Photo by Brian Chu – Ultiphotos.com

With such a diverse pool of ultimate talent in the Pacific Northwest, the Rainmakers roster for the upcoming 2016 MLU Season is full of players of diverse experiences and backgrounds.

The 2016 Seattle Rainmakers roster is full of players pulled from a variety of ultimate backgrounds. Some played college ultimate. Drew Lockhart, Julian Peterson, Robin Breen, and Jonathan Stacey played for the University of Washington Sundodgers, while Christian Brink and Spencer Sheridan played for the University of Puget Sound Postmen. Other Rainmakers played for  Western Washington University, Virginia Tech, the University of Oregon, and Gonzaga.

Some of this year’s Rainmakers played for the elite, multiple-nationals-winning Seattle Sockeye club team, including Ben Wiggins, Eddie Feeley, and Todd Sliva. Many have played for Seattle’s second club team, Voodoo, like Sliva, Lockhart, Peterson, Breen, Stacey, Ben Beehner, Clay Dewey-Valentine, Chris Rupp, Peter Ostergaard, and Dan Greeley.

Seattle Mixtape (formerly Ghettobirds and Seattle Mixed), who came in second at USAU Nationals in 2015, has many Rainmakers, including Cam Bailey, Evan Klein, Brad Houser, Khalif El-Salaam, and Henry Phan. Seattle mixed team Birdfruit has Beehner, Ostergaard, Luke Jesperson, Brink, Sheridan, and Dylan Harrington.

Some of the 2016 Rainmakers are youngins’ who have played for high school teams in Seattle and for the DiscNW Youth Club Championship teams, including Peterson and Trey Miller. Several Rainmakers have also played for the Seattle AUDL teams –  Bailey, Greeley, and Jesperson played for the Raptors, while Stacey played for the Cascades.

Half of the 2016 Rainmakers are returning from 2015. Eleven players are rookies to Major League Ultimate, while Wiggins and Steve Gussin are returning to MLU roster after recovering from injury.

There is a definite diversity of ultimate backgrounds amongst the 2016 Rainmakers. The question is, does this help or hurt the team? Does a variety of backgrounds build a dynamic team with fresh approaches or a bunch of individuals that have a hard time playing as a team? I asked the players for their views on the diversity of their ultimate experiences, and their responses ranged from optimism and excitement at learning new techniques to more pessimistic views that winning comes down to the cohesion of a lot of playing time together.

Feeley, a veterans heading into his third season with the team, thinks that the Rainmakers have played together enough to work together well. “Many of us have played together either previously on the Rainmakers, on other Seattle club teams, or at offseason tournaments. We have a number of players who have been playing on Mixtape the past few years as well as on the Rainmakers. Their experience making deep runs at nationals will certainly benefit our team this season.” Bailey, a rookie in 2015 is excited to have other former Seattle Raptors on the Rainmakers this year. “Dan Greeley, who goes hard in the paint, and Luke Jesperson who just goes hard all the time. They too, have had the Benny T [Raptors coach Theilhorn] experience.”

Klein, the 2015 Western Conference Rookie of the Year, thinks the diversity will help the 2016 Rainmakers. “Different backgrounds provides us with a variety of perspectives from which we review and assess our plays, sets, personnel, strategy, etc.  This year we have players from 6+ different club teams, with experience ranging from over 15 to 4 or 5 years of playing.  Experience running a variety of different offenses and defenses gives us a lot of opportunity to try out different looks for our team. … The NW, and Seattle especially, has developed its own style of small-ball offense and very poachy and junky defense, which is amazing in its own right.  However, by comparison, I come from the Atlantic Coast, where gritty man-to-man defense was the M.O. … However, it may be difficult for us, in that everyone has a different experience and some pieces don’t mesh well together right away, especially on offense… but I believe it will make for a very versatile team that can react and compete against the different styles we will see from Vancouver, San Francisco and Portland throughout the year.”

Eddie Harmoush thinks that different backgrounds will strengthen the team. “As a team, there are always benefits to having experience against many different types of offenses and defenses. Being able to bring together many players from many different play styles gives the Rainmakers an adaptability advantage. Collectively, as a team, there won’t be many strategies that at least someone hasn’t played against.”Peterson believes that the Rainmakers’s backgrounds, “will provide us with a fresh mindset and new hunger that you can’t always generate when you play with the same group of people continuously. It forces us to be more engaged mentally.

Some of the rookies know that they can learn more from their teammates because of their different experiences.  

“I’m really excited to learn from so many people that came from different systems.” says Sheridan. “There are so many experienced players on the Rainmakers and I can’t wait to pick up new concepts grow as a player.” Harmoush echoed that sentiment, stating “One year on a team with a mixed background might equate to two years on a team with mostly the same play styles.”

A couple of Rainmakers do think team cohesion might be a problem, at least at first. “We may struggle a little with continuity at the beginning of the season, but that will change as the season progresses,” says Peterson. Sliva is also wary. “Honestly being from different backgrounds is a tough thing to overcome. While it’s nice to have different perspectives and experiences within a team, nothing helps a team gel like having extended experience playing and hanging out with one another over an extended period of time. … In the prior two years the challenge is to grow as a team and learn each other’s habits and style so we can gel on the field. It’s nice that a good chunk of the team are returning this year, but the rookies will need to get to know us, and get to know the MLU style of play generally. It’s an adjustment for sure from the College or Club game.”

The Seattle Rainmakers have had a few weeks to practice and play together before their first game against the Portland Stags in Portland, this Saturday, April 9. Their different backgrounds and playing styles might be an asset, giving the team a wealth of new ideas to draw on. They will probably have to work on team cohesion as they get the thirteen new players up to speed with the returning veterans Rainmakers. It will be interesting to see how their first game goes against the Stags, who have the most returning players in the league with twenty.

See all of the Rainmakers in action at their Season Opener against the Portland Stags at Rainer Beach High School on April 17th at 1pm.

Grab your 2016 Seattle Rainmakers Season Tickets, here.

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