Thursday, March 27, 2014

Conversation with Sarah Itoh on her DC Breeze Tryout

After two tryouts, the 2014 DC Breeze roster was finalized. Sarah Itoh, from the 2013 USAU Championship team DC Scandal, discussed her experience at their February 22nd tryout and her thoughts on if she were to play pro.
[Photo via DC Breeze]
SLUDGE: You're becoming a pro at these pro Ultimate team tryouts. Tell me about your decision to sign-up for the DC Breeze tryout.
Sarah: I knew I would be going to this tryout when I had decided to go to the DC Current tryout, which was a few weeks earlier. The DC Breeze didn't reach out to us [Scandal] about trying out like the Current had. It was really something I just wanted to do, and going alone didn't bother me in any way.

SLUDGE: Did you try to recruit other Scandal players to join you?
Sarah: I decided to leave everyone alone since most of us knew about the tryout and I figured if anyone was interested, they would be there. By that point I had already sent the team a barrage of e-mails in my attempt to get more of us to tryout for the DC Current, so I didn't want to bug anybody about it any further. Like I had mentioned previously, it was hard to get a lot of interest because it's the club off season and being a fairly late decision on our part, it really didn't allow us enough time to show up physically and mentally prepared. I'm sure a lot of the guys at the tryout had been waiting and working toward that moment since last year's tryout.

SLUDGE: What was it like to see Dutchy as a coach for a team other than Scandal?
Sarah: I think Dutchy was aware that I might show up. I had expressed my interest in trying out for the Breeze in a group setting, and I believe Dutchy was present, but it was never a topic of discussion between us. I was happy to see Dutchy there, coaching for the DC Breeze. It was a nice reminder of all of his accomplishments as a player (Revolver) and coach (Team USA).

SLUDGE: So, what were your goals for participating in the Breeze tryout??
Sarah: I did not expect to make the team. I really only had one goal in mind and that was to try my best, and I think I accomplished that goal.

SLUDGE: What concerns would you have if you played for a pro Ultimate team in 2014?
Sarah: Well, I would probably be constantly concerned over my ability and athleticism in keeping up with the guys and the game. I'm kind of a slow learner when it comes to Ultimate (and a lot of things) (laughs), and I am definitely not as fast as most of the guys that were at the tryout. So, in terms of the bigger picture let's say, as a woman, I made a pro Ultimate team. It'd be a pretty unique and notable situation within the Ultimate community, so I think there would instantly be a lot of pressure to perform well, and to do so all the time.

SLUDGE: When participating in a tryout like this, do you feel any pressure of representing more than just yourself out there on the field?
Sarah: Yeah, I'd be lying if I said I didn't. As the only woman there I was definitely compelled to perform well, and as a player from Scandal having just won a national title, I really didn't want to look bad by turning discs over or dropping catches, etcetera.

SLUDGE: Did you feel better prepared for the DC Breeze tryout?
Sarah: I felt better prepared for the DC Breeze tryout than I had for the DC Current tryout. I had a few more weeks to train and I made sure to get out and run around as much as I could, whether it was indoor Ultimate, winter league, or indoor soccer. The big difference between the tryouts was that the Breeze conducted them outside, on a full turf field. So, the space was nice and I also really appreciated not having to wake up at 3:30 am for this one.

SLUDGE: What surprised you most about the Breeze tryout?
Sarah: Biggest surprise was when the trainer said, 'Okay, it's time for sprints'. That in itself was not surprising but then he says we're going to do 4 sprints. I'm thinking, that's not so bad. He explains that the sprint is to the cone, which was between 40-50 yards away, and back (I am absolutely sure that I am not exaggerating on the distance). That was one sprint and we had to do 4, back to back, non-stop sprints. That's when I started to worry. Let's just say, I didn't see anybody sprinting by the end of it and most of us weren't sprinting at the start of it either. That really tested me. I remember just closing my eyes and trying to breathe while pushing through the last leg; and that little voice inside my head, the one that pops in from time to time and tries to convince me to stop doing what I'm doing -- well, that was getting pretty loud by the end of it. (laughs) I was happy to finish ahead of some of the other players though.

[Picture via DC Breeze]
SLUDGE: Any memorable moments at the Breeze tryout?
Sarah: I had a few great plays in Mini (small field, 3v3). One was a D from behind and the other was a bookends play where i got up for a D in the opponents end-zone and then scored that same point. I think the size of the field in Mini really worked to my advantage because in Mini, it's really about those first few steps you need to get open, which was fairly easy for me to do, and to do so consistently. From there we switched to full field 3v3 though, and that was awful. I can be quick in the smaller games, but I am just not as fast as a lot of the guys that were out there so I would get beat on long throws and plays. It was expected but still a bummer. At the end of the tryout we switched to 7 on 7, full field scrimmages and things got better for me again. I would often get open for cuts underneath and I felt very involved in those points that I was on.

SLUDGE: So, then, was this another "fun" tryout?
Sarah: Absolutely. Not only did I enjoy most of the drills, but I had a few close friends at the tryout. I met a lot of really cool guys and made a few new friends so it was definitely a worthwhile experience. Playing Ultimate outside on a nice day and getting mini and full field scrimmages in was a great way to spend my afternoon and evening.

SLUDGE: You previously mentioned about body soreness. How were you feeling after the Breeze tryout?
Sarah: I was definitely sore but it wasn't nearly as bad as the way I had felt after the Current tryout. I had a bit more of a heads up about this tryout so I made sure to get workouts in leading up to it. I was definitely happy with my performances at both tryouts, they were really great experiences that left me feeling a little more confident in my overall play. However, I am sad to say that I felt slow out there with the guys, which is just a frustrating fact of life. (laughs) I'm normally on the faster side in women's so I had to adjust my strategy there a little bit.

Q: So, what was the outcome of your tryout?
Sarah: I was notified through e-mail a few days after the tryout that I had not made the team. I was not at all shocked. (laughs)


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