“TRAP! TRAP! TRAP!”
Peter Dempsey’s bellowing voice could be heard over all the other noise at CCC 2009. Georgia was on defense against Delaware and Dempsey’s cutter had made the mistake of cutting too close to the thrower. Dempsey flashed into the lane and ordered the mark to prevent the dump or anything other than an upline throw.
Stall 6, the thrower looked IO, Dempsey was there. Stall 7, the thrower looked for a loopy OI forehand, Dempsey was there, Stall 8, back to IO and Dempsey was somehow still there. stall 9, the thrower launched a flick right into Dempsey’s chest.
“When I’m playing D, I guess I just think about playing O at the same time,” Dempsey wrote in an e-mail. “I don’t just try to get inside the head of the guy that I’m guarding, I try to figure out what all 7 guys are the other team are thinking.”
It shows, Dempsey’s stats (seen here, here, here and here), specifically on defense but only a little bit less so on offense, have been off the charts this season. There are many folks who aren’t surprised by that in least. Dempsey’s former coach at Georgia and teammate from this year’s Club National Champs, Chain Lightning, AJ Tiarsmith, saw Dempsey’s talent early after being introduced as Georgia’s coach three years ago.
“For most people, it was obvious the first time they saw him play that Pete was more than just an average player,” Tiarsmith wrote us in an e-mail. “For me it was the same way. The first time I really saw him play was my first year coaching at Jojah, he was a sophomore and he was already the third best player on the team behind Dylan (Tunnell) and (Greg) Swanson”
Dempsey spent this summer playing a big role on Chain Lightning’s defensive line. Including, but not limited to, nearly catching a layout Callahan in the finals against Revolver. To many, since this was Dempsey’s first season playing club Ultimate, his appearance and play may have been a surprise, to the Chain players, it was something they saw from a long way off.
Injuries plagued Dempsey at the end of the college season last year, to the point where he spent the Friday night of Nationals in the hospital, so he didn’t even get a chance to play during Chain’s tryout process. We imagined that it was partially Tiarsmith’s doing that Dempsey made the team without so much as a proper tryout, so we asked him how hard it was to convince the Chain head honchos that Dempsey deserved a spot.
“2 and a half years ago (3 club seasons), we had some injuries and were going to have low numbers at practice late in the summer and so we asked Pete to come out and just be an extra body at practice,” Tiarsmith wrote. “I think Jay (Hammond) and (John) ‘Kid’ (Hammond), the captains of Chain at the time, who had never met Pete before that weekend, asked him to play on the team immediately following that practice. This couldn’t have been more than a few weeks before sectionals… So, yeah… didn’t take a lot of convincing.”
Which leaves many to wonder, what took Dempsey so long? He obviously was aware that Chain was one of the elite teams in the country, why the delay in playing for one of the top tier teams? Turns out, the cliché of “life gets in the way” certainly applied for Dempsey.
“I’ll be honest, the reason last year was the first year I’ve played Chain is because I wanted to be a college kid and do what college kids do,” Dempsey wrote. “Part of being in college at UGA is going to the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville each year. Unfortunately, Club Nationals and the GA-FLA game are always on the same weekend. For my first four years, I obviously chose the trip to Jacksonville instead of the trip to Sarasota. This year, the pieces just feel into place. I knew that I had a chance to be a part of something special. I knew that it might be AJ’s last year playing, and the opportunity to play with the guy who’d been my coach and mentor for three years was a big draw. Also, I really wanted the chance to play with guys like Dylan, Frank (Wooten), and Swanson again. Finally, I wanted to do everything in my power to make my last year with Jojah as good as possible. I knew that playing on Chain would make me a better player, and it turns the biggest benefit was how it helped me learn how to more effectively lead a team.”
Jojah has been reaping those benefits all season long. Dempsey had the ability to sit under the tutelage of Chain’s Josh Ziperstein. We remember earlier in the summer when Dempsey tried to quantify for us exactly how much it was that Ziperstein knew about Ultimate and he was at a loss for words. Apparently a lot of that knowledge was already in Dempsey’s head and what he didn’t already have, he picked up well because younger players are modeling themselves after him, on and off the field.
