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No Tomorrow is Promised: The Tragic Loss and Inspiring Perseverance of AUDL’s Mechanix

No Tomorrow is Promised: The Tragic Loss and Inspiring Perseverance of AUDL’s Mechanix

2020 started out as a year full of promise and exciting change for AUDL’s Mechanix — the team was growing and relocating to a new city, and couldn’t wait to get out on the field. Then suddenly, on Feb. 29, 2020, an unimaginable tragedy struck. Michael Cannon, Drew Piet, and Kevin Coulter — three beloved team members of the Mechanix — were traveling to weekend practice in Detroit when their car was struck from behind by another vehicle on I-96. The injuries sustained in the collision proved to be fatal. Coulter was pronounced dead on the scene and Piet and Cannon remained on life support until their organs could be donated. 

Almost immediately after that horrific car crash, while still mourning the loss of three of their teammates, the team suddenly faced a whole new challenge — the COVID-19 pandemic.  With AUDL games and practices suspended for the foreseeable future and strict social distancing measures in place, the Mechanix family had to find new ways of coming together while remaining apart. 

AUDL Mechanix Ultimate Frisbee Team Roster Photo

Yet, despite the challenges and tragedies, the Mechanix story isn’t one of sorrow, but one of perseverance, resilience, solidarity, and strength. More than a team, the Mechanix consider themselves a family, an ethos perfectly summed up in their mantra of “We Before Me.” Together, they’re determined to get through these trying times through their unity and positivity, and come out stronger on the other side. 

The new Mechanix Memorial Collection is a loving tribute to the three teammates they lost, a testament of the team’s strength, and a reminder that “No Tomorrow is Promised,” so always make the most of today. A portion of all proceeds will go to a memorial fund for the families of Michael Cannon, Drew Piet, and Kevin Coulter — the three players that died in the crash.

We recently spoke to Brent Steepe, the General Manager of the Mechanix, to learn more about the new collection, moving the organization to a new city, and how the team is coming together to forge ahead.


Savage: What was the inspiration behind this new collection? What does the black ribbon signify? Tell us what “We Before Me” and “No Tomorrow is Promised” means to you and to the team. 

Brent Steepe: 2020 has been a challenging year for the Mechanix as a whole, and myself as a leader in the organization.  

The season was off to a tremendous start: we made thorough changes throughout the organization, even relocating the organization itself to Grand Rapids, MI. The year began with new athletes, new personnel, and a return to active coaching for me, marking my 10th year with DMX. Little did we know that the season was to be riddled with both challenge and loss.  

More energy and dedicated effort were placed into the Mechanix than ever before — not only practices and workouts, which were the norm — we also doubled-down with weekend retreats and "get to know your team" assignments throughout the week. Then, while we were at practice, the call came. Three of our players — one of whom I had worked with for multiple seasons and teams — were gone. Sass (Kevin) was family, and Drew and Mike were well on their way to becoming that as well.   

Then, in a flash, it was forgotten as COVID-19 was announced, turning our sport and our world on its side. Just as quarantine had become the "new normal", we got another shock to the system. My personal friend and team lawyer, Daniel P. Marsh, was gone. Dan had been with us since 2012, and he and his family were champions of both the Mechanix and the sport. To say that this has been challenging really does the journey a disservice. Yet the resilience of the team, the staff, and specifically my co-coach Gerald Chizmadia have been an inspiration for all who hear the story. They are a championship-caliber group of ladies and gentlemen, and I am excited to see their passion for the sport ignite in this time of uncertainty. Thus, the "Memorial Collection" is born, as it is these events that drive our passion and inspire us to grow beyond ourselves. 

AUDL Detroit Mechanix Team Jersey Memorial Jersey for three teammates that died in car accidentThe Black Ribbon is the memorial for the numbers our fallen brothers would have worn this year. Cannon 91, Sass 55, Piet 8.

"We Before Me" is the mantra of the Mechanix, a call to action placing our teammates and families first in our lives, recognizing that together we are greater than alone, so let our priorities reflect this in our actions.

"No tomorrow is promised" is a statement said to the gentlemen on a regular basis and throughout meetings and events. Little did I know how much more gravity those words would have after this spring. The time is now, this moment, this blink to make your activities and outcomes align, as a new day brings with it both new circumstances and conditions, some of which may not be favorable to your current passion and path. The team has embraced these phrases and adopted them into many aspects of team and life.

 

Savage: How has the team and the organization been getting through these tough times?   

BS: We have each other. We seek to understand each other and the importance of each aspect of the lives of our teammates. We support and rely upon each other and our families equally, creating a unity that is unlike anything I have experienced in over three decades of sports, athletic training, and coaching.


Savage: What are you most looking forward to in the second half of 2020?  

BS: Watching this team… this family… succeed both on and off of the field.

