Callahan and Donovan Videos: Assessing the 2019 Class

We look at the best videos and some other ones that drew our interest.

UNC's Matt Gouchoe-Hanas with his teammates after winning the Callahan.
UNC’s Matt Gouchoe-Hanas with his teammates after winning the Callahan. Photo: Daniel Thai —

Callahan and Donovan season: one of the most highly anticipated times of the year for college ultimate. It brings sweeping innovations, as well as horrendous and weird disappointments. Some teams pay big bucks and invest in the highest quality product possible with the hopes of sending their beloved nominee to the finalist’s podium. Others let a procrastinating sophomore screw around with the footage they randomly took at two games and a practice and slap something together with the default transition effects of Windows Movie Maker.

All in all, it’s an exciting time. So exciting that we clicked and clicked and clicked until we had watch every single video. From the heart of Seattle to South Florida, from superstar finalists to little known but much-loved seniors to those with a stall nine nutmeg’s chance of earning some votes with weird trolling; we watched them all. And our subscribers can get our thoughts on every video at the end of this article.

We were hungry for something new. 2018 was a down year for videos, following a three year golden age of hype reels. We were seeing things we’d never seen before as footage was becoming more and more accessible. 2019 has started to pull us out of that rut. There are some fresh ideas coming out, videos are more concise than they used to be, and as always, there are dope plays from players who have been contributing for a long time. The addition of the Donovan Award has added more teams aiming to make videos.

Perhaps we are headed in the right direction. There are probably more players this year who have been contributing for a long time and have had access to footage for all four years than ever before (nominees this year likely starting in 2014 – 2015).

I want to emphasize, like articles in the past, this is not an evaluation of who should’ve actually won or the quality of the actual candidates. Let’s face it: the video matters. We’ve seen on multiple instances over the past few years that a video is a valuable marketing tool in swaying voters. Is that the way it should be? Probably not, but we’re not here to litigate. We simply have strong opinions on the award video landscape and how to best introduce a candidate, and entertain and persuade a viewer.

There a few factors to consider when critically viewing and creating a Callahan or Donovan video:

  1. Play Quality: We need to see that the player is talented. That means showing off closing speed, frisbee IQ, dimeball hucks, shut down defense etc. Show off their strengths.
  2. Film Quality: We grade this one on a curve. Consistently successful college men’s teams have likely been filming every game. Some players also have fancy ESPN broadcasts or HD club footage to supplement their videos. Others have to make do with what they can.
  3. Soundtrack: If you want a great video, you need a vision. What kind of emotion do you want to elicit? What aspect of the nominee’s personality are you highlighting? A fitting song is critical to getting the viewer to feel how you want them to feel, which is usually, “Wow, I like this person’s game so much that I’m willing to deal with the USAU website!”
  4. Video Editing:
    • The climax of each play being made needs to be timed with the beats of the song. If you don’t do that, the audience has a harder time understanding what is significant about the play being made. With the right combination, when done right, you just can’t look away.
    • An important factor that helps your viewer know what to look for and/or create a narrative to follow along with is how you arrange your clips. If you intermingle the different types of plays (for example, skies and hucks), the audience may be left unsure what you are trying to highlight. If you see someone get a nice grab under pressure, but then show a huck in which the receiver also has to make a play, it’s hard to tell who the focus is. Arrange with purpose. If the plays are all top notch, you could just scatter them about. Sometimes, it’s better to start strong to hook the audience in, or build to a climax, or sneak petty easter eggs throughout.
    • Don’t forget audio! We already talked about music, but only keep sideline or field audio that enhances the content. If you can, get creative with voiceover, whether you record or pull something from some sort of ultimate media outlet whose senior editor is incredibly good looking.
    • Keep your video tight. The social media age has shortened all of our attention spans. Even if you’re getting chest level layout Callahans in every clip, people still don’t want to watch that for more than five minutes. Ideally, 2:30 to 4:00 is a reasonable range. It’s tempting to make sure your whole song plays (and if this matters to you, pick a shorter song), but if people stop paying attention before that, why does it matter?
      • However, it is good to note that we are trending in the right direction with length over the last few years.
    • Give us something unique, especially if your player isn’t an elite playmaker. Show what makes them special. Or, if you can’t demonstrate that, doing something with your editing that stands out. And if you must use them, break the glass, and pull out a testimonial.
      • You should not use excessive amounts of testimonials. We understand that people like giving testimonials, but if you’re going to do that, keep it short, do it over images or video of the nominee– not just talking heads– and label who the person is speaking so that it has some context. Also, all testimonials essentially say the same thing anyways, so don’t even bother unless you’ve got something new to say.

