Ultimate players know it’s never easy to give your all and not make the team. The process is no less agonizing for the coaches. After two intensive combines and a selection day last Saturday, the Dogfish roster has been chosen. Although Coach Justin Safdie is forging the direction of the players on the field, he relied on his own team to help him make some tough decisions.

The tryout process began with a field of more than 70 candidates. The combines provided hard data as well as insight into player personalities. The pool was then pared down to 30. On Saturday, March 9, those hopefuls were given a final chance to impress Coach Safdie and the rest of the Dogfish staff. During the single-field scrimmage, Safdie studied how players worked together on the field, as well as their demeanor and participation on the sidelines.

The decision was “extremely difficult,” said Safdie. “I got input from the assistant coaches and Rusty [Operations Manager], then I had a call with Woody [General Manager] to discuss how to nail down those last spots. We really wanted to focus on what was going to make the difference in the long run.”

What they decided would make a difference was not necessarily filling the roster with the top players they saw. “We definitely chose a lot of the best players, but we also chose players who will grow over the course of the season, who will raise the level of play at practice, and can step in at game time when we need them.”

On Sunday, Safdie and his staff will attend a referee clinic to learn first-hand how the refs are being trained. The clinic will include scrimmaging so everyone involved can see how the MLU structure plays out on the field. The expanded size of the field is one factor that “makes a significant difference,” he said.

During Saturday’s selection day, the players were gradually introduced to some of the rule changes and the wider field to see how they adjusted. This played a role in the decision-making process and helped inform Safdie’s own ideas about planning for the season ahead.

“Things can open up quickly, and turnovers will probably be more difficult to come by. I’ll have to think about all of these factors when I’m designing the O and D.”

It’s not yet time to hang up thoughts of tryouts till next year, however. The current roster size is 23 players; the MLU allows 25. Once the college season ends this spring, Safdie will hold tryouts for those players, hoping to add a couple to the Dogfish roster for this year.

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