“The main thing Peter has taught me about the game is the importance of training and working harder than everyone else at practice. If you want to win games, you have to personally strive to work harder than everyone else,” Jojah sophomore Caleb Edwards wrote us in an e-mail. Edwards is also a member of the same fraternity as Dempsey. “I did not join SigEp until the spring semester of my freshman year, so I had a whole semester to get to know Peter. He was a great example to me of how to balance Ultimate, SigEp stuff, and all other aspects of college. If I had not gotten to know Peter as well as I did, I probably would not have joined SigEp.”
Even though Edwards is adamant about how much Dempsey has taught him about the game. Peter believes that this is the first year that he has been an effective teacher/leader of the team.
“Well, oddly enough I don’t think I’ve been very good at (teaching younger players) before this year” Dempsey wrote. “I mean, I guess you could say that I taught by example but that barely counts. The reason I never did it was because I didn’t really know how to. This is where my experience on Chain comes in. Watching and learning from Zip for a season showed me how a teammate can also be a teacher, and how a captain can inspire the rest of the team. I’ve modeled much of my leadership after Zip’s this season. A lot of it is just being passionate and patient. But a lot of it is explaining the “why” and the strategy behind the drills and whatnot that the team does. You can teach somebody to do something, but if you don’t explain why then it doesn’t translate to the field.”
As important as a knowledge of the game is, even Ziperstein would tell you that there are certain intangibles that must exist in order for a player to be truly great. Tiarsmith says that Dempsey’s greatest intangible is also his greatest weakness, as if this is some sort of giant job interview. According to Tiarsmith, Dempsey gives his all on every point and expends too much energy. According to Dempsey, there’s no other way to do things.
“Is there any other way to play?” Dempsey responded. “I know that is cliché, but seriously. I’ve got 24 other teammates who work just as hard as me during the week and don’t get to play as many points on the weekends. For me to go out there an slack is an insult to them. Plus, its never been part of my nature to give anything less than 100%. My competitiveness doesn’t allow it.”
That competitiveness translates to his team as well. Georgia went into this season knowing that it had the talent and ability to compete at the highest level. Despite some up and down results so far this year (3-1 Saturday at Stanford Invite, 1-2 Sunday at College Terminus) Dempsey, and the team, maintain the same goals.
“I’ve told the team that our goal should always be to put ourselves in position to win a championship (I might have stolen that phrase from Zip),” Dempsey wrote. “But what I mean by that is that I want to be playing on Saturday at Nationals with a chance to make it to Sunday and win the damn thing. There are a lot of good teams out there, and the disc could fall the wrong way, or a call could go the other team’s way. But if you’re still in it on Saturday, you’ve given yourself a shot. I want that shot.”
Seemingly miraculously, Dempsey maintains a team first attitude. He has the talent to be considered one of the best college players in the nation but even when asked about his favorite part of the game, he thinks about his team.
“The single greatest feeling when playing a team sport is celebrating a big win with your teammates,” Dempsey wrote. “Any amount of blood sweat and tears is worth getting to charge down the field and tackle the guy who just caught the goal to send you to Nationals.”
No doubt Dempsey has the attitude, talent and spirit to be considered a frontrunner for the sport’s highest honor, The Callahan Award. However, in Dempsey’s mind, even the thought of hoisting the trophy in Madison this summer is a little bit too much to think about.
“Gah, that would be a HUGE honor,” Dempsey said. “I can’t even imagine. I don’t even really like the topic to be honest. Anytime someone mentions the possibility, all I can think about is all of the other bad asses that I’ve played against. And real stand up guys too, cause I think that’s important. To even be mentioned with some of them is an honor in itself. So humbling. But there is something else that would mean a whole helluva lot more: National Championship.”
It’s easy to see that, just like trapping a thrower on the line and setting himself firmly in the lane at CCC, Peter Dempsey has set his mind on a singular goal. Now it is the goal of a National Championship. Just like that play at CCC, he is shouting directions and advice at his teammates and standing where he needs to be in order to support them. Just like that play at CCC, we trust that if anyone can get the result he desires from the situation, it’ll be Dempsey.
As far as the other award goes, we’re not saying that he’s got our vote (if we had one). We’re just saying, whether it’s at Easterns in Wilmington this weekend, Sectionals in April, Regionals in early may or Nationals, watch and learn college Ultimate. Watch and learn.