Monday, March 12, 2007

Tommy Proulx/ Spring Tournaments

This past fall, the Boston area Ultimate community experienced a big change when Regionals was run at Devens without the presence of the, up to then, ubiquitous Tommy Proulx. Since 1998, Tommy had been at the center of the relationship between BUDA and Devens, and he developed a template for the way tournaments should be run at that venue. Teams playing in a Proulx run tournament knew that they would experience a quality event with lined fields, games that ran on time, etc. He also went the extra mile and concerned himself with details that most people wouldn't even notice. Last summer at the Boston Invite, in what would be one of his last tournaments, he brought TV's and a satellite dish so that Clapham could watch the World Cup Qtrs during their bye. While this kind of work made Tommy visible, it is just the beginning of the kind of dedication and commitment that Tommy showed to our sport over the years.

Tommy's big coming out party was the 2001 UPA College Nationals in Boston. Tommy's ideas have a lasting influence. The model of holding the finals in a local stadium (separate from the pool play venue) was Tommy's idea and has become a necessary component of a venue's bid for that event. Tommy always was an idea person, though. When he presented me the concept of a "Mixed Easterns" tournament to be held on the traditional Boston Invite weekend (BUDA had secured a permit for an extra weekend in the summer due to the positive relationship between Tommy and Devens), I was deeply concerned about not only the viability of Mixed Easterns but also how players would respond to the Boston Invite date being changed. As usual, both events have become more robust since the change.

Tommy has been remarkably dedicated to Youth Ultimate over the years. He coached the Andover team. He organized the NE YCC teams. He organized BUDA's High School League, and was TD for last summer's Youth World tournament.

Tommy also served as a UPA Board member for a number of years. He was treasurer for the organization and helped push through big youth and league initiatives. Tommy's work as a league organizer has served as a model for other organizations and he was a presenter for the UPA League Conferences.

He continued to play through the years, even though he was hampered by an ACL tear a few years ago. So, this past spring, Tommy began to make plans from stepping down from the sport, which he did this past fall. Clearly, this was the right thing to do, as the commitment to his growing family was becoming more important and the demands the sport was placing on him were too great. Frankly, I was a bit surprised by the extent to which he went "cold turkey", but I guess I can only look to my retirement to see how a clean break can be the best way to approach such a change.

It is difficult to understand and recognize the contributions of someone like Tommy Proulx. Clearly, all the attention goes to the rock stars on the field, which is to be expected and, to a certain extent, their success would occur regardless of whether the fields were lined. However, Tommy's contribution was much greater than just a TD. His promotion of the sport from Youth players on up laid a positive foundation for the sport to develop faster and in a much more public way.

So, how do we recover from the loss of Tommy's leadership and contribution? Well, while there are big shoes to fill in some areas, a template was laid for how to run a quality event at Devens and Club Regionals this past fall was run without a hitch. Just as any other year, earnest planning for events such as Mixed/Masters Easterns(June 2-3) and the Boston Invite(June 23-24) is in the works and information about bids will be released shortly.

With energy and commitment, the shoes of someone like Tommy can be filled. The legacy of great organizers is, many times, good ideas and a structure in which people can be replaced when it is time for them to move on. It is easy to sit on the couch and bitch about "What I think should be done....." It is quite another thing to take the personal and financial risk to actually put ideas into action. The Tommy's of the world give us clear examples of what can be accomplished. While their actions are many times behind the scenes, we need to recognize folks like Tommy for giving us specific examples of how we can grow and improve the sport.


Bill Mill said...

Did he die? retire? move? What's the deal, gcooke?

gcooke said...

Hey Bill,

As I said in paragraph 5, he retired to spend time with his family.


parinella said...

Let me echo both of your sentiments. I too was afraid for a second that he died.

But yeah, Tommy has been amazing in what he's done. Lots of people have the commitment, but Tommy had many concrete accomplishments. Thanks, Tommy.