. Their roster has added new Club and collegiate talent from throughout the region. Ben Wiggins cited Chain’s championship year as “the year Chain started to train hard” and this year looks like a return to that effort. Will so many new pieces, contexts, and mentalities change how Chain approaches the game?
“Our strengths are what got us here. Are we going to change our philosophy? Don’t bet on it.”