But hey, what do we know? Just because we obsessively watch these videos doesn’t mean we know anything. This is the internet! Its tradition to make outlandish, subjective claims and defend them as if your life depends on it.

We watched, graded, and commented on every single video. And we did it for you, dear reader.

Top 5 Women’s Videos

1. Anna Thompson, UPenn (8.50)

Anna Thompson, UPenn

Soo: This video slaps.

Keith: Watching her arcing hucks is kinda memorizing, and the blocks give me Leathers-vibes. The intro is awesome — wouldn’t have minded “The Night King” continuing. The little shots of her with her cellphone are amusing, too. There are nits to pick, like zooming in on the wide shot where she is playing shut down handler defense, but this is highly rewatchable. She is very swaggy.

2. Josie Gillett, Bates (8.00)

Josie Gillett, Bates

Soo: I do love me a high release flick. Honestly this video is great? I hate to sound so shocked, but like how do you get this much great footage as a D-III program??? My only real critique is that the clips could’ve been organized/grouped better so we know what to look for.

Keith: The lesson here is to hire a videographer (I think this is Charles Cleary’s work). Josie is a monster and this video does a great job capturing it. I think it is safe to say this is the best Donovan video ever. But it is also one of the best videos of the year.

3. Rebecca Fagan, UNC (7.5)

Rebecca Fagan, UNC

Soo: I abstain from rating this due to my extreme bias as her coach.

Keith: I like this song choice. I love using it to transition from the intro. The highlights are strong — Fagan is made for this stuff. That said, there really isn’t much to connect or give it a ton of rhythm. Also, she has so much personality, and aside from the swimming spike, not enough of that made it in here. Solid effort, but left a lot on the table, in my opinion.

Soo: If you insist, I’ll put in my two cents. I thought that the timing of the edits was off, the use of Slo-mo inconsistent, and obviously she doesn’t have any throws in here. But you didn’t think there was personality? Even with the beach footage and gymnastics?? Ok, I’ll show myself back out.

Keith: Soo, I want the interview! Cartwheels (even sweet, synchronized ones, credit where credit is due) are not a personality. But you’re probably right. I guess my expectations were just so high. It feels like this should be an 8.50 or 9.00, but here we are.

T-5. Sadie Jezierski, Ohio State (7.25)

Sadie Jezierski, Ohio State

Soo: Very fiery and some great plays. I don’t think it was very well ordered, though. They kind of double clutch at the end where it feels like its wrapping up with the celebrations, and then it keeps going. That makes it feel longer than it is.

Keith: Do I give this video points for getting this song stuck in my head or take them away? Anyway, the sections with the chorus were much more lively than the rest, and the hammer segment was sick. She’s a filthy puller, would not have been against more pulling, but I’m a nerd. I like the ending graphic, too. They could have grouped the plays together more for more coherence.

Soo: Good points but my nitpick is one of those hammers was not actually a good throw, but a great catch by Sieber. Why do people do that? Just because it’s upside down doesn’t automatically make it highlight-worthy.

T-5. Domenica Sutherland, Texas (7.25)

Domenica Sutherland, Texas

Soo: Yeehaw, y’all. This video definitely gets stronger as it goes along. The beginning shows off important skills, but is a bit slow. Just as you start to feel bored, though, it kicks into gear with some  quick editing and fun plays. It’s long, and to be honest, I’m a huge fan of the original song and don’t like this version quite as much.

Keith: I don’t like this song, but it is just so damn perfect for the content, and the synergy works on multiple levels. The first minute here is amazing, although the countdown is too long, even though it looks good. Mainly, this whole video is definitely too long and there are plenty of clips that could have been snipped. It would have been good to draw the viewer’s attention more on the defense stuff. I appreciate a lot of the editing effort here, though, as it looks like a lot of work went into this.

Top 5 Men’s Videos

1. Matt Gouchoe-Hanas, UNC (Avg. Score: 8.75)

Matt Gouchoe-Hanas, UNC

Soo: Let’s get this out of the way: it’s too long. I watched this on my phone the first time I saw it, and I was annoyed because there are some extraneous clips with mediocre quality where I couldn’t see what was going on. But I watched it again on my computer, and damn, damn this is a good video. It really shows him as a complete player. And nearly all of the plays here are legitimately impressive (not to mention all from college), even if they didn’t need to include quite as many as they did. I loved the commentary in the beginning introducing him,1 the intro song was great, the organization was fantastic. I particularly loved the ankle breaker section.

