Hector Valdivia's Introduction of the Kevin Crowley Spirit Award
From the beginning of my time with the Hodag program at the start of my freshman year, I heard the lore of Kevin Crowley from the older teammates and alumni. Kevin seemed larger than life - a paragon of a teammate and the embodiment of a Hodag himself. However, Kevin was not larger than life - he was alive, and left an indelible mark on a team just finding its footing on a national stage. Kevin's skill on the field, his efforts to build the program, and his attitude on and off the field always struck me as a worthy example to emulate, and this team needed a way to officially recognize not only his contributions to it, but the contributions of present generations of Hodags who have followed in his footsteps. When I presented the idea to our alumni, those who knew and played with Kevin were eager to honor him as well, and generously funded the trophy and annual award.
The Kevin Crowley Spirit Award will be voted on by the outbound seniors to be given to a returning player who, like Kevin, exemplifies the effort, dedication, and attitude the program strives for. Along with the traveling trophy sculpted by former captain Ryan Carrington '05, they will receive airfare to a tournament, a pair of cleats for the season, and embroidered swag naming him as the award's recipient.
Kevin Crowley Award Recipients by Year
Here's a sampling of what graduating players wrote on their ballots about Pieran: I would have to say Pieran Robert best exemplifies what it means to be a Hodag. Pieran has all the qualities of a fierce competitor - the drive, the passion, the desire - and remains one of the most spirited players I have ever met. While I think spirit scoring is a bit pretentious and silly, there is a reason he has been our spirit captain the last 2 nationals we attended. In intense games, he remains fair-minded - I can remember numerous instances of him leaving calls uncontested in high pressure situations, calls that would have allowed us to gain a competitive advantage in important games.
Pieran is the first example that comes to mind when I think of someone that wants to get better. He actively asks for feedback and actually implements the feedback he receives into his game. He often stays after practice to work on his fitness, his pulling, and his throwing in general.
The player on the Hodags who I feel exemplifies this award is Pieran Robert. Pieran is a third year player on the team. Pieran has consistently improved over the time I’ve gotten the pleasure to play with him. Not only with his determination to work as hard as he can on the field but also with his leadership and pure, sincere motivation towards his teammates. In my opinion he brings an energy to this team that is unmatched, speaking with confidence, feeding into his teammates plays, while also bringing a smile to their faces. He was our spirit nominee in the fall for nationals and I feel is most deserving to represent Kevin Crowley's legacy through this award.
Here's what Pieran said after learning he had won. So inspiring! Hello!
I want to start out by saying how honored I am to receive this award. I remember my first group meeting a few years back. I was intrigued by how not only seniors but members who had been on the team for only a year spoke so fondly about how much this team meant to them. I have always recognized that being a Hodag is more than just playing frisbee. This family has been there for me at both my highest and lowest points. After a long break from Covid, our leadership was able to convey how special of an opportunity we have, to continue playing the game we love. As the year prior has shown, it is easy to take things for granted. College frisbee is not a club team you can take a break from and come back a few years later. There is only so much time you have on the field and this year I really began to realize how little time I have left. This upcoming year is going to be a beautiful one; I am so thankful to have not only all my teammates behind me, but also a conglomerate of alumni, family, and friends. I would love to learn more about Kevin Crowley. With the continuous turnover of college ultimate, I think it is extremely important to continue to remind our current team how special this program truly is. If you asked Hodags past and present what Hodag Love means to them, you’d get a multitude of responses. But they would all center around how this program continues to enhance and connect so many different college experiences. As I continue to grow as a player, a teammate, and a leader, I thank you for all your support. I am extremely grateful for your recognition.
Hodag Love, Pieran
I would like to begin by emphasizing how appreciative I am of the 2018 Hodag graduating class for this Kevin Crowley Spirit nomination. I also want to say thank you to the Hodag alumni for their continual support of this distinguished program and award.
This means many things to me, but it mainly represents how far I have come, how far anyone can come, within the sport of ultimate. It is surreal to think that four years ago I did not know the sport of ultimate existed until a friend of mine told me to try-out for the Pimpdags (now Fauxdags). At that time, I was intimidated by the process, being surrounded by a multitude of Hodags who were quite skilled. I didn’t even know how to throw a forehand. Fast forward a couple years and I am now a 5th year senior officer being recognized for this award.
