Next week teams will compete for the right to call themselves the greatest Ultimate club in the world. Now only a number of days away, excited qualifiers from 40 different countries and 161 different teams will be adding the finer touches to their preparation for this momentous opportunity at time of publishing – getting their bodies and minds perfectly ready to take on the rest of the world. At the height of elite non-commercial ultimate the WUCC held this year in Lecco, Italy is only challenged in terms of prestige by international competitions that occur between the World Club years. Players and coaches will still talk with a hushed reverence of Maribor, Southampton, Sakai, Vancouver as they share stories of their brushes with international glory or defeat, and our whole community is undeniably galvanised by the prospect of GB being represented and competing at Ultimate on the highest international stage.
The EUC and WUGC not only carry an extra weight with the privilege and national pride bound up in their medals, but also arguably present a more tantalising prospect for underdog ultimate nationals given the single-team restriction placed on entrants. With only a single entrance from USA, Canada, Japan, or any other of the growing list of world class Ultimate nations (Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Colombia…), the elusive quarter and semi final brackets are notably more viable for the underdog. The most recent example of this comes from close to home with our very own GB open squad making a first ever appearance in a world final in the recent summer of 2012, in Sakai. Whilst the defeat to USA may have been a decisive one, the GB Open performance in Japan provides lasting inspiration for up and coming British players whose dreams of international success were shown to be more viable than perhaps we had all thought a few summers ago.
It is undeniable that London seems to gravitationally attract a huge portion of young people in the UK whether for career, financial or other reasons. This effect is only going to be further exacerbated for our young sportsmen and women by the high percentage of the Ultimate community who learn and/or mature as players at their universities, and subsequently seek out employment in the larger cities. The country is evidently lopsided population wise, and this as well as the bustling London scene is drawing more and more talent to bolster the already dominant London clubs. Yet, despite this weighting towards the capital, top players from clubs across the country consistently prove at tour and GB selection processes that they can bring their own individual dominance over others from further down the London rosters.
The last catch in Lecco will be followed by joy, desolation, celebrations and relaxation for many who move past the pinnacle of their seasons. For some however, it won’t be long after this that the focus turns to EUC’15, WUGC 2016, and the trialling, training and competitive journey of international ultimate that swiftly rises to the height of priority. Should we reassess our current system, and would doing so lead to short term, long term improvement, neither or both? Should we be focusing on top level or grass roots? Should such questions even be imposed on those who make up these teams, and should these people have the responsibility to do both? Let’s start the discussion…