Cut the fat and clean up the song transitions a bit, but this is for sure one of my favorites of the season.

Keith: Soo basically nailed it here. The ankle breaker section is fantastic, but they easily could have cut out two of the medium-quality ones. And that happens all video long. But that’s a small complaint given the variety and extremely high quality of play here. I’m not entirely sure why two songs were necessary, as getting this to 4:30 would have been really awesome. But it was still great.

T-2. Kip Curtis, Indiana (8.00)

Kip Curtis, Indiana

Keith: This is one of the only videos I’ve watched that made me audibly yell “DAMN!” (2:54). This dude is springy. There’s a lot to like in this video. Using the audio from the AUDL over other plays was a stroke of genius, making great use of what they have. The editing is timed up well, with really great plays. They probably could trim some, because it’s a bit long; that’s my biggest knock here. Also enjoyed the little Team USA nugget, #goodpetty.

Soo: I enjoyed this one a lot! I also really liked their use of commentary here. This guy’s got legs. I think my favorite part was when he got a layout block, and the guy sat on his back for like two seconds. Agreed on it being too long. Even just 30 seconds shorter would’ve done it for me. Also, this has nothing to do with the video, but Kip Curtis is a great name. Fun to say and memorable. Sounds like he could be a really successful 1970s news anchor.

T-2. Mac Hecht, Brown (8.00)

Mac Hecht, Brown

Soo: The return of Jay Clark! The editing is tight, crisp, satisfying. But WTF is with the weird monk funeral dirge music? The two songs didn’t mesh at all and, as great as Mac is, I think it could’ve been shorter. Plus “Happy” is annoying as hell, we don’t need a full three minutes of it. Great highlights, though, and I like all his celebrations at the end.

Keith: The intro is a great build up, so hard disagree on that. but then “Happy”? I get it when you get to the end of the video, but you could have just used “Happy” for the cellies. It’s a little long, but the quality of the sound editing, video editing, and Mac’s play is so high. Tough to argue with this video.

T-4. Eric Sjostrom, Auburn (7.50)

Eric Sjostrom, Auburn

Soo: It is hard to make throwing-heavy videos look good, but this one does a good job. It’s a great song choice and the throws are pretty perfectly edited. And he has incredible control over disc angle. There’s some potato cam, but mostly used appropriately. They did a good job punctuating it with bids and blocks.

Keith: This is a solid editing job utilizing a somewhat boring song, IMO. My biggest criticism is that it can be difficult to track him, since a lot of it is throwing and blocks, and editors have to help the viewer out with that. Hammer section was primo, though. This video was probably a minute longer than necessary.

Soo: I was worried this wouldn’t hold up because it was an earlier release video and I might have rose-colored glasses, but going back to watch, I stand by this rating. Its really only 3:50 without the banana clip at the end, so I can deal with the length, though they still could’ve shaved 20-30 seconds off.

T-4. Elijah Jaime, Alabama-Huntsville (7.50)

Elijah Jaime, Alabama-Huntsville

Soo: Damn this guy plays way bigger than he is. I love that they included when he misses the catch, but jumps over the guy.

Keith: There’s a nice combination at work here of an exciting player and a strong job editing. A lot of credit is due to the editor for doing a good job emphasizing the high impact plays. They enhance Jaime’s play. His plays aren’t necessarily better than other fun players, but the video highlights them in a pleasing way. And that’s worth a lot.

Honorable Mentions

Nicole Wilkinson, Case Western (Soo’s Score: 7)

Nicole Wilkinson, Case Western

Soo: Well edited and some good plays. It’s hard when you aren’t an elite program and don’t have the resources that other teams (particularly men’s teams have). The footage wasn’t super high quality, but the plays were good and they did a good job with what they had.

Keith: This video is so fundamentally sound. Good song with great points of emphasis to edit to? Check. Strong editing? Check. Diversity of plays? Check. And under three minutes! The quality of the highlights is a littttttle low, and missing the personality. Last thing: why do people like to end with Callahans? Most Callahans actually look pretty boring.

Eric Chen, Tufts (Soo’s score: 8)

Eric Chen, Tufts

Soo: This doesn’t show the most versatility in terms of throws, but damn he’s got closing speed! I love watching him just straight up outrun every match up. Very well timed editing. I love the organizational choices. 

Keith: Soo mentioned the pros: this dude is super fast and they have some great clips that show him roasting people, and the timing here is solid. I think it starts a bit slow and there’s some less than thrilling material, so you could cut this down a bit to achieve greater effect.

Soo: For some reason, I’m the only one who likes this video. Screw you all, I’m keeping it in here.

