New Opportunities

By Adam Ruffner & Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen

It’s a long, hard road to the AUDL—full of hundred-plus mile road trips, late night and early morning workouts, and daily throwing sessions. And that’s just in the offseason, all while no one is watching, so an athlete can seize the moment - carpe that discus - at a team tryout.

“I constantly work to improve my game to have opportunities to play,” said Jay Froude, an Ultimate standout at the University of Missouri who hopes to make the Madison Radicals’ roster this season. He’ll have to travel more than 400 miles to the combine, which will cap off of a relentless training regimen. He runs daily, throws daily and watches his diet closely. For Froude, and other ultimate players hoping to make the cut in the AUDL, there is no offseason—the competition for roster spots is too tough.

“For me, I never thought I would get this far, so fast,” Froude said. “I believe the competition has driven me to excel as an ultimate player.”

Froude can also credit his training program, which is based on the principles of Melissa Witmer’s Ultimate Athletes Project (UAP), a strength and conditioning program specially designed for the rigors of ultimate. The program was created to help athletes maximize their potential and sustain it throughout the course of the season, and is one of a number of ultimate-specific regimens used by both veteran AUDL athletes, and those hoping to clinch a spot.

“I started with the question ‘How do I most efficiently and effectively build an ultimate player?’” Witmer said.

Witmer is a certified conditioning coach with 15 years of playing experience, and author of The Ultimate Athlete Handbook. She developed the UAP by focusing on the end goal.

“It’s not just about maximum output per workout, it’s about maximum adaptation per workout,” Witmer said. This long term planning is what sets the UAP apart from other programs. Most importantly, the program emphasizes the type of strength training that decreases injury risk.

“What is often underestimated is how much strength training impacts a player's endurance and durability over the long months of a season,” she said. “Proper progression, long term planning, and completeness are the hallmarks of programs designed by professionals—that’s how you get better, faster, stronger.”

For Froude, many of Witmer’s ideas have become principles in his fitness routine and preparation for the AUDL. For example, two-a-day workouts are common, and keep him in rhythm during the offseason when the weather is anything but cooperative. He also develops his conditioning by challenging himself in creative ways, like working on pivoting and throwing when he is most tired at the end of a workout. It’s all about the little things, which bring big results.

He made the 2013 Team USA U23 squad with only two years playing experience, and is hopeful about his chance at making the Radicals. He’s not the only one—former University of Wisconsin standout and Team USA teammate Colin Camp will join him at the late-night combine, eager to make the transition from college to the professional leagues.

“Playing in college instilled a strong work ethic in me,” Camp said. “The way the guys worked all year to win a national championship—that teaches you that hard work does pay off, and that it doesn’t let up. Even now, I see how much time and effort these guys put in during the offseason—of course I’m not going to let up.”

Camp doesn’t follow a specific program, but trains four to five times a week. He runs, he throws, he lifts, he does agility workouts, he plays indoor ultimate and he harbors high expectations for the coming season.

“Everybody in Madison works so hard for what they want,” Camp said. “And the community here helped make me the player that I am now—when I think about the Radicals, and I think about the next season, I’m trying to put in the time and effort to be part of a team that can bring a championship back to the community.”

For Froude and Camp, the training has two payoffs (beyond a championship). The chance to compete on a weekly basis against some of ultimate’s best athletes makes you a better player, Froude said, and playing on a brand new stage will be exhilarating. Plus, it’s pretty neat to say you are a pro ultimate player.

“I can call myself a professional athlete, and that sounds pretty cool,” Froude said

“Making the Radicals gives you the tag of being one of the best players in the region,” Camp added. “You get to be on the elite team—call it whatever you want to call it, but it’s pretty cool to be able to say that you are a pro athlete.”

But neither has made the team just yet—they’ll just have to keep grinding for a few more days.