The Dogfish ended their first season as the Western Conference champs, but the MLU title eluded them. What can they do to change things next season?
Capitalize on Connections
The Dogfish worked well collectively in their first season. As individuals they were used to tough play, and each player threw his skills into the pot to see how they could combine and create a highly competitive force. When their offense was on point, it was inspiring to see the disc handled so masterfully.
Within a team of strong players, however, there were some pairings that turned out big plays multiple times throughout the season: Evan Boucher and Drew Kim, Evan Boucher and Eric Greenwood, Ashlin Joye and Beau Kittredge, and Ashlin Joye and Nic Schlag.
The Dogfish coaching staff need to look at the chemistry, timing and trust these players exhibited in 2013 as part of the strategy for 2014.
Foster More Fish Faithful
The Dogfish started the season with an impressive 1,300 people filling the stands for their first game. Although numbers never approached that height again over the course of the season, the mix of Ultimate players and disc newbies in the first game is something the Dogfish want to reclaim for 2014.
Dogfish General Manager Chris Sherwood was happy with this past season overall: he ran into Ultimate acquaintances and friends he hadn’t seen for some time at Dogfish games, was impressed by fans who began to build a community of their own, and received positive feedback on the clinic the team held for local youth.
Yet it’s in these same three areas where he thinks the team can improve next year. “One of our core principles is to promote the sport of Ultimate,” says Sherwood. “We have plans to run many more clinics and make the game more social in order to fully engage our loyal fans. We are also going to work hard to promote the sport to people less familiar with the game of Ultimate and get them excited about the game we all love.”
Ramp It up on the Road
The Dogfish fans were such a source of strength at home games that the players seemed to falter a bit when they didn’t have that foundation helping them out in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and Boston.
Dogfish Head Coach Justin Safdie says, “I want to play better on the road in general. We struggled in all of our road games, and that carried over into the championship as well.”
Not surprising to sports diehards, the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology notes studies showing a connection between a team’s overall success and the support of its fans. Fans, staff and players form a “collective group identity” that affects esteem and performance.
Tapping into and sustaining the energy and confidence that their fans convey to the players will be important in keeping the Dogfish more steady in their away games.
Structure Their Strategy
Many people didn’t think they would see the day Ultimate would draw national attention outside of cable sports networks. Yet the momentum has been building, and perhaps as a sign of things to come, the October 7 issue of Time magazine featured an article on the evolution of Ultimate to its new, pro presence.
Sherwood says of the first MLU season, “It was great to see Ultimate presented like a mainstream sport — in a stadium, in a place readily accessible to people, with some of the hoopla and pageantry that the public expects from a pro sport.”
It was that aspect that made the first season so memorable and so eye-opening for those involved, who were used to playing Ultimate at a high level, but not used to utilizing resources to consistently break Ultimate down into its components like in other sports.
“I would have structured my coaching staff better in order to both prepare and review content better,” says Safdie, reflecting on this past season. “Having offensive and defensive coordinators will be key to our success moving forward.”
As the Dogfish players wrap up their club tournaments for the fall and prepare to fully enter the off season, they have a lot to think about — and look forward to— when preparations get underway for MLU season two.