August 2, 2012
By Pat McCabe
With the glow of the Olympics shining bright, College of Saint Benedict sophomore Erynn Schroeder has earned her own chance to represent the United States on the international stage. She was named to the roster of the USA women's Under-20 team at the 2012 World Junior Ultimate Championships, Aug. 12-18 in Dublin, Ireland.
"It's going to be awesome to play at this level. I'm really excited to go to Dublin and play with this team of amazing athletes," Schroeder said.
Her ultimate experience, though, almost didn't happen.
She went to the team's tryouts in March in Seattle, spending two grueling days with the best players from across the country. What was believed to be the final roster of 18 players was announced in April, with Schroeder listed as one of six alternates.
But her second chance came just a couple months later, one she took full advantage of.
"In June I went back out to Seattle for the team training camp. They told the alternates we could come too, and have a chance of making the team. I was one of two alternates that got moved up," Schroeder said, noting the traveling squad is now up to 20 players. "It was awesome to get a second chance to make the team, because it's hard to show all that you can do, in one weekend."
Ultimate is a growing sport played on a field similar to football, with two seven-player teams trying to score points by passing the Frisbee-like plastic disc into the opponent's end zone. Players in possession of the disc cannot run, but are only allowed 10 seconds to pass. Turnovers and quick transitions are common parts of the game, resulting in nearly non-stop movement. The most unique aspect of ultimate is that it is completely self-officiated by the players on the field. Without officials, players must know the rules and abide by the "spirit of the game" when a conflict arises. In this way, the players respect their teammates and opponents and learn to negotiate for their position without a referee's input.
On Aug. 5, Schroeder flew to Boston to meet with her teammates and train together for a week prior to the tournament. They haven't been able to work together since the final team was named in June. Schroeder has stayed busy, however, training three days a week while also continuing to play club ultimate in Minneapolis (she lives in Plymouth, Minn., during the summer months).
As for the team, expectations are high after third place finishes in each of the previous two tournaments, with narrow losses in the semifinals in 2008 and 2010. "I think that this year we have a strong team of people who really want to work together, and the team was chosen not by who are most talented, but by who will make the best teammates and work together well," she said.
Individually, Schroeder wants to make the experience worthwhile, and create friendships with her teammates. But she also knows she has a job to do.
"I am a handler on the team, meaning I mostly stay back and throw the passes, moving the disc and keeping possession," she said. "I'm focusing on making as few turnovers as possible, just being very focused and playing defense well. I will contribute all I can to the team, on the field and on the sidelines."
After the tournament is over, she hopes to bring what she learns back to St. Joseph, and expand the ultimate club team at CSB. The Blazer program is a young one, with many players experiencing the game for the first time.
"This year I'll be a captain," she said with excitement. "I'm going to try to help set up the practices to get the newer players up to speed as soon as possible. I think from this tournament I will see the game in a different way, being able to play with my peers and continue to love the sport and help it grow."
Visit Erynn's ChipIn website to learn more about her trip to Ireland and how you can help.