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No Tomorrow is Promised: The Tragic Loss and Inspiring Perseverance of AUDL’s Mechanix

No Tomorrow is Promised: The Tragic Loss and Inspiring Perseverance of AUDL’s Mechanix

2020 started out as a year full of promise and exciting change for AUDL’s Mechanix — the team was growing and relocating to a new city, and couldn’t wait to get out on the field. Then suddenly, on Feb. 29, 2020, an unimaginable tragedy struck. Michael Cannon, Drew Piet, and Kevin Coulter — three beloved team members of the Mechanix — were traveling to weekend practice in Detroit when their car was struck from behind by another vehicle on I-96. The injuries sustained in the collision proved to be fatal. Coulter was pronounced dead on the scene and Piet and Cannon remained on life support until their organs could be donated. 

Almost immediately after that horrific car crash, while still mourning the loss of three of their teammates, the team suddenly faced a whole new challenge — the COVID-19 pandemic.  With AUDL games and practices suspended for the foreseeable future and strict social distancing measures in place, the Mechanix family had to find new ways of coming together while remaining apart. 

AUDL Mechanix Ultimate Frisbee Team Roster Photo

Yet, despite the challenges and tragedies, the Mechanix story isn’t one of sorrow, but one of perseverance, resilience, solidarity, and strength. More than a team, the Mechanix consider themselves a family, an ethos perfectly summed up in their mantra of “We Before Me.” Together, they’re determined to get through these trying times through their unity and positivity, and come out stronger on the other side. 

The new Mechanix Memorial Collection is a loving tribute to the three teammates they lost, a testament of the team’s strength, and a reminder that “No Tomorrow is Promised,” so always make the most of today. A portion of all proceeds will go to a memorial fund for the families of Michael Cannon, Drew Piet, and Kevin Coulter — the three players that died in the crash.

We recently spoke to Brent Steepe, the General Manager of the Mechanix, to learn more about the new collection, moving the organization to a new city, and how the team is coming together to forge ahead.


Savage: What was the inspiration behind this new collection? What does the black ribbon signify? Tell us what “We Before Me” and “No Tomorrow is Promised” means to you and to the team. 

Brent Steepe: 2020 has been a challenging year for the Mechanix as a whole, and myself as a leader in the organization.  

The season was off to a tremendous start: we made thorough changes throughout the organization, even relocating the organization itself to Grand Rapids, MI. The year began with new athletes, new personnel, and a return to active coaching for me, marking my 10th year with DMX. Little did we know that the season was to be riddled with both challenge and loss.  

More energy and dedicated effort were placed into the Mechanix than ever before — not only practices and workouts, which were the norm — we also doubled-down with weekend retreats and "get to know your team" assignments throughout the week. Then, while we were at practice, the call came. Three of our players — one of whom I had worked with for multiple seasons and teams — were gone. Sass (Kevin) was family, and Drew and Mike were well on their way to becoming that as well.   

Then, in a flash, it was forgotten as COVID-19 was announced, turning our sport and our world on its side. Just as quarantine had become the "new normal", we got another shock to the system. My personal friend and team lawyer, Daniel P. Marsh, was gone. Dan had been with us since 2012, and he and his family were champions of both the Mechanix and the sport. To say that this has been challenging really does the journey a disservice. Yet the resilience of the team, the staff, and specifically my co-coach Gerald Chizmadia have been an inspiration for all who hear the story. They are a championship-caliber group of ladies and gentlemen, and I am excited to see their passion for the sport ignite in this time of uncertainty. Thus, the "Memorial Collection" is born, as it is these events that drive our passion and inspire us to grow beyond ourselves. 

AUDL Detroit Mechanix Team Jersey Memorial Jersey for three teammates that died in car accidentThe Black Ribbon is the memorial for the numbers our fallen brothers would have worn this year. Cannon 91, Sass 55, Piet 8.

"We Before Me" is the mantra of the Mechanix, a call to action placing our teammates and families first in our lives, recognizing that together we are greater than alone, so let our priorities reflect this in our actions.

"No tomorrow is promised" is a statement said to the gentlemen on a regular basis and throughout meetings and events. Little did I know how much more gravity those words would have after this spring. The time is now, this moment, this blink to make your activities and outcomes align, as a new day brings with it both new circumstances and conditions, some of which may not be favorable to your current passion and path. The team has embraced these phrases and adopted them into many aspects of team and life.

 

Savage: How has the team and the organization been getting through these tough times?   

BS: We have each other. We seek to understand each other and the importance of each aspect of the lives of our teammates. We support and rely upon each other and our families equally, creating a unity that is unlike anything I have experienced in over three decades of sports, athletic training, and coaching.


Savage: What are you most looking forward to in the second half of 2020?  

BS: Watching this team… this family… succeed both on and off of the field.

