The Quiet Case For Lien Hoffmann For Callahan

Northwestern's Lien Hoffman makes the grab.Lien Hoffmann doesn’t have a highlight video. She hasn’t been interviewed, and she doesn’t have the buzz that other Callahan candidates have gathered.

But if you approach any sideline of a Midwestern women’s college tournament, you’ll hear her name. If you ask who teams consider the most formidable player, on offense or defense, you’ll hear her name. Next ask about her humility. Ask about her sportsmanship, her composure, or her quiet dominance on the field.

“I can tell that she encompasses all that Ultimate entails through her passion for the sport and her spirited play towards every opponent,” said Jackie Lai, a senior at Purdue. Jody Kissane, a University of Illinois alum, said, “Anyone who has played with or against her could write pages about how amazing she is at Ultimate, but the real wonder about Lien is more than that. She has the skills and raw athleticism that girls work for their whole lives, with the heart and character only described in books.”

Lien Hoffmann doesn’t have a flashy video or a Callahan campaign because she asked us not to make one: she doesn’t need, or want, the national recognition that accompanies the nominated players who gather hype and Youtube views, and thus her name won’t be familiar to many readers. But her refusal to promote herself has prompted some of her teammates, opponents, and admirers to step up. That’s because Lien embodies the Callahan Award in everything she does. It’s bcause Lien is more than just a baller ultimate player, frustrating to play against and a savior to play with. She’s got a heart that’s bigger than any Ultimate player out there. And we think that everyone ought to know. 

Hailing from Colorado, she is a Mechanical Engineering Master’s student who has played for Lakewood High School, Northwestern’s Gungho, and Chicago’s Nemesis. Like many of the sport’s top athletes, she ably alternates between handling and cutting, although she is undoubtedly most dangerous in the deep space. Last year she tore her ACL, but in spite of this setback, she has nevertheless been an unstoppable force in her final year.

@Washington University WUWU alum, 2012 Top 10 Callahan nominee, and U23 Worlds player Kami Groom writes of Lien:

[quote]Honestly, I have always hated Lien Hoffmann. I hate the way she constantly makes me look like a fool on the field. I hate the way she skies me for the score and doesn’t even have the decency to spike it. I hate the way she always acts with class and composure in the midst of heated competition. I hate that I spent years imagining that underneath her humble demeanor was some disgusting flaw that rendered her human only to find that, no, she is, in fact, just what she seems. In short, I hate that I am not the player and person that she is. There are a lot of people in the world; there are a lot of people who play ultimate; there are not a lot of people like Lien Hoffmann. In fact, I’m not so sure I’ve met her rival.[/quote]

Michelle Ng remembers her first memory of Lien at 2010 Club Nationals, when “Lien almost single-handedly beat my team in pre-quarters, matching up and neutralizing a former Callahan Award winner and two-time member of Team USA.” As the tournament director of Without Limits, Ng has seen GungHo and hundreds of other college players play at many of her tournaments, year after year:

[quote]But what is different about Lien is her relentless positivity and her humility. Liên, at her worst, is the kind of person I strive to be– she models all of the leadership traits I aspire to have as well as instill in the college players I work with. While she may be one of the most soft-spoken leaders in college women’s ultimate, the way she carries herself on and off the field, and in all of her interactions with her teammates and opponents, says all that needs to be said about her.[/quote]

GungHo Coach and Nemesis teammate Laura Moore calls Lien “one of the most gifted natural athletes” that “would make her a force to be reckoned with even if she didn’t have any frisbee specific skills.” She continued:

[quote]However, what really sets Lien apart from other frisbee players is her ability to exert her will on a game. Even when a team adjusts to double or triple team her in the deep space, she still manages to come down with the disc. Somehow she manages to do all this while being completely unassuming. She is never cocky or conceited, only quietly confident while she sneaks up on you to steal the disc.[/quote]

This article shouldn’t be seen as our cop-out campaign for Lien. She doesn’t care about the fame and glory that comes with the Callahan Award. It can instead be read as a love letter from her team, a tribute from her region, and a reminder that magnificent talent can thrive alongside spirited play. Whenever she plays, Lien herself is a reminder to her teammates and her opponents of what truly great Ultimate looks like.

  1. Katie Raynolds
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    Katie Raynolds took a break from Seattle ultimate to test out the Midwestern scene, but now she's back in the Northwest to investigate this "bubble" she keeps hearing about. She played for Northwestern Gungho, two seasons with Chicago Nemesis, and now plays for Seattle Underground. Katie serves as Ultiworld's Women's D1 College Editor, and is damn proud to cover women's ultimate. You can reach her by email (katie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@kraynolds90).

  2. Carol Li
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    Carol Li is a captain of Northwestern.

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