 

Savage: The Mechanix has a new home! How do you feel about the Mechanix leaving Detroit and moving to another city? What impact will this move have on the team as a whole?

BS: There is excitement and new life to the organization, as it allows us to reset our organizational plan, as well as align with a very robust Ultimate community and youth programming. We are partnering with local athletes, the Grand Rapids Ultimate group (GRU), and ZigZag Ultimate, one of the finest youth organizations that I have had the pleasure of working within recent times.

AUDL Mechanix Team Ultimate Frisbee Game photo

 

Savage: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in the new season once it starts? For the Mechanix and the AUDL/Ultimate as a whole?

BS: With COVID-19, a new experience for both the players and fans will be the central theme of the AUDL this year, and perhaps many more to come. As a team, we seek to continue to deliver safe, fun, and exciting family entertainment in the realm of professional ultimate, and through our school, youth, and community programs we seek to find ways to inspire growth in our sport through participation and exposure. We are reignited...One Team, One Chain.


Shop the Mechanix Memorial Collection. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to a memorial fund for the families of the three players that they lost.

All team photos by Elizabeth Maryland Photography

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A Phase of College Ultimate May Be Over, But We’re Ready to Focus on What’s Ahead

A Phase of College Ultimate May Be Over, But We’re Ready to Focus on What’s Ahead

In the four years I’ve been attending the High Tide Ultimate Tournament as a Savage employee, I’ve seen a lot of crazy things happen — but 2020 is the year I know I’ll always remember. The spread of COVID-19 ended this year’s tournament two weeks early, and most of us also recognized it could mean the end of the college season as well. For many seniors, it was a heartbreaking moment. 

There was a distinct shift at the tournament among players and staff as we all began to process what was about to happen. There was a deep feeling of mourning as news spread that not only was the tournament ending, but schools were closing their doors for the foreseeable future, effectively ending the college Ultimate season.

It’s natural for players to obsess over what didn’t happen, or what could’ve been. I know I’ve struggled with this myself. For some players, it may be the last time they see some of their seniors for a long time. For some seniors, it’s the last time they’ll be playing with some of their teammates. 

But this is what I keep thinking about, and why I’m grateful that I was at High Tide at this moment in time: Witnessing the love players have not only for each other, but also for their opponents at this event, has been life-changing. This truly is a special sport we play. From seeing teams treat a fun Spring Break tournament like it was their last Nationals run, to crying with new players on my old college team, High Tide 2020 was unforgettable. 

It’s painful to think about, but we ought to stay positive, keeping this in mind: Our family of Ultimate players may just be one of the most tight-knit sports communities in the world. I — and the rest of the Savage team — love to come to Myrtle Beach not just to interact with you all and see you play some of the wackiest “games” of ultimate possible, but to be reminded of how much we love this sport ourselves. 

Seniors, addressing you all directly for a moment, we want to offer our sympathy for the abrupt end to some of your seasons. While this is the end of one chapter, we can assure you there’s so much more in store for you. Look forward to joining new teams, new players to befriend, plays to make, and yes, more tears to be shed. 

For now, make sure you leave your teams in a better state than you joined them. Leave a lasting impression for the younger crowd, and continue to be the leaders you wanted when you started playing. While the season’s ending early can lead to questioning of what might’ve been, it’s pointless to wonder about the unknown. Try not to mourn the fact that this chapter is over. It’s better to focus on the incredible times we had, celebrate the fact that you got to experience it, and that you have so much to look forward to. 

It’s crucial during times like this that we hold our favorite people and memories close to give us comfort. We can and probably will feel sad thinking about it, but remember: This community doesn’t end with college. One of the things I love most about Ultimate is that it’s truly a year-round sport if you want it to be. With almost unlimited access to seasonal leagues, club tryouts, and even just casual pickup, Ultimate has never stopped growing — and this will not stop it. 

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay Savage. 

 

Written by Savage's Production/Order Rockstar, Nick Evans 


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SAVAGE To The Rescue

SAVAGE To The Rescue

What do you do when you see the following tweet first thing in the morning? 

Of course, we jumped right in. Paul ended up being a member of the USA Ultimate Club Team Public Enemy out of Dallas, TX. Public Enemy made it to Club Nationals and they were in need of fresh new jerseys. With only a week to get something together, screen printed and fully sublimated items weren't an option... but spot sublimated whites could get done. 

Step 1 - Get design ideas from Paul. 

Step 2 - Have our Art Department work their magic. 

Step 3 - Make rainbow magic happen! 

Like what you see? These Lisa Frankenstein jerseys are now available for a limited time for only $20. Show your support of DUA's Mixed Ultimate Team Public Enemy. 

