Monday, February 06, 2012

Trusting Your Teammates

When I was a sophomore in college, I lived in the "frisbee house" with five other teammates. We had a stacked line. 5th Year Senior Grant Zukowski was dominating the basement. 4th Year Senior Rodrigo Valdivia roamed the kitchen and first floor. Fellow 4th year seniors Ted Tripoli, Nate Hurst and Jon Schutkin lived upstairs. Sophomore Muffin was last to arrive at the house and was crammed into the smallest room. I was in over my head. These guys were awesome. A 19 year old acting like a rock star. I held a high estimation of my ultimate prowess and had the mouth to back it up. But occasionally, I could not always back up my mouth. It was a hilarious place and the battle was for the Hodags. We lived, breathed, slept, ate, worked, studied ultimate. There was no down-time, it was one team function to the next. I was focused on school, becoming the best, and learning as much as I could from my roommates - some of the best players in the nation. Grant was the most interesting. Having transferred from UW-Whitewater his sophomore year, a road paved by Andrew Brown a season earlier. And best of all, Grant was a teacher. He could break down any concept to the simplest of terms, so that the smallest child could understand as well. He made me think outside the box and filled me with confidence. I learned so about ultimate that season and Zukowski was showing me the way to play on the field. Complete Confidence. A Stud 24/7. Handling, Cutting, Hucking, Defending, Skying, or just plain Shutdown - Grant could excel at all functions. "What do you need done?" "I got it!" We sprinted hills together, battled at practice and both wanted to get that National Championship. We thought we were the best, NUMP poll and everything. Well 2005 happened and we lost in pool play to Stanford and then to Colorado in Quarters. It was disappointing and Grant moved to Portland the next year.

I'd ask about Rhino and he described it as weird. I was confused. How could it be weird? It was ultimate right? And Portland has tons of good ultimate! It must be spectacular, way better than Madison surely. He said something about cutting lanes being different... describing the horizontal as spread across the field with vertical cutter lanes. I thought he was fucking nuts. He went on, unbelievably talking about how ultimate wasn't as much fun when you weren't playing with your best friends. I wasn't sure at first. I again confirmed that we were playing ultimate. Then speculated that ultimate was ALWAYS fun. Grant was recovering from an injury at the time and ended up not playing club his first year out there. I was shocked. This was Zukowski. Cold Blooded Killer. Dominator. Game Changer. But apparently it just wasn't as fun because the "teammates" were not as connected.

I take for granted how awesome the relationships I had with my teammates. We were committed to the same goal and played for each other. It built a trust on the field that was overwhelming. I got your back as a teammate, as a friend, as a roommate, as a mentor. It was the best support system you could ask for. Hodag Love.