Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Hodags are forged at a variety of heats, and having returned from another fantastic trip to Sarasota, I got enjoy watching six of them tempered under the hottest flame.
The symbiosis of the Hodags and Club has long been established. Each has been dependent on the other for continued competitiveness and success. Each year the college team sends its best to Club to be schooled and steeled, and this year was no exception. What was incredible was how well they played, how much they contributed, and the size of their development from June to now.
Shortly after we were done playing on Saturday, one of the young Dags on the team asked me, "what is harder, winning a college championship or quarters of club natties?" Well, the former's a lot more prestigious but the latter is significantly harder. That's why a season on the club team is worth two years of development; all your on-field mistakes are immediately punished; your lazy poaches are quickly exploited; a higher level of consistency and excellence is demanded to make the jump from college to club.
And I am sitting here typing, and my mind is tounging around dozens of plays so tasty it makes me gleek, and on the business end of each of those plays is a man that will be wearing a Hodag jersey this spring. You've got to be kidding me. And we get six of them? Wiseman, Jake, Simmons, Colin, Hart, Coolidge?!?
One thing you notice when you go from watching club to college is the speed of the game. When the Hodags head to MLC in a little under two weeks, those six are going feel the game slow down for them. Ten seconds feels like fifteen. The mark seems predictable and lethargic. After having ran their assess off guarding and being guarded by some of the best athletes in the game, their match-ups are going to feel like recess duty. And this year we get six of them! For a moment try to imagine what it feels like to play at a fall college tournament, when for the last 5 months you've been competing against the best, when just the week prior you were drawing Ironside's best defenders.
All of my Hodag teammates played exemplary this past week. They have been rocks on the team all season, and we've relied on them in a variety of roles and asked them to contribute. They all have. Wiseman and Jake have not yet found a ceiling on their skills downfield as cutters or defenders, and both can go up with the best jumpers you've got. Hart and Colin are going to throw to each other downfield for two more springs. That's frightening. Simmons alternated catching pulls and catching hitch passes on the O-line, and had hundreds of reps reading downfield junk sets devised by the best defensive minds. I think he's going to be ok with the disc in his hand and a college team trying to play zone. These dudes are all ballers.
But I want to signal out and give respect to Coolidge, my unanimous Most Improved Player for the club team this year. For me, it's not even close. Two years ago, Coolidge had what would have been his first season with the Hodags cut short. This last year, he began contributing solidly and played well at college nationals but questions remained. He became in that year a dependable defender that could make plays from time to time, but still mistake-prone. He entered the club season with the full steam of the college season behind him however, and the immediate transition to the adult game was exactly what he needed. To say he took it to the next level would reduce him; he took a quantum leap in every facet of the game.
I remember the exact practice it happened, too. On a weekend full of small-side scrimmages, we were paired on the same team and I watched him, all day long, complete around breaks off the line. He just lit up, a box of oil and kindling in the dry August sun. Two months prior, occasional drops and turfed passes clouded his game. The heat of his flame burned them away; he has not looked back since. He erased some of the best handlers from hopeful Sarasota offensive game plans. If you thought you were starting on D above Coolidge on the Dags this season, think again. It's his throne right now, and I'm incredibly proud of him.
I'm just fucking jacked for this college season! At the start of my last club season I considered hanging them up at its end. I stuck around another year and I am bought in as hard as ever. I still have legs, I'm finding more and more heart in the unlikeliest of places, the game is making so much sense to me, and I'm having a shitload of fun again. It's just that, for me, getting older has been feeling so good; all my kid emotions and curiosity, but a self-control that allow me to use my gifts for the pursuit of daily wonder. And this college season can't start soon enough! I get to help lead a group of dudes that work so hard most of them haven't looked up to see how good they are! Are you kidding me? Fucking fantastic!