UKU Tour 2 – London Calling – Women’s Tour Preview

London Calling, news, Previews, Tournament Reports, UKUT2, Women's Tour, womens

Felicity “Flea” Perry and Claire Taylor give us their outlook on the Women’s division.

The top of the UK women’s tour is currently a tale of one team – the London based Iceni decimated the field at Tour 1. They won every game with acres to spare. With only 14 points scored against them over six games, they are a well drilled and highly skilled team of athletes. Their performance was impressive to say the least, and their resolute attitude to be the best saw them sail through the opposition at Tour 1.

We could talk about the gusty conditions, but we would just be rehashing old news. It’s Nottingham, it was windy, people played zone, let’s move on. The pitches were in great condition, the tournament was well organised, and the sun even appeared briefly.

UKU Women’s Tour 1 2015 Preview

#ukuowt1, news, Previews, Women's Master, Women's Tour

Karina “Coops” Cooper previews Women’s Tour 1 

World class performances are the ticket for the teams wanting to take home the crown at this weekend’s first Tour playing out in Nottingham.

The Cambridge and Oxford combination team Punt currently reign supreme over the 27 teams entered into this weekend’s tournament after they finished ahead of SYC and ROBOT at the conclusion of last year’s Tour. This season led by the dream-team of Jassy Drakulic, Trish Emeny and Lola Denham – will have to answer to the skills and tactics of world class teams such as SYC, GB Women’s Masters, GB U23, and the Spanish Women’s Masters in order to keep their throne. At this event last year Punt were able to hold off Iceni in the final for a while but eventually caved into the National champions, but can they take a victory off the London warriors in Nottingham?

Open and Women’s Tour 2 Preview

Black Sheep, Chevron, Clapham, Fire of London, Iceni, news, nottingham, Open Tour, Previews, PUNT, Women's Tour

Introducing the second major club tournament of the season…

As the summer presses on we come to the second UK Tour of 2014, this time moving up to the notorious Nottingham venue at Grove Farm. Well known in the UK Ultimate community for mostly meteorological reasons, Si Hill provided a defence:

“I’m really pleased we are heading back to Grove Farm. The geographical spread of venues we use for UKU Tour events is quite good at the moment, and Nottingham’s location is key to that.  It is undeniably prone to being windy due to the local geography.  But I prefer to look at the positives: it can help us to improve our disc skills, pushes teams to expand their zone-based systems, and adds some extra uncertainty into the results as upwind/downwind games in particular can turn on smaller margins.  Certainly the GB teams playing Worlds 2012 in Japan benefitted from the extra practice when some crucial games were played in extremely strong winds just like we had enjoyed 3 weeks earlier in Nottingham.”


With much talk of closing the gap centring on the need for stronger skills as a nation of players, it is hard to argue against this positive aspect of playing at a ‘harder’ venue, even if (as Si also pointed out) the forecast is set for uncharacteristically calm scenes this weekend (…fingers crossed eh?!).


Open


With the filtering out of international competition, this weekend will act as the season’s first true comparison between domestic teams, many of whom did not meet in London. The Clapham machine sees benefit in continuing its split team entrance, and will be looking to repeat their lossless weekend up until the final. EMO find themselves in their highest ever seeding after a strong start to the year as predicted. Whether or not this team can justify their placement above Chevron who comfortably bettered them at major tour events last year is yet to be seen. In a straight to semis format, old friends Chevron and Fire 1 will both be battling for an upset victory against Clapham O, or failing this a place in the knockout stages which could well be decided by their 15:40 meeting on Saturday.

Can anyone stall Clapham on their road to Lecco? Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.

The one slight change in the schedule is that both semi-finals and the final will take place in the format of WUCC games. Speaking on this Si Hill explains:

The semis will be full WFDF length (like WUCC) this weekend because we have enough pitch space/time to do this for those teams. Some of those teams and players will be playing at WUCC and it seems reasonable to take that opportunity in the circumstances.  In particular a 10-minute half-time can feel quite different to our usual 2-minute turn-around.”


Acclimatisation for this year’s major tournament is clearly a focus, but it would be wrong to suggest that the top brackets are the only ones to provide a source of excitement. The second eight of the A tour has arguably flattened out somewhat, with almost all teams having recently enjoyed top 8 seedings in their recent history. The battle from teams such as Ka-Pow! and Devon to rejoin the top pools (and the all-too-valuable elite competition such seedings provide) will be hard pushed by newer outfits such as Glasgow, who at ninth will be poised to restore the recent lack of a Scottish presence in the top flight of UK ultimate.