At the core of the Hodag ultimate program is a competitive nature and drive to win a national championship, which in turn creates a strong bond that only forms under these conditions. A bond that allows players to find that extra will to win and grind in the toughest situations because you know your teammates have your back. Rising through the ranks from the B team to the A team, I have watched this bond shape other players and me. These experiences have allowed me to become passionate about ultimate and passionate about motivating others. The Hodag program proves that you can be skilled at ultimate and still be model citizens for your peers. The relationship is not binary. The Kevin Crowley Spirit Award represents players who are fearless, motivated and consistently playing within the spirit of the game. These are ideals in which I have tried to follow in the past but will double down on my commitment to as the recipient of this award. In doing so, I hope to develop or inspire the next award recipient through my actions. This is one of the many reasons I ran for leadership. Once again, thank you for this nomination.
“A life lived…in the spirit of the game”
Hodag love, Logan Martin
First and foremost, thank you to the graduating Hodag class of 2018 for nominating me for the Crowley Spirit Award. It means the world to me that my peers, people whom I look up to both on the Ultimate field and in life, view me as a recipient worthy of this award. Secondly, I would like to thank all of the former Hodags for their continued support of the program—the network that this team has built since its inception is incredible.
My Hodag career honestly has not felt like a long time at all. However, in my Junior year, I cannot help but to think that my time on this team is already more than halfway over (even with a fifth year). I would be lying if I said that my college career has gone how I imagined it would. I have unfortunately torn ligaments and needed offseason surgery twice in the past two years—something that has significantly dented my playing time. However, it was in these moments when I really felt and where I continue to feel “Hodag Love.” Hodag Love is the care packages sent to my house post-op from teammates and their families. Hodag Love is the unwavering support that I got from my coaches and teammates when I told them I was going to be sidelined for 8 months and then when I had to tell them again. It is this unwavering love and support that drives me to be the best teammate I can be each and every time we practice and compete whether I can be on the field or not. Initially joining the team, I was a little skeptical about the whole idea of Hodag Love—but now I am honored to be the person that gets to count to three at the end of every practice with my teammates, my brothers, surrounding me shouting the thing we believe in most—Hodag Love.
It is difficult to put into words what winning this award means to me. I love this team. I love everyone currently wearing the Baby Blue on Sundays, everyone who wore it before me, and everyone who gets the privilege to wear it long after I am gone. I have heard about Kevin Crowley and his commitment to the team, both on and off the field, and his love of the game, but more importantly his love of life and his teammates. Winning this award is not something that I take lightly: to be associated with Kevin’s name and the previous Hodags that have won this award is an extreme honor. I will continue to try and be the fiercest competitor and best teammate I can on and off the field, in Kevin’s honor.
I’d like to start by thanking the 2017 graduating Hodags for nominating me for the Kevin Crowley Spirit Award as well as the Hodag alumni for all their everlasting support. It’s surreal to think about where I am as an ultimate frisbee player having grown up in Madison and practicing on the same field as the Hodags as a high school student. I can still remember Tuesday and Thursday practices with Madison West, running around UBay on our warm-up lap and being intimidated by all the Hodags throwing around. Fast forward four years and here I am as a senior captain on the Hodags accepting this honor.
The beginning of my Hodag career was riddled with injuries, but it was through these injuries that I began learning about what “Hodag love” was. As a freshman, I dislocated my left shoulder during warm-ups of one of our first practices as a newly formed team. Shane Saddison- Bradford accompanied me to the hospital and helped me keep my mind off my shoulder. Following the hospital visit, Avery Johnson picked us up and treated me to dinner. This injury was followed by several more shoulder dislocations, a broken eye socket, and some freak allergic reactions that took me out of practice. But these instances never failed to show me how much of a family the Hodags really are. The flurry of GroupMe messages and reassurance act as constant reminders that there are 20+ other guys that have my back regardless of situation.
The Hodags have been an immense influence on the person I am today; they have molded me into a person and athlete worthy of being nominated for this award. As I enter my last year as a Hodag, I will continue to embody the ideals of the Kevin Crowley Spirit Award: playing fair, playing hard, and playing with little regard to the well-being of my body.
Hodag Love, David Yu
Winning this award means so much to me. This is such an honor and I am truly shocked that this award has been bestowed upon me from the outgoing seniors. When I came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I was attending this school as a preferred walk-on (Wide Receiver) for the Badger Football team. In the end of June 2012 I get a call from Wisconsin asking me if I would like to join the football team as a preferred walk-on. Knowing the history of Wisconsin treating their walk-ons very well, and having the potential to earn a scholarship during my time, I immediately said yes. I was ecstatic! I asked them when they wanted me there, and was on campus in August. I had worked so hard to make it to a Division-I football program and could not wait to go out onto that field and prove myself. I had finally been given a shot at being a Division-I athlete and was determined to compete with some of the best athletes in the country.
