June 22, 2020
By Evan Lepler - "Disc In" Interview Series Archive
Would you believe that in nearly three months of conversational features, the “Disc In” series has yet to focus on a lefty? Sure, southpaws are a relatively uncommon commodity in our sport, but how is it possible that 31 interviews have come and gone without profiling just one of these other-handed enigmas?
This madness must end, and the non-lefty string officially ends today. In fact, the next couple weeks will highlight six of these mysterious left-handed humans, beginning with perhaps the most accomplished one of them all.
With five straight trips to Championship Weekend and multiple First-Team All-AUDL seasons, Jay Froude has achieved elite status as a superstar in our sport. His highlight-reel athleticism and spectacular on-field flare have made him a fan favorite, and its not just the spectators that have appreciated his exploits. When he made his professional debut in 2015, his coaches, teammates, and opponents were all equally blown away by how Froude, still a relatively unknown University of Missouri student at the time, could take over a game.
“Did I mention Jay Froude is amazing?” Madison Radicals Head Coach Tim DeByl asked, rhetorically, on June 1, 2015 following Froude’s first game with the Radicals. “He is like a combination of Pat [Shriwise] and Peter [Graffy].”
I did not need to ask DeByl to elaborate further, as the long-time Madison leader was genuinely giddy and eager to gush about Froude’s opening act as a Radical.
“Did you see his stat line?” exclaimed DeByl. “He was +10 in his first game ever! Four goals, three assists, and four Ds. All four Ds were highlight-reel Ds. It was really impressive. He skied like three Wind Chill guys by a foot. And as he walked away, one of them ran up and was like, ‘who are you, where did you come from?’ Jay was like ‘I am from Missouri,’ and kept walking.”
The overwhelming first impression and accompanying praise felt especially significant considering DeByl’s past Froude-ian slip. The athletic lefty from the Show-Me State had performed well at Madison tryouts in past seasons, but the Radicals had decided that the logistics of having a traveling player who was also still in college would not work for them. Thankfully, Froude did not take it as a personal slight, and when he returned to tryouts in 2015, the Rads realized that he could be a game-changer. In just seven regular season games as a rookie, Froude compiled an insane stat line of 20 goals, 16 assists, and 21 blocks, a ledger even more astounding when you consider that more than 80 percent of his points came on defense.
Obviously, that production was just the beginning. He joined the Dallas Roughnecks in 2017 and ranked in the top five in the league in plus/minus in back-to-back straight seasons, including a league-leading +96 in 2018. His overall numbers may have dipped slightly in 2019, but his stature among his peers certainly did not, as evidenced by the fact that Froude was selected first in the 30-player draft to divvy up the competitors for the inaugural AUDL All-Star Game. Asked about it a year later during last Thursday’s AUDL Rewind, All-Star Captain Rowan McDonnelll re-emphasized that Froude was the right choice for the first pick.
It was great to catch up with Froude over the weekend, as the now 30-year-old veteran shared his thoughts on being a lefty, his career of commuting as an out-of-town player, and his recollections from five straight Championship Weekends. The conversation has been edited slightly for clarity.
Evan Lepler: Firstly, how are you and what has your life been like since the world shifted so dramatically in mid-March?
Jay Froude: At first, it was difficult to move from in person classes to remote. With my chemical engineering major, a lot of our work is done in groups so having to make time to meet everyone’s schedule made it harder to adjust. Now that school is out, my transition is a bit boring. I've been doing my best to keep busy by seeing family and running around with the nieces and nephews.
EL: What have you done to try and stay in shape over the past few months? And if the season started tomorrow, what percentage of the best version of yourself would you estimate you'd be?
JF: Honestly, I have been pretty lackluster in my workouts over the whole of quarantine, but I'm starting to get back at it. The team has been pushing for accountability, which helps when you live so far from everyone. However, taking time off of ultimate has been really nice for me too. I've been resting and recovering to give myself a little reset. If the season started tomorrow, I'd probably be 75 percent of myself.
