Tuesday, May 19, 2009
You. 5th year player. Nationals begins in 3 days; Your college career ends in 7. Has that reality sunk in yet? Of course it has. I doubt anything other than that reality has been on your mind lately. So, how long have you been freaking out then? A couple of days, a couple of weeks, or have the last several months come crashing down upon you? For most of you, the school year has indeed ended – graduations and commencements come and gone – and the only thing left is to figure out summer employment plans… and win a championship. Yet, in the rush of college life – sometimes the reality that this segment of your life is finishing goes unnoticed. Do these 5th year seniors realize that their college experience has ended? Nope.
This is the first time in the 6 years that I have been a part of the Hodags, in which I have not seen a 5th year player break down to tears during a team huddle when realizing that it was their last College Regionals or Nationals. Usually it's a captain or officer, who is overcome with emotion upon realizing just how much the team means to him. I vividly recall Dan Miller and Jimmy McMurray choking back tears when they tried to articulate what the team actually meant to them. I remember Dan Heijmen’s teary long-winded speeches, Rebholz’s moment to collect himself, and Rodrigo breaking down when the moment of realization came – all of these reflected in their dedication to the program.
And that is what Wisconsin does to its ultimate players. It makes them care. It goes so far as a sense of identity. Ultimate is not something I play – Ultimate is who I am. No wonder Wisconsin consistently turns out dominant programs – the players just care more. However, so far this season, no graduating senior has addressed the team in such a manner. Either the 5th years are especially good at controlling their emotions or it hasn’t quite hit them yet. As hard as it was for me, as impossible as it was, I hope this year's crop can push those thoughts out of their minds for at least one more week. It will be over before they know it. I have seen the 5 super seniors of the Hodags grow, develop and mature into stud players – and now I will have to watch them – like the many before them – learn to deal with life without college ultimate. Departing from a college team of your best friends is no easy feat. It's a death in your life. Your teammates will move away, your camaraderie and everyday interactions will fade to memory, and you will eventually need to cope that fantasy land is over and real life begins. But one more summer of fun can’t hurt anything…