London Women’s Ultimate Forum

Discie Chicks, Iceni, Imperial, Kings, London, London Women's Ultimate Forum, LWUF., SYC, UCL, Womens
Charlie Blair gives us the lowdown on the meeting of London Women’s Ultimate Forum a couple weeks ago.
 

Ten years ago London was host to a mere 24 female Ultimate players.  The establishment of the women’s Tour opened the door for growth by providing the opportunity for women not merely to play at a competitive and athletic level against one another, but facilitated both the incentive and necessity for other teams to strive to regularly train at such a level.  As such we have witnessed Tour participation swell from only seven teams in 2004 to twenty-one in 2013, four of which represented the capital.

Whilst on the surface this may seem somewhat impressive, a simple comparison with the growth in Open and the fact that only Iceni and SYC attended Nationals highlights the lack of sustainability that London clubs – indeed clubs nationwide – outside of the top tier appear to be suffering from. Thus, despite a steady increase in female participation, our club infrastructure, and thus our development, remains weak.

It is why at the beginning of this month, representatives of London based women’s clubs and those interested and/or affiliated to their development gathered for an open forum to evaluate the current situation. They included: Iceni, SYC, Crown Jewels, Curve, Discie Chicks and a new team, so nascent yet to be named! In addition there was university representation from Kings, UCL and Imperial. It was incredible alone to have a whole cohort of women representing their interests in London, a decade since Alia Ayub and Laura Pearce encouraged women in the UK to talk about what they want from Ultimate for the first time, which led to the inception of the Women’s Tour and the appointment of the first ever UKU Women’s Coordinator.

Representation from all over the London club and university scene.

 

End of Year Review – Women’s Tour 2013

Devon, Leeds, Nice Bristols, PUNT, SYC, UK Ultimate, Women's Tour, WUCC2014, xEUCF
Charlie Blair looks back at the 2013 season and ahead at what’s to come in 2014.

With 2014 just around the corner, the Women’s Tour is about to embark on its tenth year. It is only fitting then that this year was one of landmark achievements, with our domestic battles being heightened by the two qualification spots at WUCC up for grabs.  Moreover, this qualification process instigated pioneering changes to the organisation of the divisions this year; ones that appear to be forcing many women’s clubs to reassess their form and direction.  As tSG reflects on some of the triumphs and challenges of the season, what can we expect from the season ahead? 

The UK Women’s Tour proudly concluded this year’s campaign triumphant in Bordeaux, with representation from four British clubs at xEUCF; a reflection of the depth within women’s ultimate in this country that remains unmatched by any other European nation. As such our clubs were arguably responsible for some of the most spectacular games of the tournament, notably those of the final and the ‘game to go’.

For Bristol, the remaining qualification spot boiled down to yet another match up with their British counterparts, SYC. However, with onlookers commenting that it’s the best they’ve seen either play in years, perhaps no other opposition could have brought out such defining performances from both teams. According to Bristol veteran, Jen Hart: 

‘We were playing for everything. We went three or four points behind and then we had a game changing layout from Bridget Brown and that was the turning point- from then on we were ruthless, we had layout blocks and clinical scores.’


For SYC, such a game took its toll on a 13 woman squad that had lost several players throughout the season to injuries, babies and the Middle East! They too applaud each other for inspirational play but credit the strength of Bristol’s handler movement, unrelenting upon their fatigue. It was a ‘devastating’ loss after having been in the lead, and unfortunately one which seems to reflect the positive start to the season they had, that faded as Bristol began their ascendency and usurped SYC’s place in the Tour 3 and Nationals finals. 

In contrast, this victory cemented a landmark year for Bristol who not only qualified for worlds for the first time in their club’s history but also took home their first ever Tour victory in Cardiff, against Iceni. Not to mention taking home the Spirit prize from Euros for a second year in a row. 

Unsurprisingly then, Iceni are having to respond to the challenges they faced from both Bristol and their European counterparts this season. In the xEUCF final, Iceni, keen to send a strong message to the world having already qualified for WUCC, were pushed harder than ever to defend their title in what was visibly their toughest mental and physical game of their whole season. A victory required some super human efforts from the likes of Fran Scarampi who injected the momentum into her team to see out the game.
Francesca Scarampi making ‘that huge grab’ in the xEUCF final. Picture courtesy of Ingeborg Kuijlaars of Get Horizontal.
For Iceni, 2013 was the beginning of a two year season that culminated at WUCC. Therefore, they took the opportunity to choose a very big squad and train regularly this year. But as Ange Wilkinson admits, this became a ‘bit of a balancing act’ having such a large number of talented and hard-working athletes to manage. Particularly with so many other international commitments demanded from a substantial portion of the team. Consequently, chinks in the Iceni armour did indeed show this year and so looking forward to 2014 they seek ‘a renewed commitment from all our players to really push their own, and the team’s boundaries’. 