Laura Soter, Michigan (Keith’s score: 7)

Laura Soter, Michigan

Keith: Does the song lyric seriously have “Throw it like a girl” in the hook? How is it possible Flywheel was the first to get to to this? I like this video a lot. The clips are short, it’s energetic, and I think I could watch Soter throw backhands for like an hour. Her form is just an aesthetic ideal.

Soo: Honestly, I’m shocked Lizzo didn’t blow up more after the Jesse Shofner Callahan video. Great song choice. Really strong opening and high production value. I could’ve done with some varied camera angles, however.

Soo: Update, three other videos this year have used Lizzo ??.

Rick Hennighausen, UNC Wilmington (Keith’s score: 7.5)

Rick Hennighausen, UNCW

Keith: Why am I not hearing anybody talk about this video? It’s not fancy and there’s not really any bells and whistles here. But it is timed up well (ordering could use some work), and these plays are fire emojifire emojifire emoji. Crazy trailing edge layouts, massive layout blocks, and that play where he throws it from the ground? I dunno, people are sleeping here.

Soo: I loved the backhand rips over the guitar rips. I wish there had been more of that, and it kind of fizzles at the end. But this guy is lanky as hell and makes some mind boggling plays.

Videos of Note (for better or worse)

Sam Kaminsky, Minnesota (Avg. Score: 5.5)

Sam Kaminsky, Minnesota

Soo: Billy O’Brien used this same song last year. I think he did it better. The graphics were extremely creative and honestly very impressive. Definitely one of the most fun ways I’ve seen to identify a player. However, it distracted me a bit. Or maybe I just found the the lightning bolts and dust clouds more fun than the plays themselves.

Keith: I actually disagree that it was distracting. Our video editor, Aidan, noted that it helped add some spice and direct your attention to a lot of otherwise overlooked, and not visually exciting, handler stuff. It’s hard to be unique in the Callahan and Donovan landscape, and this does that. Plus, he does some good goofy stuff. The song is a knock on the overall quality, because I spent the whole time recalling O’Brien’s video, and honestly watched it right after this.

Tannor Johnson Teaser (Unscored)

Tannor Johnson Teaser

Soo: This is the only time in this article I will say I wished a video was longer. This is hype. Great song choice and edits to get people excited. The finger guns really made it for me. Best Reddit comment: “That break throw is why High Five disbanded.”

Keith: The finger guns are the highlight, and this basically doesn’t include the Hugh Jackman singing part of this annoying song. I don’t necessarily get why this is so meaningful to you, and the weird huck that cuts right after he throws it is really jarring. But I don’t really get the deal with teasers? Most people probably would be better off focusing on making the video better. This might be the best someone’s done it, but I’m curious their actual impact. I’d also like to note, while it doesn’t affect my opinion, I wish they used a sweet “WOW” photo, maybe with a pan or zoom, underneath the final text.

Soo: I do agree that it ends a bit abruptly and a picture would’ve been nice. But I think it’s all part of the marketing right? Put nominees on the radar. Remind people who they can look forward to voting for. If they have a teaser, they can wait a little longer to release the actual footage so they can gather more highlights without threatening loss of votes because of a later video. And I like this one the best because it focuses on the right things (finger guns) and keeps it short (30 seconds).

Keith: I can be open to teasers if they are gonna be under a minute…looking at you, Gooch…

Opal Bendarik, Haveford (Keith score: 2.5, Soo score: Not rated out of protest)

Opal Bednarik, Haverford

Soo: Let us take this moment to complain about talking head testimonials in Callahan and Donovan videos. Opal’s video is certainly not the only one to use them, but they were used the most, so we’re going to pick on her.

Keith: Alright, I’m going to try to be open minded here. There are a lot of lessons we can learn about how to make testimonials more effective:

  1. Songs with lyrics don’t go well with people talking
  2. Introduce the people talking so we understand their perspective
  3. Try to get the face of the person talking on the screen
  4. Don’t jack the volume up at the end and destroy my ears.

Shout out the one video highlight in here, that was a pretty awesome catch.

Soo: You are way more forgiving than I am. I literally can’t stand talking head videos. This is the one video I didn’t finish watching out of protest. People need to stop doing these. I have to stand up for what I believe in.

Keith: Stand strong, Soo! I strongly dislike talking head testimonials, too. But I’m trying to expand past my own personal preferences, if only somewhat. Someone voiced on Twitter that they find this type of content meaningful and persuasive. I hope that, if teams do it, they do it well. That’s all I ask.

