USA Ultimate Gears Up For the Under 23 World Championships

by | March 5, 2013, 12:22pm 0

As this article goes to press, a selection committee is electing the first USA Under-23 World Championships team.  The USA decided not to participate in the first U-23 World Championship event, held in 2010 in Florence, Italy.  However, for 2013, the US has decided to field an elite U-23 squad this year to showcase our ability and spirit on the field.

Photo by Hannes Fritz

The initial application period saw over 500 interested parties, and after extensive consideration, the U-23 team coaches invited 96 men and 88 women to attend two tryout camps.  The East Coast tryout camp was held on the 2nd and 3rd of February in Orlando, FL, while the West Coast camp was held on the 26th and 27th of January in Los Angeles.

Selecting a U-23 worlds team is an especially difficult task, given the fact that at this level, there are so many players with vast amounts of raw talent, but also experience.  Unlike the U-19 team that was sent to Junior Worlds this summer in Dublin, most of these players are the products of powerhouse college and club teams.

The list of tryout camp participants has some familiar faces: Will Driscoll, Dylan Freechild, Jacob Janin and Tommy Li from the NexGen tour, as well as some younger big names, such as John Stubbs (Paidea High School) and Dalton Smith (Texas A&M, Doublewide).

Although there are big names on the roster, it is refreshing to know that there are also players from lesser-known schools being invited.  The tryout camp roster has a very even distribution between very well known names from powerhouse college and club teams as well as players from some lesser-known programs.  Richard Dana, Manager of Competition and Athlete Programs, says that everyone has a chance.  “The roster will come down to how athletes perform at the tryouts.  We have a large talent pool, so there will be many people to choose from,” says Dana.

When the roster is set, all of those who made the team will participate in a one week long training camp (in the same mold as the U-19 training camp) before the World Championships.  This camp will prepare the athletes and help them to form some chemistry together.  This will be the first time many of them play together as a team and with the coaches that have been selected for them.  They will then travel as a delegation and represent the USA in Toronto as the World Championship Team.

In 2010 Canada and Japan went to the finals to battle for the World Championship title.  Germany, Colombia and Australia rounded out the top five.  All of these countries have a storied ultimate history and have very talented players to choose from for their own rosters.  “Worlds is not a standard club-level event”, says Dana.  In fact it could be argued that the level of play at U-23 Worlds will be higher than most club events.

This intense level of competition can be attributed, in part, to the growing experience of young players these days.   “We are lowering the starting age of players.  Today, players are starting in middle school and high school.  Some kids are being introduced to the sport at the age of 11 or 12.  The work being done in our youth department by Baker Pratt and Mike Lovinguth to grow both youth ultimate and also coaching at all levels is tremendous.  This gives kids a huge advantage because they are playing for 10 years before they even tryout at the U-23 level,” says Dana.  We can credit this to the proliferation of youth ultimate programs today.  Compared to ten years ago, more players are starting at a younger age, which is excellent for the sport.  It breeds not only more competitive players, but also those who are more in tune with the principles of ultimate, such as spirit of the game.

This year’s U-23 team has a difficult task ahead of them as they go to the championships as their country’s inaugural squad.  Never having fielded a team before, the USA is inexperienced in this particular discipline of ultimate, however, they certainly have some very experienced hands running the team, as well as very experienced athletes playing the game.  Both the players and administration have high hopes in their ability to work together and emerge from the tournament as world champions.

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