The Dogfish held their first practice last Saturday on Treasure Island. Read on for a peek into how the team is shaping up for the season ahead.

California may be in the middle of a drought, but it’s swimming in Ultimate talent. Many of the Bay Area’s best (plus a hardy crew from Santa Barbara) gathered for the four-hour Dogfish practice on Saturday. Much like the first combine, the weather was clear and the San Francisco skyline provided a beautiful backdrop across the water as the team got down to business.

Assistant Coach Matt Ruby and General Manager Chris Sherwood greeted the players, and Ruby went over the schedule for the day. After a warm-up led by veteran Drew Kim, the team divided into offense and defense to begin drills. The day was filled with reminders about differences between club-level play and life in the MLU. The first lesson came about an hour into practice when it was time for the first scrimmage.

“No hats!” Sherwood called out. “If you normally wear them, now’s the time to get used to playing without them.”

Distracted without their familiar headgear, a few of the guys came off the field to grab a headband, which is allowed in the MLU dress code.

The morning had started largely with the sounds of seagulls overhead and construction in the distance. Now it was full of Ultimate players cheering on their “Dog” or their “Fish” line. A couple of passersby peeked through the partially covered fences and called out “Go Ultimate frisbee!”

Players were learning spacing on a regulation-sized field and to relinquish their usual stall counts and calls, while new referee Alice Barton was learning the delicate balance between seeing the play and staying out of the way.

At the first break the players were high-fiving, introducing themselves to teammates they didn’t know well and telling disc stories. Then Ruby brought everyone back together to discuss and practice the Dogfish defense that Sam Adamson summarized to a fellow player as “creating chaos to cause a turn.”

Last year’s team MVP, Evan Boucher, tested his new teammates on the field with some playful chaos of his own on offense, but by then they were coming together and rising to the challenge. Foghorns sounded periodically in response to the encroaching grey skies, but play on the field was crisper and strategy adjustments were clearer by contrast. The second break was more about sharing than telling: throwing techniques, injury comparisons, best cleats for certain conditions.

Team trainer Molica Anderson had been on hand since the start of the day, assessing aches and injuries. Eric “Ricky” Rivera, sidelined from hard play with a hamstring injury, followed Anderson’s strengthening regimen on the sideline while cheering on the team and participating in drills. James Sheridan was pulled on Anderson’s orders after straining a shoulder on a successful layout.

The energy level remained high and positive through all four hours. The players ended the day with a cheer, then cool-down concluded in a circle with what we’ll call “story time,” designed to help the players get to know each other. Afterward players split off to meet with visiting family, celebrate Ian Ranahan’s birthday or catch the second half of a coed club-level mixer tournament. The Dogfish return next week, one step closer to being the collective that gave them their name.

Two words for this season’s opponents: shark bait.

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