A few weeks go by, and I am just starting to get into a rhythm of learning the playbook and making significant plays during practice. A week before our first game against UNI, it was time to have physical check-ups. I had absolutely no worries at the time. I had passed every physical with flying colors growing up and never had any known problems. UW is one of the only schools in the country that assesses your heart via electrocardiograms. After looking at my heart through the electrocardiogram, they decided they wanted to do further testing on me the Monday following our game against UNI. Now I started to get worried… I got to suit up for the UNI game and be on the field on the sideline since I was not yet cleared to play. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. The following Monday my extensive electrocardiogram was scheduled. I went in and did testing for 1.5 hours. It was not until the next day that the team doctors sat me down and told me the bad news. I was not cleared to play because it was too dangerous. I was diagnosed with an aneurysm in my ascending aorta. The threshold to clear you to play football is to have an Aorta ranging from 35-40mm in diameter. My aorta was measured at 41mm… If it grows to 50mm, I will have to get open heart surgery. The reason why it is dangerous is because having a larger aorta means a higher risk of rupture. With football, especially as a wide receiver, there are so many times when you are vulnerable to taking a massive hit to the chest, which would result in rupture. So I had to quit the team, and it was the WORST day of my life. I had worked so hard, and was so ready to prove myself… The doctors told me that I had to be careful going forward and monitor my activity. They said no more contact sports for me. Being an athlete my entire life, I didn’t know what to do. No more heavy-lifting for me because it puts too much strain on the heart. No more basketball. However, I had to live a healthy lifestyle and stay active while keeping my heart rate low in order to stay healthy and not get overweight. They offered three sports to me that I could play: Golf, tennis, and synchronized swimming… I was heart-broken… From July to September 2012, I was riding an emotional rollercoaster. With my Division-I ride over, I felt completely lost in the world…
At the same time of getting this bad news, my first week of college classes had begun. I am sure you can imagine the stress I was under. It was a couple weeks of total misery for me. I was starting to go insane. I could not stand this altered lifestyle that was bestowed on me so suddenly. It was not until my eldest brother, Lee, who played for Creighton’s Ultimate Frisbee club, had suggested I try out for the Ultimate Frisbee team at UW. He told me it is an awesome sport and that I would not regret it. I asked my doctor if that would be okay, and of course, he thought I was talking about disc golf and cleared me for play. (Ugh, I cannot wait for the day everyone can discern between ultimate and disc golf.) So I showed up at the first round of the Wisconsin Hodags open tryouts with my cleats and absolutely no knowledge of the sport. I had no idea that this sport would eventually change my life forever. I was that kid at tryouts who did not know what a force was or that people could even throw forehands. Whatever, in my mind, I was about to play Division 1 Football, so how hard could ultimate be? I just decided to run deep every time one of the returning Hodags got the disc. I scored lots of goals and ran past everyone. The sport was easy when I was scoring goals! The real issue was if I did not score a goal. I needed to make a good impression on the Hodag leadership so that I could make the team. So instead of trying to throw it up field and risk a turnover, I would wait for one of the returning Hodags to come sprinting right next to me so I could throw them a 5-yard backhand dishy and then go deep again. With no knowledge of the Hodags being a national powerhouse, I made the team, and a tiny spark had come back into my life. I had a new team that I was part of. No, that is not right. I had a new family that I was a part of. For the next year, I still had to take it easy and monitor my heart. I had to see how hard I could push myself and how much larger it would grow. My entire freshman year was me being taught a brand new sport by some of the best players in the country. We were ranked #1 for almost the entire year! Disappointingly, we got upset in pre-quarterfinals at Nationals 2013. I had the honor of playing with people like Brian Hart, Colin Camp, Jordan O’Neill, Dayu Liu, Andrew Meshnick, Thomas Coolidge and Ben Rehmann. Even during the year, I had no idea how fortunate I had been to have the opportunity to learn from these players. Following my first year, I meet my brand new cardiac doctor. We conduct a stress test, electrocardiogram, CT scan and other tests. Good news, my aorta had not grown at all! Coming into my sophomore year I could finally throw a forehand up-field. Knowing that my aorta did not grow from the previous year, I decided to push myself harder and was back to my old ways. The year goes by, and again I return to my doctor to do my next annual test. Great news again! My aorta had not grown and we are starting to determine that it is stable. After hearing this for a second time, my competitive flame had been completely reignited and filled my spirit. I tried out for Madison Club that summer and made the team. I was ready to go now. Watch out world.
