We’ll be addressing a handful of questions each week until the April 19th Combine. Here are the first round of questions and answers.
1. Do you think if Kobe Bryant played with Riot for a season the Riot culture would be able to change Kobe’s lone wolf attitude and make him see the value in friendship? Do you think a lone wolf super star player can survive in ultimate or would they get pushed out? (Hugh Knapp)
Gwen Ambler: Unlike in basketball, you can’t score by yourself on the ultimate field. Even a Callahan usually takes good defensive coverage from your teammates! So the sport intrinsically lends itself toward valuing teamwork over the lone-wolf approach. Riot tries to foster that even further through being deliberate about identifying players that have particularly good or bad chemistry on the field together, fostering groups (micro-communities!) that allow for sharing and investment in each other as people (not just players), and having a leadership style that focuses on consensus. Note that there is still a lot of room for individuality and different styles or personality types within that framework. I have seen players change their perspective on Riot over the years from a me-first mentality to a more team-oriented approach, but who knows if Kobe would be open to that type of change. Without valuing teamwork, I think it’s impossible to reach your true potential as a player and can instead cause tangible negative consequences for the team. So, if someone is resistant to that perspective, they very well might not be a good fit for your team or the sport.
2. How many weeks before tryouts do you start ramping up the intensity of workouts, to be fully in shape for tryouts? What is the ratio of track workouts versus lifting workouts? (Anonymous)
Charlie Eide: I think this depends on the player. We have a great “you-do-you” mentality so some of us play a lot of pick-up/goalty/basketball (lol), some of us squat until we hulk out of our shorts, some of us run 15Ks. I’m not sure if you are looking for specifics about what we do or if you are looking for advice going into tryouts, but the off-season for us is a time to rest and think personally about what our bodies want. We trust that each of us will be working hard to be ready for the next season and we check in about workouts/tracks all the time.
I think that most of us hit the track and the gym at least once a week. From an athletic stand-point, I personally would recommend anyone trying to get in-shape for ANY tryout by strength (squats/deadlifts/etc) training in the gym as far in advance as you can. Any strength you can build will help you in the future with overall performance/stamina/recovery/injury prevention. But hey, I’m a weightlifter at heart:)
Start sprint/conditioning training again (in intervals) a couple times a week 4-6 weeks out at least. Kelly hosts little crossfit-style “Rifit” sessions that are really fun and several of us enjoy going to those once a week. But workouts are pretty much optional pre-tryouts so we can focus on being 100% in once the season starts.
3. What is the business of Riot? Are you guys an LLC or 501C3 or some other type of legal entity? (Manzell B)
Gwen Ambler: Riot is a non-profit registered in the State of WA (since 2008). We don’t have federal tax-deductible status ourselves, but we have a relationship with DiscNW, which is a 501(c)3 organization, to accept such donations on our behalf. Our account with DiscNW can only be used for specific purposes within their mandates, including field reservations and tournament fees. The rest of our fundraising money is managed by our amazing treasurers (shout out to Jill and Smalls for years of outstanding service!) in a team bank account. Our team PayPal account and checkbook are all linked to this bank account, which has been incredibly useful for managing the team’s finances.
4. In your opinion, is it better for city with an above average ultimate scene to focus on building a strong mixed or strong open and women’s club teams? (checkers)
Nora Carr: Better is a hard word because that comes down to the personal preference of what individuals want from their ultimate scene. Here is my personal view: having played both elite womens and elite mixed for several years each, I personally would say building strong open/women’s would appeal to me more. I loved playing mixed and had a lot of fun, but I definitely got much more skill building and personal player development when I switched to women’s. I also feel like I am able to do much more on the field playing in womens, and the bonds that I make with my teammates have a much different feel and more closeness to them than the ones I had on mixed teams. I think having a women’s club scene allows for larger development of women’s players and community, which is something I think is important for the ultimate community.
5. What possessed you to make a “low-lights” video? It was awesome, funny, and actually more inspiring to watch than a highlights video. To see such elite ladies acknowledge they are not always perfect is something that tells a greater story than one of dominance. (Davis)
Kelly Vegas Johnson: Thanks! Originally I made it for the Riot Roast 2014 party. It’s something the team does every year and it’s a great time to poke fun at each other. Futher, it’s important for us to stay humble and be able to laugh at ourselves. We had so much footage, it was a given that we captured all of our not-so-awesome moments. Yes, sharing those is slighly embarrassing but the reality is we are all human and can’t get it right all the time. That’s what we strive for, but along the way there are lots of hardships and mistakes. It’s something we thought everyone else would enjoy laughing at as much as we did. That simple!
6. Why isn’t Kawai president? (Anonymous)
Riot: Because Fiona is president.
7. What has been the most important ingredient involved in your success? (Miles)
Sarah Surge Griffith: I think a big factor is having the luxury, by way of a thriving Ultimate community as a whole, to choose players not just based on skill but on character as well. We get to be picky. We are able to choose players who have on-field assets but who are also great teammates in all senses of the term. Coming from midwest Ultimate, I know that for a lot of smaller Ultimate communities, you are pretty limited in terms of players available, and often have to make it work not just with teammates who aren’t as versatile as players, but maybe also aren’t as committed or disciplined. So you end up with a team of players who are playing for a wider range of reasons, and what they want out of the team and sport is very different. On Riot, everyone there shares a lot of fundamental qualities such as our work ethic, commitment, a growth mindset, etc.