UKU Mixed Tour 2 North Preview

Mixed, news, Previews

Josh Coxon Kelly previews this weekend’s Mixed Tour 2 action taking place in Durham.

And just like that, spring is in full swing and the UK club season is underway. Cardiff rewarded travellers with shockingly mild conditions that, save a few slips and slides, would be tough to complain about at any UK event. The wild combination of WUCC preparations, first tournament of the year, and a schedule that started with an element of chance and encouraged big jumps all contributed towards a thrilling opening Tour that brought big shocks as well as some business seemingly as usual.

UKU Mixed Tour Preview – 2018

Mixed, Mixed Ultimate, news, Previews, Uncategorized

Josh Coxon Kelly previews the 2018 Club Mixed Season

 

If you think back to the previous World Club Championship cycle, things are looking quite different in the UK mixed Ultimate scene. The only team to repeat qualification from last Worlds is Black Eagles, whose placing in Italy at 37th out of 48 (9 places below the next lowest UK team, RGS at 28th) is flipped on its head with the Eagles’ rise to what has been a fairly consistent dominance over seasons since. Cambridge, Bear Cavalry and RGS were the other UK representatives in 2014, but none of these teams join Eagles this year.

What we’ve seen instead is a resurgence of clubs focusing on the longer term, and largely reaping the rewards. Reading have rightly become a byword for development in the UK, and with a European Club title under their belt from 2016 and the highest placing at Euros last year at third, they will certainly be looking to make a mark on the world stage. Smog are newer to the scene but are arguably more disruptive, quickly becoming one of the most competitive sides in the nation, and facing up against Black Eagles in the 2017 Nationals final. Glasgow, whilst not present in this weekend’s opening Mixed Tour are bringing two  squads to MT2, and along with Eagles are a testament to the considerable depth that continues to be forged in the Scottish Ultimate scene.

Photo by Sam Mouat

There are no shortages of teams waiting in the wings to to take down the worlds qualifiers, and a fair few of these teams can be found in Pool A. Thanks partly to the randomised seeding after the top four, Pool A looks potentially overpowered and a lot of fun. Alongside Black Eagles’ only squad are Reading 1, who are presumably a roughly even split with Reading A and seeded suspiciously low. Whilst Reading are known to forego placings early in the season in favour of greater cohesion later on, I would expect to see both teams improve on their 10th and 11th seed. Brighton Breezy will put up a solid fight against Reading 1 for a quarters spot, but they’ll also have to fend off Flat Perth, a squad made out of GBU24 players and coaches that are also potentially under-seeded, maybe by a lot. They will be riding high off the back of their January campaign, and whilst not a practising club will have no shortage of on-field chemistry.

SMOKE, one of Smog’s split squads look to have an easier time of things in Pool B. Despite sharing it with teams that have been dominant in the past (particularly Birmingham and Cambridge), these teams are mixed squad representatives of larger clubs rather than specifically mixed-focus teams, and therefore may be slower starting as they get things moving again after a long off-season. The second Smog Worlds split, MIST, face both JR and Herd who will be gunning hard for an early season upset as these three teams jostle for the two quarters spots. If Smog’s overall attendance is hurt by the long journey down south, they may find themselves vulnerable in both pools. However, finishing strong in 2017 and the presence of an entirely separate Smog 2 suggest no lack of depth and some hard fought battles on the way on Saturday.

Pool D is set to be equally tight at the top. Mighty Hucks were consistently strong last year, and given the pickup nature of this squad we may well see them holding on to their fourth seed and heading beyond quarter-finals. Deep Space will be looking to get one back on them after a sudden-death loss against Hucks to end Mixed Tour 3 last year, and will also be looking to use the foundations laid in their inaugural season to break into the top four. With Reading A also in this group, there will be no room for slow starts and plenty of rivalries to rekindle early on in the season. Guildford may not initially look in the running, but they put in a strong showing at a pre-season London scrimmage. With coaching from ex-GB Open captains Dave Barnard and Pete “Rodders” Wright they’ll be well poised to take advantage of any team that loses focus on Saturday.

The familiar Llanrumney fields in Cardiff host what is prepped to be one of the most competitive seasons of mixed yet as representatives look to build towards what they hope will be a peak performance in Cincinatti. Surveying the rest of the field, it is certainly a team list that feels as though it is more and more reflecting the club and development focus within UK Ultimate. Outside of the top 20, Herd, Cambridge, South Wales Storm, Red Leicester and Curve are all bringing multiple squads, and the days of Mixed being dominated by pickup teams across the seedings seem largely gone. With this of course comes growing rivalries, increased pressure for these teams to live up to their own hype, and with it the added prestige to any team that can take them down.

Of course – we’re all hoping that this potential for intense competition comes to light, rather than the weather once again being the main story to emerge from Cardiff. However any victories gained this weekend should not be celebrated too soon. With Mixed Tour 2 returning to Durham, we’re set for higher attendance from arguably the strongest and most in-form teams. Things are only going to be heating up in what is already looking like a vintage season of mixed Ultimate.

I don’t want to be the only girl in the village

Equality, International Women's Day, Womens

Charlie Blair has used International Women’s Day to reflect on her own experiences as a young Ultimate player and on how we can all help Women’s Ultimate to grow.

Until about age eleven, I didn’t really have the opportunity to regularly play team sports with my female peers. Yes, we would be compelled by curriculum to have a weekly P.E. lesson as a whole class but girls playing team sports, with the slight exception of rounders in the summer, was just not part of the playground culture. I was always the only girl playing football with the boys at break time.