Indeed, women’s Nationals this year really brought this issue of commitment to the forefront amidst concerns about how the poor turnout reflected the state of women’s ultimate in the UK. Jen Hart suggests that if there had been more movement at the top of the Women’s Tour than it might have encouraged teams to stick out and push for Euros. As such, the wider significance of their example at Tour 3 is not lost on Bristol themselves, who maintain: 
‘People tend to talk about themselves and their team, but it’s not just about us winning- it was about changing the norm, beating the historical powerhouse that is Iceni; showing the other women’s teams that it doesn’t always have to be the same, showing that with enough hard work and belief you CAN win a Tour final.’
And it is such success that their peers delight in sharing in, and for many of whom, Bristol have been the most impressive team on the Women’s Tour this season. 

Their confidence, communication and strong fundamentals have impressed the leadership of both Punt and Iceni, whilst Megan Hurst of Seven Sisters considers them ‘a real role model for the women’s scene in general’. She sees them as a great example of a geo club who don’t share the graduate pulling power and transport links of London. 

I agree that it is exactly this kind of inspiration that the Women’s Tour desperately needs. Now that Bristol have gone some way to dispelling the predictability of Women’s Tour, it’s not just Iceni who have been encouraged to reorganise their aims and structure after this season. Seven Sisters can only speculate how they will look next year, having decided to focus much more exclusively on home grown and local players rather than being a satellite outfit. Whilst SYC are looking to hold more frequent London trainings and take a bigger squad. As such, this trial period, captain Cesca Tyler is keen to see ‘the SYC Saturday sessions attended by as many London based or close to London women as possible, whatever team played for’. 

Moreover, the success of Leeds Leeds Leeds is testament to the need for strong local foundations. It was these that allowed them to surpass even their own expectations, with captain Hannah Boddy admitting, ‘Euros wasn’t even on my radar in January!’. But despite much of their team never having ever played tour before, they were elated to maintain a consistent fourth place position. Boddy accredits this to the unity formed amongst her players who frequently trained with local geo teams, outside of tournaments and Leeds weekend trainings. In her eyes, the ability to build a successful team from scratch had much to do with a proactive attitude to skills days and local university team success, which has fostered the ‘ambition, talent and dedication of the ladies in the north’.

Nevertheless, the adjustments that some of these clubs intend to make to their organisation can also be seen as a natural response to the simultaneous hosting of Women’s and Mixed nationals this year. It is no surprise that Women’s clubs are now demanding greater commitment (to varying degrees!) from their players, more or less forcing them to make the choice between the two divisions in alignment with the changes to the tournament calendar.  Certainly, Iceni has made that abundantly clear, having organised all training weekends over the mixed tour dates. 

However, this choice will inevitably serve to weaken some other women’s clubs. It was a great shame that the only other team to have somewhat dispelled the status quo of the top four, PUNT, didn’t attend Nationals because the majority of their players committed to mixed instead. Yet captain Magili Matsumiya quite rightly points out, that if we intend to be showcasing in each division at the same event (which is the case in all international tournaments) we need both committed mixed and women’s teams domestically if we want to perform well:
‘I think you could equally say that having mixed nationals alongside women’s resulted in a low show for mixed, in terms of really top teams anyway (eg RGS and Magic Toast were consistently top four at Mixed Tour but all their players are on Iceni/Clapham/SYC/Chevron). What is certainly true is that there currently isn’t a sufficient player base of female players to have high quality mixed and women’s at the same event’.  
Whilst some may lament what appears to be a withdrawal of playing opportunity for women and damaging to the women’s game, in fact this separation is creating more opportunity for women, and of much higher quality. In my opinion, it has simultaneously highlighted the great dearth of female participation in Ultimate and provided the capacity to absorb and develop new talent to resolve that. A greater commitment to either women’s or mixed clubs will also allow them to create a greater legacy that is not totally reliant on a certain generation of players to sustain it. 

So whilst we may not see PUNT return to full force and picking up from where they left off from 3rd place at Tour, we can look forward to what new local outfits have to offer us in 2014, as well as those not distracted by international ambitions. Swift will be looking to develop strength again in the wake of losing players to mixed this season. In addition, there is excitement surrounding the inception of a Manchester based women’s team who have started to train under the leadership of experienced players such as Jools Murray. Equally, World Games star and A Tour regular, Izzy Burke, has already started training up a Devon women’s team as early as this September in preparation for the 2014 season! And if the training shirts and fresh faces in the pictures of their first training session is anything to go by, it appears to be a much needed vehicle for talented juniors to have the opportunity to not simply be exposed to Tour, but train for it. 

