Gibson, Smith, Mickle, Kittredge, and Rassmussen - only some of the big names in Dallas - make jokes during tryouts. Photo by Daniel Thai of UltiPhotos.com.
The Dallas Roughnecks franchise has ambitions far greater than a championship. They are looking to transform their community.
By now, fans are well aware of the organized madness going on down in Dallas-Fort Worth. With days until opening day, we are all anxiously awaiting our chance to witness the Big Six and their fellow Roughnecks finally #StrikeOil. To say Dallas is in win now mode would be an understatement. Clearly the goal is to inaugurate this franchise with Championship caliber ultimate.
Jim Gerencser and his team of visionaries have set their sights on far more than the on-field product however. For all DFW residents the Roughnecks’ arrival will mean far more than highlights and a weekly box score. The Roughneck effect is bound to resonate far deeper into the Metroplex than meets the eye of the casual AUDL fan.
What of the Hometown Heroes?
In 2008, the University of North Texas Men’s ultimate team (then named UNT iLL) made its lone appearance in the then UPA College Ultimate Championships. The roster was comprised of some of the greatest products to come out of the area, including the likes of Roughnecks Jacob Anderson and Dan Emmons. Since that time, the city has awaited its next signature men’s team, one that could be a perennial player on the national stage.
Instead DFW has watched its best flourish elsewhere. They have either spread the city’s talent too thin across multiple club rosters or have spent part of their prime playing out of town, primarily in Austin. The Roughnecks have contributed to reeling back much of the talent DFW could really never afford to lose. Indeed, the Roughnecks roster contains a dumfounding amount of nationwide talent. Equally gratifying though, will be witnessing many homegrown talents playing under the same banner. Both the main and practice rosters include players who will be playing in front of the very community that has watched them grow up in the sport. By now, so much media has been dedicated to the starters, their comrades are likely chomping at the bit to show Dallas’ spoils of riches run deeper than we suppose. Look for the relatively unknown to make their mark early.
Evolving DFWs’ Youth Outreach Through E.R.I.C
The official charity of the AUDL is none other than Jim Gerencser’s E.R.I.C (Early Recognition Is Critical). Well before the inception of professional ultimate this organization has been prevalent throughout the country, educating youth with a unique message that combines ultimate with cancer awareness through how-to-play clinics.
Their message to youth: “Living an active lifestyle helps build familiarity with your body and helps to identify symptoms sooner.” And with their deep and dedicated staff E.R.I.C. has taken great strides in ensuring bright futures for many young men and women.
E.R.I.C being a Gerenscer venture means playing for the Dallas Roughnecks equates to far more than playing ultimate at a base salary. The Roughnecks, like their owner, will be deeply immersed in transforming youth - enthusiasts and newcomers alike - with their passion for plastic. The effects will reach even the most humble parts of our community, parts where affluence is little and ultimate is still very much an unfamiliar sport...
Kid 1: “Mr. Gipson, you should be a coach.”
Kid 2: “Mr. Gipson is a coach.”
Kid 1: “No he isn’t, he just yells like one.”
Kid 2: “Mr. Gipson coaches my frisbee team, and we played Brodie Smith and the Roughnecks and we beat them.”
First of all, I don’t know why kids lie like that….
I have the privilege of teaching a middle school with a high population of students from a low socioeconomic background. Every day is both a challenge and adventure. These are kids who often may be sitting in class having gone without dinner the night before and breakfast that morning. So academics can be, for them, a lofty priority at times.
I recently began throwing with Kid 2, admittedly more for my own stress relief than anything. But in just a week’s time, our time together has grown from throwing, to Brodie Smith videos, to teaching ultimate, to the delirious fandom you read above and finally to talk of playing opportunities. But as a 12-year-old in the heart of North Dallas, his options are limited.
Whereas E.R.I.C. has continued to host clinics throughout the country, partnership with the Roughnecks will speed up the evolution of youth outreach in DFW particularly. The goal is for the depth of ultimate in the city to eventually be on par with likes of San Francisco or Seattle. Even less than 4 hours away in Austin there are competitive middle school teams and leagues. In time my young protégé will have the same opportunities in his very backyard, largely thanks to the efforts of E.R.I.C and the Roughnecks. Beyond teaching a child an easily accessible sport, there’s greater reward to be had from these outreach projects. Putting a disc in the hand of a low socioeconomic teenager could enrich their entire existence in greater ways than it has most who play. Outreach extends further than anyone could possibly know.
Once April 2 is upon us, much of the conversation will be focused on how such a noteworthy roster of skill and personality will fare as a unit. But almost any result – perhaps even a Championship – will be trumped by the greater influence of the organization’s overall presence. The Dallas Roughnecks’ impact on the field has yet to come. The work toward evolving their city to the next premiere ultimate site has been well under way.