1. Why is Riot obsessed with unibrows? (Curious Gweorge)
Alyssa Weatherford: The unibrow in a wonderful thing and it needs more recognition. Also dressing up has always been important part of Riot’s culture. We compete but we also like to play, we have dressed up for our first tournament every year since at least 2007. We jump at any opportunity to dress up, we are inspired at every party we go whether there is a theme or not and a certain practices become themed.
2. What methods do you use to create/maintain the team culture and the “buy-in” towards the greater team goals? (August Schwartz)
Hana Kawai: Riot has a long history of working towards program transparency, including everyone’s voices in decision-making and leadership selection, appreciating everyone’s role on and off the field and trusting everyone’s commitment to the team (whatever it might look like). And I say “towards” cause it’s a messy, imperfect process that we’ve learned a lot about over the years. But at the end of the day, I believe when folks are supported as whole human beings – when we trust everyone’s intent, commitment and leadership – the team culture is healthier, people are creative and excited to “buy in” and everything, obviously, is awesome. On a more logistical level, we run mini-workshops / micro-community sessions through the season to help support this work, we have team consensus decision making to select leadership, and we build-in lots of communication channels via small groups to make sure people are being heard.
3. A) How do you prepare for an important game? Maintain focus when sidelines are packed, all eyes are on each play. B) How do you stay motivated after 6+ years of being on the team? What keeps you going to track practices, working out in the evenings, what keeps you coming back for the 8th or 9th year? C) How do you expand your game? When and where do you experiment with that harder long range blade or off hand backhand? When is the best time to expand your game and when should you stick with what you are comfortable? D) Talk about balancing “real life” and work and responsibility with highly competitive ultimate and the community and your passion for the sport. (Anonymous)
Molly McKeon: 100% focusing on the game or 100% taking care of your body helps with focus during tournaments. I don’t know about those that have played more than two years but the people keep me more motivated than anything. I know they’re putting in the work when they can and fighting to improve and get better so we can push each other at practices. PWS! (Post-Workout Selfies!)I love playing ultimate in the offseason in various leagues, tournaments, pickup games and that’s where I work on in-game throws like hucks and sharp OI’s , as well as working on my break throws. Otherwise I like to practice hammers and scoobers and thumbers when I’m just throwing with a friend. -MM
Alyssa Weatherford: There are multiple things that keep me returning to Riot. For one, the community. I feel like that once you are an adult it is much harder to meet awesome people to become friends with. Some of my most cherished friendships have been from Riot. Next, Riot is also my competitive outlet. I am a very competitive person and in most of my life it is inappropriate to be competing, but on Riot I can combine being competitive with having fun. I also love the feeling I get when I have been working on a skill (on or off the field) and I can see and feel improvement. I grew up not feeling like I was really good at anything in particular and once I fell in love with ultimate and Riot, I knew that is what I wanted to spend my time doing.
4. What does it take to be an offensive handler? What does it take to be a defensive handler? Favorite drills to do? Offense or defense? Why do you play ultimate? How did you start? Favorite ultimate playing memories? (Anonymous)
Calise Cardenas: Offensive handler – precision and excellent field awareness. Defensive handler – your first job is defense, your second job is precision and field awareness. Also, I’m not a handler, so this is just what I’ve observed.
Molly McKeon: Favorite drills: button hook, dishy, 2v2. Defense, then quick movement for the score. Why do I play: It brings me joy. I feel free and accepted for who I am as a person. Its something I have yet to get tired of and want to keep improving at. I get to travel and meet incredible people. I started playing ultimate in college in Olympia with a group of guys that didn’t know what a stack was, then moved on to play with the Olympia community leagues. Moved back to Seattle and played leagues then started playing club. When I first heard about Riot and other club women’s teams, I looked up to all of those players. Now not only have I gotten to play with and against people I’ve looked up to, I also call them friends. Favorite ultimate playing memories: Cheide running over a dead bird with the lawn mower at US Open. Everything about Worlds, even the adventure my car had getting from Milan to Lecco.
