The Winner of the Phillis Award 2015 is:
Below you can find a report from Torben about his trip:
My Phillis Award Trip – by Torben Hörnschemeyer (translation by Glenn Poole)
My trip to the United States under the auspices of the Phillis Award began on July 8th, 2015 at the Münster/Osnabrück airport. From there it was a short flight to Frankfurt Airport and from there on to Boston. After eight hours of flying I landed just before 8pm local time at Logan International Airport, where Inside Rakete player Christoph Köble was already waiting for me.
Christoph was doing an internship at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning in Boston and had already offered to drive me to my host family in Amherst. The drive took around 90 minutes, so we arrived at my host family’s around 10pm. The family consisted of the parents Benjamin and Julia, their 17-year old son Solomon, and their two daughters–Talia, 19, and Noe, 12, as well as their puppy Windsor. Josh McCarthy, the coach of Boston Ironside, had found the host family for me. Josh is friends with Stefan Rekitt, coach of the German national open team, and had also helped in the past to organize host family accommodations for the Phillis Award winner.
The Host Family
Thursday morning I used to go ahead and really get to know my host family. I knew ahead of time from Stefan Rekitt that Benjamin and Julia both spoke German, but it was still pretty surprising to me to hear that Benjamin worked at the University of Massachusetts as a linguistics professor for both the German and Italian language departments, and that he spoke (nearly) perfect German. What was even more surprising was that Julia’s father Dietrich had emigrated to the United States from Ohrbeck, a small town about nine miles from my own hometown Osnabrück. To get to his former home from Osnabrück would have taken me at most 20 minutes! Since none of us had known about this coincidence ahead of time, of course, we were all really surprised. Julia spontaneously decided we’d drive to visit her parents at their small beach house on the eastern shore of Rhode Island. So, early that afternoon things were already moving on–this time toward the ocean. Once we got there I got to know Julia’s sister and her daughter, who had also spontaneously driven to Rhode Island from Vermont, and of course Dietric and his wife. With temperatures around 95° we spent most of the time on the beach, which was just 300yd from the house. Altogether we stayed in the small beach house from Thursday night to Saturday morning, then drove back to Amherst where the National Ultimate Training Camp (NUTC) started on Saturday night.
The National Ultimate Training Camp
Once I got to Amherst I tried to quickly gather all the things that I would need for the next five days at camp. Then it was already time for registration, where I was basically greeted by all the counselors and by camp founder Tiina Booth as an „honored guest“ from Germany. After a brief orientation talk with Tiina I brought all my stuff to my room, where I met my roommate Mason. Mason was kind of a camp veteran and there at NUTC for the fifth time. That meant he could help me over the next few days whenever there was something I didn’t quite understand during the course of things. Since the accommodations were organized by age, I was on the top floor with the other twelve oldest players, where I was still the oldest participant by far. Each floor also had two counselors with their own rooms. For us that was Anthony Nuñez, head coach of the MLU’s New York Rumble, and Miles Montgomery-Butler, a player on Boston Ironside and the Boston Whitecaps (also an MLU team). On Saturday night we played around two hours of pick up in motley, thrown-together teams so the other kids and counselors could get to know each other before things really got going on Sunday.
On Sunday it was all about fundamentals, mostly so counselors could get an idea about all the players. In the morning throws were the first thing drilled and tested, then vertical stack was explained. In the afternoon basic cutting techniques and handler movement were discussed, so by the end we had checked off all the basics for the offense. For me the intrinsically easy vertical stack was actually really irritating, and probably my biggest „problem“ at camp. As a player from Germany I was used to playing a center stack with the dump 45° behind the thrower on the open side. At NUTC though the standard vert-stack was pushed over to the break side, with the dump also positioned on the break side and always even with the thrower. The whole thing made sense as cutters had a bunch of free space to make cuts on the open side, similar to a side stack, in order to put defenders in a one-on-one duel. That also eases some of the pressure on handlers to have to make a break side throw. The coaches call this kind of offense „cutter-driven“, as opposed to the „handler-driven“ version of offense I know from Germany. Here there isn’t THE ONE handler who always distributes the disc, and there also isn’t just THE ONE cutter who gets every pass. After throwing a pass, every handler basically becomes a cutter in the stack, and every cutter that catches a pass turns back into a handler. That way youth players in the United States aren’t fixed into a particular role, so they always have to do both things: get free as a cutter and then be able to distribute the disc as a handler. It took me a little time to understand this system, since I had never played this version of offense before and those little differences make for big changes in the flow of the game.
