The Best Of Legendary Player Ben Wiggins’ Q&A On Reddit

Yesterday on the social news site Reddit, Ben Wiggins — Callahan award winner, three time National champion with Seattle Sockeye, and widely heralded coach — answered questions from users in the Ultimate subreddit. We’ve collected some of the most interesting questions and answers (block quoted) below, with links to the full comment threads. Some have been edited for length.


“How has the cutting process changed? In my day, there was something close to instant tenure for a player making a team because it was so ugly and hurtful to cut someone who was already on the team. The player wouldn’t necessarily get to play a lot and would sometimes self-cut, but he’d be on the team if he wanted to be. Even when leadership would say, ‘No one is on the team, everyone has to earn their (sic) spot”, that wasn’t really the case. So how did you guys deal with turning the corner there?” – Parinella

[quote]At the top levels, commitment to the point of seemingly near-insanity is a big part of club teams. 3-4 practices per week, plus workouts, plus huge mind-enveloping tournaments? You better be committed.

For this reason, I think real tryouts are a necessity. That is your yearly test. If a teammate isn’t willing to really do the work not just to get to last year’s Spring standards but really truly try to come to camp ready to be better than last year then they are unlikely to really commit later in the year. How many half-committing players does it take to really drag a team down. 3? 4?

That said, returning players are a better investment than a new rookie. New rookies are shiny and have seemingly limitless potential…but you don’t know all of their weak points yet.

If it is me in charge, I want for-real tryouts. Returners that can’t do the work are telling everyone that they don’t really want to be in it to win it this year. That doesn’t mean they can’t take a year off. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be buddies. But real tryouts are a crucible that an elite team can use to strengthen together.[/quote]


“Hypothetically, do you think a combined team of the 2 previous Nexgen teams would win the USAU Championship, beating every team when they were at full strength and had nothing to lose?” – EffThisImOut

[quote]How much practice time do they get? With an entire 3 season preparation arc…yes, absolutely. There is definitely the talent on those teams to win it without having all of the practice that normal club teams do. We are talking about a group of all plus athletes and all plus minds for the game.

But each team needs a culture, too. And that would take more than a season to develop. They would be in it to win it each of the first two years. But in the game today, not even this squad could guarantee winning each and every game at the big show. Within 3 years, though, I would think that they would be a strong bet to win at least one.[/quote]


“A few years ago in the Irish Ultimate Newsletter, you said you thought John Hassell was probably the best player in the game at the time. Two followup questions: Firstly, how do you feel the loss of John Hassell will impact GOAT and Ultimate in Canada? Secondly, who do you feel is currently top of the game – feel free to split into Offence, Defence or however you choose but for the headlines, I’d like a name” – Huggernaut

Lots more context in the link, but here are Wiggins’ picks:

[quote]Coming into 2004: Mike Grant

After 2004: Chase Sparling-Beckley

2005: Jeff Cruickshank

Early 2006: Kevin Cissna, until he broke his hand. Late 2006: Sam Chatterton-Kirchmeier

2007: Defensively, Seth Wiggins. Offensively, Jeff Graham

2008: John Hassell

2009: Dylan Tunnell

2010: Beau Kittredge

2011: Robbie Cahill[/quote]


“Do you think the AUDL was a good step for the sport of Ultimate? What do you make of the controversy with Rhode Island and Connecticut?” – Jamigl

[quote]Here’s my take on AUDL: I love almost all of it.

When I think about the time I put into this sport, I want to look back and be able to say that I played a small part in the big fights going on. This isn’t ‘Sockeye v Furious’, and it isn’t even ‘Ultimate v Rugby’. I mean ‘humans vs disrespect’ and ‘bodies v obesity’. I think that for both of those big fights, the use of referees is not a good thing.

Ultimate is unique in this whole self-ref thing, even with Observers (which I love). The respect that this can give two people for each other, even if they are predisposed to hate each other, is special…and we as experienced players sometimes take that miracle for granted. It is something we can give the world. And the AUDL is giving it up.

Also, the costs of refs cannot be denied. One of the big advantages that youth ultimate has on youth other sports is low cost. Self-reffing is a step in the wrong direction. This won’t matter for sportscenter highlights, but it REALLY matters in South Seattle where good people are spreading a good game against tough odds and a tough environment.

I love what people are trying to do with the AUDL. I think they could do it with Observers. I think players really want to create a great game for the fans. I think player-refs do the same quality of job as all but the absolute best handful of referees in most sports, and we could do it without changing the nature of the game and keeping all the extrinsic good stuff.

So, I am hugely pro-AUDL. I was asked to coach/play on a team [and asked to keep it quiet, so I won’t be saying which one] and I told them I would do it in a heartbeat if they used Observers and not refs. I told them Ultimate has, among other great things, this amazing and unique part that is good for all sorts of reasons…if you were an investment banker, would you ask a company to throw away a unique and proven aspect of their product just to be more similar to other products on the market? Does that sound crazy?

