The Road to Cali: Preparation to Performance

Posted: July 27, 2013 11:58 PM

The following is part of our of continuing coverage of the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia. 

Saturday evening in Pasqual Guerrero Olympic Stadium was the United States National Team’s final on-field preparation for the World Games. They’ll play Australia at 11:30 am and Canada at 7:10 pm on Sunday. 

Practice itself was basic: focused throwing in pairs, a warm-up, throwing drills with marks, two scrimmages to three, a huck drill, and endzone scrimmages. Cali’s altitude and the swirling stadium wind led to a number of unforced drops and throw-aways, but players also started to run down hanging discs and calibrate their throws as the session went on, making the adjustments that were part of the reason for holding practice. 

Even more important than the on-field work was the team’s mental check-in, held in a locker room while the Colombians finished their time on the field. Coaches Alex Ghesquiere and Matty Tsang asked the group about its fears going into the tournament and gave time for every member to say their piece. 

Concerns for some revolved around a teammate getting injured. One player voiced her fear of letting teammates down. Others acknowledged that it will be challenging to play within roles once on such a big stage. Ghesquiere even voiced some of fears of his own. 

"We’re playing against 65 of the best ultimate players in the world," he said. "It’ll come down to little things, and if we don’t recognize that we give our opponents an opportunity to make the little things work for them."

Being open about fear, he said, makes it manageable. "I think you’ve got to get it out and deal with it," said Ghesquiere. "Fear does you no good if you internalize it and worry about it all the time. [Obstacles] are coming—people are going to get hurt and we’re going to have slow starts. The only way to effectively confront and get past it is to put it in everybody’s face. Once you’ve verbalized and talked about it it’s not something you’d need to dwell on anymore." 

Tsang echoed his counterpart. "It’s not that people who perform well under pressure don’t feel fear. It’s that they feel it and know how to cope with it. I think stating your fears lets you identify them so they don’t manifest themselves as tightness or being too amped up."

At the end of practice, Ghesquiere asked the team a simple question: "Do you guys think there’s any 13 players you’d rather have next to you?"

"F*** no," muttered Ryan Farrell as he looked up and smiled at the rest of the huddle. Confidence in himself and his National Team teammates, he says, is well earned.  

"I think it’s all about the togetherness, which has been the defining trait of this team," says Farrell. "I’ve never been on a team that’s been as unified as this, which is amazing to think about considering we’ve had such limited time together. Building that was a stated goal from the beginning. Aside from believing we’re the most talented team, I believe we’re the most unified that trusts one another, and if things aren’t going well I already know my teammates are going to rise to the challenge rather than crumble or point fingers. We’re so tight a unit that I know there’s no chance of that happening."

That togetherness has manifested itself more complexly now that the team is down to its 13 travel squad members (plus Nicky Spiva, who made the trip and is serving as a World Games volunteer throughout the Flying Disc competition) from its original 20. 

"I don’t feel great," said a teary-eyed Sarah Griffith. "I just keep thinking about Rohre [Titcomb] and how much she’d give to be here and what she’d tell me."

A member of the 20 who removed herself from consideration for the final 13 after tearing her ACL shortly after the roster was set, Titcomb is especially close to Griffith’s heart because they are long-time Seattle Riot club teammates. 

But as soon as Griffith voiced her discouragement, Cara Crouch was quick to give support by asking what she had struggled with on the field and, when Griffith said dump throws, offering to work on them with her in the morning. Also, the team Skype’d with Titcomb upon returning to the hotel after practice. This group understands how to confront and overcome adversity. 

"In terms of the preparation we’ve put in," says Tsang, "I feel really good. I think we’ve been in enough situations and that we’re really well equipped to deal with whatever may come about. I think we have all the tools. The challenge for us is to mentally recognize the situation and use the correct tool. I think we’ve got all we need to be successful in this tournament."

Overall, the team is happy to start competing after having been in Cali for nearly a week. 

"What I’m most excited about tomorrow is that we’ve been keying in on each other for the last six practices," said Mike Natenberg. "Everyone knows each other’s tendencies, and I’m excited to play teams that haven’t matched up on us one on one."

During the pre-practice meeting, 2009 National Team member Beau Kittredge told the group that the World Games were "the most mental tournament I’ve ever played in." 

It’s a challenge Kittredge is looking forward to facing with a group he’s practiced hard with since April. 

"I’m looking forward to seeing some of these players that I’ve never played with in a serious tournament, how they play in a big tournament. I’m excited to get out there and be able to battle with our teammates. This is the first start of getting up a hill, and it’s going to be nice to see everyone do it together."


Website Article July 27 - Images by CBMT creative


2013 World Games (official website)



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