xEUCF 2013 – Open Division

Bordeaux, European Ultimate, Nationals, Previews, xEUCF
UKU Open Nationals 2013 saw London’s Clapham Ultimate secure their thirteenth consecutive win in a clean sweep. Chevron Action Flash achieved revenge in a repeat of 2012’s semi final against Fire of London, but were unable to dislodge the perennial UK Champions. 


Brighton Ultimate improved by one to gain their highest ever placing of third, and guaranteeing themselves a spot in the upper ‘Elite’ bracket. They will be joined by the Cinderella story of the weekend, Devon ultimate – who have threatened an international breakout before (Nationals 2010 saw them miss out by a minor margin), but are now consolidated as surely the UK’s favourite underdogs as they rise above Fire 1, EMO, and Kapow! to place 4th, after completing a late-game-comeback-sudden-death-victory over none other than Fire, a result foreboded by the epic Tour 2 Matchup.


Fire nevertheless secured the all important qualification, and Kapow! overcame a rollercoaster season to get the crucial win against EMO for the final spot, a result that jars with the two team’s respective tour performances. On to Bordeaux…



In 2006 the top European open teams met in the first EUCF, a yearly event installed to replicate the high level competition of the 4-yearly European Ultimate Club Championships. A clear expression of the need for European teams to test each other in order to compete on the world stage, the two tournaments combine on their overlapping years to create the extended European Ultimate Championship Finals, or xEUCF.

British Open teams have a proud history at these elite meet-ups, with Clapham winning gold and Spirit in the last EUCC (Rostock 2005), and a British team competing in the final every year since 2006 other than 2010, winning in 2007 (EUCF – Clapham), 2009 (xEUCF – Chevron) and most recently 2012 (EUCF – Clapham). Last year’s event also saw an all british final for the first time, and the first European final with both teams from the same country.

British teams will be approaching the event with hopes not only of high finishing placements, but also to make use of the undeniably crucial development opportunity that this high level tournament provides. The large capacity of this year’s ‘extended’ format allows more British teams to share in this high quality tournament, with 6 top club teams being given the chance to test their squads against a deeper field than the domestic Tour and Nationals. 


Clapham
The 1st seeds, undefeated this year in Europe will be looking to complete the elusive back to back repeat that only FAB (winners in 2010, 2011) have so far managed, the second of these victories coming after a gutting and thrilling defeat of Clapham in Brugge.


Chevron
Chevron perform well in Europe, placing 2nd and 3rd in the previous two tournaments, and winning the previous xEUCF in London (2009). After failing to best Clapham so far, the Ron will be looking to reclaim gold on the highest stage.


Brighton
Showing consistent form to rise above the otherwise turbulent nationals mid-table, Brighton will be hoping to do what they haven’t yet and make a serious impression on the European open scene. Mysterious roster additions of US stars Elijah Kerns and Aaron Honn seem could, if they prove true to add a decent punch of firepower to an already impressive and hungry squad.

Devon
Whilst on their maiden voyage, this squad will nevertheless be hungry for victory. Feeding off a fierce competitivity built upon a simple love for playing together, the West Country collective will be relishing the opportunity to diversify their scalp collection.


Fire 1
Other than a finals berth in 2008, Fire have struggled to make an imprint abroad to match their domestic placings. A rocky domestic season will not have helped, but an unpredictability in form may equally work to their favour in Bordeaux.

Kapow
Euros has been their goal all season, and it will not be taken likely by this young and improving team. Led by Dave Pichler and bolstered by returners Will Caldwell, Kapow will be hoping to upset some unwitting European opposition with their uniquely creative playing style.

The championships began this morning – good luck to all British teams attending! JCK @ tSG

The Grapevine – 20/09

Bordeaux, BUCS, EUCR-S, European Ultimate, SkyD, The Grapevine, Ultiworld, Understanding Ultimate., xEUCF

The Grapevine – ultimate links and news from around the globe.

Understanding Ultimate gets literary in an interesting post that meditates on the relationship between artistic creativity and sport, and argues convincingly for the benefits of self imposed constraints in ultimate training.

The UKU have announced a new ultimate event at Fistral Beach in partnership with BUCS open to all…

Getting excited for xEUCF? The schedule for all divisions is now available…

Take a moment to fill in this feedback form for Nationals and xEUCF if you haven’t already!

From across the pond…

Lou Burruss discusses the history of offensive tactics in a post that will be of interest to anyone concerned with ‘the gap’ between UK and US teams that has been discussed of late…

The commercialisation of US ultimate continues as Keith Raynor argues for an aggressive branding of College teams.


