Unofficial advice, that is. As a Riot who is not a member of the Personnel Committee (the hearty band of players who have the difficult task of choosing the squad this season), I have a limited influence as to who will make the team. I do, however, have a lot of experience with the Riot tryout process, and can give you some solid tips going into the Combine.
But first, some background. The first year I tried out for Riot, they cut me. I had never played competitive women’s Club Ultimate, I had never been coached, and the warm-up alone winded me. Going into the tryout, I felt sure that I could make the team, mostly because I played on the Open team at Seattle U and that, of course, instantly prepared me to play against women (My college self was a chauvinist, turns out.). I made it past the Combine, but not the next round of cuts. I remember very clearly the heavy feeling settling in my stomach as I read the first sentence from that email. It felt like something akin to a break-up. I knew that I had not played well, but there was still a small part of me that thought maybe, maybe they could overlook the turnovers and the awful forehands because I was fast and stuff… They couldn’t.
The second year I tried out for Riot, they cut me. I had a full season of women’s Club Ultimate under my belt, had been coached by Ben Wiggins and Gwen Ambler while playing for Viva, and now had my foot in the door of the Seattle Club scene. That year I made it past the Combine, past the next round of cuts, and flew out to California for the final tryout tournament (Fun fact: Gwen had finally ended her love affair with Fury, and was also trying out that year. She made the team.). After a grueling weekend and an expensive plane ticket, Riot cut me again. This time around, it stung a little more. I tried out for Underground that year, made it, and entered that season with a vengeance. I grew exponentially as a player and a teammate, and had a lot of fun the whole time. The only reason I decided to try out for Riot a third time was because of the encouragement of another Underground teammate, Caitlin Cordell, who had also played Viva with me the previous year.
The third year I tried out for Riot, I made the team.
Going into my fifth Riot season, I have a better understanding of the process that goes into choosing a teammate. Many parts of this process are uncontrollable: who’s leaving from the previous year and what positions are opening up because of those losses, the size of the roster we want in a given year, particular talents that show up in a given tryout pool. You, as a tryout, have no control over any of that.
So what do you do? You get in shape, of course. You play as much Ultimate as you can. If you’re lucky, you’ve been coached. If you’re tryout savvy, you’ve been going to as much Riot-sponsored mini and goaltimate as possible. And when the time comes, you leave it all on the field and hope that the people with the clipboards saw you.
But even if you do all of those things, there is still no guarantee that you will make this squad. You should absolutely be doing all of those things, if you’re able, but it won’t get you on Riot.
If you want to give yourself the best possible chance of making it past the Combine, here’s what you do:
Play smart, aggressive defense
Be a good teammate
The first bit of advice is quantifiable, which makes it infinitely more useful. The second bit, however, is just as important. Some quick guidelines if you’re having trouble with the phrase “good teammate”: be a helpful sideline presence, be supportive of other tryouts, and don’t assume that you’re better than anyone. Being bummed when you turn the disc over is natural, but know how to bounce back (namely by playing great defense).
It is possible to make up for deficiencies in these two categories with excellent throws, perfect offense, speed, or any number of super powers, but I suggest you work on these two things. Play great defense. Be a good teammate.