Devon Women have their first training. Photo courtesy of Devon Ultimate.
So this year Women’s Tour was a landmark year in terms of long term orientation, with a wakeup call from upsets on pitch, and some artificial cajoling from the UKU’s scheduling off pitch. tSG wishes Iceni and Bristol the best of luck in their preparations for WUCC and will be following them all the way! And here’s hoping that this inspiring commitment from so many clubs and individuals to develop women’s Ultimate will produce the best attended Tour season with the highest quality games to date. Nothing less than what its tenth anniversary deserves!

Awesome! So much going on here at tSG HQ, are you ready for it?
DP @ tSG

The Grapevine – 03/01

?????, Clapham, Get Horizontal, Iceni, SYC, The Grapevine, theShowGame, Ultiworld

Happy New Year from everyone at the Grapevine, 2014 is going to be massive and here’s just the start! 

Tomorrow SYC host the first London Women’s Session in 2014, get down to Clapham South for that!

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Also Iceni are hosting London Women’s Winter League the following weekend, so much Ultimate for you ladies!

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Nice Bristols have been working hard in their local area including Steph Walker who got a mention in her local paper raising money to get to WUCC.

Enjoy some great photos including the UK contribution from Tom “Mum” Abrams of Clapham Ultimate, on Ultiworld.

Plus our own addition twinned with Get Horizontal, below.

Another ultimate blog has gone live, but this time it comes from one of the biggest writers of 2013; Beaufort Kittredge. We expect big things here! 

Next week will see the official release of our new section, keep your eyes peeled for the announcement. We are excited, it’s like Christmas all over again! 


Like, share, comment and contribute!
DP @ tSG.

The Grapevine – 20/12

Fire of London, Kapow, Love at First Flight., SYC, The Grapevine, UK Ultimate

The Grapevine this week has a lot going on…

Fire of London have opened their trial applications..

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…as have Ka-Pow! who claim over 70 applicant already!

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Next up Shut Your Cake-hole … sorry SYC have released a little photo montage from the 2013 season.


Finally my personal favourite. We see many foreign students playing Ultimate in UK Universities and one lucky Turkish player (Eylem Caner) did so with Sussex University in 2012. From there he has gone on to represent his country at ECBU in their very successful WFDF debut and about a year ago he created this wonderful mini-documentary about the love of the sport. Includes some great UK and European Ultimate clips plus interviews with some of the central characters in Brighton (and UK) Ultimate. TheShowGame is very proud to (re)present “Love at First Flight”. 
Love at First Flight from Eylem Caner on Vimeo.

DP @ tSG.


The Grapevine – 13/12

?????, Bad Skid, Get Horizontal, Iceni, SYC, The Grapevine

The Grapevine covers this weeks Ultimate from near and far…

Get Horizontal (our European partners) gave us a promotion on twitter whilst reminding us there is no ‘I’ in team (although there is a me?) with Brummie’s “No Heroes” piece.

Iceni and SYC released their trial schedules for the coming season, London and South East women get to both and enjoy some high level women’s ultimate! See their FB posts below:

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Our German friends who came to London’s Calling last year (coming back?) took some advice from us in Bordeaux airport and did an english episode!! And it was awesome, watch it here.




Nice one! We always love to hear your suggestions and really want more contributors for the coming seasons, keep your eyes open for a big announcement soon. Especially if you love frisbee chat… DP @ tSG. 

UK Nationals to xEUCF 2013: Women’s

Bordeaux, Iceni, LLL, Nice Bristols, Previews, SYC, Tournament Reports, UKU Nationals, Womens, xEUCF
Charlie Blair looks back at EUCR-W (UKU Nationals) and forward to this weeks xEUCF 2013 in the Women’s division.

This year’s Nationals finished just as expected, with all of the teams seeded in the top four comfortably claiming their spot at the xEUCF finals in Bordeaux. However, amongst the top four, there was a distinct lack of upsets. Particularly after Tour 3 had somewhat wetted the appetite for some tight results and big shake-ups to the status quo. Perhaps with no real challenge required to assure qualification for Euros, these teams were not forced to push themselves in a way that one would expect Nationals to demand.

