Teams Fall Apart

by | March 18, 2013, 2:59pm 0

The end of a season always comes too soon.  Last September, wHagonweel (Triangle Area, NC) fell short of our goal to make USAU Mixed Nationals for the second time in three years.  We lost a tight game to Bucket, who made it to Sarasota, in the semi-finals.  After wrapping up a third place finish, we sat around and talked about the season, how proud we were of efforts, and what we would do the next year.  I packed up my gear, headed to the airport, and sat thinking.

wHagonweel was the first seriously competitive club team I had played for, and I poured my soul into it.  I would write ridiculously long motivational emails that probably sounded ridiculous to the veteran members of the team, but that I needed in order to express myself.  I resolved to train harder this winter than ever in order to make nationals.  Things would be different this year, and I would make it happen.

After college, competitive ultimate is played in a finite season running from tryouts in May to sometime in September, or if you are lucky, in October.  High school and college players get the chance to compete in YCCs or club teams during their “offseason”.  Losing during a state championship or the college series stings for a while, but within a week players are preparing for club tryouts.  They do not get the opportunity to replay the last game of their season over and over again in their minds throughout the cold winter months.  This is not the case for all players, but for the top players, high school and college are eight years of continuous play.  The season never ends, and life is good.

Those of us who are past this time in our lives have to endure the time from November until April and think about everything that happened last season.  Only a handful of teams have done what they set out to do and can pass through the offseason in bliss.  For the other countless players, we must find ways to tell ourselves that it is ok, that we will work this offseason and that we will overcome.  Players lift weights, run, drink, get married, have babies, get jobs, lose jobs, and generally get on with business of life in modern society that we love to escape from for a few weekends in the summer.  Teams throw parties, play at silly tournaments, and discuss the minutiae of what went wrong.  In the back of team’s and players’ minds is the idea that they will do better the next year, despite the dumb mistakes they made; that they will recruit better players, use better tactics, run a better offense, train more, throw more, whatever it takes they will do it to win.

Until all of a sudden it’s gone.

When I received the email that wHagonweel would not be returning this season it felt like being dumped.   I didn’t know what to do, and confusion set in.  What happened?  Don’t you remember the fun times we had?  Don’t you remember when we went to First Shots, won the beach, the party, and the tournament?  I have been working so hard to prepare for this season and now what?  Who or what am I working for now?  I know in my mind that there will be another team to play for, but in my heart I don’t want to accept the fact that something wonderful has been lost.

The bonds created between teammates are strong, and just like when chemical bonds are broken, stored up energy is released when they break.  We as players pour ourselves into building a team.  We spend hours planning the season, making jerseys, practicing, running, throwing, and playing.  All of that time deepens our love for one another and makes us stronger.  During the season our teams feel closer to us than our families, and in a real sense becomes our family.  We pick each other up when we are down, celebrate in victory, and commiserate in defeat.  The destruction of those bonds hurts deeply, just as if a loved one has been torn from our grasp.  We are left feeling slightly empty and wanting.

Another round of tryouts will arrive in May.  New teams will be formed and new bonds created.  I know that I will find a new family to fill the gap left by the old, but I will never forget my first love, the team I worked so hard for, never getting the chance to finish what we started.  Seeing old teammates at tournaments or league brings feelings of nostalgia and what could have been.  We risk our hearts every time we join a new team, but what fun would life be and what could we accomplish without such risk?

Such is the plight of the club player, and we have to learn to deal with it as best as we can.  Robert Frost once wrote, “The best way out is always through.”

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