5. Where is the Shake It Off video? (Anonymous)
Kate Kingery: I taught the dance to all of the women’s masters teams at beach worlds and we did most of it after the awards ceremony. Here is the video from Beach Worlds that has been shared on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=788244744195&pnref=story
6. I’d love to see a Riot vs (Traffic? Underground? Schwa?) game played using either MLU or AUDL rules. Any chance that could happen? (Anonymous)
Kate Kingery: We are looking into playing some showcase games that will be hosted by the MLU & AUDL! Yay!! However, it is unlikely that we will learn and use MLU or AUDL rules for just one game. We also place great value on Spirit of the Game and would like to showcase how well Ultimate works while maintaining self-officiation.
7. What’s your take on mixed ultimate? Do boys and girls need to be separated to play on the elite stage or is the mixed division something more meaningful? As a college-level male player, I’ve heard musings on both sides of the aisle, but an elite women’s team’s take would be greatly appreciated! Keep doing what you’re doing and know you have a fan in me! (Nick)
Alyssa Weatherford: I think mixed ultimate for youth can be an extremely positive experience but in my opinion it is very dependent on the leadership (captains and coaches) and can be very difficult to navigate. I personally think that a huge part of my foundation of a player was from playing mixed in high school (of course I have no idea if I played girls only if I would say the same thing). For years I was on the side that youth ultimate should be mixed. I remember the moment my mind was changed. I was coaching a mixed middle school team where the girls were very talented and the team was decent. Our girls played the NWS girls, they had never played or practiced single gender before. We lost double game point. After the game I was picking up some discs and cones and I overheard their conversations about the game. They were so excited, so empowered, and from the top to the bottom felt like contributors on the field. From then on I have been more on the side of single gendered youth ultimate.
Charlie Dengue Mercer: I think the mixed ultimate issue is a very personal one. I played travel boy’s ice hockey growing up and LOVE mixed ultimate. It’s a very natural fit for me. For many years I alternated between playing mixed and women’s club. I appreciated women’s club because I had access to higher levels of competition. (It is where most of the best players go.) However, I loved the community around a mixed team. (It wasn’t until Riot that I found a place where I could have both.) I also know that I tend to be the exception and that many elite players prefer single gender, both for themselves and for youth development. I think that the general perception around mixed gender ultimate is that it’s inferior and best for recreation. It would be interesting to see how that perception would change if the elite men’s and women’s players migrated to mixed.
8. Hi Riot! As a new team who’s looking to compete in their first year at our local Regionals, what would you suggest we do to structure our planning for the tournament? (i.e. how to structure practices, drills, workouts, how often should they be). Also, any tips for a new captain too? Thank you! (OC)
Rohre Titcomb: When we approach a full season, we start by defining the program’s goals for that given year. This is usually a team-wide conversation that involves both process and outcome oriented goal-setting. We think about what we want to have accomplished when we play the last game of the season (no matter what game that is) and how we will define success. Then, the leadership works back and does what we call “back-casting.” If we want to know how to play a certain junk D by our first tournament, what skills are required for the team to be able to do this? How much practice time do we need to devote to developing those skills? What resources (drills, video analysis, etc) do we need to have to teach this skill? We try to map out as much of the season like this (loosely, and with flexibility built in!) as we can. There are always re-evaluation points where we might decide to pivot or change the plan altogether, but we always try to map out the broad picture so we can be sure we’re aligning our preparation with our goals for the season. These plans affect how often we practice, what types of workouts we run, etc, and it’s a lot frontloaded work, but helps get everyone on the team bought into showing up and working hard at the right things!
Tips for a new captain? Don’t try to do everything yourself. Build systems so that you can be supported by the rest of the team. Be transparent about all the work required to make the program function and get people to share the load. If you burn out after your first year, then it’s a disservice to the program because the team’s leaders will just get burnt out one after the next.
9. Where did you see the last few break throws you decided to acquire? What do you look for when you watch games and film? (Anonymous)
Kate Kingery: We focus a lot on breaking the mark at practices. We encourage each other to break the mark in different ways. As marks, when we recognize a teammate has thrown the same throw a number of times, we try to take that throw away, so that they have to try something new.
When watching film of other teams, we watch for broad strategies. On offense, we look for what offensive sets they run (ho/vert/split), pull plays they like and specific players who run the offense. On defense, we watch what junks, zones, person and poachy d’s they tend to run, in addition to key players to be aware of on the field.
When watching our own film, we are watching to ensure that we are continuing to work on our process and determining what we can do to improve both our overall strategies and our individual skills.