Beach Diaries, Masters (Leonardo) 8/21/11

Posted: August 22, 2011 10:55 AM

Playing With The Band: Behind the Scenes with Team USA

I'm not a good company man. Authority figures distrust me for reasons I don't understand. I'm permanently self-employed.

Being selected to Team USA was definitely something new.

One might think reaching Masters age would take the sweat out of the selection process. After all, to quote the wise and aged Damien Scott, "If you're playing Masters you've already lost."

Which I find to be rightfully entertaining, more so if Damien Scott and Idris Nolan play in the Masters division this year.

Truth is, I feel like Masters is winning. Masters is kind of like the origins of Ultimate: the mix of a fun pastime, limited practice time and real competition on the weekends. It's a great combination.

And it's also the combination that precisely defines beach Ultimate. One could say all the teams here at WCBU2011 across all divisions are playing the equivalent of USAU Masters.

I digress. Here are some of my experiences playing with Team USA Masters so far.

The Selection Process: My Experience

How does one get picked by USA Ultimate to represent the United States for a quasi-professional international event like WCBU? Good question.

Having no experience with such teams, very few "inside" connections and a suspicion that the teams would be heavily West Coast-oriented (this proved true for the Mixed team). I did what I could to pump up my laurels as a beach player. On the application I made sure to mention the dozen Wildwoods, half-a-dozen Paganellos, couple of Lei-Outs, a Sandblast and an appearance playing with the Boracay Dragons. Most of these teams were successful but unlike many of my USA teammates I'd never won any major tournaments.

Furthermore I've never won a national championship on grass, either, or Worlds or anything like that. Seemed that about half our team made it on those terms right there.

So when it all came down to it I am quite sure that I was picked to bring the length. Sometimes 6 foot 4 and change is enough.

Nonetheless there is a pattern amongst the Team USA players across divisions. Here's my advice to you if you want to ply your trade with the U.S. of A for a beach tournament in the future.

  1. Play disc in Boulder, Boston, San Francisco or Seattle.
  2. Win Lei-Out the year before they pick the beach team.
  3. Apply.
  4. Win Paganello.
  5. Win the USAU Championships.
  6. Be Jim Parinella, Steve Dugan, Greg Husak, Adam Simon, or a Riot player.
  7. Add four inches to your height.


Our first tournament together as a beach team was Chicago Sandblast where about half of us met and played together for the first time. Nine made the trip and joined with a rotating cast of the USA Women/USA Mixed women to round out the roster for the 5-on-5 coed tournament.

Before the tournament a strategy session with drills and a scrimmage was arranged with the USA Open guys. This proved to be quite valuable. We went over a series of defensive sets labeled Red, White and Blue and three different offenses with field position call-outs.

Over the course of the weekend we used the O and D sets to great effect. The defensive arrangements were especially useful and definitely helped us stay on top of teams.

We scrimmaged the Open guys twice and although this too was useful, it was also frustrating. Both teams were running the same sets so an offensive advantage wasn't there.

Quick-footed poaching and blazing speed were game-breakers and the Open guys had both. Our offensive positions were gummed up and Open ran us off the field on defense, winning the scrimmage by 7 or 8. In the second scrimmage our turnovers were minimized and we lost by four. Still, I thought we could defeat them and that was proven not to be the case.

The tournament itself was a great proving grounds for the players but in my opinion the women that joined—clearly elite players—helped out tremendously. So much so that often we simply called isolations for them downfield and let them rip hucks from half field. Among our celebrities in this regard were Kelly Johnson, Kelly Bolt, Sally Mimms and Emily from the Flycoons. All but Emily will be in Italy with us representing USA quite well, most assuredly.

By the end of Day 1 at Sandblast we had routed all four teams we came across included the defending champions and headed into Sunday as the top seed.

A little wind helped us win our quarterfinal easily before a tough semifinals match against our Masters-equivalent of Chicago-based talent led by Akira Yamaguchi, Becky LeDonne and other beach veterans, bested us 15-12. USA Open avenged us in the finals with a 15-13 win.

Looking back I think Sandblast was a very good opportunity to meet, play together, socialize and play winning Ultimate.


Team USA Beach Diaries

Some members of Team USA will be submitting diary entries during the event to keep everyone posted on their experience in Italy.

  Grand Masters
Mixed Masters