Fast forward a couple more years, and I am now the captain of the Hodags with Avery Johnson looking to lead our team to a National Championship. On top of earning the respect and trust of my peers to lead them, I am congratulated with the Kevin Crowley Spirit Award. I am so grateful for this honor. The Hodags saved me from insanity. At my lowest point, they picked me up and gave me hope again. They gave me a support system that extends past just the people I have played with. I have gained some strong relationships with alumni the past few years. The Hodags are my second family, and I would do anything for any Hodag. I play my hardest on every play as a payment for saving me my freshman year. I work hard because I still have more to prove. I work hard because I am hungry. I work hard because I know every Hodag has worked hard for me. We are a cohesive family. That is why I have it tattooed on my back. I got the tattoo after Nationals 2014 (my sophomore year). This team means so much to me and I am forever grateful to be a part of this family. Thank you again so much.
With much Hodag Love, Ross Barker
Colin "Cleatus" Sunde
First of all, I’d like to thank the alumni; seeing the commitment they still hold to the program only reflects on the dedication they have to this team. It’s clear that there this team is not just about playing ultimate, although yes, it is the one thing we often excel at. Rather, I believe this team is about the two things that Kevin Crowley embodied: hard work and camaraderie.
If you asked me to describe what “Hodag” means to me, the first thing that would come to mind is the hours of grueling workouts in the shell, of waking up before the break of dawn in order to lift, and of running up Bascom Hill more times than most people are willing to do in a year. But that first time you look back and see your defender leaned over with their hands on their knees, it is instantly all worth it. All that hard work teaches you to invest in the long-term be it on the field or anywhere in life; a lesson that many very often miss out on.
After talking about hard work, the next thing I would describe is “Hodag love”. This motto is what allows us to take a deep breath on the field and look at the teammates standing shoulder to shoulder with us, the same people we’ve seen nearly every day for the past year. We can then look over our shoulder and towards the sideline, seeing all the parents, alumni, and friends all cheering us on. After all, there’s a reason why our motto is “Hodag love”. Because when it comes down to it, what matters isn’t the score or the fact that you should have laid out (but seriously you should have); what matters is the relationships we’ve built and the people around us. So, as I enter this next season, I hope to hold those two things close to my heart, but I also promise to never forget that the only way to truly win is by hucking it.
Hodag Love, Nick Ladas
2013 Crowley Award Recipient Shane Saddison-Bradford
It’s such an honor to have been chosen for the inaugural Kevin Crowley Award, but first of all I would like to thank the Hodag alumni. Our alumni are the most supportive in all of college ultimate and the creation of the Kevin Crowley Award is another way to offer support, but more importantly to commemorate one of the great Hodags who has left his legacy on the program. The award embodies the most important aspects of being an ultimate player: putting the team goals ahead of your individual ones and having strong respect for the spirit of the game. The seniors of 2013 voted me to receive the award not for my play on the field, but for my devotion and energy that I had put into the team the previous two years. The Kevin Crowley Award is the epitome of Hodag Love and all of the hard work that a Hodag puts into the organization over his lifetime, giving his life to the program. This award has provided me with a renewed ethic for this upcoming season. My goal for this season is for the Hodags to be back on top, but my personal contributions are going to be team oriented. I am going to be a positive contributor both on and off the field and to do what’s in the best interest of the team. Motivating my teammates during huddles, stepping up during games and doing whatever I can do to contribute to the 2014 Wisconsin Hodags winning a national championship. It’s such an honor to have been chosen for the inaugural Kevin Crowley Award, but first of all I would like to thank the Hodag alumni. Our alumni are the most supportive in all of college ultimate and the creation of the Kevin Crowley Award is another way to offer support, but more importantly to commemorate one of the great Hodags who has left his legacy on the program. The award embodies the most important aspects of being an ultimate player: putting the team goals ahead of your individual ones and having strong respect for the spirit of the game. The seniors of 2013 voted me to receive the award not for my play on the field, but for my devotion and energy that I had put into the team the previous two years. The Kevin Crowley Award is the epitome of Hodag Love and all of the hard work that a Hodag puts into the organization over his lifetime, giving his life to the program. This award has provided me with a renewed ethic for this upcoming season. My goal for this season is for the Hodags to be back on top, but my personal contributions are going to be team oriented. I am going to be a positive contributor both on and off the field and to do what’s in the best interest of the team. Motivating my teammates during huddles, stepping up during games and doing whatever I can do to contribute to the 2014 Wisconsin Hodags winning a national championship.