Vancouver Riptide Hold Successful “Dry-Out”
Photos copyright Jeff Bell
Story by Paul Wang
The Vancouver Riptide held their first annual combine on the evening of February 13th, 2016. Over 50 prospects from as far away as Victoria and Cowichan Bay gathered at Point Grey Secondary with hopes of earning their blue and green jerseys.
The positivity of the participants was certainly a contrast with the weather. After a full day of rain, the downpour transformed into a cold, misty drizzle, and the wind was restless and seemed bent on making the prospects’ lives as difficult as possible. Performing in such harsh conditions was a test all on its own.
It wasn’t long before the event was re-christened the Dry-Out.
After some light throwing, the coaching staff had the players participate in a three on three drill. The ostensible aim was to work on handler movement and short passes, but it served equally well as a warm-up for the players.
The handler scrimmage was followed by perhaps the most taxing assessment of the night. This year, instead of the traditional beep test, the coaching staff adopted a timed 300m running test. Returning star Darren Wu had only recently flown back from Taiwan, and the two-week vacation, combined with the cold rain, made his run excruciating for both himself and the spectators. On the other hand, speed demons Aidan Wiebe, Malcolm Bryson, and Brett Anderson had phenomenal runs, each coming in at sub-40 seconds.
When everyone was done, the coaching staff coordinated a butterfly drill and some boulder cuts, giving the handlers a chance to show off their deep bombs and the cutters the opportunity to display their speed and hops. Many of the recruits from Team Canada U-23 and Furious George really shone in this drill despite their freezing fingers and the frustrating cross-wind.
Returning defensive stalwart Alex Davis shared a few of his always thoughtful observations:
“We do drill stations to see skills in isolation. They put everyone on an equal footing, allowing everyone a chance to show their strengths, and they remove the opportunity to hide weaknesses. It’s the only way to guarantee equal comparisons among players. But especially on a stormy night like yesterday’s, it can surprise you how very different skill and ability can be.”
“In the scrimmages, we really saw the players’ characters revealed. In the same way that you can’t hide your skills in a drill, you can’t hide your attitude in a muddy game. A number of people showed the kind of mental potential that made us stop and reconsider how we want to build this team. We really noticed the difference between skilled players who were put off by the struggle, and rougher-hewn players who kept battling for their teams, no matter what happened.”
Later on, the players were split into four teams and played two games of five on five. The teams were a mixture of Furious George veterans, college-level players, and recent high school graduates. This contrast of ages is a theme that has become very prevalent in British Columbia’s Ultimate community, as the ambassadors of the game are becoming younger and faster.
When professional Ultimate Frisbee first came to Vancouver three years ago, the tryout rosters were very different, filled with veteran Furious George players and just a few young prodigies, but in the past few years, Vancouver has been developing a much younger coterie of up-and-comers, full of talent but a bit short on experience. The recent high school graduates had all been superstars who had dominated the junior scene, as had been the college players at their level, but now they all have to show they can still dominate as they move up a level in play. Due to this amalgam of generations, some very good players with potential might not earn a place on the Riptide this year, a great indicator that the Riptide, and British Columbia Ultimate by extension, is heading into a very promising future.
“Over the past five years BC has seen significant growth in the sport at the Junior level,” said General Manager Brian Gisel, “growth that has already produced such stars as Peter Yu, Keane Knapp, and Gagan Chatha. This year’s crop of youngsters is no exception, and I expect that the 2016 Riptide will field some players that won’t be known at the start of the year but will be AUDL stars in July.”
In the wake of the Dry-Out, the team has made some decisions. There are currently 23 players who have signed or are in the process of being signed, with another 25 on extended try-out for the few remaining roster spots.
The AUDL season is just around the corner. Watch this space for more signing announcements, and for the release of the final 2016 Vancouver Riptide roster.