Colorado Mamabird. Denver Johnny Bravo. Boston Ironside. San Francisco Revolver. Seattle Rainmakers. Adam Simon is the definition of a journeyman of ultimate. Having seen success as a star handler on multiple levels, in this interview, Adam lets us in on who he is on and off the field and how he got there.
So, Chicken. Tell us about your nickname.
Given to me as a freshman at Colorado, where/when many nicknames are given. Timmy Paymaster, a 5th year, who taught me a lot my first year, coined it and it stuck immediately
What does your number (20) mean to you?
My number is actually 10. But 20 is a shout out to Josh “Richter” Ackley, a long time college and club teammate. No one ever brought a level of intensity that equaled Richter and I always aspired to play that kind of inspired ultimate. So when I can’t get 10, I wear 20. Richter’s inspiration is Barry Sanders.
After playing with some of the country’s top club teams, winning national awards and world championships, what motivates you now? What does success mean to you?
Individually, I like the idea of pushing the game to a higher level. Playing a perfect game. I still think a lofty, but achievable aspiration is a zero turnover tournament or even full season. I still want to jump higher and run faster. The sweetest motivation, though, is finding a team that creates selfless players. Revolver and Ironside are both great examples of that. Everything you do is for your teammates. Motivation stems from a sense of accountability to them. Making plays is sweet, but it’s sweeter when it’s debt owed and paid to the dudes you work hard with and for.
What kind of training do you do during the season and in the off season?
I love hitting the weights. Squats, deadlifts, cleans, leg press. Vanity/upper body while resting legs. I will move between 80% sets of 8, 90% sets of 5, lighter weight with more explosive movement and 95% sets of 2. I save the heaviest for peaking. Track some, but not as often as weights. I also still love jumpsoles.
Let us into your head pre- game. What are you thinking? How do you feel?
Each game is different. At big tournaments, more often than not, I’m all business, but a little loose. I’m usually quiet, but dancing around to my pump up mix. I always try to review personal and team goals. If I’m on the O line, I think about spacing and timing. If I’m on the D line, I think about the opponent’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. I think about my matchup. I love a few butterflies before a big game. I prefer defense when I feel that way. There is something so satisfying about taking the disc away from a good offense.
What brought you from your hometown (Georgia) to out West? And how did the transition from one coast to the other treat you?
Well, I got to go skiing in 8th grade and immediately knew I didn’t want to stay in Georgia. I had ambition to get into a small liberal arts school to become a well-rounded adult, but each school I applied to (including Carleton) said No. Colorado Boulder was the only school that granted me admission. I could not have had more fun in my time there. The transition was good. Playing ultimate made things easier. I was still awkward at 18, so having a group of teammates to spend time with immediately was huge.
What are some of your favorite moments to date in your ultimate career?
In high school, I was fortunate to learn that my small school, Paideia, had a national contender for a team. At the very first high school tournament I ever played, we did our full “Sweet nourishing” cheer. I had never had chills like that before. We got crushed by Amherst every time we played them until 2000, when we beat them in dramatic fashion 18-16. I remember catching the winning goal and losing it on the field some combination of squeal, cry, yell, scream came out of me. I ran shaking the disc all around the endzone with my teammates all rushing in, also yelling. It felt amazing to finally reach that goal as a team. 2001, Paideia Gruel went undefeated against other high school teams. It was one of the most dominant seasons I’ve ever been part of. Winning JR. Nationals against our long time Goliath Amherst was incredible. I felt like I would burst from fire, brimstone and joy when we scored the final goal. All of that time as a player remains uniquely special to me because I got to be teammates with my twin sister. Sadly, an infrequent occurrence since high school.
In 2003, Mamabird has one of it’s worst regular seasons ever and by the skin of our teeth, we nabbed the single bid from our region on DGP. We went into nationals seeded 11th and won 2 games we were supposed to lose to find ourselves in semis against eventual champs, Wisconsin. We gave them their best game of the weekend and they pulled away to a 15-12 victory. I don’t think there’s anything in sport quite like overachieving. That also planted the seed in my mind. Richter cornered me 10 seconds after they caught the final goal: “We are winning this next year, Chicken.” And sure enough, we did. At the end of the 2004 season, we were on top of the world. We beat Cal Berkeley in the finals. Then we beat the Davis women (women’s champs) in a boat race shortly after finals, Richter won the callahan and we blasted “Yeah” by Usher on repeat all the way to Seatac while pounding Tecate.
2005 college finals was one of the most bitter losses I’ve ever had against Brown in a game we should not have lost. It felt the same in club that fall when we lost to Boston. I never contemplated quitting, but I was never more depressed by the game than I was in that off season. One of the best things that ever happened to my game was being moved over to the D line in that off-season. I was re-invigorated by a new opportunity in a different role. It became fun again.
