Friday, August 12, 2005

Team USA interview--Miranda Roth

Miranda Roth was originally selected as an alternate for Team USA in the 2005 World Games. When Kristen Unfried had to withdraw from the first team due to a knee injury requiring surgery, Miranda was selected by the team to replace her.

Miranda is a graduate of the renowned Paideia School ultimate program in Atlanta, received the Callahan Award in 2004 while playing for Carleton College and won the 2004 UPA Club Championships with Seattle Riot. In addition to coaching on the high school and college level, she volunteers for the Epilepsy Foundation Northwest and is better than Tom Rogacki at beer pong.

What was the team selection process? Were there tryouts?

We didn't have tryouts. I think the committee was watching us mostly at Club Nationals. They had mentioned that there might be tryouts, which I think there should have been, but they were never held.

What qualities did the selection committee emphasize?

I don't know about the selection committee. It was never really open info what they had judged us on. If I had to guess it would be something like spirit of the game, ability to work as part of a team, talent, athleticism and experience.

What effect did the roster limit have on who was selected?

I'm sure there were at least 30 people that could have made this team, especially considering there were 8 alternate spots. It was clear at all our practices that any of the alternates could have had a spot on the team, too. If I were to do it, I would have invited 30 people to a tryout, chosen 20 to practice together, then chosen the team and alternates later on in the process.

How was gender taken into account?

Well, there were 5 women on the team, 4 women alternates, 6 men on the team and 4 men alternates. Women did have a little bit easier time in terms of not having to play all the time, but there still weren't that many of us.

Practices--How do you bring together some of the best players from all over the country into a cohesive team?

We did a lot of scrimmaging at practices just so we could get as many reps as possible seeing where people liked to be and such. We still ended up with many awkward positioning things--like we really didn't have that many handlers or O players at all, but it worked out ok. I think playing monarch all the time helped, too.

Was team-building (as opposed to skill work) a major focus of the practice sessions?

Yeah, we definitely drank together at every opportunity. This was a huge part of team building in addition to the chalk talks, meetings and fun games we would have at practices. We also did a lot of [trash]-talking over email.

What did you learn from the Atlanta and Seattle teams you played against?

They sort of helped us get real with our playing. Chozone nearly beat us because we were playing like crap. We learned that we couldn't just walk through any game and expect to win because we were some all-star team. In Seattle, Rockeye was an easier game for us but it taught us how to play big in front of a crowd and put a game away when we had a lead.

Tournaments--How did Poultry Days and Potlatch help you all prepare for the World Games?

Poultry Days was very good in terms of team building (chicken dinners and getting drunk and nearly ending up in the lake, well one of our tents DID end up in the lake) and also respecting teams that weren't necessarily dangerous competition—lots of ambassador work. Potlatch was a good experience for lots of reasons. This team needed to lose at some point and luckily it happened at Potlatch instead of in Germany. It was a reality check that I wish hadn't had to happen, but I think it was for the best, though. Also at Potlatch we had a great game in the showcase against Canada but it was sweet to win that one.

What were the differences in the game you all played against Canada at Potlatch and the one you all played in Germany?

I think in Germany we came in with confidence and crushed whereas at Potlatch we were still unsure of ourselves and how we ranked against other national teams. We definitely were in Canada's collective head in Germany, which totally helped.

World Games--What were the strengths of the other teams?

Japan—quickness, very low throws.
Germany—spread offense.
Finland—solid women.
Canada—experience, spread offense.
Australia—height, talent, great throws, solid women.

What was Team USA's "edge" over the other invited teams?

I think the bottom of our roster was much better than the bottom of other teams rosters. And if you had taken the next 11 people from each country and had them played we would have killed everyone. Also, I think we had practiced and prepared a lot more than other teams.

What was playing with such a small roster like?

I think some individuals on our team had a very hard time with it. Some of our team is used to just playing O or D or being very specific role players. For me, it was actually fine because I had just come off the college season where I played almost every point.

What made Australia so competitive?

Their height was quite the obstacle. They had four guys as tall as Chase who could all jump. Not that our guys couldn't handle it—they did—but it was scary when you see Chase or Jeff get beat deep. They also had one very tall woman, Diana that was good and Sarah was amazing—she could run all day.

How did you all, as a team, approach their unexpected performance?

I think we were very lucky to have seen them play against Canada the first day. In this way we were able to take them seriously from the beginning and bring our best game. I think things might have been very different if we had seen them on day one.

How was playing mixed ultimate at this level different than playing women's?

It was actually a lot of fun. We did a lot of spread offense which I love and it was so great to be able to play with Chase, Zip and Bart especially. Chase, Zip and I have the Juniors ultimate disciplined cutting style and it is so easy to read off each other. Bart ("Lefty") has great throws and knows exactly how to time his throws to women. Sometimes it was a little stressful (at Poultry Days especially for some reason) to try to stay out of the way of huge guys on the other team.

Did you all find yourselves employing different strategies and tactics than in the single-sex games?

I think not many people had played spread offense before. We did that a ton and it worked really well for us. It is especially useful to set it up with a boy and a girl on each side so there can't be switches either way - seems like someone is always open. Plus we had big throwers that could throw basically whatever we cut for from the point position. We used some different plays, too, but nothing remarkable. We did a lot of transition defense that sometimes worked like a charm, but sometimes did not. It was tough to match up for gender on a transition.

What was the spirit like at this level of competition?


How did it compare to UPA Nationals or Worlds?

I think this was the most spirited tournament I’ve ever played in. Everyone was a little nervous having no referees in front of the Olympic officials, but they really weren't necessary. Really stellar spirit from everyone.

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