The 16-32 B tour bracket continues to heat up as it is increasingly compressed between the top 16 and the ever-growing C tour (now at 28 teams). After emphatically topping the C tour in St. Albans, Curve (with a boost from ex GB open players Niall Wilkinson and Rob Anderson) have been awarded a high seed and will be hungry to make a mark in their first game match-up against Fire 2, who consistently competed in the A tour last year (famously leap-frogging their first team at last year’s event). Perennial club teams will also have to overcome the GB and Irish Under 20 Open squads, who are attending tour in preparation of their world championships, also to be played in Lecco this summer. These young teams will make up for any lack of experience with buckets of athleticism, and will gladly welcome still conditions to show off their runners. With the lure of international silverware these teams will be playing with nothing to lose at this stage, and could cause upsets for any team in the bracket.


Our C Tour report comes from Christopher Bell (Black Sheep Co-Captain/coach).


With the seedings having hopefully sorted themselves out somewhat, and the inclusion of some strong teams replacing those promoted, C tour is lining up to be an exciting affair this weekend.

With two power pools at the top, it’s going to be difficult for any team 9th and below to break into the top 8, and even harder to make any further headway. There are, however, some teams that will be trying to do just that. Black Sheep may see this tournament as an opportunity to atone for last year’s failure to beat seed at Nottingham, where they started 9th but were unable to top their group due to the inclusion of the under-seeded Irish u20s. Expect Lemmings and a strengthened Camden side to mount serious challenges too. 

Keep an eye too on the GB u17s, they will come into this tournament with nothing to lose and a lot to prove. Always an athletic team, well drilled and with a great mentality – expect them to fight for every point as they aim to climb their way up the seedings.

The game to watch on Saturday is most definitely the battle of the North East: The Brown (1) v The Saints (3). The Brown have a point to prove after being relegated from B Tour last time round, and The Saints, victors in Nottingham this time last year but absent from London’s Calling, will want to prove that they can do it again. Expect a high intensity game, with both teams working very hard to shut down their opposition, whom they know well.

Each of Sunday’s games in the top 8 are going to be gruelling affairs, with close match-ups across the board. It’s tough to call how it’s going to pan out, but here’s my prediction for the semi-final teams: The Saints, Pingu Jam, ABH and Guildford.


Women’s

Iceni are demonstrating a vice-like grip on the number one spot, and show no signs of faltering with another tournament win at the recent Windmill. Fiona Kwan gives an insight into the humble approach that is surely helping to sustain the team’s dominance:

“Even though Iceni finished London Calling as top dogs, we took away a couple of key things we needed to improve and adjust to come back stronger for the rest of the season. After T1, we knew we had to find discipline in our endzone, set a harder mark, and ramp up our sideline. Basics. After focusing on these elements of our game, we took our adjustments to a very sunny Windmill Windup in Amsterdam last weekend (Happy 10th birthday Herbie!). 

Playing such tough oppositions as U de Cologne, Woodchicas and ZUF at Windmill has been great preparation for what we can expect from European teams competing at Worlds. These teams brought out the best, and worst in us, and although we won the tournament, we have come back with things to improve. Set up quickly on O, no open unders, and an even bigger sideline. Basics again.”

Having yet to face Swift, Phoenix or SYC, Iceni may find some more challenges in some fresh competition this weekend, but will still expect to win. With Nice Bristols notably absent from this weekend as they travel to test their mettle against some of the World’s best at the Boston Invite, the final route is opened up more than ever. Roslyn Cameron of SYC gives a summary of her team’s approach:

“This year there is serious competition in the top half of women’s tour and I’d say below the top spot no one can really feel that their spot is safe. We face Iceni in pool play on Saturday – they are a formidable team, fresh off the back of a convincing win in Amsterdam and with WUCC firmly in their sights. Any chance to play such an accomplished team is an amazing opportunity and not one that we will shy away from. For us tour isn’t simply about winning games but about competing and using every opportunity to play the best ultimate we can. What better way is there than against the best in Europe?”

Punt have a chance at making the final, who else could make it in Nottingham? Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.

Punt are being touted as another team pushing hard for a final spot, with consistent strong showings built up over the course of the last few seasons. However, SYC will be competing hard to beat them to it:


“Should the results allow, a rematch against Punt will definitely be a game to watch. Over the last few seasons we have had some great match-ups and Tour 1 this year was no exception, with SYC edging a sudden death victory first thing on Saturday morning. They play a unique offence and have a lot of depth in their team, which brings a real challenge when playing them.”

