photo @ Alex Fraser
Last weekend, the Seattle U-16 Open team, appropriately name Dynasty, took first place at Youth Club Championships, a national youth Ultimate tournament that takes place each August in Blaine, Minnesota. The team was helped in their path to victory by the Seattle Rainmakers in more ways than one, proof that even in the off-season, the Rainmakers are devoted to the continued development of Seattle Ultimate.
The Youth Club Championships have been taking place in Blaine, Minnesota for the last nine years on August 10-11 and have been hosted by the Minnesota High School Ultimate League. Seattle has consistently been sending teams since 2005, the year the tournament began, but the U-16 Open Division wasn’t created until 2011. Seattle brought a team that year and came in second place out of eight teams from around the country, losing in the finals to Triangle Area NC Hammer, a team hailing from the Triangle Area near Durham, North Carolina.
The following year, Seattle U-16 took first place over DEVYL, the Delaware Valley Youth Ultimate League, which draws players from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. That year, the Seattle team was under the coaching direction of future Rainmaker Reid Koss and fellow club star Shannon O’Malley of Seattle Riot.
This summer saw a rematch between Seattle and NC Hammer, and our local boys got the result they had been training for all summer: victory and the right to call themselves Youth Club Champions for the second year running. Seattle employed a highly effective zone defense in order to take half 7-3, but NC Hammer was able to catch up to make it even at nines before Seattle took control in the end, winning 12-9.
In addition to Dynasty, Seattle sent three other teams to represent Rain City at YCC. The U-19 Open team, Kingpin, took second place in their division after a hard-fought game against Atlanta. 2013 was something of a rebuilding year for the U-19 Mixed team, Smash, after their 2nd place finish last year. This time they came in fifth out of seven teams with a record of 2-4, though they received the highest Spirit Score in their division. Rampage, the U-19 Girls’ team, came in first place for the ninth year in a row with a 12-6 win over Denver, and they took home the tournament Spirit award.
Perhaps even more than Dynasty’s age group, something that really makes the U-16 team stand out from its older siblings is that it was entirely organized by parents and volunteers. Coaches and organizers did everything of their own volition and for the love of the game, the team, and the community. And so one of the major hurdles the team had to overcome on their road to the championships was finances. Although Seattle-based regional Ultimate organization DiscNW sponsored the U-19 teams, they did not allocate scholarship funds to the U-16 squad. And since the team has a needs-blind tradition of selecting players independent of financial considerations, the Dynasty boys had to foot the bill themselves.
Fortunately, the Seattle Rainmakers stepped in and made a sizable contribution to help defray the team’s travel costs, and Rainmaker Reid Koss contributed not only his time and expertise as head coach for the second year in a row, but also earned the team a cool $100 with a donation made in his name for a Defensive Play of the Week back in week 10 of the 2013 MLU season.
“This tournament is an amazing experience for everyone that gets to go,” said Koss, “and [Dynasty is] by far my favorite team to coach throughout the year.”
Koss cites several factors that make the experience so exciting for him and his players. For many of them, the YCC team may be their first time playing outside of school programs. Drawing from Seattle’s deep talent pool, this year’s team was composed of 19 individuals from 16 different schools.
These players were suddenly exposed to teammates who challenge them skill-wise and brought out a level of enthusiasm that parents hadn’t seen before. For instance, players were reported to have organized their own conditioning workouts and pickup games outside of regularly scheduled practices.
YCC players end up bonding intensely over the course of the summer, forming the fabric of Seattle’s future Ultimate community both on the field and off.