This interview appears in Skyd Magazine Vol. 1, Issue 1 – now available on Amazon.
Dominique Fontenette is one of the most decorated players in ultimate. With numerous World and National Championships, Seattle Riot’s #17 has been an impact player since her college days with Stanford Superfly (’93-’97). In 1997, Fontenette was awarded the Callahan, with Stanford going on to win the USA College Championship. Skyd chats with Dom about winning the prestigious award and the impact it has made on her career.
Skyd: Let’s look back at your 1997 season with Stanford. What was that season like for you and your team? The Callahan Award was still pretty new at that time (it was just started the year before).
Dominique Fotennete: When I was introduced to ultimate at Stanford, we played in cotton tee-shirt uniforms and called ourselves “Disco Inferno”. Lost of things changed over my four years in college. The team acquired coach Jennifer Donnelly. We got our &*$% together started having team workouts and strategy meetings…team socks even. I’m pretty sure I ran a mile for the first time in my life (maybe the second time if you include the Presidential Fitness Test from the 7th grade). We rebranded ourselves as “Superfly” and qualified for our first Nationals appearance.
Honestly, I didn’t even know about the Callahan Award at that time. I underwent ACL reconstruction during my 1995-96 season and captained the team from the sidelines. The only things I cared about during my senior year were getting back to peak performance and helping our team have a shot at a national championship title.
When your name was announced as the winner of the Callahan award, what was going through your head?
Jeez, that was two decades ago (the dementia has set in). I’m pretty sure I was excited and probably quite emotional. We didn’t have Vimeo video clips, YouTube, Skyd Magazine, or Nexgen game coverage or Ultistats. In order to have any name for yourself in the sport, people had to have seen you play in person…or to have heard about you by word of mouth. Realizing that my coach, my teammates, and my opponents nominated me and gave me such an award moved me deeply.
I don’t know. I guess I’d say they were pretty different. The championship was built on hours of strategy meetings, 7am sprints, tough tryout decisions, physical therapy appointments, teaching freshmen how to throw forehands, stadium clean-up for university funding, etc. Being selected for the Callahan seemed more like something that just happened…a bonus.
Did you feel the impact of winning the award in seasons after, during tryouts for club or otherwise? How has being a Callahan winner affected your ultimate career or how people treat you on and off the field?
Sure. I’ve felt an impact from being a Callahan award winner. It’s similar to the feeling I get when people find out I went to Stanford. They’re a little bit surprised and then they give me clout for something I may or may not deserve. Nah. I’m just joking. People definitely respect the award in a powerful way. I’m not sure they treat me any differently. Perhaps they pretend to listen to me a bit more than they would have otherwise. Seriously though, it’s been nothing but positive. I think most of all, it’s given me confidence and an added sense of responsibility to be a good role model on and off the field.
Has the award impacted your life outside of ultimate in any way?
Definitely. I’ve been a physician for almost a decade and it’s still on my resume. Even people who don’t know ultimate understand what it means to be chosen as the top college athlete in a sport. It translates to say something about dedication, passion, and achievement. No matter what the arena, people want that on their side.
What would you say to future Callahan winners or people aspiring to be selected for the award one day? What are the most important qualities of Callahan winners?
I would urge players not to focus on “winning the Callahan”. I’d recommend that they put everything they have into consistently doing their best. Only they know what that feels like. If that’s ultimate, then play every practice and game like your life depends on it. Play with passion, be open to learning, and try to see things from your opponent’s perspective.
My second recommendation would be to figure out a way to be that person who brings out the best in your teammates. After you make that awesome layout catch…spend an extra hour after practice with your teammate practicing throws…that way he or she doesn’t have to make you layout like that again. :-) That’s frisbee nirvana.