EL: So this two-week chunk of the "Disc In" series is focusing on lefties, who are obviously a rare and occasionally bizarre-breed. I say bizarre because of all of the folks who, say, throw lefty but write righty, or have some other baffling combination of ambidexterity throughout their lives. Where do you fall on the spectrum in terms of lefty specialization? In other words, can you share whether you're lefty for everything, or how you divvy up your handedness for your life activities, writing, eating, throwing, etc?
JF: I am predominately lefty. I do everything left handed/left footed except for 2 sports. In golf, I am righty only because when I was learning to play, I borrowed my Dad's clubs and he's right handed. In baseball and softball I switch hit, though I rarely play.
EL: Presumably, you've been vexed by right-handed scissors since you were a kid... In life, it being lefty an advantage or disadvantage? In ultimate, is being lefty an advantage or disadvantage? Can you share how you've developed tricks or strategies on the field to try and capitalize on your lefty identity?
JF: In life, I think being a lefty is a bit of a disadvantage. I'm not sure if that is true, I just feel that way. I'll use double doors as an example, like at a gas station, you go in the right door and leave through the right door. Well, I like to open doors with my left hand so It's awkward to reach across your body to open the door. So I usually go in the left door. But, what if there is traffic? Then I simply open the door for others and let them come out before going in. Simple tricks, I know; how did I ever get this far in life?
I think in sports, being left handed is much more of an advantage. People have a hard time adjusting to left coordinated athletes because they are uncommon. I don't know if I really have any tricks to being lefty on the field. I feel like people moreso have to adjust to me rather than me adjusting to them. I will say, throw-and-go is much easier for lefties because usually we are forced forehand (lefty backhand), so that first step is always quicker since it's in the motion of pivoting. Also, travels aren't a thing for us lefties.
EL: Moving away from the lefty conversation, can you quickly share your general narrative about what sports you played growing up, how you discovered ultimate, and when your passion for frisbee really took flight?
JF: Growing up, I swam for a neighborhood team and ran road races with my mom. That sort of built me up for going into cross country, swimming, and track in high school. Basically one sport for each season. My junior year of high school they changed swimming to a fall sport. So instead of choosing between CC and Swimming, I did both in the same season. Cross country practice in the morning and swimming practice in the evening. My days started at 5am and ended at 6pm. Track was my favorite sport though; I felt that it was much more exhilarating, and the races were faster. After high school, I took swimming much more serious and joined the club swim team at the University of Missouri. So I was anaerobically fit, which seemed like all land sports were much easier. For ultimate, I used to throw the frisbee with my dad growing on the street. That is where I learned how to throw backhand. Being a lefty, it made starting to play ultimate a lot easier because I could take my time developing the flick, but still throw downfield. I started playing for Mizzou after I was conned into going to the first practice. I went to a tournament with the team to "try" it out and I loved the competitive nature and got hooked.
EL: Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I don't think you've ever lived in one of the cities that you've played for in the AUDL, so I'm curious how you've made things work and generally flourished as a player who's commuting to and from each and every game? What's been the typical itinerary for you either driving or flying to Madison, Dallas, or another destination where you've met the team, and what occupies your time/mind during these journeys? Any travel horror stories involving endless delays or cancellations or anything like that?
JF: You are not mistaken. I have always lived in Missouri, either Columbia or Kansas City. At the time I started AUDL, I was still on the Mizzou team, so I was practicing three times a week and playing AUDL games on weekends—unless there was a college tournament. I definitely stayed in shape with that schedule. When I played for Madison, I would have to rent a car, drive eight hours from Columbia, play the game, and drive back. Some weekends it was a one-day trip, some it was a three-day venture, depending on the game time and opponent. Usually it was an all weekend event for me. I had to plan every week in advance to make sure school and the Mizzou team weren't neglected. When I started playing for Dallas they offered me flights and that has made travel much easier with my school schedule. Now that I had flights, I usually just bring homework and do it in the airport.
