gb

The Road to Perth: If in doubt, try out

GB, U24, UK Ultimate

The 2018 World Under-24 Ultimate Championships will be held in Perth, Australia. While January 2018 seems like a long time away, planning started behind the scenes months ago and the preparation will begin in earnest on October 22, when the first trials to make the GB squad take place near Liverpool. Sean Colfer spoke to three of the coaches involved – Sion Scone, the Open coach, and Jenna Thomson and Ben Weddell, the Women’s coaches – about what they’re looking for at the trials as part of the first in a series investigating what this cycle means in the short and long term for Ultimate in the UK.

readingmt12015

Mixed Tour 2015: from Cardiff to Salford

#ukumt2, Black Eagles, Bristol, GB, Glasgow, mixed tour, news, Previews, Reading Ultimate, Shiny Happy Meeples, Thundering Herd, u23

Martyn Brown brings us the second piece in his coverage of the 2015 Mixed Tour

 It’s safe to say that Cardiff will be a tournament most people won’t forget. Whilst Saturday was challenging, it was no more difficult than the conditions we experienced in Nottingham or Cheltenham for Mixed Tours 2 & 3 respectively last year. However, Sunday delivered some of the most difficult weather that we have had to play in for a number of years with wind, rain and mud in plentiful supply.

Despite the conditions the games got under way in earnest. Pool-play threw up few surprises with both GB teams topping their respective groups. The GB U23 teams also impressed, improving on seeding and giving themselves a chance to move up the order next tour. Ireland Mixed comfortably topped Pool C after a convincing victory over Thundering Herd 1. Pool D provided the most interesting results with Shiny Happy Meeple comfortably topping the group ahead of both Black Eagles and Brighton Breezy, with returning players helping to show that they are one of the strongest contenders at Tour this season.

“….errm no, but I might try out for Mixed.”

Discussion, GB, UK Ultimate

Sion ‘Brummie’ Scone gives some wise words to those considering the next GB senior cycle…

The application forms to run the GB squads are coming in, so I felt the need to write about some of my experiences. I was involved in running the GB Open trials in 2010, and GB World Games trials in 2012-13. Allow me, then, to share some of the things I’ve learned.

IMG_3459.JPG

GB Open in the US in the previous rotation.

Club or Country Part 2 – Is GB ready?

Chevron, Club or Country, Discussion, GB, Open
Mark Penny continues Club or Country by asking:
Are GB missing out not sending a club team to represent our country?


A lot of the leading international teams from our sport are winners of the national club championships from their respective countries. The US sent Sockeye to Worlds in 2008 and Revolver in 2012, whereas teams such as Japan and Sweden have consistent representation from Buzz Bullets and Skogshyddan. The same can be seen in the women’s division, with San Francisco’s Fury being a prime example of success within this system. The question being asked is this: are we, in Britain, right or wrong for not sending our national champions overseas?


There are arguments in favour of sending our reigning champions to international tournaments, the most obvious and important of which is the strong chemistry between players within a club team, which comes as a result of regular training. As solid an argument as that is, in my opinion it doesn’t out-power the fact that an accumulation of players from across Britain will hold more talent than say, for example, the Clapham or Chevron Squad alone. Furthermore, the chemistry held by the club teams is not excluded from an All-Star lineup. Great Britain does not have a large player base to pick from when compared with the US or Canada. This means that our club teams, whether they are considered to be top teams in the UK or not, are not packed from first pick to last with international standard players. The top teams in North America are. If we did send what would at the moment be Clapham to Worlds, then the second tier of their players would get dominated by the second tier of players from bigger countries’ rosters. This would result in Britain continuously losing games due to a lack of strength in depth.



Mark Penny playing for GB at WUGC in Japan. Photo courtesy of nzsnaps.com.

Britain’s best players are spread across the country, dotted around in a variety of different clubs and areas. We are very regionalised around the major cities and universities, with small pockets of talent everywhere. For example, Josh Coxon Kelly, Sam Vile, Matt ‘Whippet’ Ford, Kate Rae and Charlie Blair all represented at elite level and came out of the first generation of a single tiny ultimate community in Kent. Should GB not be trying to take advantage of these small pockets of talent that exist in our country to strengthen our National side, without those players having to migrate to the most dominant club? Choosing one club to represent us is confining ourselves to picking our players from one part of the country. We should be thinking that as our country isn’t as big as the USA, or Canada we are at an advantage! Might it not be the case that if it were geographically possible for them to conceivably travel and train together, these nations might also prefer to send an “allstar” team?


To send one club abroad would be a waste of the talent that ultimate players here have to offer. GB went to the world championships in Japan and with the right preparation (and the right amount of fortune), managed to come 2nd in the world. I’m not saying that Britain are the second best team in the world, but this is evidence that the system that we have at the moment, with the right nurturing, shows promise. The most successful squad in our country’s ultimate history had players from Clapham, Chevron, Fire, Emo, Brighton, Fusion and Ka-pow. There seems to be a similar situation in the women’s division too. Yes, we could send Iceni along but how can you ignore the talent residing in the Bristol, SYC, Punt and LLLeeds squads?


