The Washington D.C. Current welcomed 96 prospects, the most in the team’s history, to the NOVA Field House this past Sunday to compete for a spot on the team.
After an off-season that saw nine players sign contracts for the 2016 season, the remaining roster spots were up for grabs to all attendees of the Washington D.C. Current’s open tryouts. Many ultimate players, old and new, packed the facility, giving the coaches their first big test of the new season.
“We planned the tryout for between 40-50 [players] and on Friday we had 60 signed up,” Head Coach Will Smolinski said. “The biggest thing is not the numbers, but I think the biggest thing is how close the top 40-50 players were.”
By Sunday morning there were 92 players signed up, with a few more walk-ins to bring it up to 96.
Another first at this tryout, was it not being held at 5:00am.
In the previous three seasons, every tryout was held in the early hours of the morning. For this season’s tryout, the later start time proved to allow more players, farther away from the D.C. area to attend the event. Players ranging from Newport News, Richmond, Harrisonburg, Blacksburg, and Baltimore attended the tryout, one of the largest spheres the team has reached in its history.
With the later time, all prospects that attended appeared to be physically and mentally ready to play at a high level. This season, the range of athleticism was narrower than years past and still at a highly competitive level.
“A lot of this is because of what the Current have done the past three or four years, building a great team,”said unsigned player Gabe Webster. “I think the high level of competition in D.C. do a great job of filtering down and bringing up the talent level.”
Webster, a member of the D.C. Current’s roster last season, showed a lot of his development throughout the past months. At the tryout Webster was looking to impress the coaches yet again in order to make this year’s roster. In 2015, battling with injuries and conflicts, Webster only played in five games for a total of 29 points.
Also joining the team for tryouts was former Philadelphia Spinner, Ben Scharadin. Recently Scharadin moved down in the D.C. area after finishing his Ph.D at Penn State.
“There is definitely a high energy,” said Scharadin. “Everybody was really friendly, especially because I am from out of the area. Thats nice to have that, you don’t really get that every time. I’ve moved to Minneapolis, I’ve played out of Oregon and you don’t always get that right away.”
During the tryouts, the coaches had a limited time to narrow down the field. The coaches focused on using new drills to get players more accustomed to playing on a professional sized field as opposed to college and club.
For the most part, players had mixed feelings about the new drills, partly due to unfamiliarity. Many of the veterans though really enjoyed the new additions.
“The drills, I think, are very applicable to opening up space in the pro game”said Scharadin. “The drills could translate onto the field very well.”
In addition to being rated on their performance in the drills, the prospects were evaluated in an athletic combine and during scrimmages. Each player was allowed to see the coaches notes on them as the tryout proceeded.
This feedback system was part of the new emphasis from the coaches on player development and building the team not only for success in 2016 but for the future as well. The team’s outlook is planning for the next three seasons and doing that involved much more than the 30-man roster. Hoping to bring on extra practice and pod players as compared to years past, the organization is looking to grow the organization and D.C. ultimate.
Throughout the tryouts, Smolinski made a point to mention to the players to grow and develop as a player. At the end of the event Smolinski addressed the whole group:
“If you leave here the same person that you came in or with the same knowledge or understanding you came in with, then you shorted yourself.”
Most players were fortunate enough to accomplish that, in particular was Tim Jackson, one of the veterans that has already been signed for 2016. After his rookie season in 2015, Jackson will certainly fill a larger role with the 2016 team. This tryout was a different experience for him going in, knowing he already had a guaranteed spot.
“It definitely allowed me to play better coming into it,” Jackson said. “Not being super nervous, I was able to just relax, play carefree and just play my game.”
He was joined by a majority of the other signed players, bringing the total number of players at the tryout to 105.
Before the tryout a tenth player signed his contract to rejoin the team for the 2016 season, his deal will be announced by the team later this week. This leaves a maximum of 20 roster spots remaining, with more players expected to be signed in the next couple of days.