July 10, 2020
By Evan Lepler - "Disc In" Interview Series Archive
While the Philadelephia Phoenix O-line has been a bit of a revolving door, Sean Mott just keeps throwing goals to whoever is available. Only Phoenix GM Mike Arcata has joined Mott on offense for each of the past three seasons, but the varying personnel has not prevented the speedy southpaw from annually piling up All-AUDL caliber assist totals. In fact, Mott is one of just four AUDL players who’s registered at least 50 assists in each of the past three years, joining Chicago’s Pawel Janas, Minnesota’s Josh Klane, and Tampa Bay’s Andrew Roney. Considering the lefty leaning theme of the past five Disc In conversations, it feels relevant to note that Mott is the lone left-hander in that foursome of dynamite distributors.
During his five years with the Phoenix, Mott has easily been the most important playmaking force of the franchise throughout a journey in which the team won only one game in his first two seasons, to becoming much more competitive with 13 victories over the last three. Furthermore, he’s one of just four players in AUDL history to be a franchise’s all-time leader in goals and assists. Among the quartet, which also includes Seattle’s Mark Burton, San Diego’s Travis Dunn, and Toronto’s Cam Harris, only Mott and Burton also pace the franchise in all-time points played and completions. Again, the fact that he’s a lefty only adds further spice to his unique resume.
Over the past few weeks, in which we sadly learned that the 2020 AUDL season was officially cancelled, it’s been interesting to focus on lefties and hear their pet peeves about society’s right-handed biases. From spiral notebooks and desks in school to the lack of lefty sports equipment readily available, it seems clear that the estimated 10 percent of the world that are lefty dominant are working slightly uphill compared to the rest of us. Among hardships that segments of the population have had to deal with, of course, this handicap is relatively mild, but the wrinkle about left-handedness being a potential advantage in sports, including ultimate, provides an intriguing counterbalance. That’s not to suggest that lefties should appreciate their advantages in sports as a fair and reasonable trade-off for not being able to use most pairs of scissors; it’s mainly to segue to the fact that lefties in ultimate have often been enigmas, the wisest of whom utilize their quirky characteristics and transform them into on-field benefits.
In the conversation with Mott, he actually says that he does not think being lefty is as big of an advantage as some suggest, while also acknowledging that he has capitalized on opponents’ indecision about how to contain him and other members of the 10 percent. Without question, righties in ultimate have gone out of their way to integrate more lefty throws—mainly a lefty backhand—into their arsenals over the past decade, seeking to expand their unpredictability along with adding new release points and throwing angles into their toolbox. At the highest levels, most now commonly use their off-hand backhand somewhat regularly, a recognition that ambidexterity, something that lefties were often obligated to appreciate against their wills, is a mighty useful skill to have in sports, and in life.
Along with some general chatter about life as a lefty, Mott also generously elaborated about his ultimate origin story, the Phoenix’s growth during his tenure, and his feelings about AUDL realignment, which significantly shifted Philly’s future divisional opponents. 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?
Sean Mott: My life has changed decently since everything has happened in March. Firstly, I’ve gotten a new job alongside fellow teammate and friend Marc Sands, so seeing him everyday has been helpful in me not going crazy and making me workout. I typically play soccer or frisbee almost everyday so that is a big change because I do that mostly instead of working out, but other than those things I’ve been pretty normal, which I guess is a good thing.
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?
SM: I’ve mostly been throwing and running with Marc and Paul Klimkowski, also on the Philly pro team, and have been working a pretty demanding job which requires me to be in decent shape because I am constantly lifting doors up and placing them around the shop with some of them weighing up to 170 pounds. If I had to give a percentage of the best me you would be getting I would probably say I’d be around a 70 percent right now because of disc golf messing with some of my throws.
EL: So this chapter 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?
SM: I am a 100 percent left handed person unless I absolutely have to use my right hand. I won’t unless its for baseball because my dad taught me to be a switch hitter growing up, but in frisbee I am strongly against off hand throws because I don’t like them and nobody will change my mind about that.
EL: Presumably, you've been vexed by right-handed scissors since you were a kid... In life, is 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?
SM: I’ve been hexed by scissors for years now, but I am solid with them now, I wouldn’t really say its an advantage or disadvantage to be left handed but most things are made for right handed people so it is tough finding things that are made for people like me. A hot take coming from me is that I don’t think being left handed in frisbee is that big of an advantage as a lot of people think. I get to just throw the opposite throws of everyone else on my team pretty much, and that’s something I’ve used to my advantage as I’ve gotten older and people have tried to strategize against Philly because last year me and Billy Sickles, who is also a lefty, were two of the main O-line guys for the team and opponents had trouble deciding forces against us, and to be honest I love when that happens because I love mental games like that.
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?
