A Day in the Life of… Yanni Kappelmann

European Ultimate, Eurostars, Previews, Womens

Charlie Blair interviews a new joiner for this year’s Eurostars Tour

The first of my interviews with the new players joining Eurostars this year has been weeks in the making, with Yanni and I exchanging email after email trying to find a window to coordinate. It didn’t surprise me that this would be difficult, knowing how much preparation she must be doing for both Worlds and this summer’s tour. However, while rising for the 7:30am chat on a Wednesday morning made me realise that my own breakfast radio show is an infeasible reality, I was also left blushing in my PJs when Yanni told me she started her day at 5:15am!

Yanni was actually meant to be part of the Eurostars tour last year but sadly had to pull out at the last minute due to injury. To add irony to heartbreak, she recalls that “surgery was on the day my flight was meant to leave for America”. It was a devastating set back for the German national, now based in Bern. Having played for over a decade for both national teams and elite European clubs, Yanni had always dreamed of playing stateside.

“I’m so, so happy I got the chance to do it again because it was a dream come true. I always wanted to go to America and play there but could never do with studies and being self employed, I have no time to take out a few months. This was THE chance to go out there and play some of the best teams in the world.”

The significance of the Eurostars tour is not lost on Yanni at all, who notes the huge impact she has seen it have on both men and women after just its first year.

Yanni at work – Photo courtesy of Yanni Kappelmann

“I’m hearing lots of things,” she tells me. “Already I know people are excited to watch these games again. It’s always nice to go to tournaments and have people tell me how awesome this is. And the younger players really like to watch these games. On YouTube, you find so many really good men’s games, or US teams vs US teams, but not much of European players competing at this level. It’s great to have people coming up to you and being an idol, but I also hear men talking about it and appreciating women’s ultimate being pushed to grow and develop.”

With the women’s scene in Europe now more competitive than ever, we have been treated to some phenomenal games of late. Last weekend’s Windmill Windup was full of close games with only one or two points often making the difference. However, most significant for Yanni were last year’s beach finals, where Russia took a dramatic win over the USA: “It was the best final. Last year the men also said the women’s finals were better to watch. Even if the guys are more athletic and faster, if a game ends 15-7 it’s not as good as a game ending on universe point.”

Photo courtesy of Get Horizontal

So as we chat more about her desperately not wanting to let the Eurostars opportunity slip away, it becomes strikingly clear that Yanni is somebody who is absolutely defiant in the face of adversity and has utter faith in her determination and intelligence to overcome it. Having gone to the doctors with discomfort in her knee last year just before the tour was set to kick off, she learned that her meniscus had torn out of the bone completely and was told, “if you play now, you will never do sports again.” She was also advised to change her sport, now that she has had two major surgeries on the same knee in the last four years.

However, Yanni is an athlete through and through. She competed in high level gymnastics from an early age and was always utterly resistant to any other way of life. When back problems ended her gymnastics career at the tender age of thirteen, her doctor suggested she take up hobbies like music. Yanni jokingly recalls scoffing at even the idea. That was not her calling – it was sport. She’d already told her mum by first grade she would study sports. And from the age of sixteen she knew that frisbee was always more important that anything else.

Yanni has thus fiercely fought her way back to recovery. She says it’s fortunate that, being a sports scientist and personal trainer herself, she knows how to train. But I can appreciate how important (and astute) of her it was to recognise, at a young age, that she needed to empower herself to ensure she could always do the thing she loves. She can now directly use the knowledge and flexibility of her profession to facilitate her own personal goals as an athlete. Moreover, she has essentially rehabilitated herself in defiance of the doctor’s orders to come back from injury in order to participate in this years Eurostars.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but now it’s been two months since fully back on the field and it’s feeling good.”

Legend.

If Yanni’s determination off the field is anything to go by then she will undoubtedly be a huge asset to the Eurostars on the field.

There is a self-assuredness that comes across when I talk to Yanni about her game. And it’s well justified – she knows how much work she puts in. Having come from an individual sport she understands what a solid foundation this is for one’s mental game and has invested in strengthening her teammates on any team she is on.

