What a day for the USA!

Posted: August 4, 2010 10:25 AM


This August, 44 of the best youth Ultimate players in America will be traveling to Germany to participate in the 2010 World Junior Ultimate Championships. But first, the Open and Girl’s teams will meet at Amherst College next week for a weeklong training camp hosted by USA Ultimate.

Five members of Team USA have agreed to blog about thier experiences for usaultimate.org - Bethany Kaylor, Sally LandefeldMaddy RoorbachNick Stuart and Matt Barnes. Follow their progress here as they train, travel and compete throughout the next few weeks.

The tenth entry is from John Sandahl, coach of the U20 girls, as he reflects on round one.


The USA girls U-20 team has been on a journey since late March when they all discovered they’d been asked to represent their country in the world championships.  I’m sure each of them thought immediately of the chance to play against the worlds best and what it would be like to play on such a talented team of players from across the country. I know as a coach I thought about it and I would be standing on the sidelines.  I’m assuming here a bit admittedly, but at the front of their thoughts is probably something like, "I can’t wait to get on the field with these girls!" 

Then, through a process of phone calls, skype chats, and tournament connections they meet each other and this feeling grows. Jersey’s are ordered, travel plans are finalized and this feeling grows again.  Each step closer to the end brings with it a sense of growing anticipation for training camp.

And then we get to camp and the dream is realized.  These are the women with whom we will be taking on the world.  But then something happens (inevitably) as we practice together against each other for a week…we grow a bit weary.  There’s a natural tiredness that comes from pushing each other to the limit and by our last couple practices – we were all feeling it – a hunger to put these things we’d learned (about each other, about ultimate – about life!) together into a unified effort against another team when it counts.

Today – they got that chance and ran with it. 

It started with a game against Finland at 12:30.  Per Worlds formats there are only two games a day to 17 and this year (by coincidence) all of the US girls pool play games are in the afternoon.  To satiate our desire to get involved we all took to cheering the US boys on to victory against Belgium and watching pool matches Australia girls vs Swedish girls (a heartbreakingly close loss to Sweden) and Japan girls vs. Canada girls(The Canadians were on a Mission to assert their wills and they succeeded). By the time warmups started the girls were chomping at the bit to start jogging. It was finally here. All the work, all the training and now was the chance to see what we had accomplished over the last few months and days. We started with our first warmup with the team dance (Jai Ho – which means something like ‘be victorious’ from the movie slumdog millionaire) to get on the same page and bring together our energy.  And it worked wonders as by the time we started the game – it felt like we were on a canoe with 24 paddlers

We started on Offense and crisply moved the disc down the field without much difficulty – running our horizontal offense crisply and with consistent flow.  But the Fins are a scrappy bunch and they know how to huck it.  And huck it they did.  For a goal.  And the game was on. 

We as coaches challenged our team to be relentless.  Relentlessly positive, relentlessly resilient, relentlessly focused.  At 4-2 we had our first moment to test this idea as Finland worked together several decent up the line passes and turned the last into a very nice huck for a goal making it 4-3.  Luckily for us, the girls knew how to respond.  With cheers and focus (not to mention a few defensive adjustments from our D coach Chelsea Putnam!) and if I’m not mistaken we took half 9-3 or maybe 9-4.  It turns out that relentless is a staple in our diet because the pressure in the second half turned into several more breaks and before I knew it the game was over 17-5.  We looked around at each other and knew that it had come together.  All the little and big moments at training camp and before had led to a very efficient and confident win.  We knew that this wasn’t our peak offensively or defensively – but we also could look each other in the eye and know that we’d become a team. 

We finished the day with a game against the almost brand new Israeli girls team.  They brought a fired up group of about 10 girls to this tournament and though they had one (or two) experienced players – most had never played ultimate at this level.  And they came to our game after having already won their first game in their national team’s history against the Belgian Girls team earlier that day. 

And it should be noted that they were especially excited to play our team because they had all learned from our offensive coach Miranda Roth.  Miranda participated as a facilitator both at Ultimate Peace and the Israeli national junior camp both in July.  Luckily for us – Miranda only had a few days because these girls know how to play some Ultimate and thought the score doesn’t reflect it (17-1) it should be noted that they rarely turned it over in unforced situations and really made us work to earn the D.  Watch out world - Israel is for real. 

After both games we had a worlds traditional spirit circle where both teams stand with arms on each others shoulders – exchange kind words about the game and the opposing team, and often gifts from our home country.  And we played a couple games of ‘Wah’ as both our opponents knew and liked the game. 

All in all – a great day to be from the U.S.of A.