In fact, both Bristol and SYC have admitted they are disappointed that they under-performed during the weekend, especially against Iceni. Indeed, neither team were able to take any more than seven points off of the eventual champions. But Cesca Tyler is adamant that SYC ‘definitely have much more to give’ against the teams they finished behind. Indeed, their performance against Leeds is testament to the way that their captain knows SYC have the potential to play. It was undoubtedly the highlight of the women’s division at Nationals. SYC played beautiful, fast paced offence. Their cutting was incredibly confident. With their flow so difficult to shut down they took a six point lead early on. Even in the face of a stoic Leeds resistance, they kept themselves in the game until universe point, where they eventually emerged victorious.


Word from the Leeds leadership is that very same game was the best of their whole season so far. Indeed having gone six down and then rallying to score eight consecutive points to take the half is one of the most impressive comebacks of the season. Yet despite failing to take any big scalps, Leeds should be particularly proud to have produced the tightest scorelines amongst those who qualified. Especially since their already predominantly youthful team, lost further experience, most notably in the form of Tash Nishiyama to the mixed division. Having come within three points of Bristol also, Leeds were the only team who looked likely to threaten the seedings. Even the match up between Bristol and SYC, 2nd and 3rd seeds, didn’t prove to be as close a contest as either of their games with the fourth seeds.
SYC vs Nice Bristols at UKU Nationals 2013. Photo courtesy of Patrick Ward.
Iceni on the other hand ended up finishing the domestic season as they had started it, with a pretty clean sweep at Nationals. Back to an almost full strength squad after having split the team for Savage during Tour and lost others to international duties, they held a strong margin of difference throughout the final against Bristol, closing it out at 15-6. Despite both teams employing notably stricter line calling, both showcased the talents of their newer, developing players. In particular, of those returning from u23 World Championships in Toronto. The sibling connections between the Owens was a potent force for the Bristol O line. Equally, Renny Norman, shone on the Iceni D line displaying such confidence and pace you’d be forgiven for thinking her doppelganger teammate, returning World Games star Jackie Verralls, was playing every point!

Despite the scoreline, Bristol did not go down without a fight. If given the chance to play expansively, they often profited with some lovely scores that involved very few passes. The start of the game however was plagued by longer points generated by an awful lot of turnovers from both sides. Iceni were able to stem Bristol’s flow by heaping up the pressure on the sideline trap. Bristol’s preference to look for the IO resulted in point blocks for both Lauren Bryant and Alex Meixner on the Iceni D. Nevertheless, the Iceni offence also struggled, particularly from leading discs being thrown beyond their receiver and out of the pitch. It was eventually Iceni’s patience to favour the around that allowed them to start taking away the game with their first five points all a result of throws to solid under cuts in the endzone.

Looking forward to Europeans then, how are the British contingent likely to fair?

Heading up the summit of the four pools are Cosmic Girls (Russia), Iceni (UK), Ultimate de Cologne (GER) and Lotus (Switzerland). Iceni will be returning to defend their title, very conscious of sending a message to the rest of the teams attending the World Club Championships of what to expect from the UK number one. Significantly, they are definitely taking the biggest squad in the women’s division to Euros.
Iceni after winning UKU Nationals 2013. Picture courtesy of Philipa Sturt.
Captain, Ange Wilkinson, is particularly wary of the Russians (Cosmic Girls), notably on the ascendency after their victory at ECBU earlier this year. Equally Lotus are expected to again bring great fight, after two ‘tough but rewarding games’ against the Swiss last year. As for the Germans, whilst this may be their first European Championships they do not lack in talent or experience. Even though this team has replaced Woodchicas as the premier German representation, Cologne has rehomed its most influential playmakers.

Both Bristol and SYC have their eyes set on the second qualification spot for Worlds, which would require them to finish as the highest seeded British club (excluding Iceni). Both are eager to match up against some European opposition and to escape the repetitiveness of the domestic season this year. Unfortunately, as one would expect, SYC’s seeding leaves them witha tougher route to the top eight.
Whilst Tyler anticipates a gritty match up from the likes of Hot Beaches, the Czech outfit were noticeably weaker than in previous years at Windmill, missing their twin sister playmaking pair. However, this still leaves them with Lotus and Lemon Grass to better. On the other hand, Bristol should expect to at least hold seed in their pool since first time qualifiers Lay D’s, although bulked by one the aformentioned Hot Beaches sisters, are reportedly unable to take their whole squad.

Despite a strong performance this season from their young side, the Leeds leadership still recognise that the aims for this tournament are very different from the ones of the side that made the finals of xEUCF 2009. In direct contrast to that squad, the majority of Leed’s current roster has not met European opposition outside of fun tournaments. However, here’s hoping after getting so close at Nationals, they do manage to take down some strong teams. Like, for example, pool opponents Prague Devils. They have won the Central European League twice already. However their team makeup is also significantly youthful and athletic, and are too, reported to suffer a dearth of experienced handlers.

