How the Dallas Roughnecks Created An All-Star Team Before Ever Stepping On The Field
The AUDL’s brand-new Dallas Roughnecks have an ambitious plan to change the way people see ultimate – and they haven’t even played a game yet.. This post originally appeared on Ultiworld.com.
In most sports, expansion teams never compete right away. Baseball’s Miami Marlins, established in 1993, took four years to reach their first postseason berth. It took nine years for football’s Houston Texans. Same for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL.
Professional ultimate probably isn’t established enough to fit that bill. The first three AUDL titles were won by first-year teams, a streak that only ended last year when the San Jose Spiders repeated as league champions. As is the case for many fledgling professional sports leagues, the team list remains in flux year-to-year, with new franchises joining and folding each season. Last year, the league’s entire South division was brand-new.
So it might not be surprising that the most-talked about professional ultimate team over the past few months—the Dallas Roughnecks—has yet to step on the field or play a single game. Why? An all-star roster helps, including college stars like Texas A&M’s Dalton Smith and Matt Bennett, longtime Boston standout Brandon Malacek, and most recently, social media and reality television star Brodie Smith—a multi-time Club champion in his own right
But the expected core of the team is made up of five players from the U.S. National Team competing at the 2016 World Ultimate and Guts Championships in London this June: Beau Kittredge, Cassidy Rasmussen, Jimmy Mickle, Dylan Freechild, and Kurt Gibson.
Here’s how that core came together.
November 3, 2015: Beau Kittredge
The AUDL announced their plan for a team in Dallas in July 2014, but 56-year-old Roughnecks co-owner Jim Gerencser knew about it months in advance.
In early 2014, before the Roughnecks’ existence was officially confirmed, Gerencser sat Beau Kittredge down over drinks at a San Francisco bar and cut right to the chase. “As soon as there’s an AUDL team in Dallas, I want you on that team,” he said.
Kittredge, who has lived, worked, and played in the Bay Area for the past eight years, didn’t take it too seriously. “This old crazy dude thinks he’s going to be able to do whatever he wants, huh?” he thought to himself.
But then, the two started working together on Early Recognition Is Critical (E.R.I.C), Gerencser’s cancer awareness nonprofit and official charitable partner of the AUDL. As the partnership progressed, Gerencser would regularly repeat that he wanted Kittredge on his potential Dallas team.
This past September — with the Roughnecks preparing for their first season of competition in the AUDL South Division — Gerencser, a consummate salesman, really started to work on Kittredge.Where do you think ultimate is going? Gerencser asked. Is the community at maximum capacity, or can we work with sponsors, large corporations, and big schools to make ultimate accessible to those who’ve never experienced it?
The same questions had been on Kittredge’s mind for years. Gerencser sold Kittredge on a vision of changing the way ultimate is presented to fans, the way people see the sport – not as a niche game but something worthy of mainstream appeal. And to build a fanbase that isn’t only made of other ultimate players, he needs a winning team.
Kittredge did, of course, have some conditions. He wanted to prioritize the U.S. National Team over the Roughnecks. He also wanted some control over the final roster, effectively requesting to be a co-general manager.
Gerencser accepted, proposing that Kittredge move to Dallas and take on a job with his company, Nationwide Auto Services. Kittredge now works in creative development for Nationwide – with “a pretty easy day-to-day,” according to Gerencser – but he spends most of his time and energy preparing for the AUDL season.
Gerencser would also help Kittredge with housing – though some other pieces needed to fall into place, first.
November 5, 2015: Cassidy Rasmussen
The first person Kittredge started recruiting once he joined the Roughnecks – even before he made it official – was his then-roommate, San Francisco Revolver captain (and Ultiworld’s 2015 Club Player of the Year) Cassidy Rasmussen. The angle: This is a team that will invest money in helping you become the best athlete you can be.
“I made him do a really hard lifting workout, and then asked him when he was really tired,” Kittredge laughs. “A bunch of heavy deadlifts, and when he was probably a little lightheaded, I was like, ‘You know…’”
“That’s… accurate,” Rasmussen ruefully admits. “I didn’t immediately oppose it, or anything of that nature. I was in the middle of a workout!”
Soon, they started talking details, with Kittredge as liaison between his roommate and team ownership. Rasmussen, who wasn’t willing to move to Dallas for the season, needed to know how much travel would be involved. Would his contract have attendance requirements? (It does not.) Can he prioritize the U.S. National Team? (He can.) What’s the salary? (He won’t say, but apparently, it’s enough.)
TO KEEP READING, HEAD OVER TO ULTIWORLD.COM: http://ultiworld.com/2016/03/28/dallas-roughnecks-roster-history/