CUJO: Day 1 – Arrival

A few minutes after I arrived at the dorms today I ran into Rob McLeod (of ultimaterob.com) who is where coaching the Calgary juniors team: CUJO.  We chatted face to face for the first time and afterwards Rob indicated he’d send me a blog post.  Much like a lack of Women’s coverage (which we’re working on, I swear!) we have a lack of Juniors coverage.  Hopefully the contributions of the Juniors writers for CUC will help you in recognizing how important and vital Juniors development in and outside of CUC is.  Now, the post:

CUJO, the Calgary Juniors team, is made up of mostly grade 10’s, a few grade 12’s and a few grade 9’s. It’s good that most of our team still has 2 years left; it’s tough because coming to Canadian Nationals means that the top juniors teams will be grade 11’s and 12’s so we are at a disadvantage. However, since it’s the first Nationals for 19 of our 20 kids, they aren’t really thinking about that. They’re thinking more about how excited they are to put on their cleats, put on their CUJO jerseys and start playing ultimate.

To introduce our team before I get into our 2010 CUC experience, I first have to explain that Calgary, compared to cities like Vancouver and Winnipeg, doesn’t really have much of a juniors scene. Between the popularity of winter sports, the difficulty in cracking the sports curriculum within the Calgary Board of Education and the lack of good fields, we have a pretty small scene. However, this year has been the first in quite a few years in which we’ve seen some growth happening. CUJO has attended 3 tournaments (CUC2010 will be our 4th) and we play in an adult league every Thursday (winning most of our games). The decision to attend Sherbrooke didn’t come without some difficulty but once we committed to going, we now had the task of having our kids commit to going. Well, between family vacations, work and school commitments, we were finding ourselves coming up short on a roster. That’s when our esteemed Juniors Coordinator, Tim Friesen, stepped up and started to make things happen. CUJO, now in Sherbrooke for CUC2010, finds itself with 20 players – 12 of those players from Calgary, 3 from Halifax, 1 from Fredericton, 2 from Edmonton and 2 from Vancouver. if it wasn’t for the passionate kids from these other cities (and the hard work of Tim in organizing the team), CUJO would not be in attendance at these championships.

The Calgary CUJO kids (along with myself and some parents) left Calgary around 1am on Wednesday, August 11, landing in Montreal around 7am. Some of the kids slept but most didn’t since it was such a short (well 3.5 hour) flight. Arriving in Montreal, most of the kids were surrounded by an unfamiliar scene – a French speaking population. Not only had most of the kids never been to Montreal but it was also the furthest East most of the kids had ever been! Sitting around waiting for our shuttle, we do what we do best – just hung out. I can honestly say that I have the greatest non paid job in the world – these kids are just awesome. So funny, clever, smart and attentive. They soak up new information like you wouldn’t believe, are some of the funniest people I know and just have this innocence about them that you can’t help but laugh at. From stealing seats to making fun of the random people walking through the airport to complaining about how tired they are, I knew right away that this was going to be a great trip! Add to that fact that for 5 days I was going to be surrounded by close to 1,000 ultimate players from all over Canada (included in that number being some of the most amazing people I am lucky enough to call my friends) and I grew more excited.

Well, as usually happens, the shuttle didn’t leave on time, it was a super hot and bumpy ride to Sherbrooke from Montreal, and it took us around 3 hours to finally get to Bishop’s University – the place we would call our home for the next 4 nights.

Our plan was to check into the dorms early and then get some food, have a team practice/throw, hit up the captains meeting and then get a good sleep before our first day of games.

Unfortunately, our dorms weren’t cleaned yet so we hit up the cafeteria for some good ‘ole buffet style luncheon. The food was alright – as good as it could be for $10 and after we found a field to get some throwing in, talk about how Leah and I wanted to run things over the next 3 days. It was also a great opportunity for Tim and I to see our pickups in action since Leah and I were going to have to figure out what positions they were going to play, what they have for strengths so we could help them improve and really key in on their abilities. Everyone was in high spirits – just excited to be playing I suppose. I know whenever I have a disc in my hand, I can’t help but smile and feel compelled to run a lot.

Some of the kids also got to pick our their numbers/sizes and wear their red & white CUJO jerseys. The ones we got have this weird collar on them so there’s been talk about trying to cut the collar off – we’ll see how that arts & crafts session turns out.

I went over my expectations for the weekend, got feedback from the kids on what they felt would make they consider the weekend to have been a good tournament – mostly they wanted to play well, have a lot of fun and win games! I think if we do the first two than the last one will take care of itself :) Looking at the schedule, we’re going to be in tough – we’re ranked 13th out of 15 teams – mostly because no one really knows anything about us but also because in 2008 (the last time CUJO attended Nationals), we only won 1 game. However, I feel that we have a better team than 2 years ago, I’ve learned a lot as a coach so I can be better for them and I think that with the support of Leah and Tim, we’re going to have an amazing time.

I also talked about how wanted to focus on the simple things – throwing, catching, moving into space, hard marks and having good support on the sidelines. Those are the keys to CUJO having fun and playing well!

After we scrimmaged for a bit, we headed back to dorms to check into our rooms. We ended up waiting a few hours during which time we threw the disc around, trying some new throws, sweet catches and overall just having fun with the disc. After we finally got checked in, Brodie, Jasmyn and I headed to the captain’s meeting with some of the Wild Rose ladies who were kind enough to give us a drive. I felt that it was important for Jas and Brodie to be at the meeting – to meet some of the other juniors captains and to get a general feel and sense of excitement for Nationals. The meeting, albeit containing useful information, ended up starting late, running longer than most of us felt it should have, and we didn’t get enough lanyards for our coaches/chaperones. Seems the theme of the day was to plan for the unexpected.

On an aside note, I also met up with Danny Saunders (the Executive Director of Ultimate Canada) and we discussed the recent decision of Ultimate Canada to hire me as a coaching contractor – the goal of which will be for me to develop the content for the competitive coaching program for the NCCP for ultimate, specific to Canada. I’m super excited about this opportunity since I’ve spent the better part of a year developing Ultimate Rob and in that time, I’ve published over 50 videos, 60 articles and connected with hundreds of ultimate players all over the world to help them play ultimate better. I feel that this opportunity with Ultimate Canada will be great not only for the future of competitive ultimate (especially at the juniors level) but also for me to help raise the profile of Ultimate Rob so I can have my videos help more people with their game.

After picking up our team packs, we headed back to the dorms. A few more of our players had arrived on the last shuttle from Montreal (including Leah!) so we all caught up with them, met some more of our pickups (Danielle arrived on her roadtrip from Fredericton with the custom made flag she created for us (http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs266.snc4/39614_414907123004_512198004_4809650_3166904_n.jpg). It looks sick!)

Most of the kids headed to bed while Leah and I handed out some of the player packs, caught up with a few more kids who arrived late, and then we got a chance to sit down and go over some final line pairings, strategy for gameday and talking about how excited we both are to be here with the kids! They will never forget their first Nationals – I remember mine (2002 in Ottawa and I went with Spawn just to watch…but that was enough to hook me onto the sport!) – and Leah and I want to share that experience with them.

I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes that I feel is appropriate for CUJO and their participation in CUC 2010:

“Be passionate about the journey, and grateful to those who are traveling with you.”

I think this quote won’t immediately be clear in the minds of CUJO until later in life but I believe that this is an experience they will cherish forever. I for one am just happy I’m able to be a part of that.

Cheers,
Rob McLeod
aka Ultimate Rob
CUJO 2010 Coach