“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
T.S. Eliot, American Poet 1888-1965
With hopeful spirits and energy aplenty, nearly 40 young men took the playing field at Tennessee State University last weekend, plying their wares for a chance to wear the jersey of the Nashville NightWatch. For 6 hours of their lives between Friday night and Saturday morning, these young men put on a display of athleticism, technique, and skill. And thus, brick one of the foundation of the 2016 Nashville NightWatch was laid.
With great risk comes great reward. One year ago, Michael Gaines, Chris Barrett, and Garrett Bruce, 3 of the AUDL’s youngest owners, took a great risk in coming to town with dreams of implanting in Nashville the next big thing, professional ultimate Frisbee. As Gaines puts it, the draw was irresistible due to “the superior level of talent in Nashville.” Last year, the inaugural season for the NightWatch, saw many ups and downs. Ultimately, the season resulted in a disappointing 2 wins for the newly minted NightWatch. Yet, with only 11 of those games decided by 6 points or less and 1 overtime loss, the record can seem misleading.
In steps new head coach Ryan Balch and his assistant, Jason Chow. Both have at least a decade of experience in ultimate Frisbee and bring a fresh, veteran perspective to the team. Coach Balch, whom we introduced here alongside Coach Chow, "expect[s] to build on the foundation and move to being a serious contender within a tough division." Balch has won at multiple levels, having been a champion at Beach Worlds in both 2011 and 2015 as well as at Pan American in 2015. He sees the Nashville ultimate scene as the ownership group does, experiencing rapid growth. According to Coach Balch:
"The Nashville club scene has experienced some ebbs and flows over the past 10 years... having nationals level teams in some years (Tanasi, Encore/DeSoto, Reckon, etc.) and some years without serious contenders at regionals. The NightWatch has really solidified the men's club scene in Nashville and I think you'll hear some noise from teams on the national level in the next few years."
Moreover, he does really well in relating to the guys, serving as both player and coach in a decidedly unique role.
Relationships and education are both staples of the current Vanderbilt professor of policy. Coach Balch used to be the mascot of the Duke Blue Devils and relished the role of finding out how to get the most out of crowds at Cameron Indoors. Much like the ACC in basketball, it would be fair to say the South division of the AUDL is the toughest, with Coach Balch pinpointing Dallas, Austin, and Atlanta as teams he looks forward to matching up against.
Coach Balch led the 37 attendees at training camp this past weekend through a series of drills and employed the techniques taught in a scrimmage at the end of each day. Tyler Conger and Craig Stewart, the two captains on this year’s squad, served as vocal leaders during the drills and helped the coaches keep the intensity hyped up. Both are Nashville natives and bring valuable experience to a team full of athleticism and youth. The 2nd day wrapped up with a meeting of all the guys and Coach Balch thanking the guys for their hard work and effort.
"We're going to play a high risk/reward [style]," explains Coach Balch. Here's to hoping we find out how far the NightWatch can make that go.