Granted, I grew up in a village and went to a tiny school, and a lot has changed since then, but the point I’m trying to make is that in this environment I grew up constantly measuring myself against male standards. I became understandably defensive, having to always defend my right to play, my right to be respected on the pitch. It was something a boy never had to earn before touching the ball; it was already granted.

The boys’ respect for me rested on my ability to compete with them. I was unduly elevated above the others girls who dared not do so. However, that never meant that these girls weren’t capable of competing, but only that they didn’t feel welcome to try.

Therefore it was hard for me to feel a sense of achievement if I was not achieving what the boys were. And I now recognise that this contributed to my embarrassing attitude as a GB junior.

After playing Ultimate for only six months, I was lucky enough to be selected for the GBU20 Women’s team heading to Vancouver. As were three of my ‘Kent comrades’, who were chosen for the Open team! But, although it was never their intention, I definitely felt belittled by the gruelling trials that the boys went through in comparison to mine. I felt they were being pushed much harder than the girls were. They knew it, I knew it, and although no one said it, I was thus implicitly the inferior member.

This embarrassed me. And as a result I very immaturely took it out on my team. Instead of respecting the skills that we did have, the connections we had fostered, the progress we’d made, I saw only the negatives; because we weren’t doing fartleks or putting athletic bidders on a pedestal, I thought we were underperforming on the international stage. This is not to say that women shouldn’t be pushing themselves in any ways they want, but they shouldn’t feel like they have to behave a certain way just because men are in order to see themselves as equals. I couldn’t see beyond my own warped criteria for what made a great female player, and more importantly, teammate.

I really did have good intentions, but whilst some of the girls did respond well to my demands, it also alienated a lot of my teammates. Dare I say, the majority of my U20 women teammates. My expectation that the team should ‘man up’ was in fact the problem. I was simply perpetuating the toxic culture of my own childhood playground. I was in no way being an ally to my fellow women, I was trying to rise above them and play like the men. I was imitating the boys’ style of aggression. It was a style that demoralised my team, rather than motivating them. And some were quite rightly then made to feel angry that I was not giving due credit to their sincere and worthwhile efforts.

Photo by Sam Mouat.

I have only just recently reflected on why I was like this, after a remark this week that was made to me during my first lesson with a women’s-only BMX class. And I now I realise the importance of addessing the reasons for it.

At this BMX class, one of the other women ridiculed the track’s lack of equality for not offering a male-only session as well. It was hard to swallow my giggle as she pitied the men too intimidated to show up to the ‘open’ sessions for fear of being shown up by talented 10-year-olds. In my mind, equally comparing the intimidation women feel from men to that that men feel from children… I don’t think is a fair or accurate one, for a start. Secondly, she was clearly only measuring her levels of intimidation against another man, which, as a married, middle class, white women, would potentially be far less than a black, queer woman.

By directly comparing these two examples she was implicitly suggesting that women are not deserving of the equity the track is trying to provide by offering ‘women’s-only sessions’. I’m sure it was not this woman’s intention and I’m sure she would call herself a feminist. But to me, she wasn’t coming across as an ally. She was struggling to recognise that feminism had worked for her, and that quite frankly, some (because I’m sure it’s not many!) men should put up with getting schooled by the kids as we get it right for the rest of the sisterhood.

So I feel that when it comes to Ultimate, we should be making sure that we are not having to behave and organise exactly like men to prove our worth. Now is not the time. And while we still have a lot of ground to make up, it should never be the time. There are differences that serve in no-ones interest to ignore in an attempt to offer simple solutions to a nuanced issue. And as our wonderful community seeks to make concerted efforts towards making Ultimate a level playing field regardless of gender, we need to breed a culture where women are never made to feel ashamed of their differences to men.

If Ultimate can make that safe space that women deserve, it will only draw more and more women into the game faster. This will in turn increase the depth of talent and the value of women’s play will only become more and more self evident to both themselves and everyone around them. That way, we will ensure that we won’t be repeating the mistakes of the past, and that there will never only be one girl in the village playing Ultimate.

Featured photo by Sam Mouat.

Development Stagnation – A Discussion of Teams v Clubs

Development, Discussion

Mark Bignal delves into how he feels about the state of Development in the UK.

I’d like to start a well needed discussion about what I believe to be a factor limiting the development of the sport in the UK: how we are focusing too much on developing Ultimate teams, and missing out on the benefits of developing Ultimate clubs.

For clarity, I’ll be using the following definitions here:

Team – A team usually consists of one squad (sometimes two) and is only focused on providing a single type of opportunity: whether high, mid or low level competition, or even those for social players, beginners and juniors, etc.

Club – A club aims to create more than one type of opportunity for their player base.

AIUC 2017 – Division 2

news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports

Here we share Aidan’s thoughts on the second division of AIUC 2017. 

Alongside the All-Ireland Ultimate Championship Division 1, there is a second division taking place this weekend in the same venue. This is for any club that didn’t qualify out of their region, or didn’t participate in the first place.

AIUC 2017 Division 1

news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports

Our favourite Irish reporter Aidan Kelly gives his views on All Ireland Ultimate Champs. 

The 2017 Irish domestic club season prepares to come to a head, we are warmly welcomed by the pinnacle of Men’s Ultimate in the country. The All-Ireland Ultimate Championships.

UKU Nationals 2017 – A Review

Mixed, Nationals, Open, Review, Tournament Reports, Womens

Another season is in the books and, for most sides, the off-season is now underway. Sean Colfer takes a look at what happened in Birmingham this weekend, and what it might mean for the European Championships and moving forward for UK Ultimate.