Love the AUDL. We don’t need the refs, but the people/organization/ideas/presentation are where we need to go.[/quote]


“A lot of players on this discussion board come from places where the opportunities to play ultimate are few and far between. What skills can we improve without playing the game? How can someone who doesn’t play a lot of ultimate become a good frisbee player?” – Aix

[quote]Bucket of discs. There is absolutely no excuse for practicing throws. I learned to throw on my own on a field at Crescent Valley HS. If you can get some discs, you can improve your throws.

After that, athleticism…sure.

After those things…this is where it gets tough. At it’s heart, Ultimate is a game theory enterprise. They do this, you choose this…and for that, you need to be playing against people. Do you need to play against the best people? No. But it helps. At some point, playing some other sport at full power would be better than just waiting for an Ultimate game.[/quote]


“What is the #1 mistake you see on the ultimate field?” – kejadien

[quote]Failing to see what is happening at the point of attack. Offensively, this means not knowing the mark, or not knowing what the mark is giving up. I get all flustered when a thrower with a great [high release] backhand has a short mark shading flicks and a big I/O lane…and the cutter starts working super hard to go live side. Just take the easy one! Against top D, there might not be another easy one coming.

Defensively, this means spending too much time looking at the cutter and not adjusting to the field. I think we chase the mano-a-mano single coverage layout block like it is the only way to force a turnover. In reality, good teams rarely ever give up this block without some other kind of pressure previously applied. Get your head up, and see those other cutters! We are a better D working as 7v7.[/quote]


“Athleticism is a huge part of the game now, and Tim Morrill is training elite club teams around the country. How much of an advantage do you think this kind of training is? Are teams better served by addressing their strategic failings than by ramping up the physical training?” – smntstatus

[quote]I think many teams out there really don’t know what to do, strategy-wise. So they focus on athleticism as something that is harder to screw up. I think players much more often improve because of the way that they play, and not their athleticism…I think more coaching will help.

That said, if you already have good people thinking up good strategy for you then you should be maximizing your fitness on your own.

There is a perfect workout for Ultimate, you know. It is: “Do whatever you need to do so that you are convinced that you are in the best shape possible.”

If you think you need Tim Morrill for this, and you don’t get him, then you will look across the field when it matters and know you don’t have everything that you could.

If you think that you get there by running an entire stadium every day, then doing anything else is silly.

Whatever it takes you to convince yourself that you are ready, do that and don’t settle for anything less.[/quote]


“Do you have anything to say about the infamous Canada vs. Japan game from WUGC? – Aix

[quote]Unfortunately, the things we saw in that game are not new to some members of TC.

Unfortunately, that team has (in my honest but far-from-omniscient opinion) a history of not self-correcting or policing their own teammates.

Fortunately, that team has a history of being uniquely different from the vast majority of elite clubs in North America.

I ran NW regionals for many years. In that time, there was literally a single time that any team requested observers for any team beside Furious. One year, every single team requested them for Furious, and most years it was most of the top teams that thought they might play them.

There are some really, truly great people on that team and I think they want to change.[/quote]


“Ben, at the highest level, where we can assume that fitness, athleticism, and disc skills are held equal – what separates winners and losers?” – pffcomeonjack

[quote]My order, based on what I have seen: 1) Individual fundamentals. No question!

somewhere far after that Tied for #2) Team Strategy and Fitness 4) Video 5) Roster creation[/quote]


“What do you think are the biggest changes in ultimate strategy since you’ve started playing? Where do you see this heading in the future?” – kejadlen

[quote]More small ball. It started with lefties and dishies around 2000. Now everyone is using some small-ball offense instead of simply spreading out and asking everyone to throw 20 yards at a time. More interesting to watch, better in the wind, and it attracts more new players. Quick-quick-quick-bomb![/quote]


“What are your thoughts and feelings about Brodie Smith?” – ZeebraRIot

[quote]LOVE Brodie, and what he is trying to do.He is a big kid in some ways, which makes him exciting to watch and root for. And his love for the game is palpable. You can tell he is doing the work, and not just using natural talent. His throws are honed and his mindset is practiced. Would have loved to play with him, 100%.

Not everything he says or does is going to be what I would say or do…but he is definitely good for the sport. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that one of the best few players in the game would be making himself available to fans and answering comments and making videos I would have said that was a pipe dream.

I think he will figure out, as he gets more experience, how to get the most out of his teammates and how to make sure that he shows respect to other teams and players (which is crazy hard when you are one of the best like he is).

Summing it up: The dude screams in excitement on almost every one of his goal throws. How can you possibly dislike a player that is that passionate about the game? If you get close to one of those, you will see it is real. It’s note for show. Very few people in this world love Ultimate more than BS21. Much respect.[/quote]


“How do you feel about the current state ultimate is in nationally growth wise? Do you feel as if the ESPN exposure with the stereotypical ultimate notions are helping our reputation as a sport or hurting it?” – Piggy-

[quote]5 years ago, you tell me that we are on ESPN 5 times in 6 months…I would have taken it even if it was late night and only showing it as a joke.

We’re getting highlights on the Top 10. I don’t care if they call us enemies of the state or Klingons.[/quote]

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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