That evening we had Team Night, where the six teams for the next four days of camp were announced. My team’s two coaches were Sophie, who had just won the American club championship with Boston Brute Squad, and Zach, who plays on the MLU’s Washington DC Current. For the rest of the evening we played little team games, like mental Battleship or the rock-paper-scissors tournament, to compete against each other and win the right to first pick of jersey color. Since we unfortunately came in last place, we were given the very last remaining color: gold.
On Monday we mostly practiced with our teams in order to optimally prepared for the big NUTC tournament, which would be played at the end of cam. For us, split stack offense was on the program. Our coaches Zach and Sophie didn’t want to play that offense in the tournament, but the split stack tactics were supposed to help us to communicate better and coordinate the timing of our cuts better. Therefore we did multiple drills and tested ourselves after about an hour the things we had just learned in a small game to five against another team.
Later on there was the big Campers versus Counselors game, during which we played in small self-organized teams two points at a time against the counselor all-star team. In the end the score was unfortunately 19-5 in a relatively definitive result for the counselors, but we all had a bunch of fun and every so often one or another college star got schooled by one of our players.
Tuesday was „Pink Tuesday“ and everyone had crazy pink outfits on. Tactically it was all about the defense, after spending Sunday and Monday rehearsing foundational and team-specific offensive strategies. First all the teams did the same person-defense drills, then each team did its own defensive tactics, which for us was a kind of junk defense.
That afternoon we had our first tournament game, against the red team. Although during the game for the first time (and not the last time) a storm came through with severe rain, we were able to win the game 9-7 before the rest of the day was cancelled due to the terrible weather. Unfortunately my cell phone and digital camera also fell victim to that same terrible weather, so unfortunately I have hardly any photos from the United States. That evening in the dorms we had Trading Night, where lots of professionals and other players from Boston offered their uniforms for trading and for sale.
Wednesday was all about the NUTC tournament. The grass fields were unplayable after the rain on Tuesday, so we were crammed in to two turf fields. In four games against the rest of the teams, our gold team was able to show that we had already become a really good team and that Sophie and Zach were able to accomplish a lot with their tactics. The most important aspect for us during the tournament, though, was „mental toughness“, which Sophie and Zach had made a theme with us. On team night we had set some internal rules for our team, for example that we would never talk about the rules during a game. That helped create a really positive atmosphere in our team and, when things weren’t going well for us, we built each other up and found our way back to our best performance. In my opinion that was our biggest advantage over the other teams, since we were able to win all four games by close margins after trailing by at least two points at the start of every single game. That was also one of the best and most surprising experiences for me during camp, since I had never really realized how big a role mental toughness plays in ultimate. As the only undefeated team after five pool play games, we qualified along with the red team for a direct spot in the semifinals on Thursday, whereas the other four teams had to play a quarterfinal matchup.
Thursday, which was unfortunately the last day of camp, was for us about the Camp Championship. In our semifinal against the purple team, just like in previous games, we weren’t able to show our game and we were behind by two points at halftime. After half we were quickly able to find our form again and took ourselves to the finals with four straight breaks. Then we were again up against the red team. This time we didn’t sleep through the start of the game, and we were able to take the first lead 2-0 and keep that lead through to just before halftime. With all the other campers and counselors on the sidelines, though, the red team was able to mount a comeback and tie things up at 6-6. Luckily we were able to salvage things on our next offensive point and take half. With another confident offensive point after half, we were able to reclaim our two point lead from before, at which point the game got capped. Although with a score of 10-8 we would have played a game to 11, we actually won the final (and the NUTC Tournament) as the read team scored to make it 10-9, since the game had already taken too long and we had to start the award ceremony, which took place after the finals right by the dorms. Golden NUTC discs were given out as prizes for multiple individual accomplishments, and I got one for being the „most complete“ camper and another for winning the tournament. Just before departure I also had another opportunity to talk with Tiina Booth, who unfortunately hadn’t had any time in the previous few days. What also made the goodbye a bit nicer was the invitation from Tiina to be a counselor for two weeks next year, which I will absolutely take her up on!
