USA U20 Tryouts: West Coast 2023 Recap

A glimpse into the WJUC West tryout

The US U20 National Team West tryout for the World Junior Ultimate Championships (WJUC) unfolded as a true spectacle, showcasing the immense talent of young players vying for a spot on the coveted junior national team. The event brought together the best and brightest prospects from California to Minnesota, providing a glimpse into the game’s future superstars. And in a new wrinkle, the addition of a mixed division delegation meant not only would more players be in consideration, but some of them to play in a format in which most are less experienced.

From the outset, the atmosphere crackled with anticipation and energy. The air was filled with the crisp sound of discs slicing through the air and the shouts of players communicating on the field. Coaches, evaluators, parents, and a lone Ultiworld reporter, all had their eyes keenly focused on the action.

Been Here Before

A stark contrast in player demeanor was apparent at the beginning of the tryout. Some athletes, perhaps overwhelmed by the magnitude of the opportunity, appeared initially shy—tentative in their throws, cautious in their movements. It was a manifestation of the pressure cooker that is a world tryout for Team USA. Conversely, a subset of players approached the tryout with nonchalant confidence, as if it were just another day at the office. Their throws were sharp, their cuts decisive, exuding a subtle assurance that spoke volumes about their experience and readiness for the high-stakes environment. This juxtaposition highlighted the psychological aspect of the tryout, where some found comfort in the chaos, while others took time to navigate the initial nerves to eventually find their rhythm.

Selection Criteria

From my experience and observation, here’s the core selection criteria for making the team.

1. Talent

US U20 National Team West tryout 2023. Photo: Kylene Hayes

At the heart of the selection process lay an unwavering focus on raw talent. Players showcased an array of skills from dime hucks to acrobatic grabs. The ability to read the game, make split-second decisions, and execute under pressure are also key factors that coaches likely scrutinize. Talent alone, though important, is just one piece of the puzzle.

2. System Fit

The importance of fit within the system is also a defining factor in the decision-making process. Some players had to adapt their games significantly from being the star on their local high school or YCC team to a role player amongst other top youth talent. A player’s adaptability plays a pivotal role in forecasting whether they can be effective in the Team USA system.

3. Reputation

The players’ high school and club reputations serve as a backdrop against which their performance at the tryout was evaluated. Those with a history of success and leadership on their respective high school and club teams brought not only their skills but also a winning mindset to the field. As it currently stands, ultimate lacks a robust pool of data to reference so the historical context of their past playing experiences adds depth to the selection process

4. Chemistry-Building

Undeniably, the tryout also features the art of making connections and leaving a lasting impression. Players who demonstrate their ability to forge positive relationships with coaches and fellow athletes find themselves at an advantage. The importance of sportsmanship, respect, and a positive attitude are all foundational to Team USA’s values. You can’t just be an outstanding player to make this team, you also have to be an individual who contributes positively to the overall delegation.

Changes in the Tryout Process

This year’s tryouts have undergone a significant transformation, introducing notable changes that have reshaped the dynamics of the selection process. Athletes, for the first time, received a playbook in advance, adding an intriguing layer of preparation to the mix. This shift demands cerebral understanding and the ability to implement team strategy from the players. Furthermore, the inclusion of a mixed division has added 24 more spots for hopeful tryout invitees.

However, these alterations haven’t only impacted players; coaches find themselves having to adapt to the new format as well. With less on-field exposure than what the single-gender teams are used to, there is a narrower window for player evaluation. The compressed timeline intensifies the process, demanding quick assessments from the coaches.

I’m not exactly sure how the final team selection is determined, but I imagine it is trickier now because coaches will have to engage in their own internal negotiations with each other. For instance, if one of the teams values a player highly but thinks the other teams do not, they might downplay their interest in that player to secure more value on the pick as a bubble player. That is all just theory, though, and ultimately the goal of Team USA is to bring home all gold medals every tournament cycle. In reality, the process may be less cutthroat and more of a conversation between the staff about how to make the three teams as balanced as possible.

Final Decisions

US U20 National Team West tryout 2023. Photo: Kylene Hayes

As the dust settled on tryouts, I felt a strong sense of optimism for the future of ultimate in the States. The talent on display was nothing short of exceptional, and the event served as a testament to the dedication and passion of the young athletes who participated. The amalgamation of raw talent, strategic gameplay, and resilience displayed by the next generation of players foretells an exciting era for the sport.

Players That Shined

In the wake of the tryout, I couldn’t help but wish I was allowed to participate as a part of the selection staff to give my thoughts on which players I thought performed best. So why let them have all the fun?

Here are the top five handlers, cutters, and hybrids at the tryout. Subscribers can see my full scouting report on the 36 players I think will make the team.

Male-Matching

Handler

  • Axel Olson
  • Stefan McCall
  • Thomas Shope
  • Owen Johnson
  • Oscar Brown

Cutter

  • Grayson Rettberg
  • Charles Puttkammer Saxen
  • Dominic Chiodi
  • Cole Mires
  • Gavin Leahy

Hybrid

  • Cedar Hines
  • Mason Stone
  • Luke Norby
  • Filip Icev
  • Nathan De Morgan

Female-Matching

Handler

  • Rachel Chang
  • Ella Widmyer
  • Margot Nissen
  • Joyce Hui
  • Vivian Hakimi

Cutter

  • Audrey Selfridge
  • Eva Hayes
  • Ella Khoury
  • Breesen Hoehne
  • Dora McCotter-Hulett

Hybrid

  • Chloe Hakimi
  • Lucy Mertz
  • Mara Hindery-Glasinovic
  • Violet Yap
  • Natalie Collier
  1. Jake Thorne
    Jake Thorne

    Jake Thorne is a staff writer for Ultiworld with a focus on the college division. He is a graduate of Cal Poly SLO, where he played for four years. He now lives and works full-time in sales for a fintech company in San Francisco.

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