A typical day would involve her coaching early morning, and mid-morning and afternoon trainings. The flexibility her job offers also allows her to fit in two of her own personal training sessions in a lunchtime and in the evening. Better still, she has cultivated a loving fanbase among her clients who are always willing to be flexible for her if ever she needs to go off to tournaments. So loving in fact, that not only do they sometimes come to watch her play, but some have taken up the sport themselves!

So when it comes to stepping on the field, Yanni knows she’s put in all the work that she possibly could have. She’s also got over a decade’s worth of high level play under her belt having hit the international scene way back in Vancouver 2008 with the German Mixed national team. Since then she has played every major international or European tournament for both club and country to date. This year, she is playing with and coaching the FAB squad heading for Cincinnati in the coming weeks.

She hopes that she will be able to flourish on the Eurostars squad just as much as she did with the German national team who took home the victory at Windmill in 2015. For Yanni, this was a team in which she could really hit her stride. “I could play what I play, and do what I could do best,” she recalls. This tournament showcased her prowess upfield, either as a deep receiver or coming back under to put up the hucks. For years, she has been a dominant force in the air on the European women’s scene and it is clear that Yanni’s confident reads of the disc are a result of her backing herself entirely: “I’m pretty motivated and I know how to fight, I will never give up on anything.”

So what more could you want from a fellow teammate? Oh yeah, maybe someone whose profession is to see that people can push way more than they ever think they can. An aerial boss and the ultimate sideline. Check. You’re gonna struggle to top Yanni’s expert hollering. Watch out ‘Murica.

UKU Women’s Tour 2 Preview

Previews, Womens

Hannah Pendlebury sets the stage for Women’s Tour 2 in Cardiff

When I cast my eyes over the list of teams confirmed for Cardiff this year, I was dismayed. After an excellent showing during what turned out to be a rather hot and sunny weekend in Nottingham, I saw just 18 teams entered. Confused, I thought to myself “what on earth has happened to 10 teams worth of players?”

As my mind furiously whirred away to craft progressively outlandish conspiracy theories involving motorway accidents on the M1 and/or dinosaurs, my eyes read on. Whilst I noted a few teams consolidating to a single squad for the journey across the Severn bridge (notably SYC, Red and Discie Chicks), four clubs had been excluded by virtue of missing the payment deadline. Gutting.

Photo courtesy of Claire Baker

Imagine then, my delight upon seeing a schedule of 21 teams! Clearly our benevolent overlords had granted a payment extension to those delinquent treasurers. Seriously though, thank you to UK Ultimate and the Cardiff TDs for being accommodating, you rock. 

But of course, I celebrated too soon. With a last minute drop out from The Brown women my hopes for a lay-in evaporated and we are now down to a 20 team schedule… Still though, 20 teams is better than 18! And whilst it is surprising not to see Exe Ladies at the closest event to home, Cardiff is a bit of a trek for other notable northern absentees Swift and LLLeeds. Although rumour has it that some women of the North will be making guest appearances this weekend- so keep your eyes peeled…

I think that’s quite enough about the teams that aren’t attending Tour 2. Instead let’s see who will be hoping to achieve glory on the fields of Llanrumney!

Pool L – Iceni (1), Nice Bristols (3), Brighton Women (6), Purple Cobras (8)

With Iceni and Nice Bristols starting to crank up the gears on the final stretch before WUCC I expect they will take no prisoners in pool play, just like in Nottingham. These two will both advance into the top four bracket on Sunday, unless something drastic happens.

However, looking to fight it out for 6th seed (on the live stream no less) will be Brighton and Purple Cobras. Cobras sailed through Nottingham undefeated to win the plate, so it will be most exciting to see them flex their muscles against the upper echelons of Women’s Tour. Brighton have a larger squad of fresher, slightly less experienced faces this time out and are missing talismanic handler Megan Hurst. But with players like Fran Scarampi and Marah Neal alongside their capable regular set, they may yet hold onto their seed.

