Photo by Scott Houghtaling – UltiPhotos.com
A weekend of standard Seattle weather put would-be Rainmakers to the test at the 2014 open combine last weekend.
Approximately 30 Seattle-area players attended the February 15 and 16 combine to compete for one of 19 remaining spots on this season’s roster. The combine offered the general manager and player committee a good look at what the talent pool had to offer.
The first day of the combine took place on Saturday afternoon at Warren G. Magnuson Park in the Sand Point neighborhood of northeast Seattle. Players began arriving at noon to check in, register, and warm up. There were also several fans and onlookers, including a photographer and reporter from the Seattle Times.
General Manager Rusty Brown gathered the attendees promptly at 1:00 pm to outline the agenda for the day before releasing them into warm-ups with returning Strength & Conditioning Coach Ren Caldwell. After thoroughly stretching and warming up, attendees were divided into two teams for a scrimmage.
Following the scrimmage, the players were then separated into smaller groups to perform in combine metrics (gauged by volunteers) and caterpillar drill (overseen by players committee). The caterpillar is a three-on-three drill that focuses on handler movement and handler defense. It involves moving the disc between the three offensive players from small region to small region and allowed the player committee to observe how players communicated with one another on defense and how effective offensive players were with and without the disc in their hands.
After all players had run through the combine drills and laid down their numbers, they were reassigned into two new teams and given an Innova Pulsar as volunteers placed cones into a full size MLU field: 53 ⅓ by 120 yards. Two referees took the field to provide a stall count but made no active calls and were not able to resolve player disputes. The game was played to 15 with halftime at 8.
“Throughout the drills and scrimmages, there was a lot of enthusiasm and support,” said recently signed Rainmaker Ben Beehner. “The Rainmakers are all about celebrating Ultimate and the city of Seattle, and I could feel the players adopting that vibe.”
“I felt that everyone who was there was excited to be there and no matter how bad the conditions got they were still in good spirits,” said returning player Danny Trytiak. “It was inspiring to see that people really wanted to make this team and it made, and it made me very proud to be already a part of this team. I think that people went away from our tryout even though the conditions were miserable having a good time.”
Sunday morning brought sunshine and light winds coming from the south at Jefferson Playfield in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of south Seattle. Once again, General Manager Brown brought the players together to begin with some words of encouragement and once again released them into the capable hands of Strength and Conditioning Coach Caldwell for warm-ups.
From there, players were assembled into four lines and run through a throwing and cutting drill that gave them some reps on the disc and got them up to full speed physically. Next the player committee arranged two breakmark drills and got the players to challenge one another mentally. It was at about this point that the sun was obscured and a light drizzle began to come down.
The second half of the day was taken up entirely by the closest to an MLU game that most of the players had experienced to date: the same MLU field, Innova disc, and stalling referees from yesterday plus a clock to measure out four timed quarters of play and the introduction of double-teaming on the mark. The weather alternated between light rain, sideways rain, hail, sun and back to light rain and winds throughout the game, giving the player committee an idea of how players reacted under a variety of conditions and stressors.
“Despite the fact that it was freezing, windy, and raining all day, the intensity was great,” said Beehner. “People were battling the elements out there as much as each other. The thing I said at the beginning of Sunday was that we absolutely want to see how people play in the wind, because this will be the condition for every game in San Francisco.”
Bryson Uhrig-Fox concurred: “Conditions on day two were really awful, the kind of weather you dread to play Ultimate in. But the bad weather really brought out intensity and focus from everyone. In conditions where even a small pass can be difficult to complete, I was impressed with how easily the disc was moved around the field during the scrimmage. I’m excited to see that translated into gameplay later this season.”
Overall, General Manager Brown was pleased with the results from this year’s combine.
“While the numbers this year were slightly lower,” he said, “I feel the overall talent level was higher, and the focus was certainly higher.”
The Rainmakers would like to thank everyone who came and played their heart out. Attendees will be contacted by Brown in the coming days. The Rainmakers’ first practice will be this coming weekend and will serve as an invite-only extended tryout session for select players.