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World Games Tryouts

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I Have Been Cut from Some Great Teams

The night before tryouts, a friend had cold feet. Logging in to pay her fees, she could see the names with whom she was competing. There were five times as many applicants as positions to fill, and almost all of them players of considerable repute. Some already held several championship titles. Putting aside her mathematical odds, now she doubted whether she even belonged in such exalted company — for fear of wasting their time. She wasn’t alone; I had already heard about some withdrawals.

Following that line of thinking, I might have wasted a lot of people’s time over the years. I have a long, and in some cases, even distinguished list of rejections.* I have letters of refusal penned by Derek Alexander, Jeremy Cram, Mike Grant. . . . In hindsight, I have been cut from some great teams! And here I was, in fact, ready and willing adding to the list. Why stop now?

“I wouldn’t worry about people’s time,” I replied, “tryouts will take just as long regardless.”

This September, Ultimate Canada’s selection process for the World Games (2013) squad officially commenced. It kicked off with the Western Tryouts held in Vancouver. We were there. Most of Furious and Traffic were too.

The Elite

Personally, I believe membership on the World Games team to stand among the highest honours in ultimate (if not the summit itself). Granted, not everyone agrees. But hear me out, nevertheless. It still remains, if nothing else, unarguably the most exclusive of orders.

Of all nations playing ultimate in the world, only six may compete at the Games. Five countries must qualify through stiff WUGC competition just to earn the right to send a team (the sixth bid belongs to the host). Only one division of play exists: Mixed. Each team comprises only 13 members (7 men & 6 women). The entire ultimate expertise of a given country must therefore be filtered and distilled down to just 13 representative athletes, male or female. And finally, the trail to this summit of the elite — this absurdly narrow ledge on the mountaintop of worldwide ultimate — opens for us to try only once every four years. In short, it’s insane.

So when, on Saturday morning, midway through the third set of drills, Traffic‘s Ashlee Davison suddenly turned to me and pointedly remarked, “You know, I just realized how hard it is to make this team!” I nodded and laughed.

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Pack Mentality

It is hard — absurdly hard. On any given day, I don’t dare to count myself in the top 7 Canadian men. Not even the top 10. So why try out?

Some players choose to try out only if their chances sit favourably — their object is to join a team. Some partake just for the learning experience, to pick up some ideas and techniques. Some try out just to test their mettle, to see how they measure up against the going standard. These are equally good reasons; I am not one to judge.

As for myself, I step forward because I like to become part of something greater. When I try out, whether for a club or Team Canada, come what may, I feel a certain kinship. In being there, I am part of the community. I have left my imprint. In a sense, even if I am not part of the team, I have become part of the team effort.

I liken this condition to the plight of rookies the world over. When at last someone makes the cut, they often spend a lot of time on the sideline. In my own case, when I initially joined Furious, it was by the very skin of my teeth (years later, a captain confessed he had been skeptical of what they could hope to do with me). For a while, you practice, you learn the strategies and plays, you rehearse the movements week after week. But until you’ve proven yourself to a certain standard, you may spend a pitiful fraction of a tournament actually playing ultimate. If you tried out with designs on being a star, you are (with a few, rare exceptions) almost certainly destined for disappointment. If you define your success purely on your personal performances, well, you won’t have many to lean on. The alternative is to broaden your perspective of success. The best rookies learn to think creatively, like pack animals, supporting the team in any way they can. If your role is to help from the sideline, then you help from the sideline. If your role is to bolster practices, to spar with your teammates, to prepare them for the test, then that is your function. Take it seriously. Excel in it. That is your contribution to the team effort.

So when I cleat up against aspiring Team Canadians, I am already thinking like a member of the team. My competitors are excellent players, but every single one of them has to get through me to get to the prize. I am testing them against myself, forcing them to prove themselves against the best I have to muster. And if they can do that, then they have earned the spot. Whether I advance myself or not, I will have made the tryout process as strong and as thorough as I can make it — for them, for myself, for everyone who could not be there. If that is my role this time around, supporting the process, so be it. I am not trying out against you; I am trying out with you. We will create Team Canada, regardless of the final wearer of the jersey.

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Success

You can choose to define success purely and harshly as making the cut. If you aim high, the odds probably stand against you. And if you are doomed to failure by your own measure, I suppose you might be wasting time. I prefer to view success in a spectrum. In the very act of attending tryouts, I am contributing to the team. If I do it well, therein lies my personal victory.

On the way home, my fiancee asked me about my tryouts, and I had to produce an answer. The Eastern tryouts have yet to take place, and even then, the first cuts will be officially announced in November. But knowing what I do, if I had to choose the best 7 men in Canada, would I put my name on the list?

“Eh, probably not a national team performance.”

“So how do you feel about it?”

“Coolest thing I’ve ever done.”

Why not? At worst, I have been cut from some great teams.

* In no particular order: University A-team, Sockeye, Ottawa Mixed A-team, Team Canada 2008, Vancouver Open B-team, GOAT
Photo credits: Kirsten Taylor

Alex Davis

2 Responses to “World Games Tryouts”

  1. Euh Says:

    Care to tell us more about the selection process/comittee ?

  2. adavis Says:

    You should ask Ultimate Canada; they’re in charge of the process.