Competing at the highest level of ultimate demands deep commitment from individual players. It’s one thing to thrive in the structure of a college team, but playing in the club division requires significant money and time with no guarantee of success. In Tenacity, Trent Dillon explains how he has sustained his desire to play at a high level and where he found the drive to become an elite player.
Dillon benefited from being surrounded by individuals who communicated that it was okay to be competitive. While Dillon attributed much of his skill growth to his father, his mother Shawn Holmes helped foster mindfulness about how his emotions and mentalities can influence success or failure. Holmes had related a story to Dillon about a time when her track coach told her that she only needed to place second for her team to win, but doing so left Holmes feeling empty, knowing that she could have come in first.
“We always want to push ourselves to be the best we can,” said Dillon. “I think hearing that perspective from her from time to time has pushed me to be okay with aiming for that top spot, because I know that that’s what’s necessary if I want to be there. I would rather have it that way than the other way around, where you set yourself up to be second when you could have possibly been first.”
A nationals victory eluded Dillon for the six years between his back-to-back titles with the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 and 2013 and his national championship with Seattle men’s team Sockeye in 2019. He came close several times, chiefly with Pittsburgh in a wild 2016 run and with Sockeye in 2018, but both times Dillon was on the losing end of games that ended in sudden death in the semifinals. The other four seasons ended with the frustrations and unwelcome surprises that can be found on every ultimate player’s resume. For Dillon, however, those years were marked by tangible growth. Losing in sports stings, and it can be difficult to walk away from a season feeling like you have left something on the table; Dillon has certainly felt that sting during his career. More important, however, are the connections Dillon has made with his teammates throughout the years.
“The blood runs thick between the guys who I played with,” Dillon said about his old Pittsburgh squad. “I look back, and I feel like it was right even though we didn’t win. That’s because I’ve got these friendships and relationships that I really value. That’s a mentality that I’ve grown to embrace and grown to really try to value and see more and see how much I’m growing from them. Not just about ultimate but how to conduct myself as a person.”
Being a better player and a better teammate became a value system for Dillon. His efforts to train and develop himself compounded over the seasons, and his commitment became another driving force that ultimately led Dillon to become such a valuable, multifaceted ace for Sockeye. Despite the challenges of competing at the highest level of men’s ultimate, Dillon has remained value-oriented and has focused his desire to win into a process of playing with excitement and energy. This has helped him grow with the ups and downs of an exciting path and has helped him continuously deliver big play after big play.
“To be a member of a team sport, to be thought of as a leader at some points here and there and to work on yourself as a member of a team, I think that’s hard to do,” commented Holmes. “Trent does that, and he does that repeatedly. I admire that tenacity to be better and better oneself. To me, that’s strength.”