Another thing that we need to think about is the future for our national teams. Last summer the GBu23 squads went out to Toronto for the world u23 championships and although some results didn’t quite go in our favour, we saw that from the very first pull of the tournament, in our Open team’s show game against Canada, that we have a lot to offer on the world stage. This being said, only 3 of these players were a part of Clapham’s Nationals winning squad. Our GB u17 team have just won gold out in Lecco, the majority of these players are not going to end up in London or Manchester any time soon. Do we really want to suffocate the development of our rising stars by not having the majority of them in our national side? Sending a club team to represent us at international tournaments will nullify all of the work that is being done at the grassroots level in Britain. We could have the next international superstar training up in Scotland, but he/she wouldn’t be able to help improve our national side because he/she couldn’t get down to London for a weekly training session. These players need exposure to international tournaments if Britain intends on climbing the ranking ladder in the future.


The real questions that we need to be asking revolves around how we can improve on the system that we have. Should we train more regularly and deal with the consequences? Do we require better funding? Should we take longer to prepare? I don’t know the answer to these questions but to me, it feels as though the nomination of a single club to represent our nation is choosing what might seem like a quick fix for more awkward questions surrounding how we approach, and how much we commit as amateur athletes to preparing for and representing our country.

Club or Country? Introduction

Chevron, Clapham, Club or Country, Discussion, EMO, GB
Josh Coxon Kelly introduces the next edition of Discussion titled: Club or Country?


Next week teams will compete for the right to call themselves the greatest Ultimate club in the world. Now only a number of days away, excited qualifiers from 40 different countries and 161 different teams will be adding the finer touches to their preparation for this momentous opportunity at time of publishing – getting their bodies and minds perfectly ready to take on the rest of the world. At the height of elite non-commercial ultimate the WUCC held this year in Lecco, Italy is only challenged in terms of prestige by international competitions that occur between the World Club years. Players and coaches will still talk with a hushed reverence of Maribor, Southampton, Sakai, Vancouver as they share stories of their brushes with international glory or defeat, and our whole community is undeniably galvanised by the prospect of GB being represented and competing at Ultimate on the highest international stage.


The EUC and WUGC not only carry an extra weight with the privilege and national pride bound up in their medals, but also arguably present a more tantalising prospect for underdog ultimate nationals given the single-team restriction placed on entrants. With only a single entrance from USA, Canada, Japan, or any other of the growing list of world class Ultimate nations (Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Colombia…), the elusive quarter and semi final brackets are notably more viable for the underdog. The most recent example of this comes from close to home with our very own GB open squad making a first ever appearance in a world final in the recent summer of 2012, in Sakai. Whilst the defeat to USA may have been a decisive one, the GB Open performance in Japan provides lasting inspiration for up and coming British players whose dreams of international success were shown to be more viable than perhaps we had all thought a few summers ago.


Whilst not all players at in Lecco will have represented their country, there will be very few international competitors who do not have a club team at WUCC 2014, and depending on the nation, the distribution of national players varies greatly. There are clearly some quite disparate approaches across the international community to balancing the push and pull between club and country.


In the UK Clapham Ultimate have been open National champions for 13 years, and Iceni have held the women’s title for 8 out of the last 10 years. Whilst neither team is completely unscathed, they are widely held as the best teams in the country and there has is a sense building suggesting that we are starting to develop our own domestic ‘gap’, between the best London club and the rest of the country. Accompanying this suggestion, is the discussion of whether or not we should as a country be sending our most successful teams, or a combination of all-star players from across the country’s most competitive squads.

Daniel Furnell (EMO) passes to Si Dathan (Chevron) for GB in Japan. Photo courtesy of Stuart Austin.

It is undeniable that London seems to gravitationally attract a huge portion of young people in the UK whether for career, financial or other reasons. This effect is only going to be further exacerbated for our young sportsmen and women by the high percentage of the Ultimate community who learn and/or mature as players at their universities, and subsequently seek out employment in the larger cities. The country is evidently lopsided population wise, and this as well as the bustling London scene is drawing more and more talent to bolster the already dominant London clubs. Yet, despite this weighting towards the capital, top players from clubs across the country consistently prove at tour and GB selection processes that they can bring their own individual dominance over others from further down the London rosters.


There are clearly many variables and opinions in the balance in this debate, and the pieces in this series will provide an analysis of the British approach and comparison to other world powerhouses, as well as speculation on what steps need to be taken to best progress in the future. Sion Scone will be providing an in-depth analysis of the various options open to us. Supplementing this analysis will be two contrasting opinions from the UK Open club scene [Editor’s note: these supplementary posts are knowingly open-division-centric. We would love to expand the scope of this discussion to other divisions – comment below or get in touch!]: Ollie Benjamin (Clapham ~ 10 years) and Mark Penny (Chevron ~ 7 years). 

The last catch in Lecco will be followed by joy, desolation, celebrations and relaxation for many who move past the pinnacle of their seasons. For some however, it won’t be long after this that the focus turns to EUC’15, WUGC 2016, and the trialling, training and competitive journey of international ultimate that swiftly rises to the height of priority. Should we reassess our current system, and would doing so lead to short term, long term improvement, neither or both? Should we be focusing on top level or grass roots? Should such questions even be imposed on those who make up these teams, and should these people have the responsibility to do both? Let’s start the discussion…
d0b2c-thinkingman

No Heroes

Brummie, Closing the Gap, GB, highlight reel, WUCC2014

Sion “Brummie” Scone discusses what it takes to be a team player.

Here’s a little experiment.  I want you to close your eyes (not yet, keep reading) and picture yourself playing ultimate in the future, playing at some event that you are going to be working hard for, playing in the “dream game” that defines your season, maybe your playing career.  It could be coaching your student team to the regional “Game to Go” match for the first time, maybe getting onto a big club or national team, maybe playing a big final. Allow yourself a good few minutes, play that over in your mind, allow the vision to develop.

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