SHOP NOW

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An Open Letter To The Person Who Introduced Me To Ultimate

An Open Letter To The Person Who Introduced Me To Ultimate

College is a time where everyone finds the place they belong. Some people are fortunate enough to know where that is before they ever get to school, while others want to belong somewhere but just don't fit in. I was a different case; I thought I had my entire four years planned out. Thankfully, I was wrong. This letter goes out to the person who unknowingly made my college career the best experience it could have possibly been.

Dear Friend,

Let me start by saying thanks. If I didn't happen to run into and recognize you from my hometown, I wouldn't be where I am today. Thanks to your suggestion to, "come try it out," I discovered the sport of ultimate. Having never heard of ultimate in high school, I can guarantee I would've never considered it during college. Because of you, I was able to create four years of amazing memories with strangers who quickly became friends who slowly grew into my family. Memories like these:

Giving rookies their new nicknames only to forget their real names in the future. Not to mention, everything else we put them through.

The ridiculously long car rides to tournaments that involve heavy amounts of singing to keep the driver awake.

What it felt like to finally throw a decent flick for the first time.

Being an early riser and having to wake up the entire team on tournament weekends.

Having the entire dining hall stare at you in confusion because that one teammate is yelling ridiculous things during your post-practice team dinner

Having a dance off with another team at regionals to determine the "real" winners of the game.

And let's not forget the real reason any of us play ultimate, the parties!

I could sit here for the next few hours letting nostalgia and stupid gifs take over this blog post but that's not why I'm here. I am here to finally give you the thanks you deserve. Because of you, all these memories were possible. You introduced me to ultimate frisbee, an amazing sport with an even more amazing community which led to me discovering the company I work for today. I owe you way more than a blog post and I hope I can make you and the great sport of ultimate proud!

Sincerely,

That little freshman you who's life you changed.

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Iguanas, Sloths, and Frisbee, Oh My! Recap on the 2016 Volcanic Tournament

Iguanas, Sloths, and Frisbee, Oh My! Recap on the 2016 Volcanic Tournament
Sloth
The Volcanic tournament down in Costa Rica just wrapped up its 9th year this past Memorial Day weekend and SAVAGE was lucky enough to be able to not only provide gear for the tournament, but also got to send one of our own to play in the tournament. Volcanic is a great way to not only enjoy a weekend full of good Ultimate, but also allows those from out of the country to delve into the Costa Rican culture through way of exploring some of the beautiful rainforest, tasting some of the traditional cuisine and of course by developing friendships with some amazing people.
Every year this tournament is comprised of a group of ultimate players from around the world. Each team (this year had the tournament's largest turnout with 7 teams) is made up of a mixture of half Costa Ricans and half foreigners of all skill levels and backgrounds. The first game, as in any hat tournament, is definitely the most difficult as you learn how to play with the people on your team, except now there is also the added struggle of a language barrier. Fortunately for non-Spanish speakers, most of the Costa Ricans can speak high-level English, and if not, there’s typically at least one person on your team who can get away with their Spanish speaking skills.
The first day, after everyone arrived, was spent seeing some of the country as the group was taken on In the rainforest canopy during the Ecoglide zip line toura nature walk through the rainforest. Carlos and his brother, Fico, who put on the tournament every year, were very informative, sharing all sorts of information about the different plants and wildlife that were crossed throughout the hike. After the hike, there was an optional treetop zip line tour followed by a traditional Costa Rican lunch of Casado, which is a plate of rice, beans, choice of meat, and fried plantains. That evening, the Costa Ricans joined the rest of the group for a late night pickup game before the tournament was to start the next day.

Saturday morning everyone was up bright and early to get started on pool play games. Each team played four games to 13, with only one team making through the day undefeated. The first several games had beautiful weather, albeit a bit hot and humid, but as you should expect in the rainforest, a heavy rainfall shortened the last round of games. That evening, after everyone was showered and rested, the tournament party was held in a covered outdoor area at the resort. Everyone got together to drink some of the local Imperial beer (or tequila if that was your preference), dance, play drinking games, and even do a bit of human bouldering.
It was a late night for some, but everyone (well, almost everyone) was up again the next morning to get a start on bracket play of the tournament.Hanging out at the hot springs Sunday had only two rounds of games; the first round had the top 4 teams from Saturday compete in the semi finals. The Red team, who was seeded first, won handedly in their game, while the Gold and Lime Green teams, the 2nd and 3rd seeds, battled it out in a game that went to universe. Gold came out on top to play Red in the championship game but in the end, Red ended up winning it all. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and hanging out with everyone at the Hot Springs nearby to rest sore bodies and get ready to head back to the real world.
The Volcanic experience is one to be had; anyone who has attended would highly recommend going, as there are many who go every year. It is a great chance to see a new place, take in a new culture and play ultimate with a bunch of new friends. It truly was amazing to see how all of these different teams quickly morphed into one big family as the week went by and I’m thankful that I was able to be a part of it. Until next year Costa Rica, until next year...
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