Then it was unfortunately already time to say goodbye to all the many people that I had gotten to know over the previous five days of camp. I found a number of new friends through camp and had an unbelievably good time at NUTC, and though it was a short time I will never forget it!
The Free Days After Camp
On Friday I finally met Solomon, my host family’s son, who hadn’t been around because he had to be at math camp while I was staying with the host family before NUTC. We played tennis and baskteball together with a few of his friends on Friday and Saturday, and also went swimming a few times. On top of that I was able to play a few games of BUDA (Boston Area Disc Alliance) summer league, and got to see many of the campers and counselors from NUTC who lived in Amherst.
Since I had to go back to Germany on Tuesday evening already, but also wanted to see some of Boston, Josh (the coach of Boston Ironside) put me back in touch with my former floor conuselor, Miles. I spent the last few days of my trip in the USA with him. It was perfect, since we already knew each other from camp and, as a middle school teacher, he was already off for summer break. So, my host mother Julia brought me on Sunday to Somerville, a small town outside Boston, where Miles picked me up. Miles lives in a 4-person shared apartment with Ironside captain Alex Simmons and their two friends Emily and Becca from around Boston. Since all four had been invited to a wedding on Sunday evening, Miles dropped me off at the apartment with the house key, a Charlie Card, and the words „do whatever you feel like.“ I spent the rest of Sunday wandering around Boston, just to get a sense of the city, and later that evening took Miles‘ two dogs for a walk. The next day, iles drove me around Boston a bit. In the morning he showed me various landmarks, like the Boston harbor and the site of the Boston massacre, ten we ate lunch on the roof of the biggest building in the city, which gives you a breathtaking view of the city looking out on the water. After lunch we went to the Boston Aquarium together before heading back home. Back in the apartment we were mostly occupied playing The Settlers of Catan, Miles and Alex’s absolute favorite game, which turned into a real battle between us.
On Tuesday, my last day in the United States, I got to have one of the other highlights of the trip: a training session with Christoph Köble at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, one of the best training centers in the world. As I mentioned before, Cristoph was doing an internship with Mike Boyle and had set up a special time to take Miles, Alex, Emily, and me through one of his training sessions. We started with an extensive warmup, with foam rolling and various dynamic exercises, in order to get the circulation going. Already after 15 minutes we were drenched in sweat, since it felt like it was over a hundred degrees in the training center. Next we went outside to do some agility work, practice one-legged jumps and torture ourselves with the medicine balls. Afterwards we did a strength workout, which combined both pushing exercises and posterior chain exercises. After another 15 minutes of sled pushes, we finished the training session off with a brutal one mile race on the Assault bike and intervals on the slideboards. Then it was already time to say goodbye, since my flight back to Germany was scheduled for that evening. After the training session my legs were so shaky that I felt lucky to have made it to the airport and onto the plane.
My summary of NUTC and the trip to the United States is without exception positive: I had an unbelievably kind host family, which coincidentally came from Osnabrück and definitely wants to come visit Germany next year. They made it possible for the start of my trip to be the perfect introduction. At NUTC, which is for all youth ages 14 to 18 and is primarily about the fundamentals in Frisbee, I was the oldest camper by far and didn’t learn so much new as a player, but was therefore able to learn very much more from a coaching perspective. I had the chance to chat with some of the best players and coaches that the United States has to offer, who gave me tips and listened to all the questions that I had always wanted to ask. I hope that I can pass on this experience next year with the U17 national open team so even more people can benefit from it. I recommend that you all apply for the Phillis Award in the coming year! Whether you’re 14 od 18 years old, boy or girl, whether you’ve been playing for seven years or for just two years: send in your application! Even the mere chance to have this unbelievable experience is worth it, every time.
To conclude, I’d like to thank all of the people who made this experience possible: my host family in Amherst, which took me in so caringly; all of the counselors and other campers; Miles and his housemates; and Josh McCarthy, the coach of Boston Ironside, who set up and organized all the local contacts for me. I’d also like to thank Tiina Booth for bringing such a great event for youth to life in NUTC. I’d especially like to thank Stefan Rekitt, Sonja Timmermann, and all the others who are a part of the Phillis Award and made it possible for Johannes, Meg, and me, and hopefully so many more youth, to have such a singular experience.