SM: Sports I played growing up were soccer—my first love and still my favorite sport—baseball, basketball, track, swimming, diving, and football. My parents wanted me to try almost every sport under the sun, and I loved every second of it but soccer really won my heart over and is still a sport I try to play to this day, with frisbee always trying to snuff it out. I started playing frisbee in high school. I got convinced by friends to go to a fun tournament sophomore year and was like “yea, this is dumb.” Then junior year I had a bunch of buddies try and make me play and I eventually gave in and joined the team and have stuck with it every since. My passion is something that is always there regardless of what sport I’m playing, I HATE losing and I will do everything in my power to avoid that, but I would say I started getting more serious about frisbee after junior college soccer because I want to compete at the highest level in everything that I can.
EL: When you look back upon your career with the Phoenix, what stands out most in terms of the progress the franchise has made, going from a team that was largely non-competitive from 2014-16 to a group that has had so many more wins and close games over the last three seasons? What have been the biggest keys to having more success, and what has it been like to be one of the team's key players throughout this journey?
SM: The pro scene in Philly has always been a weird one with having the Spinners and the Phoenix for a few years and then some guys just deciding that pro isn’t a good fit for them, but in the more recent years we have started to pull some of the top talent from the area along with some of the young guys developing, it’s honestly been a heck of a ride. I think it says a lot about our leadership and the way the team has handled itself in recent years that people are wanting to be a part of this and not just thinking of this as a way to play because this is the only team I’ve played longer than two years other than competitive leagues and I love it. I think learning to win is the biggest step that we had to overcome in becoming better because in other years we would try and pummel teams if we could but we’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how it’s done, if it’s pretty or not, a W is a W.
EL: Simple one: what's your favorite game you've ever played in and why?
SM: You say its a simple question but it’s one of the hardest ones I’ve gotten in awhile. I would say my favorite game would have to be our game against Toronto in Toronto this past year because it was our first W in Toronto and it showed that our team has a lot of potential because not one single person won us that game, even though Ryan Weaver had a hell of a game. Our team had to grind for every point, and because of us being short-staffed, I got to take a little more control of the offense, and I like to do that and be the one screaming out what to do.
EL: I know statistics in ultimate are still somewhat elementary and far from being determining factors of a player's value, but I'm curious to ask about how over the past three years, your assist totals were 54, 55, and 52, while your goal totals were 40, 42, and then just 12 last season. Obviously, still a super productive campaign overall, but is there an explanation for the goals drop-off in 2019? Did something about your role change that led you to catch around two goals/gm fewer than the previous seasons?
SM: This is funny because everyone in the area gave me a bunch of junk for my goal drop-off because I’m known as a downfield cutter and I love to run in open space, but I would attribute more to the rise of Himmy [Himalaya Mehta] and Greg Martin because they were making it easier for me to just throw to them because they were so open, or I will just shoot it even if they aren’t as long as its 1v1, but I would put the blame mostly on myself because I got too comfortable taking easy unders or slashes and look to take shots instead of testing the defense to see if they actually want to run with me, and it’s something that won’t happen next year. So don’t worry, the total will be back up.
EL: Having mostly played offense throughout your career, I'm curious to ask who have been the toughest defenders you've had to deal with?
SM: I would say that the toughest defenders that I’ve had to deal with was one of my good buddies who I played YCC’s [Youth Club Championships] with: Jibran Mieser. Along with knowing me forever and playing together for awhile, he’s just a hell of an athlete and loves to just challenge me on everything. For someone who I haven’t known for awhile, I would say Grant Lindsley, because he can get fiery and I believe our games are similar and I love the back and forth that we had at times last year.
EL: What was your first reaction to the offseason news about AUDL realignment, particularly with your divisional opponents changing so significantly?
SM: I was excited at first, but then looking back the Canada trips were some of my favorite parts of the season so it was sad to see them leave the picture. But looking forward, I was really hungry to play all the new teams, especially Raleigh because I’m friends with a lot of those guys and Noah [Saul] loves to treat me like a little kid still whenever we play against each other, so it would be nice to stick one to him. I was a little scared of the Florida and Atlanta trips though because I don’t handle heat the best when playing, so it would be a good test for me.
EL: And lastly, who's your favorite lefty, and why?
SM: Favorite lefty is a great question. If I had to pick a player, it would most definitely be [former DC Breeze handler] Alan Kolick. When I was coming into the sport, he was a dominant left handed and severely underrated player in my eyes, even though he was talked about all the time. The way he broke marks at ease and glided around the field, I wanted to be him, just without the hair. He was the epitome of what a frisbee player should be at the top of his game, and I believe he was the best player in the country for a little while but I know i’ll never win those arguments, so I’ll leave it at he was a really good left handed player and I wanted to be that.