2006, Johnny Bravo felt a lot like 2003 bird. We overachieved our way into semis and nearly beat a STACKED Sockeye team. That was my (and Bravo’s) first ever taste of the semis, and that 15-13 loss was one of the most challenging and most fun games I’ve ever played in. I didn’t know frisbee could be that difficult. I didn’t know I could play at that level. That season stays with me.
2007 finals – catching my first Callahan.
2008 – Winning Poultry Days with the Paideia alums team. This was my first glimpse of just how good George Stubbs was going to become.
2009 – Team USA alternate. Incredibly special experience to get to represent your country as an athlete and I am green with envy of all the players currently playing on the World Games team.
2010 – Prague with Ironside. One of the best weeks of my life. One of the saddest moments tearing my hamstring in the first half of the quarter final. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more amped for a game or felt faster in warm ups. I was on. We were going to win in front of the biggest crowd I’ve ever played for. I had to watch from the sideline as Andrew Fleming made one of the best catches in history. I couldn’t keep myself together when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep playing.
2011 – Paganello with my sister and O-Pig. Most fun tournament I’ve ever played in. Beach worlds in the open division was also amazing. I’d love to do that again in 2015. For clubs, Revolver was a team that brought humility higher up on my priority list. It was great to play with my college teammates again. Beating Doublewide in semis was one of the most satisfying wins I’ve ever been part of. Catching the final goal and getting a club title was sweet. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.
2012 Worlds – If you’ve never been to Japan, you should go. That whole week with Revolver was amazing. Playing other countries, traveling with the team, blasting the boom box on the train after winning, singing “We are the champions”. There’s facebook photo in black and white of the team with Robbie holding the plate to the sky. One of my all time favorites.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone new to the sport?
Great question. From an experience standpoint, I would say to approach it with an open mind. Most people that play, love it with a rarely equaled ferocity, and that can be a deterrent. But there is a good reason that so many are so enthusiastic about it and my greatest hope for new players is that they can discover something in the game that resonates with them with the same intensity that it does with all the people around them who love it so much.
For someone new who is highly competitive and motivated: throw a lot and hit the weights.
Name some people who have had the biggest influence on your ultimate game.
Michael Baccarini – high school coach. I never knew a game could be this fun.
Catt Wilson – he taught me a lot about how to make the most of yourself on the field.
Jason Simpson, Richter, Robbie Cahill, George Stubbs, Jeff Graham – all dudes I look up to and try to emulate.
Beau, Martin, Jolian, Mac – the tall dudes from Colorado taught me how to lift and how to cover anyone…regardless of his strengths.
Dylan Tunnell – I’ve been losing to him in everything since Junior High, so I always find some extra motivation when I play against him.
Josh McCarthy/Alex Ghesquire – These guys are both gentlemen among gentlemen in the game. I never knew how complete a role a coach could take until I got to learn from Dutchy. If I ever get asked to coach a club team, I would try to do everything like Dutchy. They both strike a great balance of authority and friendship with their players and I found it very easy to fully commit to certain things they asked that I didn’t completely agree with, because I trusted their vision.
With two pro leagues and USAU’s new TCT, where do you see competitive ultimate in 5 years?
I don’t know. The landscape is hazy. I hope that after this season when WFDF bids aren’t a motivating factor, that the top open teams find a way to make the Nexgen league happen. I think that would be an ideal set up. I think the only group benefitting from the new triple crown is USAU. I don’t think the top open teams (the biggest cash cow) have much to gain from it. Personally, I hate the new setup that involves this fallacy of “big preseason tournaments” I don’t think it’s particularly sustainable to ask teams to peak in July and then again in October every year. A big key to doublewide’s success last year was a 10-12 week season. I think the quality of the game will continue to rise, but at a slower pace if you run a longer season. It will make top players more prone to injury. I think and hope that the model of paying to play on someone else’s terms is going to die soon.
Tell us how the MLU experience compares to your high level club experiences:
MLU has been great. Absurdly fun to play for the Rainmakers. I think the large field, subtle rule differences, and referees have a lot of advantages for raising the level of play in the future. For now, the level of play remains significantly higher in USAU. I hope to see more and more open division players join MLU teams in the coming years.
Let’s talk about the other loves in your life: music and skiing. Tell us about these:
It’s pretty simple. Skiing makes me happy. Music affects me in any number of ways. I can’t imagine being without either of them.
Any chance you’ll trade in your cleats for a singing career down the road? Can we see you perform anywhere, either on the internet or at an open mic night or ___?
I will not trade in my cleats ever. I will hang them up with what I hope is some semblance of grace in a few years when I feel it’s time. No secret that I need to perform more. Nothing on the internet that I know of. I do hit an occasional open mic in Seattle. A recent move has left my guitars in their cases a bit too long. If anyone wants to hear some of my original stuff, all they have to do is ask. I’m not shy with it.
Feature photo by Scobel Wiggins – UltiPhotos.com