 

Savage: The Mechanix has a new home! How do you feel about the Mechanix leaving Detroit and moving to another city? What impact will this move have on the team as a whole?

BS: There is excitement and new life to the organization, as it allows us to reset our organizational plan, as well as align with a very robust Ultimate community and youth programming. We are partnering with local athletes, the Grand Rapids Ultimate group (GRU), and ZigZag Ultimate, one of the finest youth organizations that I have had the pleasure of working within recent times.

AUDL Mechanix Team Ultimate Frisbee Game photo

 

Savage: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in the new season once it starts? For the Mechanix and the AUDL/Ultimate as a whole?

BS: With COVID-19, a new experience for both the players and fans will be the central theme of the AUDL this year, and perhaps many more to come. As a team, we seek to continue to deliver safe, fun, and exciting family entertainment in the realm of professional ultimate, and through our school, youth, and community programs we seek to find ways to inspire growth in our sport through participation and exposure. We are reignited...One Team, One Chain.


Shop the Mechanix Memorial Collection. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to a memorial fund for the families of the three players that they lost.

All team photos by Elizabeth Maryland Photography

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10 Fun Ways to Stay Connected to Your Friends and Teammates While Social Distancing (That Aren’t Just Skype)

10 Fun Ways to Stay Connected to Your Friends and Teammates While Social Distancing (That Aren’t Just Skype)

In the span of just a few tumultuous days, the sports world ground to a halt and social distancing became the norm — leaving many of us feeling unmoored. Humans are social beings, and sports are truly about so much more than the game itself. While we love the intensity and fun of playing, the community and social aspects are just as important — and one of the main reasons why we love sports like Ultimate Frisbee, Spikeball, Quidditch, Disc Golf, and Dodgeball so much.

So what happens when high-fives are suddenly forbidden, all social gatherings and games are canceled, local hangouts are temporarily closed, and social distancing becomes a critical part of staying safe and healthy? We get creative and come up with new ways to stay connected to our friends, family, and teammates. Social interaction, bonding, and coming together as a community are probably more important now than ever, which is why we’ve come up with a list of 10 fun and creative ways to help you stay connected. 

Host a Virtual Group Lunch or Coffee — When you’d normally be at practice, do a full-team coffee hour or eat a meal via Skype or Google Hangouts video chat. Having a set time to bring everyone together as a group helps to maintain a routine and stay connected and is a good way to check in on everyone.

Go Outside! — Large social gatherings are off-limits, and maintaining a distance of six feet is encouraged, but unless you’re in a city or state where you’re barred from leaving your house for unnecessary reasons, you should absolutely be going outside and getting some fresh air and a bit of exercise. Take a friend or two and go on a hike or a jog or bike ride (give the handlebars a good wipe with sanitizer before and after). So long as you’re all healthy/asymptomatic, refrain from high-fives, and maintain a safe distance apart, some time outdoors with a couple of friends should be totally okay.

Have a Remote Workout Sesh — Set up a group video chat and have your team captain or another volunteer lead the group in a basic workout or yoga session. Even though you can’t get out and play together, you can still stay in shape and game-ready for when seasons start up again. Group motivation and holding each other accountable is a great way to stay fit and healthy together so you can dominate next season. Stay tuned to the Savage Blog, Facebook, and Instagram for some tips and home exercises to help.

Do a Group Photo Challenge — A photo challenge is a great way to stay busy and have some fun together. Decide on your approach (Googling “photo challenge” will give you plenty of options to choose from, but here’s a good basic one). Every day, you each have to take a photo that fits the theme for that day then share in a group chat or on social with your own hashtag. 

Play Mobile Games — The great thing about mobile games is that everyone has a smartphone, and most of these games are free. Draw Something, Words With Friends, and Drawful are pretty much modern classics at this point. Ever get into a cut-throat game of Draw Something with your grandparents? If not, you have 100% been missing out. 

Host a Virtual Game Night — If you’re more a fan of playing board games and missing your regular Cards Against Humanity throwdown or poker night, there are also plenty of options for playing board and card games online with your mates. Monopoly, UNO, Yahtzee Party, and poker are all solid options for a virtual game night. There’s also a fun Cards Against Humanity clone that includes a very necessary group chat feature since commenting and laughing over the card combos is an essential part of the game. 

Organize a Virtual Book Club — Google Play, Open Library, Free eBooks, and Project Gutenberg offer an extensive array of free eBook options to choose from. If you don’t feel like falling down a black hole of book options, r/freeEBOOKS is a great place to find solid recommendations. Other than entertainment and offering mental escape, plenty of books can also impart valuable lessons in leadership and teamwork. Our friends at Five Ultimate put together this list of great reads that can also sharpen your game. Once everyone decides on a book, set up a reading schedule and video chats to discuss. And yes, it’s totally fair to read Harry Potter again together.

