There are a number of outstanding candidates for the Callahan Award this year, and I have many, many positive things to say about Lien, Reebs, Diddy, Claudia, Annie, Thud, Michela, Bailey, and others. They are all great players deserving of their nominations and the many votes they are certain to get. I could write pages and pages about these ladies and all of the amazing things I have seen them do on and off the field-- I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gotten to know each of them over the past few seasons.
I wanted to write some thoughts about three players on this year's list of Callahan nominees whom I have gotten to know in a special capacity-- one as a collaborator and two as teammates. My intention is not to endorse players because I think there many outstanding candidates, many of whom I simply don't know as well. Instead, I want to express my gratitude to these three players for the positive impact they have had on my ultimate experience.
Kayla Ramirez (Texas)
I still remember the first time I saw Kayla play in Fall 2010. I was helping at Texas tryouts and my job was to throw floaty hucks to rookies in a drill. Kayla had absolutely no idea how to read the disc, but she was so fast and athletic that she could run in circles around the disc (and other players) and somehow still come down with the frisbee. It was a no brainer to put her on the team and it was pretty evident to all of us that she was going to be a special player. It has been a privilege to watch Kayla develop as a player and leader over the past three seasons. One of her Showdown teammates called her the best short deep she has ever played with. Not many players can be a contributing player on a semifinals level club team after only 2 seasons of college experience.
Off the field, Kayla's contributions to Centex have encouraged me greatly-- she has a "whatever needs to be done" attitude and leads the team by example with her commitment to running a quality event for the entire college women's ultimate community. I am sad that I have never had the opportunity to play with Kayla, but grateful for the fact that it feels like we've been teammates. She has been an outstanding collaborator, and I am thrilled to see her as Melee's Callahan nominee this year.
Amanda Good (Colorado)
Amanda is one of two current college players with whom I have been teammates, and I am thankful for the year I spent playing with Amanda. Our friendship began when Amanda gifted me a dead bird (she's done so twice), and there is no other college player who keeps me on my toes as much as Amanda does. When she's not making me freak out about dead animals, Amanda is a great friend. She took me under her wing in Colorado and went out of her way to make me feel at home with the team.
Amanda's highlight reel playmaking ability makes her a fun person to play with, but one of the things I appreciate most about Amanda is her enthusiasm for life. "What a dream!" is Amanda's standard reaction to most things that happen, and that is because of the way she approaches life-- she makes her dreams a reality. I've spent hours watching ultimate footage with Amanda and discussing strategy with her, and her love for the game far exceeds obsession. That's what makes her a great player and person. Her whole heart is in it.
Claire Chastain (UNCW)
Claire is the other current college player with whom I have been teammates, and our trajectory to friendship has been unlikely. In Fall 2010, Claire reached out to ask me to help with Easterns. I politely declined, but got talked into Skyping with Claire to hear her out. The conversation was brutally honest and I told Claire my reservations about working with Wilmington, a team who was not known as a spirited team at the time. Claire respectfully listened to what I had to say and asked me to give them a chance.
At first, I was discouraged by my relationship with Wilmington-- Claire would "joke" about unspirited behavior and I feared that I was wasting my time with them. At QCTU that spring, Claire got a layout D on someone and the player called a foul. (In my opinion, it could have gone either way.) Claire's first reaction was a look that said "no way." Then she picked herself up off the ground slowly, looked over to the sideline and looked me in the eye, turned back, and said, "no contest." My respect for Claire has only increased since that moment. I persuaded Wilmington to get a team Twitter, implored them to build relationships with other teams, and pushed the team to pay their debts and take care of administrative tasks. I asked a lot of Claire, and she far exceeded my expectations at every turn.
During the 2011 club season, my team was playing Phoenix at Labor Day and I had the unfortunate task of trying to guard Claire. That was one of my favorite games that season because as an opponent, Claire is one of those players who makes you play your best game-- there isn't a moment to relax or focus on anything else but the battle at hand. Six months later, when I was deciding where to move, I chose North Carolina. Claire was one of several people I knew I wanted to be teammates with. As a teammate, Claire is beyond impressive. She was a rock on our O line and her vision of the field and knowledge of the game are far beyond what I have seen from even the best college players. Getting to play with her last season allowed me to fully appreciate how much she has matured. I saw top level club players playing physical defense on her and trying to push her buttons. Not once did I see Claire so much as react to these players. Claire played fairly and with great spirit, and dominated nearly every single one of her matchups.
Though I am years older than Claire, she is someone I have consulted for ultimate and life advice on numerous occasions. In many ways, she's the reckless little sister I never had, but when it counts, she's a loyal, smart, and thoughtful teammate, friend, and person.
Best of luck to all of the candidates, and congratulations on being nominated by your teammates for an award that recognizes players "who combine superior athleticism with outstanding sportsmanship, leadership and dedication to the sport of ultimate." The nomination itself is a huge honor. Thank you for representing our sport so well.