Pool M – Reading 1 (2), SYC (4), SMOG (5), HYDRA 1 (7)

Reading women were the talk of the tournament in Nottingham. Snagging the 3rd seed during pool play with a 13-8 win over SYC 1, they went on to surmount SMOGlobetrotters and Nice Bristols on their way to a formidable final performance against Iceni. However, with SYC coming back together for Tour 2 it is going to be one heck of a fight for the top spot in this pool. SYC Coach James Burbidge was characteristically tight-lipped about his expectations for the weekend- though he did tip his hat to the sheer quality of the field this season. He also informed me that some of SYC’s star players are sitting this one out to rest ahead of Cincinnati… I’m gutted it’s not on the livestream schedule but if you find yourself at a loose end in Cardiff at midday, hustle over to pitch 11 and watch this game!

Photo courtesy of Sam Mouat

On the other end of this pool we have SMOG and HYDRA 1. Like SYC, SMOG have some absentees resting up ahead of Windmill next weekend and have consolidated to a single team. However, whereas SYC are all top-flight picks, SMOG’s roster will be aiming to nurture some future stars and this could leave them vulnerable to the big name teams. After a frustrating Tour 1 experience plagued by unforced errors, HYDRA 1 will certainly be looking to exploit any weaknesses and advance a little higher up bracket play this time around. With the ruthlessly speedy Amina Malik as well as Lucy Cinnamond and Amy Van-Zyl on board this time out, I for one rate their chances.

Pool N – Red (9), Reading Red (15), HYDRA 2 (17)

Red women had a truly sensational Saturday in Nottingham, conceding just 2 points in pool play and then advancing to the plate final on Sunday afternoon. Another outfit condensing to a single team for the journey to Wales, they will look to build on this performance. Although Reading will be hungry to score more than one this time around, I expect Red will again sail through this pool and come out with buckets of energy for the 8v9 on Sunday morning to see if they can’t snag themselves a top eight finish.

Unlike the numerous teams who have dropped down to a single squad, both Hydra and Reading have maintained multiple squads for Tour 2. Most impressive is of course Reading who again are fielding three teams by casting their net towards the south coast, though this time they are going for a more loaded approach with a second and third team split. This should therefore make the battle between Reading Red and HYDRA 2 a corker for sure! 

Pool P – Reading Black (10), Merseyside Women (16), Brixton (18)

Much like Reading 1, Reading Black also had an excellent time in Nottingham – climbing from 23rd to 12th seed. However, although Reading will have a slightly stronger squad in Cardiff as a true second team, Merseyside will be snapping at their heels after a wet and slippery defeat first game in Nottingham. Whilst sixth seeds may separate these teams, if fortune favours Merseyside anything could happen. Brixton will also be looking to throw their hat into the ring and build on the momentum they built at Tour 1 where they put up some solid scorelines against strong teams and an especially dominant performance against Red 2 in pool play. 

Pool Q – Chaos (11), Vurve (13), Discie Chicks (19)

Chaos had a challenging Saturday in Nottingham. Although they had the valuable experience of testing themselves against top teams from the very start of tour, they struggled to put points on the board. They also had a gutting loss to Purple Cobras on Sunday morning which relegated them to the 13-16 bracket. This Tour the schedule is a little more familiar to their starts last year, which may work out a little better and allow them to gain some momentum before they head into placement games. This will likely be reliant on how effectively they can focus against what might prove to be less challenging defences, though Vurve will certainly look to obstruct this after their successes back in Nottingham. Discie are also back together after plenty of lessons during their first outing of the season and it will be exciting to see what Lindsay Bradley and Fowzia Mahmood can bring out of their squad as a dynamic duo out in force on the same squad.

