Photo by Sean Carpenter – UltiPhotos.com
Last February, Jeff Snader and Nic Darling drove up to New York City to meet with general manager Michelle Kondracki and a host of elite players, including Ben Faust and Chris Mazur.
This was just one of many trips in the months leading up to the first MLU season. Commissioner Snader and VP Darling did a lot of traveling all over the country to meet with potential general managers, coaches, and players for each of the eight MLU teams. But that’s to be expected — after all, it’s Ultimate.
The Rumble’s origin story begins with Kondracki, who according to Snader, “had little experience with management.” He recalls, “She had a special something. I just knew she had what it takes to manage a team and that she would earn the respect of the entire staff.”
It turns out the commissioner made the right decision. Kondracki hit the ground running, hiring player and coach Ben Faust on February 5, and two weeks later head coach Daniel Quaranta and assistant coach Anthony Nuñez. The rapidly growing organization realized that they needed to contact the elite players on the club team PoNY. “We reached out to top New York players like Chris Mazur, Joe Anderson, and Milo Snyder and explained how we wanted to create a professional team that will showcase New York’s most talented players,” says Kondracki. “Everything kind of happened really quickly and it wouldn’t have happened without having the right management and coaching staff.”
They invited their future players to a meeting to discuss the details of professional Ultimate in New York. Snader recalls a vivid memory from this whirlwind recruitment period: “One of the things that I remember most is Mazur walking up to me after our meeting and asking me, ‘You’re telling me, 100%, that there will be a season next year?'”
On top of that, Eastern Conference MVP Chris Mazur had a hundred more questions speeding through his head, “What did we stand for as Ultimate players? What would it say of us as leaders in the city if we played or didn’t play?” asked Mazur. “All the hypotheticals were questioned. In the end, we had an opportunity to help spread the sport in a way like never before. We also had a chance to unify Ultimate in the city like it had never been unified. Something so special could not be passed up.”
As their questions were answered, players started realizing that their collective priorities were lining up with those of the league. “The promises about media, story lines, stats, season length, and the domino effect of some other high profile Ultimate players joining around the country really put a nail in the decision for me,” says Mazur. “Joe Smash [Anderson] was the next to say to the leadership group that he would definitely be playing MLU, and as a result the pieces all started to fall into place.”
It was a monumental risk these players were willing to take, and ultimately, they put their trust in the hands of Kondracki and the MLU founders. “All we had was a vision, and we were asking our top players to come in and believe us and that’s what Mazur did,” says Snader. “A few months later he was the MVP of the Eastern Conference and a star in NY.”
With the Rumble’s successful first season behind them, the team is excited to improve the sport’s presence on and off the field. Mazur is “looking forward to being a part of a number of youth clinics for the next couple months. As much fun as a game is, I look forward to the preparation and spreading the passion for the sport just as much.”