Further down the table teams are eager to push up. Hayley Nicklin from Relentless discusses the draw of those top two groups:


“This season, Relentless aimed to grow and develop into a team that can compete in the top eight after an up and down debut season last year. London’s Calling was the first test of all of the work the squad put in as a whole over the off-season.

There is every chance we could climb into the top 10 at Tour 2; the 5-12 bracket looks like it could contain some upsets.  I can’t see anyone taking the top spot from Iceni, especially with Bristol not in Nottingham, and then it’s a tough call between Punt and SYC for second place. I think it’s time for Punt make to their first appearance in a Tour final given their improvement over the past few years so my money is on them to finally get there.”


It seems many can’t see anything other than a clean sweep at the top for the London powerhouses in both divisions, but there will be plenty of players travelling this weekend with their eyes on the prize of a giant killing across the team list. The high winds and rain generally favour upsets, but with the dry and calm forecast it is looking as though anyone matching up against a favourite this weekend is going to have no choice but to beat them one-on-one, at full speed. 

Good luck to all teams competing this weekend from tSG!

London Calling – Women’s Division Review

London Calling, Review, Women's Tour
Charlie Blair summarises the events of the season’s first Women’s Tour 

London Calling yet again upheld its welcome tradition of providing impeccable weather to kick off the season. On the still and sunny pitches of St Albans, it also didn’t fail to deliver significant shake-ups, with only four teams holding their original seeds. Nevertheless, there unfortunately remains an apparent divide between the teams in the top and lower halves of the table. In fact, one of the few who held seeding included returning Tour champions Iceni – unmoved from the summit of the standings – as well as Swift, who continued to lead the pack in the lower half.

E6 and Iceni both had more or less straight-forward routes to the final. Other than a close opener between E6 and Bristol Cupboom (won 15-12 by E6), neither finalist conceded more than 7 points until their meeting on Sunday. Thankfully, the final was not such a walkover for either side as the Swedes’ impressive athleticism was a worthy match for Iceni. The temperate conditions really played into the hands of E6, who had successfully been connecting well placed long shots and high grabs all weekend. In addition to the Swedes’ monopolisation of the break side, the Londoners also at first struggled to halt their opponents’ fast flowing play. However, Iceni’s large squad was eventually able to capitalise on tiredness, and after stepping up the one-on-one D saw out the game with a confident offence.
It is disappointing however, that neither Bristol team demonstrated much of a threat to either finalist in the semis, as would surelyhave been expected after E6 only just edged victory in their opening game to Cupboom. Cupbowl, however gave them no such challenge. Granted they had themselves had only just won a tight game to SYC but it seems the depleted size of both Bristol teams left both of them without the energy to push as hard as was needed. This was later confirmed by the decision to forfeit the subsequent 3v4 match between the two sides. The schedule at Worlds will be demanding just as much consistency from them, if not more, and perhaps this was a wasted opportunity to push themselves as hard as they will need to in order to reach their full potential in Italy. The lure to enjoy the afternoon sunshine instead of showing some final game grit surely doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of their future opponents.

Elsewhere the last games of the day proved to be a much more competitive affair with close games between Free Agents and Punt, and SYC and YAKA. Free Agents made the greatest ascension of the tournament to take fifth spot, and their last game could have been an even closer affair if Punt had not allowed the score line to run away from them so much at the beginning. It was only once they ironed out the kinks in their own offence and stopped making unforced errors that they were able to start catching up, but unfortunately for them it wasn’t quite enough.
Jenna Thompson winds up for Iceni – Photo Courtesy of Andrew Moss

That said, Punt had another great tournament and continue to carry through the success of last season, leapfrogging both SYC and LLLeeds, who both began the tournament seeded above them. Certainly, they will have to keep the foot on the pedal at Tour 2, as SYC will surely have them in their sights. Having won a sudden death victory over the Cambridge outfit on the Saturday morning crossover, they’ll know they are capable of a better finish next time round. In fact, I think SYC deserve some credit for in despite of their losses, their close score lines reflect constant battle all weekend. Their victory in their final game to YAKA will have been a well earned reward and a testament to this grit. Unfortunately for the French, it’s safe to say that they were (as predicted) slightly overseeded for this tournament with the loss of key play-makers.


In contrast to the top 8, it was a great shame to see such a dearth of contest in the final games of the day amongst those fighting for the lower ranks. The only competitive result was to determine who finished 11th, between Swift and Brighton Pretty. Whilst it was still a very positive finish for the southerners, it was the Scottish who emerged victorious (15-10) to end the competition where they had begun.