Pool R – Uprising (12), GBU20s (14), South Wales Storm (20)

Uprising were really unfortunate to have been in a pool with the underseeded Reading Black at Tour 1. Their inability to finish at the top meant they were locked out of the top 16 for the rest of the weekend. They took 17th with style, but will no doubt be hungry to climb up the rankings in Cardiff. They will face off against some familiar opponents having bested GBU20s on Sunday in Nottingham, as well as hoping to replicate their previous result in what is looking likely to be their 12v13 match up of Vurve. What I don’t see is them surmounting the 5v12, but you never know… We do love an upset here at The ShowGame! 

As for the other two teams in this pool, GBU20s feel like they could rise a few spots after some strong results in Nottingham – but the real excitement is South Wales Storm. By no means a new team to the Women’s Tour circuit they always end up being a bit of a wildcard and with the home advantage they could bring some real spice to the lower bracket! As always, we’ll have to wait and see.

EYPOTY Submission & Video Deadline Extended

EYPOTY, Mixed, news, Open, Womens

The outdoor season is now upon us, and we know all of you are busy playing lots of ultimate with lots of teams all over Europe. So we just wanted to send a quick reminder about the European Youth Player of the Year award!

We will be extending the deadline to submit your initial application form until 14th June. You can find the form HERE.

The deadline for videos is also extended to 29th July, so you still have plenty of time to get started! We’re really looking forward to seeing what the young players of Europe can do.

All details about the award can be found here: http://showgame.co.uk/eypoty

UKU Tour 1 Preview – Women’s Division

news, Previews, Womens

Hannah Pendlebury returns to give us her view on the Women’s division at this weekend’s Windfarm.

The women’s tour is alive and well. I for one am stoked to see a whopping 28 teams descending upon the Wind Farm this weekend! This figure is up five teams from last year and features two new arrivals in the shape of Purple Cobras and Exe Ladies, plus three club expansions showing great developmental work. Top stuff!

UK University Ultimate 2017/18: Women’s Outdoor Nationals Preview

news, Previews, University, Womens

Our four Women’s writers (Annie Bechtel, Kat Rowland, Isabel Goh and Becky Greenwood) combine to produce a full-sized preview for Women’s Nationals this year, with Harry Mason filling in the gaps.

The days are lengthening and the skies are lighter; the outdoor season is here! Everyone knows outdoors is real Ultimate. The rain, the slippery mud, the four loads of laundry per week. The big throws, the zones, the layouts that don’t hurt. Outdoors is the best. Unfortunately, Regionals was cancelled! So there’s been no warm up for these teams, but in theory they’ve had an extra month to get really hyped! Instead of asking ourselves why mother nature hates university Ultimate, lets preview those teams heading to the Windfarm.

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

Equality, International Women's Day, Womens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Sam Mouat.

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

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

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

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

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

Featured photo by Sam Mouat.

Women’s Indoor All-Irelands: Familiar foes meet again

Indoors, Ireland, Irish Ultimate, Rebel Ultimate, Womens

Aidan Kelly was there for the first standalone Women’s Indoor Nationals in Ireland recently, and he tells us what went on.

Dublin played host to the first ever standalone Women’s Indoor All-Irelands, packed within the iconic walls of Trinity College Dublin. Historically, the competition has usually taken place alongside the Men’s division, but now due to a typically high demand between the two divisions and few suitable venues that can feasibly contain so much high-octane, fast paced Frisbee, a decision was made to split the events by division.

Eleven teams from seven different clubs played across a single day in order to crown the winners and, for most, it was hard to see anything other than a Rebel vs Gravity final, which is typically the decider for most of our domestic Women’s competitions. In fact, other than last year at the same event, where Rebel dominated with two of their own teams playing in the gold medal game, Rebel and Gravity have squared off in pretty much every final across the country they’ve competed at since 2015. And, with the Cork ladies and the hometown heroines kept apart in the initial pools, it would seem likely that the two would be destined to meet in the final once again this time round.

With that said, you would be slightly ignorant to completely disregard the other challengers for the crown. Tribe, hailing from out west, were known to be a thorn in the side to most teams, as the perennial dark horses were known for being a formidable and tight knit unit, containing many players from the National University of Ireland Galway. Trinity College themselves, fresh off winning Women’s Indoor Intervarsities, had also thrown themselves into the ring with the idea of testing themselves at a bigger stage. It would have also been possible for history to repeat itself in some form as we could have seen one of the ‘big two’ fall to the other’s second team, as they both have proved historically to contain a wonderful amount of depth!

