Photo by John King – UltiPhotos.com
Right from the outset, the Rainmakers General Managers wanted to take everything that already existed in Seattle Ultimate and spread it around the world.
But first, some backstory.
Seattle Rainmakers General Managers Massimiliano “Max” Vitali, Gemma Perez, and Matteo Ercoli started a company in 2010 called Ultimatevents, an Italy-based event management company specializing in Ultimate, through which they have gained extensive experience managing Ultimate ventures around the world, from the 2010 U-23 World Championships and the 2011 World Championships of Beach Ultimate, to the upcoming World Ultimate Club Championships, scheduled for summer 2014 in Lecco, Italy.
“We’re trying to make a living out of Ultimate. We decided to work on Ultimate because it is our passion, it’s what we love,” said Perez. “When we heard about professional Ultimate in the USA, it was something we wanted to be part of. We were interested in the prospect of professional Ultimate, we’d been following the developments in the USA, and that’s how we got in touch with Jeff Snader and Nic Darling.”
After speaking with MLU’s founders, they were sold, and they already knew there was only one place for them because, as it turns out, Vitali, Perez, and Ercoli have a longstanding relationship with a local U.S. Ultimate scene.
It goes back to 2010, when Seattle club player Chris Kosednar was studying in Florence. In the same year at the World Club Championships in Prague, Kosednar and future Rainmaker Danny Karlinsky played for the Florence team.
“After that Max went to try out with Sockeye,” said Perez. “And then we ran a Sockeye clinic in 2012 in Italy as well as clinics in 2013 across Asia, so there was Skip [Sewell], Mario O’Brien, BJ Sefton, Reid Koss, Seth Wiggins, Erik Doesburg, and Phil Murray; after these we started talking about other projects.”
Vitali even came to Seattle to test his mettle against the area’s elite club players. “When Max tried out in 2012 he fell in love with the atmosphere of Seattle and the Ultimate scene there,” said Perez. “So when we got started with MLU there was only one option, it had to be Seattle.”
With only a few months to prepare, the new Seattle General Managers faced a tough question: how do you build a professional team from scratch in only a few months? Their answer: get people who love the game, who buy into the vision, and who will stop at nothing to demonstrate not only the highest quality of play but also the component of Ultimate that sets the sport apart from all others — Spirit of the Game.
“Knowing how the local scene was and how great the players were, our vision was that we have the best team in the world. We really wanted to have the best players; we didn’t want to have a team where, if we were sitting on the sidelines we could say, ‘I could play there.’ That’s not the idea of professional Ultimate that we had,” recalled Perez.
Already familiar with the local scene, Seattle’s GMs envisioned translating the high level of play, the camaraderie within the community, and the strong sense of Spirit of the Game into the professional sphere.
“Our aim when we went to Seattle was to engage the proper players to make a top tier team,” said Vitali. “We already knew Seattle, we knew some of the players, some of the greatest players in town and we knew that the team was going to be a very good one.”
That started with the staff. Said Head Coach Ben Wiggins, “I joined because our owners were really committed to Spirit of the Game. They said that, long term, they wanted to increase SotG in professional Ultimate.”
Assistant Ccoach Andy Lovseth also bought into the vision, saying, “In terms of building the roster, I pointed Ben and the GMs towards players with strong work ethics that I’d seen in previous years coaching club, over guys with sheer talent. I thought we should go after players who would practice, develop, and find roles throughout the season.”
Overall, the GMs believe that the Rainmakers’ first season was a success.
“The response from the Ultimate community in Seattle was great,” said Perez. “At the beginning we were afraid that people in the Ultimate community would reject some of the MLU components, like the idea of referees, but I think overall we exceeded expectations. The Ultimate community was very open and we got great feedback from players, coaches, kids, and parents.”
Building on the successes of the first season, the Rainmakers hope to continue to engage those already embedded in Seattle Ultimate but also want to keep reaching out to those who are unfamiliar with the sport. One of the best parts of the home games for Perez was speaking with people who were seeing Ultimate for the first time.
“What really exceeded expectations,” Vitali said, “was the feedback from people who had never seen a game, and came to a game, and they loved it. From that point of view, it’s been incredible. Of course, there were plenty of challenges that we had logistically; it was a very difficult year. But considering all the challenges – getting everything done in a very short period of time and with limited resources – it’s been incredible. The response of the staff, the engagement of the staff, has been amazing.”
Unequivocally, this was a great start, but there is always room for improvement.
“From talking to the team, I think the level of commitment from the players will only go up,” said Perez. “Some of the team is going to be different – I anticipate that some of the senior or veteran club players will be attracted to MLU because the season is shorter and there’s only one game per week – so the level next year will be just as high if not higher than it was this year.”
Stay tuned for big news in the near future, including player signings and venue announcements. Until then, make it rain!