In the rest of the fixtures there was a surprising gap between the winners and losers; considering that by this stage of the tournament you should be playing your most well matched opponents. Admittedly, I cannot confirm the reason behind the forfeit of the match between Relentless and Crown Jewels, but I hope (in the nicest way possible!) that it was enforced rather than mere lacklustre. Earlier in the weekend, Relentless were unfortunate to lose in sudden death to Blink, who ended up only finishing one seed above them. The matchup between them and Crown Jewels therefore surely promised to be a good game.

Equally, the lack of fight is apparent in the remaining score lines, in which none of the defeated teams managed to rack up more than eight points. Yet new outfits Devon and Manchester (who finished five places apart from each other) had played a tighter result in a preceding match against one another which finished 10-13.

This suggests to me that these final game score lines are not a result of disparaging ability but simply a lack of fight and love to play your best Ultimate whenever you get the chance to. I can’t help but feel with a little more focus and discipline, the belief and confidence to become ever more successful will be a natural by-product. To demand high expectations of yourself and your team even in that last, seemingly inconsequential 23v24 game, should not be sapping the fun out of the experience, but another opportunity to do something great. Another opportunity to create another great memory with your team mates, and achieve things you perhaps never imagined you could, no matter if you’re victorious or not. You’ll never know, if you don’t try!

Naturally, looking ahead to Tour, the majority of the teams going to Nottingham will have their seedings bumped up by the departure of our international guests and the pick-up teams who can’t field enough players. Still, let’s hope that the results show a much more linear gradation in the standard of teams rather than such a stark divide between the upper and lower half of women’s Tour. The season has only just began and hopefully everyone now has a taste for battle! Especially for our two teams heading to worlds, they are out of the training ground, and are now well on their way to Italy. From here on out, it should be expected that the fight will only get harder and harder…. Relish it!
   
1. Iceni (=)
2. E6 (+2)
3. Nice Bristols Cupboom (-1)
4. Nice Bristols Cupbowl (+1)
5. Free Agents (+5)

6. Punt (+2)
7. SYC (-1)
8. YAKA (-5)
9. LLLeeds (-2)
10. ROBOT (-1)
11. Swift (=)
12.Brighton Pretty (+2)
13. Phoenix London (+3)
14. Blink (+1)
15.  Relentless (-2)
16.  Crown Jewells (-4)
17.  Dragon Knights 1 (=)
18.  JR (+3)
19.  Manchester (=)
20.  Lemmington Lemmings (-2)
21.  Dragon Knights 2 (+1)
22.  All Things Brighton Beautiful (+2)
23.  Devon (-3)
24.  Discie Chicks

The season’s off with a cracker of a tournament and can only get better. Stay tuned for more recaps as well as Tour 2 previews!

London Calling – Women’s Preview

#ukut1, Iceni, Leeds, news, Nice Bristols, Previews, ROBOT, SYC, Women's Tour, YAKA
Charlie Blair introduces the teams who will be starting up the Women’s club season this weekend…

Can you believe it? Here beckons the start of June. The summer has arrived! The season is about to begin! And boy, what a difference a year makes!  London Calling 2014 delivers yet again with another great turn out in the women’s Tour with 24 teams signed up and raring to go. Most exciting however, is that this year promises more depth than ever as preparation for World clubs has strengthened the level of competition ready to descend on St Albans this weekend. Whilst some have complained that Tour maintains a sense of predictability ten years in, the battle amongst the top 8 and the top 12 is finally feeling like a more competitive affair.

There really is no telling just how much the seedings will be turned over in any of these brackets. It would be safe to assume that the three teams contending at world clubs will be found at the summit of Tour. However, in terms of who will take the title, it does seem somewhat likely that Iceni will rule the roost once again.

In preparation for Worlds, Iceni have had a marked overhaul under the leadership of Sonia Komenda and Ange Wilkinson, in recognition of the serious demands required in order to challenge top teams in Italy. They go into Tour 1 extremely well prepared, with months of bi-weekly trainings and professional fitness instruction under the guidance of former Clapham player Paul ‘Voodoo’ Waite who has committed his season to them. Nevertheless, in having not attended the inaugural NFL (Not Fog Lane) a couple of weeks ago, Tour will be their first demonstration of their hard work. With the introduction of a new  ‘north American’ style structure and the complete scrap of vertical stack from their offensive repertoire, will it all come together in time or will others be able to take advantage of their somewhat inexperienced tactics?
Joey Holmes getting off her feet for a D at UKU Club Nationals 2013. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


Bristol have shown the same dedication and intensity to their training over the past few months, ( in fact Bristol’s impressive team effort in preparation for Worlds has even seen them wangle some TV and radio appearance along the way!) but they have already signalled that teething problems remain. Whilst Bristol take their loss to SYC in the final of NFL in their stride, it may be that they don’t place as highly as expected whilst they continue to find their momentum. However, their decision to split their worlds squad for Tour in favour of using the tournament as further opportunity to harness close connections and rapport amongst players suggests their aim goes beyond taking domestic victory.

