Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Talking With Trainor- Andrew Lugsdin


Few players have dominated the country's Open division like Andrew Lugsdin:

  • 3 UPA titles as a captain on Furious George
  • World Championship Gold and represented Canada on many occasions
  • National Championships with Furious George, WaX, and Nomads
This is just a few of the things he's done. For two decades, he's been a elite player on the elite team in the nation. He's a lock for the Ottawa Ultimate hall of Fame for his early career exploits in Ottawa. He's also seen as one of the best captains and leaders in the game.

By popular demand, here's an interview with Andrew. Many questions, many good answers.

How was the name Furious George created? Who is to be given credi
This was before my time here so I don't really know the details. The team was formed in '95 when Vertigogh (the old guys) and Evil Genius (the young guys) combined. I heard that they had a team vote on the final two names and the other name won. However, Khai Foo was the one responsible for getting the team jerseys made and he vetoed the group and had them made as Furious George. Khai is the one who created the logo. He's a great artist here in Vancouver.

Who/What brought you into the sport?

A buddy of mine, Dan Nichols, formed a team in the Ottawa City league without telling any of us. None of us had heard of the sport before but he registered the team and so we were commited to playing. That was the very beginning but I probably got more interested in the game at McGill University where Steve and Eileen Wright were very welcoming to new players and they exposed us to a higher level of play.

What's your strongest asset as a player?

I think my strongest asset is my competitive nature. I like to compete and to win. Team sports have lots of different dynamics going on and players who focus on the outcome and not how they look while doing it tend to be more successful from my perspective.

What's your strongest asset as a leader? Do you feel comfortable being dubbed as a great leader?

I don't really think of myself as a great, or a not-great, leader so it's not something that creates any discomfort. It's just not something that crosses my mind. I think of myself as fulfilling a role on the team and it happens to a leadership role, no more or less important, than any other role on the team. If the team thinks that it will do better with someone else in the leadership role then I would happily change to another role. A team having good leadership is about having both a good leader(s) and good followers. If you don't have people that will support the direction that the leadership is pointing the team in, the team won't be successful. On Furious, we've been lucky that we've had an excellent crew of guys that think of what is best for the team ahead of themselves. In terms of how I lead, I focus on putting the team first and leading by example. After that, I just let my passion for the game and our team guide me.

Many of today's players might not know you were leading Ottawa teams to national titles before you days with the Monkey? What are some of your favorite moments as an Ottawa player? Who are some of your favorite teammates?

Yeah, the Ottawa days are a little while ago now. I remember my Ottawa days very fondly. I think everyone remembers the early days as something special and it's the same for me. I didn't really know anything about the game then but we loved to play. We had a bunch of young guys come up at the same time who were hungry to get better and every practice was so intense. The veteran guys - Phil Rodger, Jamie Wildgen, Cliff Youdale, Dave Pelletier, Rob Bohnen - were a hilarious group of guys so there were lots of good times and banter between the old and and the new. We actually got together two summers ago at the Ottawa No Borders tournament. We had guys come from coast to coast in Canada, from Austrailia and from San Diego. About five minutes into the tournament, it felt like old times (other than our play), same old jokes going round.

Pictured: WaX @ the 2006 No Borders Tournament (Photo: Mike Reade)

Which national title meant the most to you?

The first Canadian national title that we won as Ottawa waX in '93 against Vancouver is definitely the most special to me. It was a close game and we had come so far in two years to beat teams that had spanked us in the past. Winning the first of anything is always great validation of a belief that you have and will always remain special.

Which UPA title meant the most to you?

Again, the first time we won UPA's in 2002 was an incredible feeling. It was a dream that a few of us especially had been building towards for a number of years. We had lost so many players from the year before, over half of our 14 starters were gone, that it was a rebuilding year in many senses. To have so many guys step into bigger roles than they ever had before and to win against the best teams in world was great. The semis that we played in against Boston that year, where we made only 2 turnovers all game, also made winning that year pretty incredible.

Who are the best players that you have played against/with? Can you identify one player over the years that deserves to be called the best?

I have played with some incredible players over the years, true champions in my opinion, guys like Albob Nichols, Jeff Cruickshank, Evan Wood, Kirk Savage, young studs like Oscar Pottinger and Derek Alexander, amongst many others. I have been teammates with guys who play in less visible roles but who are so dedicated; these "grinders" form the foundation of successful teams. I've played with Biff (John Frame) since '92 (other than a couple of years where he played with the Boulder guys) and I have so much respect for what he contributes to the team. I've also had the opportunity to play against some great players. The ones that come to mind for me are the ones that I play against most often.