Give Each Other a Little Boost — Sarahah is a site and iOS/Android app that lets you post anonymous messages for your friends. Have everyone on your team sign up and share their links, then go through and leave everyone a nice message telling them something you admire or appreciate about them. It’s totally anonymous, but you can leave your name if you’d like.

Start a D&D Group  There’s a reason why Dungeons & Dragons has been the most popular role-playing game since the 70s — it’s fun! With everything going on right now, this feels like the perfect time to get together with a group of friends and escape into a fantasy world for a few hours. With social distancing, you might not be able to gather around a table to play, but fortunately, there are some really amazing online options. Roll20 is a great way to play D&D together online, either building your own campaign from scratch or using one of their ready-to-play campaigns. Set up a video chat using FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts and get ready to party with rangers and warlocks.

Start Planning for Next Season — It’s a very rough and uncertain time right now, and many of us are mourning our interrupted seasons. Though things can seem pretty grim at the present moment, it’s more important now than ever to keep looking ahead. There will be a light at the end of all this. Sports will come back. Leagues will start up again. Tournaments will be rescheduled. And when they do, it’ll be such an incredibly celebratory moment. The start of next season will likely be the biggest, most exciting start to any season ever. And it’s totally okay to start getting hyped about it now! Skype with your teammates and discuss game strategy and ways to kick more ass than ever next season. Brainstorm ways to introduce new people to your sport and get them excited and involved. Start designing those new uniforms you’ve been talking about for ages. Come up with some cool fundraising ideas. Plan the most epic first-game after-party ever. Because we will all play again. And together, we’ll come back stronger and better than ever.

Photo by Bruno Gomiero for Unsplash

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A Phase of College Ultimate May Be Over, But We’re Ready to Focus on What’s Ahead

A Phase of College Ultimate May Be Over, But We’re Ready to Focus on What’s Ahead

In the four years I’ve been attending the High Tide Ultimate Tournament as a Savage employee, I’ve seen a lot of crazy things happen — but 2020 is the year I know I’ll always remember. The spread of COVID-19 ended this year’s tournament two weeks early, and most of us also recognized it could mean the end of the college season as well. For many seniors, it was a heartbreaking moment. 

There was a distinct shift at the tournament among players and staff as we all began to process what was about to happen. There was a deep feeling of mourning as news spread that not only was the tournament ending, but schools were closing their doors for the foreseeable future, effectively ending the college Ultimate season.

It’s natural for players to obsess over what didn’t happen, or what could’ve been. I know I’ve struggled with this myself. For some players, it may be the last time they see some of their seniors for a long time. For some seniors, it’s the last time they’ll be playing with some of their teammates. 

But this is what I keep thinking about, and why I’m grateful that I was at High Tide at this moment in time: Witnessing the love players have not only for each other, but also for their opponents at this event, has been life-changing. This truly is a special sport we play. From seeing teams treat a fun Spring Break tournament like it was their last Nationals run, to crying with new players on my old college team, High Tide 2020 was unforgettable. 

It’s painful to think about, but we ought to stay positive, keeping this in mind: Our family of Ultimate players may just be one of the most tight-knit sports communities in the world. I — and the rest of the Savage team — love to come to Myrtle Beach not just to interact with you all and see you play some of the wackiest “games” of ultimate possible, but to be reminded of how much we love this sport ourselves. 

Seniors, addressing you all directly for a moment, we want to offer our sympathy for the abrupt end to some of your seasons. While this is the end of one chapter, we can assure you there’s so much more in store for you. Look forward to joining new teams, new players to befriend, plays to make, and yes, more tears to be shed. 

For now, make sure you leave your teams in a better state than you joined them. Leave a lasting impression for the younger crowd, and continue to be the leaders you wanted when you started playing. While the season’s ending early can lead to questioning of what might’ve been, it’s pointless to wonder about the unknown. Try not to mourn the fact that this chapter is over. It’s better to focus on the incredible times we had, celebrate the fact that you got to experience it, and that you have so much to look forward to. 

It’s crucial during times like this that we hold our favorite people and memories close to give us comfort. We can and probably will feel sad thinking about it, but remember: This community doesn’t end with college. One of the things I love most about Ultimate is that it’s truly a year-round sport if you want it to be. With almost unlimited access to seasonal leagues, club tryouts, and even just casual pickup, Ultimate has never stopped growing — and this will not stop it. 

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay Savage. 

 

Written by Savage's Production/Order Rockstar, Nick Evans 


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Spirit of the Game Day

Spirit of the Game Day

Today is a very special day for the ultimate frisbee world. It's the inaugural Spirit of the Game Day! 

We were approached by ERIC's Jim Gerencser and WFDF's Spirit of the Game Chairperson, Patrick van der Valk in November to get involved. The goal of today is to promote Spirit of the Game which is one of the most unique rules in Ultimate.

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