A storm is brewing in European ultimate and its set to break out at Bordeaux. Keep an eye out for our xEUCF previews early next week! – JCK @ tSG.

Jen Ultimate: The Interview

Coaching, European Ultimate, GB, Great Britain, Jen, Open, Outdoors
Those with a keen eye will have noticed a recent ripple in the UK Ultimate social media sphere under the mysteriously simple name of ‘Jen’. With a website and Facebook identity already established, as well as a concerted effort for word of mouth distribution by its founders, Jen nevertheless still seems to have the ultimate community unsure and left with a host a plethora of questions. What is Jen? is it a British Nexgen? Doesn’t it threaten most tour teams? Why “Jen”?! The Showgame got in touch with co founder and captain Sam Bowen to get some answers…




tSG: Let’s start with the basics: what is your vision for Jen, who are you hoping will get involved, and who are you hoping will benefit?

SB: Firstly, we hope that every Ultimate player in the UK who fits the basic criteria will apply. We want those with existing outstanding athletic ability but also, more importantly, those with the potential and desire to improve that. We are looking for strong Ultimate players with exceptional physicality, competitiveness and athleticism. Alongside this, it’s important that we take on those with a strong mentality, positive attitude and good spirit. These are the players that will make up Jen. We are confident that the training schemes and facilities will benefit all those who attend a trial or training session. We are trying to raise the profile and ability of youth Ultimate in the UK, which we believe is important for everybody in the Ultimate community.

tSG: What inspired the creation of the team, and why do you feel the need to do something different?

SB: It’s important to note that we are not trying to distance ourselves from the fantastic GB Junior setup, which we have all gained very positive and valuable experiences from.
The 3 team captains (Sam Bowen, Alex Brooks and Jake Aspin) have competed on the 
same Great Britain Junior Teams for the last 3 years, including two World Championships. Collectively, we have had experience of playing against almost every nation within that age category and we understand how Great Britain competes amongst them. There are many intricacies that make us better and/or worse than those nations. However, we realised that a number of teams were a lot more ‘athletically-driven’ than ours and this made a huge impact at big tournaments. We found ourselves trailing our man, being bullied on the mark and being outpaced or outbid, particularly towards the end of tournaments. We appreciate that this is not the only reason for our losses, but have identified it as a reparable weakness in our game. This is one of the things that we are trying to address with Jen. 

Another area that we are addressing is the strength of the player base in the UK. We are aiming not only to get more players involved in the game, but to retain and develop those with enormous potential to compete at the highest level.  Jen aims to provide support to young players that don’t receive the recognition or development that they might get a top club team. Jen will place particular emphasis on players who haven’t had this calibre of training in an attempt to improve individual player standards, but also club team standards across the country. We hope that the knowledge and experience these young players will gain from Jen can be transmitted to other teams across the UK. The long term goal being that teams get stronger, tournaments become more competitive and the overall standard of Ultimate in the UK grows stronger and stronger. 

tSG: Will the team always stay below a certain age, and if so will the founders leave when they become too old?

SB: Every new player we take on will be between the ages of 18-25. We were initially looking at inviting players below the age of 18 but we have had some issues with insurance. This is something that we are still looking into though, especially after the recent success of the GB u17 Open squad in Cologne. We cannot say whether players will move on once they become over the age of 25 as, to be honest, we really don’t know. What we do know is that the emphasis and development focus will always be placed on the young talent within Jen.

tSG: How often is the team going to train, and why are do you think these trainings will be more productive than the geo – trainings they will replace?

SB: The whole idea of Jen is that it is manageable from a player perspective. We understand the costs, time and effort involved. We do not want to lose out on talent because of these factors. Equally, we are not trying to compete against the UK’s club teams, so trainings will be on a monthly/two-monthly basis. Although there will be costs involved for the initial trial (due to the facilities and equipment necessary), we are looking at free venues around the UK for future training sessions. 

In the run up to competitions, we will select a team from our training squad and will perhaps look at training more regularly. We will liaise with club and national teams to determine suitable training times, locations and systems. A lot of the training programme will involve personal training, and we have qualified individuals to assist us with this. Whilst we are insistent to make geo-trainings work, Jen will place an enormous focus on getting the whole squad together for team trainings. We want to create a positive and competitive team environment, whereby the best young athletes in the country can push each other to improve the level of every individual, the team and UK Ultimate.
Sam Bowen captaining GB Open at the recent World Under 23 Championships. Photo courtesy of Nancy Rawlings.


tSG: Arguably GB ultimate is behind both in terms of athleticism and other aspects of the game, including simple skills. Does this team not propose an overly a simple solution to a complicated problem?