I believe all the British teams have the strength to finish in the top eight. Rising to the challenge of Europe is something that all these teams need and desire. Thus, I am so thrilled that all four of them have the opportunity to do so. At this stage of the season, the British contingent should be making no excuses to not be reaching full stride in Europe. Since one can only speculate what to expect, there is everything to play for, in contrast to another somewhat predictable domestic season. The British should be ready to show Europe and beyond their full potential. If they do, we will see great results! The confidence that a strong performance that xEUCF can give our clubs is crucial to the future of women’s ultimate in the UK.
  • Iceni vs Jinx 08.50 (GMT+1) 26/09
  • Cosmic Girls vs Nice Bristols 14.05 (GMT+1) 26/09

With only 4 days left until #xeucf2013 we are very excited! More re-previews to come …. DP @ tSG.

    UKU Women’s Nationals 2013

    Iceni, LLL, Nice Bristols, Previews, PUNT, SYC, UKU Nationals, Womens, WUCC2014, xEUCF
    Charlie Blair previews Women’s Nationals 2013.

    With British clubs having been awarded four spots at xEUCF in the women’s division this yearit is a great shame that there isn’t an improvement upon the number of teams that competed at Nationals 2012. A further disappointment is that only four teams who consistently finished in the top half of the women’s tour this year have chosen to attend.

    The most obvious absence is that of PUNT. Having had such an impressive season, completely un-phased by the more established opposition or indeed by the loss of leadership in Lily Huang and Lucy Barnes, they steadily climbed the rankings at tour, eventually finishing 3rd in Cardiff. Naturally, one would hope they would be hungry for a final come Nationals. However, the majority of this team, a team who had laid down the foundations to be real contenders in Europe this year, are instead representing in the mixed division.

    PUNT then appear to encapsulate the wider grievance felt by some that the women’s division has been neglected, if not damaged,
    by the simultaneous staging of Mixed Nationals. Indeed, forcing players to make the choice early as many of the women on PUNT clearly did is what the growth of the mixed division needs. However, was this early commitment motivated more by securing the opportunity of playing at xEUCF rather than a simple preference for the mixed game? The ShowGame would be eager to hear contributions to this debate, not wanting to rely on my speculation alone!

    Nevertheless, the fact remains that Iceni, Bristol, LLL and SYC are likely to walk away with xEUCF spots pretty much uncontested. Not to discredit Dragon Knights or Curve, but with the former finishing Tour 15th and the latter not even fielding a team at any of the events, they have not demonstrated European ambitions.  So what exactly are we competing for at Nationals? Rest assured, none of these teams will allow what should be the most competitive event on the calendar be relegated to a somewhat farcical formality.

    Pride at this stage of the season is priceless of course, but the real prize this weekend is the coveted WUCC qualification that victory at Nationals securesIceni have a lot to prove having been categorically dethroned by Bristol at Tour 3, who defeated the Londoners by a large margin. With a huge roster, it is clear Bristol are heading to Southampton intent on monopolising on this momentum. With all their u23 players now all playing together on the first team, they could prove to have some dangerous connections upon return from Toronto. Iceni, still missing captain Bex Forth, needs to continue drawing upon their depth in order to reassert their dominance. The last meeting between the two teams left a significant amount of fire in the belly of both, rendering a Bristol vs Iceni final as the most likely outcome.
    Priscille Lesne get high over Iceni defenders in last years final but will this year be a repeat? Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


    Yet, in no way does such a prediction serve to write off SYC or LLL from the top two. Both are bolstered by returning World Games players, Jenna Thomson and Sophie Edmonson, respectively. For SYC, Thomson’s return is indeed a welcome one, with captain Amie Channon recently moving abroad. Hopefully, SYC will be able to regain their usual confidence that seemed to lack somewhat at Tour 3. Again, returning u23 links should be exploited, particularly since both Carla Link and Ruby Rennison owned GB’s stats table. Equally, an extremely talented youth is at the core of LLL’s success this year. With Edmonson’s direction, they will punish any team that dares to underestimate them. However, their inexperience relative to the player base of the other three may get the better of them under pressure.

    With a round robin format, there is absolutely no margin for error and no second chance to gain a place in the final. Every game should be treated like a final. No matter who looks good on paper, you need to show up to every game at Nationals.

    Heads in ladies…

    … and it has begun! Look out for Mixed and Open Previews. Please comment below on the blog or FB. We want to hear your opinion on the Nationals debate! We will be trialling the Ultiapps score reporter, you can also follow all the action on the official mobile Nationals stats page. DP @ tSG.