1. What are the main things you look for in new recruits during tryouts? What does it take be a Riot? (Anonymous)
Rohre Titcomb: A few seasons back, the team and alumni of our program developed a list of core values and Riot fundamentals. These put in words how we commit to showing up for each other, the community, and on the field as Riots. So when we’re evaluating tryouts, we’re looking at players’ ability to execute our fundamentals as well as the degree to which they embody or can fulfill our core values. For reference, here are our core values and fundamentals:
Riot Core Values
• We lead by example
• We take pride in our contributions to the team
• We act with discipline and intention
• We believe in each other
• We are accountable to each other
• We play for each other
• We love the battle
• We invest in the Ultimate community.
Riot Fundamentals: We move the disc quickly. We are confident with the disc. We play with grit. We play good person D. We are good teammates. We are coachable. We take the right road.
2. How much do friendships and history play into player selection? Is it heavily politics or skill-based? (Anonymous)
Hana Kawai: Yes, realistically returning players have an advantage during the open tryout process, as they have at least one season of playing with the team under their belt. We also deeply value the work and skills of teammates on and off the field, and they may be doing significant off-field work (like coordinating gear sales, managing the team accounts, planning and organizing workouts, or running outreach clinics) that is not visible to other tryouts during the tryout process. The tryout process itself is both skill oriented and team culture oriented, with one to two 1:1 feedback sessions between tryouts and their Personnel Committee agents and a final voting process that includes all players who are trying out. We want the process to be transparent and rigorous (and fun! with learning!) and the way I’ve seen this be successful is that the more eyes and ears we have on everyone the better.
3. Do I get to train with the team if I don’t make it? Or is there another training squad for those people who are not good enough for the team? (Anonymous)
Rohre Titcomb: The wonderful thing about the community our team is a part of is that there are tons of playing opportunities if a given year isn’t the year for you to make Riot! Check out Underground and Seismic for women’s ultimate opportunities. They are two other women’s teams in the Puget Sound area that hold practices and attend tournaments throughout the summer and fall. The combine we host is an open tryout day for all three teams, so come to the combine on April 19th to learn more and get a better sense for each team!
4. Are there certain positions that you are looking for at tryouts this year to replace players who have left from 2014 (i.e. D line handlers)? (Anonymous)
Gwen Ambler: As in most years past, Riot is holding full-team try-outs this season. The team has a Personnel Committee that makes the ultimate roster decisions for the year, consisting of the three captains and five other elected players from the 2014 squad. Everyone else from the 2014 roster must compete for a spot on the 2015 list. Four players from the 2014 roster have already decided not to play on Riot again this year due to retirement and relocation: a D-line handler, an O-line handler, a D-line cutter, and an O-line cutter. Currently, there are 22 players from the 2014 team that intend to try-out for Riot again this year and there is a USA Ultimate-imposed roster cap of 27 players. All that said, there is usually a certain amount of fluidity in the potential roles that players could fill, so the Personnel Committee always tries to keep an open mind when assessing try-outs rather than have a rigid pre-determined idea of what positions to fill. For the benefit of the team, certain cutters have become handlers, handlers have become cutters, O-line players have moved to D, D-line players have moved to O.
5. When looking at potential new Riot players at tryouts, what one aspect of a player (in addition to spirit) do you look for the most? How effective were micro-communities? What did you guys do as micro-communities? (Ellie)
Shira Stern: It is hard to pick just one player-trait that Riot values above all others when looking at a tryout pool. Defensive intensity lands high on that list. Heads-up, gritty person defense is a must-have. A single, intangible trait that Riot values most is hard to nail down, too. Riot values demonstration of a “growth-mindset”, manifested in a willingness to improve, be coached, try new things, and work with others. Through micro-community sessions and self-reflection, Riot continues to define and develop a collective “growth mindset”. Riot continues to build on that mindset by placing high value on attitudes that exemplify this hunger to develop as players and teammates.
Calise Cardenas: We also cried a lot in our micro-communities.
6. Hi, my question(s) is about micro-communities. How do you select each group? How frequently do these groups meet and does everyone provide feedback (positive/delta) to each player at each occasion? Does the person in the “hot seat” have a chance to respond at the end of their session? Are there any other team bonding activities that you do within the micro-communities? Thanks! I love the Q&A idea and the micro-communities idea. (Alison “Fish” Fischer – Vintage)
Hana Kawai: Microcommunities are just a general name for small groups on Riot. We use them for player feedback and development, but also as a space for discussion and skill-building, on topics that range from burnout, team dynamics, communication, approaches to competition, goal-setting, leadership feedback, etc.. This’ll be the fourth year of MCs on Riot, and and the player feedback “hot seat” activity you mentioned is still one of our core activities. We usually try to do this activity at least once, early season, and see it as an important place to practice giving / receiving feedback as well as provide a foundation of information for individual goal setting. This activity also makes player development more of a collaborative, supportive, and public process, which I’ve really enjoyed. The hot seat activity is designed so that each person will hear 1 minute of things they do well (pluses) and things to improve on (deltas) from each person in their small group. If you’re interested in more specifics about how we build MC sessions and structure facilitation, a lot of it is based on popular education / social change group facilitation models. This book in particular has some good frameworks for faciltating groups: http://highlandercenter.org/products-page/popular-education-and-organizing/education-for-changing-unions/
7. I just want to hear about micro-communities and community work. I don’t have a specific question but I’m very interested in hearing about anything community related in general. I guess I’m also interested in any ways to address the racial imbalance in ultimate. What are some good ways to promote ultimate in communities of color? (Jay Walker)
Hana Kawai: Because structural racism. End racism! Haha seriously though, that’s the summary of anything longer that I could possibly write here. Your question is a great one, and a very visible one when looking at the top Ultimate teams in the US right now (Riot, for example, has 5 folks of color out of a roster of 23), and reflects the sport’s institutional role within a structural system that bestows unequal power, access, opportunities, treatment, policy impacts, and outcomes to white folks, whether intentionally or not (learn more at: http://www.ywca.org/atf/cf/%7BAC4038C4-BCCA-4F24-B55C-F41063EDF6FE%7D/Definitions%20of%20Racism.pdf). SO that’s overwhelming. So what can you do? Looking at a smaller scale, Ultimate players getting educated about race, racism, privilege, and power is an important step. Having conversations about where the Ultimate community is doing a good job, and supporting and learning from folks who do that work is an important step (check out Ultimate in Seattle’s Southend, for example. We’ve got large and very successful middle and high school programs at six major public schools that primarily serve youth of color). Reflecting on questions of how race socialization shapes your expectations of what leadership looks like, of what being a good teammate looks like, of how teammates communicate with each other, of how conflict is shared and resolved…. these all tie in with the interpersonal effects of racism, and are deeply imbedded in the culture of any team. Do your anti-racist work in your own home first, with the places closest to you, because you will f*** up (as we all do, all the time). If your team is predominantly white and middle class, take a look at this article and see if any of this applies (http://stevebozzone.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Elements-of-White-Middle-Class-Dominant-Culture.pdf). Lastly, lastly, lastly, let’s talk about how racism intersects with gender, class, sexuality… all of those things impact Ultimate! Haha this post has gone on long enough, I get excited when people ask these questions.