In 2012 the Ringers took a leap of faith in the future of kubb. In the transition to three person teams, Aaron and Dave had a list of folks who wanted to join up with us, the 2010 National Champions, to make another run to the top.
But as a father/son team we felt an obligation to look inward to our family. Dave comes from a large farm family in southern Minnesota, and having introduced nearly all of them to the game, we had a natural list of Ellringer family members that had the same natural talent and fitting last name. But the first person we asked to join us lived in the same house as Aaron – his 7 year old son Sy.
Sy is named after his great grandfather (Aaron’s grandpa, Dave’s dad). The name means “forest” in a loose translation, and Sy has been watching and playing kubb as long as the rest of us. It was not an easy decision to add Sy to the roster, though. Being an all-day tournament, the US Championship is no picnic (or pizza farm as we say here). And some would say its no place for a kid if you are really serious about making it to the end in a respectable position.
The first task was for the adults of the team to get over their egos and ageism and admit that given the opportunity, young humans are capable of amazing things. The next task was to patiently but consistently “talk up” the young teammate. You see, when this young mans only regular exposure to kubb is scrimmaging against the nation’s top players, it can get quite frustrating and intimidating.
It turns out the key to our practice regimen was to never play against our teammates, ever. Or to put it another way, we only ever play as a team. Aaron never plays against Sy, only with him. Same goes for Dave and Aaron. We only team up together, never across, always side by side. This put Sy in the winning position, and allowed him to feel good every time anyone knocks on wood. This is crucial, because small ones can be fragile, and too much competition and a sense of loss can quickly spiral downward.
The next big team decision for 2012 came quick and easy. We had an opportunity to invite Sy’s older cousin Colton onto the team. While Colton lives halfway across the country, he was scheduled to be visiting grandpa Dave during tournament time. It was a no-brainer for us to add Colton to the lineup, even though we were questioned and criticized for adding a fourth player in a three person tournament. Adding Colton rounded out our team, evened up the ages, and took just enough pressure off of Sy to allow us a more relaxed and focused team.
Colton arrived on Friday night, just hours before the tournament would start. We immediately threw the switch on the outdoor pitch and played kubb in our skivvies. So there we had it. The 2012 Ringers team was together. Just a few hours later, I would rise well before dawn, fire up the John Deere and start the Berserker invasion…