Today we introduce to you three brave, smart and gritty players. One from Melbourne, one from Adelaide and one from Canberra. Paula Alarcon is our Columbian/Melbourne queen who carves up the handler space and brings passion both on and off the field. Cookie Nguyen from Adelaide is a calming presence and opens up the play with her powerful range of throws. And lastly from our nation’s capital Holly Halford-Smith. She has the grit and grind and will get some absolutely filthy layouts to save the disc on offence or win it back for us on defence.
Why do you play ultimate? What does it give you that other sports don't?
Paula: Because it involves multiple skills seen in different sports but are compiled in one. Also it promoted gender equality and the community is very supportive and encouraging.
Cookie: The ultimate community is very welcoming and supportive. It’s always good to see rivals behave amicably.
Why are you good at ultimate?
Paula: Because i have a good vision of the field, as well as i can play in any position on the field.
Cookie: I can throw. I can take instruction. I also don’t mind taking some risky shots.
Holly: I’m good at Ultimate because I work incredibly hard, both on and off the field. I always aim to play with an attacking style offense & unshakeable mark defense - and I never hesitate to throw my body on the line! I'm athletic & strong, and despite being somewhat ‘vertically challenged’, you will often spot me putting up a good contest for the sky-high disc grab!
What has been the hardest thing about becoming/being a stingray? What sacrifices have you made?
Holly: The mental game has been incredibly challenging. I’ve always struggled to recognise my own value, potential and contributions to a team — however I hadn’t realised the extent of that low self-image until this campaign. I’m still working to build that self-belief; to have confidence in my value (as an athlete, a team mate, & a friend); to acknowledge the small gains; to forgive myself sooner; to see errors of play as lessons to learn from, not mistakes of fault; and to have the mental strength to be able to put myself on that field with the clarity of mind necessary to perform at peak state.
Experiencing two concussions this year (both only a few months apart) tested my mental resilience to the nth degree. I had to learn to accept that my maximum output capacity looked a lot different to what it had pre-injury; that the roller coaster of emotions felt were to be expected and were okay; that small, regular actions aimed at improving my wellbeing (getting outside for 30mins a day, doing some yoga or walking, and writing down daily affirmations) were all that I needed to focus on so that I could get through recover properly and be give more to the team in the long run.
What has surprised you about the experience of being a stingray so far? Have you surprised yourself?
Paula: The perception that other players have on me. Sometimes I don’t see the potential that I have until someone else from my team highlights it or tells me.
What's something you wish the general public understood more about ultimate?
Paula: Possibly the reason behind why there is not a referee and how players get to an agreement.
What would you be doing with all your time and money if you didn't give it all to ultimate?
Holly: I’d like to think I’d be progressing through my university degree at a more “reasonable” pace (whatever that means)... or have some sort of financial stability so that I no longer had to joke about living that #BrokeStudent life... or perhaps I’d actually have more time to socialise so that I wasn’t always running into mates I hadn’t seen in 8 months because training & increased work hours (to pay to play) took priority #whoops
Shoutout someone you look up to in ultimate, then tell us why:
Paula: Manuela Cardenas is someone that I admire as her defense skills are unreal.
Cookie: Sarah Lee. Adelaide Dragon. Honestly there is so much I could say about Sarah. Sarah was one of the first people I met when I started playing ultimate. I quickly became her handler/dump side kick and since then she’s probably the person who I’ve played with the most. Sarah has always been a decent player but recently she has gotten so good! I admire this especially because it’s so hard to show improvement when you’re already skilled. Sarah is a smart player with powerful throws and quick feet. She plays big and is a gun defender. She’s got incredible grit, determination and hunger which makes her a huge threat. Sarah has also dedicated so much of herself to ultimate off the field, from running Adelaide Uni trainings, stepping up with Vanguard and running Zig Theory for the past two years. I respect her so much as a player onfield but also as a human being. She is one of the most level-headed people I have ever met. She is always focused on the job/goal and won’t let silly little issues get in the way.
Holly: Without any hesitation - B!
The level of passion, commitment, belief, and support invested into developing each of us 21 athletes (both as individuals and as a team) has been second to none. B epitomises what it means to be a great coach & an influential leader. Words could not do justice to explain how grateful I am for the extra time B has invested into guiding me through the highs and lows faced throughout this campaign - I will forever be indebted for that!