Matt Eicher, SUNY Oneonta (Avg. 2)

Matt Eicher, SUNY Oneonta

Soo: I know this isn’t the point, but I hate their jerseys. Also, I’m angry that this remix exists. The camera work was also weirdly awful. I’m so razzed by all these things that I legitimately can’t remember a single play from the video.

Keith: Irrationally upset Soo is in my top three Soos. The jerseys are fine; the song is atrocious. The use of the photos is my biggest compliment here. My biggest complaint is some egregious potato cam, maybe actually shot with a potato, if that’s possible. Don’t keep the field audio of the sideline yelling “Show me your tits,” either. It’s 2019.

Sarah Kim, Northwestern (Avg.: 6.75)

Sarah Kim, Northwestern

Soo: I like this vibe and she makes some truly insane grabs here. It’s a very ‘give no fucks’ style that I enjoy a lot and the song choice really complements that. There is some extraneous footage that’s kind of hard to see, though.

Keith: You would like this style of play. But SKim is pretty lit. I’m gonna complain again about losing sight of her clip to clip, but it was particularly pronounced in this because so much of it was her getting poach blocks, so I wasn’t always sure where to look. I also liked this song, even though I’d never listen to it. Energetic video, but it could have been trimmed to be a little tighter and give us a little personality.

Nicholas Gerber, Michigan (Avg. 2.5)

Nicholas Gerber, Michigan

Keith: This is the second video I had to actively convince myself to keep on (shout out to Zach Karpen). Memes be damned, this song is so distractingly annoying that I barely can recall a single thing that happened other than the cat memed to say “halp.” I think I genuinely wish I hadn’t watched this. Although I liked the pivotless literal standstill forehand huck.

Soo: Keith, you are so dramatic. You had me dreading this video. Although, I do agree that the use of this song is literally indefensible. But I was actually so distracted by the fact that this man’s flick form makes no sense that I barely noticed the song. He never releases it more than six inches away from his body, and yet he cranks it like 60+ yards every time. Can someone please explain? I don’t agree with these physics.

Caroline Weinberg, Williams (Avg. 7.25)

Caroline Weinberg, Williams

Soo: I actually laughed out loud at the missed bids section. I love videos like this that have a great player, but recognize that they maybe don’t have the best footage and really have fun with it and get creative. I thought the editing choices were fun and worked really well for the most part (besides the harsh music change), even if there are some filler plays in here.

Keith: Missed bids were great, and a nice unique signature to the video, but it was a little weird to change songs. At least the video was interesting. That layout at the end, I remember from D-III Nationals, was truly incredible. Also, zooming in on the hand for the handblock? Love it.

Zack Karpen, Tulane (Avg.: 1.75)

Zach Karpen, Tulane

Soo: The thing that bothers me most about this video is that the 12 seconds of actual ultimate footage are really dope. Then it’s just a toll. I really never thought I would have to say this, but there is too much footage of fish in this Callahan video. Also aren’t those Koi fish? Not carp?

Keith: YES, SOO, YOUR FISH IDENTIFICATION SKILLS ARE TOP NOTCH! And that’s a huge huge huge deduction. A real waste of this banger, “SICKO MODE,” too.

Soo: Tragic update: I looked it up and Koi are a type of carp. I still stand by that they have too much in there.

Keith: Ok, upon further review, we are now trash and Zach Karpen should have at least been a Callahan finalist. I gave him an extra point for that.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, our favorite videos are the ones we come back to to watch over and over. Sometimes they’re the videos with the best plays, but mostly they’re the ones that make us feel something, that make us root for the nominee. They’re the ones that show personality and make us feel invested, the ones where the love the team has for their player shines through. And not through testimonials and talking heads, but in the little things, like a candid smile, a silly dance, or song that perfectly captures the essence of a player and their role on the team. The best videos take nothing but a bunch of scattered clips and a melody, and put it together in a way that elevates the final product beyond any initial expectation.

We had a lot of fun doing this, and we poke holes and make fun here, but it’s truly a joy to see so much cumulative hype and talent captured on video. We’ve come a long way. The awards themselves are prestigious, but something about the creativity and heart that goes into these monuments to college excellence are what really get us excited.

The Full Project

Our subscribers can get access to the full ratings and commentary on each and every video.

  1. Keith: Thanks. 

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  1. Lindsay Soo
    Lindsay Soo

    Lindsay Soo is a video editor and producer for Ultiworld based in North Carolina. They have been playing competitively since 2012 and coaching since 2018. Their experience includes from D-III and D-I College, Club, Semi-Professional, and International competition. On Twitter and Instagram @soonami14, @soo_digital_media

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