SB: We would never describe Jen as a solution. We don’t predict that the intended results 
of Jen will be instant. Instead, we are trying to continually raise the profile and standard of Ultimate in the UK, particularly amongst our young talent. We envisage that the best way to do this is to produce and develop an elite squad of Ultimate athletes from the young players in the game. Jen will not focus solely on athleticism and physicality, but also Ultimate skills and techniques. There is also an argument that in improving players’ fitness (both endurance and strength), it will assist the throwing skill base. There has been some criticism on focussing wholly on athleticism, which as discussed, is not the only sporting aspect that Jen aims to improve. However, as players get stronger they will be able to put their bodies in better positions to produce more accurate throws. Perhaps more importantly, they will be able to maintain the quality of play and skill throughout a tournament, reducing a lull in standard that can often occur towards the end of a competition. 

tSG: How do you plan on the players balancing Jen training times around other teams, both domestic and international considering the upcoming GB cycle?

SB: This is pretty simple actually. We will expect the players to manage themselves. Part of our selection process will take into account players’ ability to manage themselves, their 
bodies, time and commitments. As mentioned, Jen aims to support it’s players with fitness 
and training programmes, which many players may not have had exposure to before. We 
understand if players have existing personal programmes and it is important that they elect one that is suitable, comfortable and manageable for them, alongside their normal club training.  

Jen will never take priority over National duty, nor should it as we believe playing for Great Britain is the pinnacle of your Ultimate career. It is important that the training at Jen works alongside that of the National team. We have already liaised with GB Junior Coaches to make this work, and will continue to do so. We hope that Jen helps our National selectors to identify young talent, whilst continually raising the level of our junior outfit.With regard to club teams, the maturity to train and improve comes hand-in-hand with the respect and understanding from the leadership team. We will trust our players to make the decisions best for them and we will respect those decisions. We will have a large and competitive training squad to cope with absences, but those who have missed out will be expected to catch up.

tSG: How do you see this interplay between Jen and the players’ club teams further down the line?

SB: We hope and expect it to be extremely positive for both sides. Jen is not a tour team and plans to operate on its own cycle. It is not our aim to ‘steal’ any player, only to help young players improve. A number of our players will be competing at World Clubs this year and it is not our intention to distract them in their preparations. We hope that we can work alongside all teams to help increase the standard of Ultimate in the country. We will seek advice and training from some of the best in the game to help Jen be successful. The team will not be lead or trained by the founders alone. Jen will learn and develop together to improve our own ability and potential. We hope that we get the support from Club and National players, coaches and teams to make this possible.

tSG: People are not unreasonably making comparison between this and the recent US NexGen project – is it related to this or inspired by it in any way?

SB: Jen is not affiliated with NexGen, and nor are we attempting to completely emulate it. Admittedly, a European NexGen-type Tour is something that we’d like to achieve within 4 years. I think every young player in the game should be inspired by what NexGen have managed to accomplish. It has been a fantastic project, which has raised the level of Ultimate in the States, but also increased the coverage of the sport worldwide.  We have certainly been inspired by the results that NexGen have achieved and the level of Ultimate that they are playing at. At the moment, they are unrivalled by any other ‘junior’ team in the world and it is no coincidence that the USA Junior squads have been unbeaten for so many years. Jen will attempt to have the same impact on the UK’s junior setup, by lifting the athleticism, playing standards and competitiveness of its young players. Like NexGen, Jen will require the support and competition from the best club teams in the UK. We hope that together we can lift the standard of UK Ultimate and continue to improve our performance on the world stage.

tSG: And Finally – The question that everyone wants to know the answer to – what does ‘Jen’ mean?

SB: Jen does not mean ‘NexGen’ or ‘generation’. It doesn’t refer to a particular person or expression. Jen is all-encompassing.  Jen is everything.

Well, what do you think?! Raring to apply or still skeptical? Either way make sure to share, and of course comment below! JCK @ tSG

Ranelagh at EUCR-S

An Irish Eye, Bordeaux, Crazy Dogs, CUSB, EUCR-S, European Ultimate, Flying Angels Bern, Freespeed, Ireland, Irish Ultimate, Panthers, Ranelagh, Tchac, ultimate, xEUCF

Mark Earley returns with An Irish Eye looking back at Ranelagh’s performance at EUCR-S.

Two weeks ago Ranelagh travelled from Dublin to Bern in Switzerland for EUCR-S hoping to have a crack at a region renowned for its strength. It was only the second time an Irish team had attempted qualification for EUCF and was to prove more difficult than the last attempt (when a Dublin Ultimate team full of pick ups finished 1 spot away from qualifying in 2010 in Nantes). The team was nearly at full strength, but also had a lot of new young players as well the established core.