BOLT posing as a team. Photo by Conor Phelan.

However, the biggest potential usurper to the throne was quickly revealed to be BOLT, a team mostly made up of former/current University of Limerick players with a wealth of international experience. Having breezed through their first four group games with a goal difference of +56, heads were well and truly turned in the lead up to the pool decider with Rebel. From up in the viewing gallery, there were more than a few mumbles from supporters and players alike who believed that they could have the Champions’ number, and for awhile they just may have. In an early afternoon epic, Rebel edged out a universe point encounter by the skin of their teeth (11-10), to ensure they avoided their long-term rivals in the semis.

In the other end of the draw, Dublin Gravity made it through the group with little challenge as they bested a trio of second teams in the form of Rebel 2 (revenge!), Gravity 2 and Tribe 2 before flexing their bottle against the potential banana skin of Tribe’s first team. Despite the Galway girls managing to put home as many points as the three teams before them combined (six), Gravity were just much too strong and experienced for them and topped the group comfortably.

As the semis rolled around, we saw a reversal of the final group fixtures. BOLT would now have to face Gravity in a clash of the elements, while a clash between Galway and Cork would ensue in the form of Tribe and Rebel. In the end, the two more experienced favourites avoided any shocks despite valiant efforts from BOLT and Tribe, who provided tough competition throughout. Once again, Rebel vs Gravity was booked for the grand finale.

On paper, leading into the match one would have seen Gravity as slight favourites. Rebel were missing a number of their leading stars, while the Dubliners were on fire by the end of their semi and looked almost unstoppable. But, never the ones to shy away from a fight, it was the Munster women who started off the stronger. Going ahead early and following it up with a quick break, Rebel worked hard, refusing to easily allow the disc to be given away in order to maintain their lead as they matched and possibly even surpassed Gravity’s intensity with relative ease.

Pushed from the front by captain Emma Healy, who looked to inspire those round her with some insanely safe hands and inch perfect hammers, Rebel found themselves 5-4 up, but there was still a long way to go in the game. And from here, Gravity somehow found another gear as they slotted home their O and followed it up with two quick breaks out of nowhere to flip the game on its head. Suddenly it was 6-5 to Gravity, and Rebel had been completely sucker punched.

Indoors is a crazy game. In these tight games you can be on top and time would slow down to almost a complete halt. But when you’re losing, everything speeds up to the extent where you really need to show composure to avoid it getting the better of you. After another turn Rebel attempted to stop the rot by switching up their defence. With a passive endzone flood, they looked to force Gravity to pass it across their front endzone for what felt like 500 passes in the hopes of tiring out the offensive team and giving them a chance at potentially capitalising on any errors. But with the composure, wit and skill on display thanks to Gravity’s stars, such as Jane Linehan and Fiona Mernagh and punctuated by the unpredictable yet seemingly effortless nature of Ireland’s best talent (and eventual MVP of the final) Áine Gilheany, even a cohesive unit such as Rebel couldn’t contain what was to come, as they found their way through the defensive structure.

MVP of the final Aine Gilheany on the disc. Photo by Conor Phelan.

Rebel couldn’t get their break, and at this stage they needed several if they were to come back and break Gravity hearts. With time ticking away, both teams displayed wonderful offensive prowess which saw a number of points flow by without a single turn, and as they game died out, Gravity punched home the decisive final score to win their second Indoor All-Ireland title in three years, 14-9.

Overall, a successful event ran wonderfully by Dublin Women’s Ultimate. It was great to showcase the Women’s Division in Ireland and it was positive to see a number of different clubs putting out performances. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the 2018 season pans out, and if one thing is for sure, we can see Rebel regrouping and ready to try take back the top spot in Ireland. But will they be alone in striving to unseat Gravity?

Main photo also by Conor Phelan.