It is without doubt that the welcome international cohort we enjoy at London Calling will also have their eyes on victory. This year two teams will be making the trip over: E6 from Sweden, and YAKA from France. In such an important club year, it is a shame that so few Europeans have managed to be enticed. Little is known of the current state of this Swedish team who did not make an appearance in Bordeaux last year. Needless to say, they have always sported a team of extremely hard working and gritty players, with an experienced core leading the way. They will surely be looking for upsets. YAKA should equally expect to fair well on UK soil, having finished above Bristol, SYC and LLL at xEUCF 2013 . Even though they missed out on qualifying for worlds, they will be carrying confidence from taking the title at the recent ‘Siege of Limerick’. However, the loss of their famous talisman since then, Aline ‘Rasta’ Mondiot, who has hopped across the Channel to train and play with SYC this season could prove to be huge.

Indeed, this reshuffle of players as a result of selection and qualification of World Clubs has both seemingly strengthened established clubs and stimulated new ones, particularly in the south. Iceni’s much stricter selection process released a wealth of talented women to bolster clubs such as SYC and Crown Jewels as well as initiate the formation of Phoenix and Free Agents. All will be pushing for the best result possible in the top half of the Tour. Of the two new clubs, we know that despite their newness, Phoenix (formed of ex- Iceni  / Herd players) are serious about competing having exploited the wisdom of local beardy guru, Jaime Cross. Free Agents on the other hand are a motley crew of ex Iceni/SYC who haven’t committed to any trainings this year. Whilst they will be looking to cause trouble, the ‘name tags’ of this team, which include reigning Paga queen Bex Forth shouldn’t assume victory over those that have been working hard all season.

In the face of this new competition, others expecting a top table finish will surely be the legends of ROBOT, the Scottish contingent, Swift, and the big movers and shakers of last season, Punt, who all rounded off last season comfortably in the top 10. Looking further north LLL will also be keen to cement their strength after a phenomenal success at developing an incredibly talented core of young players. They appear to have become a real beacon for attracting committed players in the north, with some team members even commuting from as far a field as Scotland. They mean business!

Nevertheless, those teams who are looking to kick off the season with a more modest seeding, who train less frequently, are still capable of surprises. Whilst the battle for the mid table already looks rather crowded this year, there is welcome room for new outfits Manchester and Devon to ruffle some feathers. Both these teams have been established and managed under the guidance of former GB players who have invested in their local area. Up in Manchester, Julia ‘Jools’ Murray and Claerwen Snell have been providing lots of structure to trainings with guest coaches and fitness expertise on hand. So whilst they may lack experience, expect a well-drilled, well informed, skilled team who know their fundamentals. 

Despite my prediction that a full powered Iceni – desperate to play all together for the first time – are going to storm London Calling, I no longer see a divide between the top 4 and the rest as in previous years. There is everything to play for in the top bracket whether it’s the 3v4 or the 9v10, and woe betide any team that goes to Tour 1 resigning themselves to formality this weekend. Things are looking truly exciting in Women’s ultimate after the 2013 shake-up, and now it really is a case of if you don’t take it, someone else will!

Excitement is building steadily for the season opener in less than 24 hours. Our final preview of international teams is on the way!


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

Where are all the Women?

highlight reel, retention, training, UK Ultimate, University, Women's Tour, womens
Charlie Blair and University Women’s Coordinator Elly White discuss the recruiting and retaining of Women at University level, and how it can improve GB ultimate.
Recruiting women to Ultimate: UNIVERSITY
 
The recent poor showing at Nationals has been a wake up call to the UK about the problems women’s ultimate is currently facing. A recent debate on The State of Women’s Ultimate in the US (highly recommended viewing) has sought to address the problems that they are facing regarding growth and development. This has inspired the tSG to devote some much needed attention to the situation at home, taking insight from the discussions of our US counterparts to think about what we should be doing to better women’s Ultimate here in the UK.

Much progress has been made since the establishment of Women’s Tour, but the fear remains that the gap between men’s and women’s is growing ever wider as the infrastructure and resources for Open continue to increase at a pace unparalleled in the women’s division. University plays a vital role in ameliorating that margin. This piece serves to make you and your committee both recognise the importance of recruiting and retaining women as well as suggesting the most effective means to do so.