Day one saw Ranelagh (9) face Italian champions CUSB (3) in the first game of the day. It started well for the Dublin team as they took the lead having started on D and stayed ahead until midway through the first half. Bologna fought back with a couple of breaks of their own and lead for a while until another Ranelagh surge saw them take half 8-7. In the third quarter of the game a combination of increased defensive pressure and some Ranelagh miscues saw Bologna jump out to a 3 point lead which they held onto to see out the game 14-10.

The second game was against Crazy Dogs (6), a team from Stans who have been turning heads both this season and last. It was a tight game, ebbing one way and flowing the other with neither team ever further than 2 points ahead. At 10-10 Ranelagh scored a break to take the lead 11-10 when lightning struck, literally. (Not on our field but not too far either). The 3 second thunder clap rule was adhered to and all play was stopped by the TD. There remained 10 minutes on the game clock. Everyone went to the nearby stadium for lunch and all games were postponed until further notice. About 90mins later the teams warmed up and played the last 10 minutes. Again it was a very closely fought affair although the nature of the game was different. Both teams were a little more anxious, a little more physical and happier to take long shots that the weather had prevented earlier on. Ranelagh went 14-12 up in a game to 15 but Crazy Dogs came back to score 3 on the trot and win 15-14. A tough loss for the Irish team that saw them go into a more difficult crossover.

Ranelagh’s last game of the day was against Parisians Iznogood and it was approached much like the other two – a full warm up and knowing that a win was needed to stay alive in the competition. Unfortunately the start was unusually flat and Iznogood took full advantage. Despite a time out and some renewed energy, the 4 point gap proved too much for Ranelagh. The shortened game ended 11-6, a scoreline that reflected a strangely off performance by the team in black. While Iznogood progressed to a quarter-final against Freespeed, Ranelagh were left to lick their wounds and play out the next day in a bottom 3 pool with Solebang and Panthers.

Sunday morning and the rain was back again, but without the thunder and lightning of the previous day. A depleted Solebang squad (10 players) were up first and both teams started well with fast offense being the order of the day. Much like the opening pool games the teams were pretty evenly matched and until 10-10 it looked like anyone’s game. In that all important final quarter the Ranelagh D took charge and with it the Solebang legs began to tire. The game ended 15-11 to the Dubliners, both teams looking forward to future match ups with two full squads.
Ranelagh’s last game was against the less famous of the Bern teams, the Panthers. A strong start from the Irish resulted in a 4-0 lead but the Panthers regrouped and threw some unusual zone looks that got them back in the game. Another dogfight was brewing and both teams exchanged the lead as the game came to the final stretch. However, it was to be Ranelagh who ended up victorious, closing the game out 15-11 after a long hard battle to finish as seeded, in 9th place. A disappointing but interesting visit to the European qualifiers scene for a team that felt it didn’t perform quite as well as it could have.

Elsewhere, there were a few teams that stood out for me. FAB looked very strong (until the final), with a practically faultless & precise offence. Tchac were exciting to watch –  a young and athletic French team with power and pace to run with most teams. Freespeed didn’t look as good as previous years, with some odd mistakes, especially in big games but they dug deep and took 3rd so won’t be too worried. CUSB were the surprise – a team loaded with talent and youth with well thought out systems, a very strong running game and receivers to compliment the throwers’ range of throws.

The tournament itself was very well run and excellent value too. Two breakfasts, two lunches and a hot dinner all included in the fees as well as decent fields. The TDs faced a tricky situation and dealt with it quickly and openly. While the weather was a pain in the ass, the experience was one that Ranelagh will bank and learn from. The style of play, the pace of the games and the new systems made for a change from the UK Tour and something that might be useful going into next season with places at WUCC and EUCF soon up for grabs.
Finally, does it not strike anyone else as odd that qualification for a tournament taking place in 4 weeks time takes place so late on the season? If we had qualified – flights, accommodation and all other costs would have proved difficult for a large portion of our roster. Surely these competitions could be moved to earlier in the summer? Also, it seems a shame that not all countries can be represented at xEUCF. It is, of course, the pinnacle of club Ultimate for Europe and ideal for the best teams to be there so our elite can grow to challenge the elite clubs worldwide, but for clubs gearing up for WUCC it seems a shame for them to be unable to attend xEUCF (or in old money the much more open EUCC). Growth has to happen at the two ends of all spectrums.

Both images courtesy of Flying Angels Bern.

Sadly no Ranelagh in Bordeaux but some Irish players will be there for UK teams! More news, views and opinions to come … DP @ tSG.