Recently, that's been guys like Nord and Chase because we've played so many big games against Sockeye over the last 5 years and I end up matched up against them so often. Those two guys play the game hard and are so good that it makes me push myself to try to best them and really that's what sport is about. That's why such respect develops between players because while we're competing to crush each other, without each other
to compete against, ultimate is kinda meaningless at the top level. I think it's really difficult to identify a single best player because there are so many great players in the game who contribute so much to their teams and there are so many critical aspects of the sport (great throwers vs. great receivers vs. great defenders) that it is very difficult to weigh the value of one person's strengths vs another's strengths.

However, if I get one player that if I had to build a team around it would be Mike Grant (pictured). Perhaps, I'm biased because I see him at practice all of the time but he's worked so damn hard to make himself the player that he is, and continues to work so hard, and he puts the team first at all times. These are things that I have great respect for and with the great talent that he has, it makes him a great player.

What are your thoughts on the 2007 UPA finals?

First, that it's always better to play in them than to watch them. I remember thinking when I got to the fields and noticed that the wind had picked up, I felt that the conditions would favour Sockeye as their offense has lots of quick, short passes as opposed to Bravo's offense which looks for the big huck more often. However, for the first 2/3 of the game, Bravo seemed to have no problem with the wind. The second half turned on a few big points, as it almost always does, that Sockeye swung in their favour. I thought Bravo played a very good game and had a great tournament and I think Sockeye is a very deserving champion, definitely the strongest team in the game right now.

Do you think Furious's absence from numerous national championships in recent years has been good or bad for Canadian ultimate?
It's probably not been a great effect but I don't really see it as that damaging either. The unfortunate reality is that for a number of years, there was a real discrepenacy between Furious and the rest of the country. This has left most of the players on Furious not very interested in atttending Canadian nationals when it means travel dollars and vacation time at the expense of some other tournament. I remember when it really become an issue for players. At '97 Canadian nationals, Furious played the 3rd Vancouver team in the semis and the 2nd Vancouver team in the finals. After that, it was impossible for the players to value the tournament very much. Fortunately, that is changing now, particularly with GOAT becoming a much stronger team over the last few years.

Who will lead Furious in 5 years? Can you see the young players being able to perform at the same level?

I think there is some good leadership potential amongst the young guys. Oscar (Pottinger, Pictured), in particular, I think will be one of the key leaders on the team. He already has the respect of all of his teammates and is everything that you want in a great leader. Will the young guys perform at the same level as what we've achieved in the past is an open question in my opinion. Certainly, I hope so. However, we just had our worst season in over a decade and a big part of that is because we are gradually losing part of the core group that has made us successful in the past and the remaining part of the core is getting older. If Furious is to rebound next year, there will have to be a number of young guys who step up and want to be the guys to get the job done when the game is on the line.

Comment on the state of Open ultimate in Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Montreal, and other parts of Canada. Which programs do you see as emerging rivals, if any?

I think Canadian Open ultimate continues to get better. Of course it has to if it wants to compete internationally because everyone else is getting better. The US teams get better, the Japanese, the Australians, etc. For me, it's been exciting to see GOAT have such a successful year. They've been building over the last few years and this year is a result of all of that work. They're a young team that should continue to get better over the next few years. The other two cities that caught my attention at nationals this year were Winnipeg and Montreal. Winnipeg has a bunch of young players that play so well fundamentally. Rarely do you see a young team that is so clearly pointed in the right direction, usually there's a lot more chaos going on. Their challenge will be to continue to develop more talent to grow with the existing base that they have.

The top two Montreal teams surprised me with the number of
talented individuals that they both have. If they could get on the same page and get behind some strong leadership then I think you would see a team that could become really good over the next two years.

What does Furious do for off season training?

We don't really do anything as a team for off season training, everyone kind of does their own thing and I think that shows in how we start our season. We have an older team now that struggles to balance ultimate against other life priorities and every year we seem a little less prepared physically to challenge to be the best team in the world. About the only thing we do as a group (other than poker and beer) in the offseason is some of us play goaltimate on the weekends. Maybe we should start something more formal this year.

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