There are a couple driving travel stories that are "fun" to tell. I was driving back to Columbia from Madison after a game, so it's dark and a little foggy at about 2 AM. I was just about to cross into Iowa from Wisconsin. I came up over a hill and smashed into a wooden dresser that was in the middle of road. Luckily, a family had seen me hit it and took me back to their house to assess the damage. Other than a cracked bumper and dragging undercarriage the car was fine, and I was on my way. Another quick story coming back from Wisconsin: It was hailing and raining a lot. I was going maybe 35 on the highway. I parked under a bridge to to wait for the rain and hail to clear a bit. After starting to drive again, out into the field to my left about a mile, a tornado swooped down and started going parallel to the road so my 60 miles per hour went to about 90 miles per hour real quick. Aside from normal delays, no real airport drama has ever really happened to me. Knock on wood.
EL: Simple one: what's your favorite game you've ever played in and why?
JF: That is a pretty tough one, I have a couple.
1. It has to be winning U-23 worlds final [in 2013]. I got the game winning D and we ended up putting in the break to win. That was the first meaningful finals game I've ever won—and still is the only one.
2. Also, in the 2018 AUDL playoffs, the comeback win against Raleigh after being down by six at home to get to Championship Weekend.
EL: There’s a saying that goes, 'If you're good enough to come in second place, you're good enough to be disappointed in it." There's also the reality that making it to back-to-back championship games and five straight final fours is a great accomplishment in itself. You've certainly been very, very close to experiencing an AUDL championship with multiple franchises, but have fallen just short multiple times. Of course, there are a lot of players who have never been to a single final four and are envious of all your individual and team success! What are your brief memories from each of your Championship Weekends? Is there a particular game or two that's tougher to relive than another? How would you characterize your approach to handling tough losses in big games?
JF: Being able to say that I've played at Championship Weekend is no small feat. However, it does wear on you a little when you lose three championship games and two semifinals without ever winning. The first Champ Weekend in San Jose was fun. I had never been there and it was a cool experience. We lost in the finals to the stacked Spiders team after beating Raleigh in the semis. The next year I felt we had a really good shot of winning. We ended up losing to Seattle in a crazy comeback win in semis. This was the really tough one to swallow; we were up by [seven in the third quarter]. The following year was my first with Dallas. We lost to a good Toronto team in semis. The next one was more of a revenge tour. Made it to the final, but lost to a sturdy Madison team. This one was the hardest loss for me because I was happy that all my old Madison friends won, but I couldn't celebrate with them. And finally, last year. The most disappointing game for me personally because I tore my hamstring and we lost. I think my approach to losing is much different than others because I'm like 1-for-11 in winning finals of meaningful championships. I always seem to fall a bit short regardless of how I play. I'm not sure how else to handle it.
EL: You’ve played a good mix of O and D throughout your career, so I'm curious to ask you who have been the toughest matchups you've ever had to guard and also who have been the toughest matchups when they've guarded you?
JF: In the AUDL, Max Sheppard is the hardest person I have ever had to guard. I was matched up against him in a Madison-Pittsburgh game, and after half I had to tell Tim to switch me up because I couldn't contain his quick handler movements. In recent memory, KPS [Kevin Pettit-Scantling] is the hardest person to get away from because he is 100 percent every time he's on the field and he has a bigger body.
EL: What was your first reaction to the offseason news about AUDL realignment, particularly with your divisional opponents changing so significantly?
JF: I think the realignment will be fun. I enjoy playing new teams. If we get to play this season, I will have played in three of the four divisions which has given me a multitude of competition and competitive styles—and yes they change by region—throughout my career.
EL: And lastly, who's your favorite lefty, and why?
JF: My favorite lefty is Roberto Carlos. A Brazilian soccer player with insane free kicks.