Author: Melina Devoney
Occidental’s men’s ultimate team, “Detox,” gained a talented first-year class, a new coach and a fresh team philosophy this spring.
Detox debuted its talent at their first USA Ultimate-sanctioned tournament of the season, “Trouble in Vegas,” on the weekend of Feb. 28. They went 3-and-3 to secure 11th place out of 28 teams, losing only to the top two teams and the Canadian U23 national team.
Having only graduated four seniors, Detox is largely composed of seasoned players. According to Coach Ben Potash ‘98, handler Spencer Goldman (sophomore) has stepped up as team captain. Gabe Bethke (junior), a defensive captain, provides the team with a voice of reason and David Phillips (junior), a “multi” player, excels in almost any role.
Almost a dozen first-years joined the team, which, according to Goldman, ensures Detox’s continued success for seasons to come. He said that the team is focusing on building a more sustainable program to avoid having to replace all the graduating star players, a problem they hit last year.
Goldman said that the newcomers easily filled the hole left from last year’s star players.
“We have had an amazing year of new recruits,” Potash said. He pointed to Adam Grammer, Kade Cheatham, Robert Zhang, Isaac Dalsheimer and Isaac Glanzrock as key newcomers that have fortified the strong backbone of veteran players.
Potash said that Grammer has been important for the team offensively. Having been captain of the Massachusetts state champion high school Frisbee team, Grammer came to Detox with a strong foundation in the sport.
Grammer is mainly a cutter, which is a position that darts away from the defense to receive throws, but has been getting some playing time as handler—the Frisbee equivalent to a football quarterback. He had never handled in high school and said that he is still adapting to Detox’s structure and strategy.
“College ultimate is a whole new step up from high school,” Grammer said.
Grammer wants to improve his defensive skills in order to keep up with the athleticism of college players. He said that the returning players have been instrumental in improving his play.
Unlike Grammer, Cheatham never played ultimate competitively. However, Goldman said that his athleticism makes him a promising asset to the team.
“He’s going to be a monster one day,” Goldman said.
Cheatham competed in tennis, soccer, baseball and track and field before college. He said that his training for discus, high jump and sprinting especially prepared him well for ultimate. He settled on Frisbee for its fun spirit.
“I kept switching sports because I wanted to see which one was the most fun,” Cheatham said. “Frisbee is definitely the most chill sport.”
Cheatham plays primarily as Detox’s deep-cutter. Eager to try something new, Cheatham has his eye on handling, but he said he has to improve his decision-making and positioning before he is ready.
“I decide on making throws too late, or cutting too late,” Cheatham said.
Cheatham said that, even though he has a lot to work on, Potash is encouraging.
“He makes all his criticisms seem like they’re not too bad,” Cheatham said.
Potash was Occidental’s men’s team captain from 1994 to 1997 and both assistant and head coach of the women’s team from 2008 to 2013. After a one-year hiatus, Potash came back last fall to find Sam Pittman established as the women’s coach. The men’s team was looking for a new coach, so he jumped in.
Potash was excited to coach the men’s team, but he was unsure how Detox would respond to his coaching style, which is very different from that of the previous coach. His biggest concern was the potential for more aggressive, competitive egos.
“I have been pleasantly surprised by what we have created in terms of team spirit and camaraderie,” Potash said.
Goldman said that Potash takes a different approach to coaching than their previous coach Bert Kang, who was often outspoken and intense.
“Our coach now has a more macro-approach to the team and the team philosophy whereas our old coach had more of an individual improvement approach,” Goldman said.
According to Goldman, team strategy used to revolve around the few star players, and now it focuses on creating diverse plays that keep opponents guessing. Intensity has risen in practice in order to get everyone up to speed.
“Our team strategy is to try to win with the depth of our team and utilize everyone’s different skill sets to help us win instead of just relying on one or two people to carry the team,” Goldman said.
According to Goldman, Detox’s goal is to finally make the cut for Nationals—meaning they must be ranked in the top 16 teams based on USA Ultimate-sanctioned tournaments.
“The last three years in a row we lost in the game to go to Nationals against Claremont,” Goldman said. “They are definitely our biggest rival.”
According to Goldman, Claremont did not graduate any seniors and is ranked second in the nation. In order to beat them, Grammer said that Detox needs to straighten out the little mistakes that they made in their last 7-13 loss against Claremont.
“We dropped a lot of catchable discs and had really bad throws. Once they got up a couple points we unraveled and gave up, so we have to stay mentally tough throughout the whole game,” Grammar said.
For now, Detox is preparing for their debut at the Provo Open in Utah on March 21, where they will go up against unfamiliar teams
“Our team is young and really athletic, so we could really upset some really established programs,” Goldman said. “We hope it to be a breakout tournament for us.”
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