© Photos by Tino Tran
By Craig Becker and Chris Lu
If you felt some raindrops over the weekend, you have the Seattle Rainmakers Open Tryout to thank.
Saturday, February 23 (Day 1)
Nearly 70 players took the field in the Georgetown neighborhood of south Seattle on Saturday, 16 of them invited back from the U-23 Tryout that took place a few weeks prior. Although there were participants from age 18 to 44, seniority hardly seemed relevant. One of the motivations expressed by both the coaches and the players for holding and attending this tryout was that the Seattle Rainmakers and this tryout in particular should continue to build upon and showcase the extraordinary talent that is the Seattle Ultimate community.
When asked why he came to the tryout, Kerry Chang said, “One, it’s the competition, for sure. I think being part of something that’s experimental, probably revolutionary, being on the leading edge of something, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see where this league goes.”
Paolo Chiappin, who traveled all the way from São Paolo, Brazil to participate, said, “I’m excited. Excited about everything, the warm-ups, the drills, the games especially, and just getting to know more about this whole space here.”
Over the roar of planes coming in to land at nearby Boeing Field, General Manager Max Vitali opened up the Tryout with a quick speech. “I think I’m supposed to give a motivational talk right now,” he said, “but everyone who is here has already demonstrated this.”
Before getting down to business, Head Coach Ben Wiggins made a few points, “The best players have fun. Make your teammates look good, work hard, and have fun. Make your opponents hate you, but also respect you.” He then handed the eager tryout attendees over to the newly signed Strength and Conditioning Coach, Ren Caldwell. Caldwell led the would-be Rainmakers through a comprehensive warm-up routine before returning the players to Coach Wiggins. To get the players fully warm and to help them get accustomed to one another, Wiggins brought them through a couple of drills, first a come-to/dish/huck for half an hour, and then a three-on-three drill starting from a vertical stack with a duration of only two throws for another half hour.
The players were then given a brief break for water with instructions to introduce themselves to someone they didn’t already know. The Seattle Ultimate community may be tight, but everyone was able to find a new face and engage with a fellow Seattle Ultimate acolyte.
Next, the players went into a three-on-three handler movement drill for five throws for yet another half an hour. After demonstrating the drill, Coach Wiggins pointed out how handler behavior in MLU will be very different from “traditional” Ultimate thanks to the massive width of the field. Floaty around swings will be a crucial part of any team’s handler arsenal, but contrary to the DC Current’s full-field tryouts held last week, head coach Ben Wiggins did not introduce MLU rules until the second day.
Players were assigned to one of five teams. The MLU regulation field was cut in half lengthwise and two teams played on each side. The remaining team went through the requisite Tryout tests.
At the end of the five-hour day, Coach Wiggins brought the team together for some last words before ending with a cheer. “The theme for tonight and tomorrow is professionalism. Take care of your body,” he instructed.
And with a “1-2-Seattle,” the first day of the Seattle Rainmakers Open Tryout was over.
Sunday, February 24 (Day 2)
A couple of injuries, most notably a PCL tear, prevented a handful of yesterday’s players from returning on Sunday, but those who could play arrived early and were throwing and stretching more than an hour before official warm-ups were set to begin.
Players arrived early on Sunday morning at a turf field on a hilltop in West Seattle, facing off against each other, ready to do battle in the blustery winds the Pacific Northwest is famous for.
At 11:20, with ten minutes left before warm-ups, a bald eagle flew over the field. Perhaps he was a curious spectator.
GM Vitali and Coach Wiggins reiterated what they had said the day before: “If somebody needs a pump-up speech to get motivated for today, then we have bigger problems.” Once again, the attendees of the Rainmakers Open Tryout did not disappoint.
Split into four groups, the players went through a statistic-laden break mark drill, and quickly then rejoined to form two teams. For the next four hours, attendees of the Seattle Rainmakers Open Tryout played full-field regulation MLU with referees. The results were staggering.
On more than one occasion, Operations Manager Rusty Brown was heard to remark from the sidelines, “He’s got to be out of bounds, he’s so far away!” But with 53 ⅓ yards of width, the players had taken to heart Coach Wiggins’s advice from the day before as they took advantage of every inch.
“I love the field size. I think it’s awesome. It’s a lot of running and throwing to open space. You can just cut for days and don’t get tired. Well, hopefully you don’t get tired, but you just keep cutting since you have so much room to work with,” said Mark Burton.
Three-year Sockeye veteran Reid Koss explained, “I’ve never played with refs, timed games…all these things are going to be a different style, and I’m looking forward to having to adapt my style of play toward a different set of rules.”
With the Seattle Rainmakers Open Tryout finished, the coaches and management team have some very tough decisions to make. Coach Wiggins expressed sincere gratitude in final huddle and expressed regret that the roster only has enough room for 25. “Thank you for making my job that much harder,” he said.
The coaches and management hope to have a roster set by Tuesday. Stay tuned!