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Remembrance Day & U23 Tryouts

Recaps, Team Canada

Furious Remembers

From Failing Hands We Throw

This Remembrance Day weekend, Ultimate Canada held the western component to its U23 national team tryouts.  Fittingly, they took place at Memorial Oval Park in Vancouver, British Columbia.  It was also one of the most exciting selection trials I’ve ever observed.

Coaches presiding:

Patrick Mooney (U23 Open – Toronto, ON)
Andy Collins (U23 Open – Vernon, BC)
Stephanie Chow (U23 Women – Winnipeg, MN)
Kaitlyn Lovatt (U23 Women – Toronto, ON)
Hadiya Roderique (U23 Mixed – Toronto, ON)
Jon Hayduk (U23 Mixed – Vancouver, BC)

The frost crept up surreptitiously at first, but before long, every surface at the fields sparkled with it.  It lent a ceremonial majesty to the occasion, and it turned every layout into a slick skid.  It turned every disc into a slippery enemy — cold and rigid, they would bite and bruise your fingers before trying to slip your grip.

The park filled with a small army of some sixty motley youths in mismatched uniform.  I recognized quite a few, and it surprised me to remember such good players are still just in their early twenties.  It’s a stunning shift in perspective: I know them because I’ve competed with them already, and struggled for points against them.  They’re getting better, and there are more coming up through the system every year.   Maybe the confusion went both ways, since someone asked me if I was trying out.  No.  I’m 30.*  Present as an administrator, I stood steely-eyed and humorlessly at the sideline.  The part of me that is a player and competitor struggled to continually remember these kids were two-thirds my age, and hungry.

Several ingredients combine to make a tryout as exciting as this.  The first  ingredient is talent, which goes without saying.

The second ingredient is unfamiliarity.  Ironic, but true — when you cobble together a crew of unfamiliar teammates and opponents (especially when mixing genders), there are miscues and miscommunications a plenty, and throws that are not quite perfectly directed to targets not quite perfectly open.  The mixture boils over, ignites, and produces the most spectacular array of layouts to behold.  On offense and defense, men and women fly like fireworks after errant discs.  They careen across icy grass.  They stick tight catches on daring throws, one after another, each as desperate and as charged as a three-pointer at the buzzer.**

The third is raw ambition. And this is what I value most — the underlying, unteachable fuel to the chaotic fire.  Remember: this is not one of those local tryouts wherein players stop in “just to try to learn something.”  And Vancouver is not strategically located in the midst of sprawling metropolitan web quite like, say, Toronto.  Most attendees of the eastern tryouts drove; some drove for a while, but they mostly drove nevertheless.  The western tryouts encompass a catchment area including such ultimate hubs as Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg.  And those cities were well represented.  That means those kids (mere students, mostly!) flew across the nation for this chance — and nothing but a chance — at the national team.   Furthermore, there is no tournament, no coverage, and no medals to be won.  If that is not the mark of uncompromising ambition, I don’t what is.  Any 22-year-old who ventures that kind of commitment is to be respected and feared on the field, for they will stop at nothing.  I was impressed and touched by the very thought.

Recently in Sarasota, a friend and I opined on the subject of Canadian ultimate, and our talent pool.  He gravely remarked that it was a deep, but small pool — good, but narrow, and growing older.  After this weekend, I disagree.  I’ve seen you.  You possess strength, smarts and ambition. You will replace us, and that is somehow curiously comforting.

This Sunday, there is one particular verse of  John McCrae‘s that sounds doubly poignant to me, and it’s funny that it stays stuck in my head.  He spoke of capital sacrifice and extraordinarily tragic circumstances, though.  That is what we are always taught to remember.  Today, I am also remembering a happier, less-underlined theme — there is also always a future, and someone to pass it to.

To you from failing hands we throw

Please observe a minute of silence this Sunday.  We will.


*Pro Tip: you can tell by the gray hairs and the way I roll my eyes when you speak.
** I don’t actually watch basketball, but I have it on good authority this is an appropriate simile.

Alex Davis

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