The ShowGame’s university editor Harry Mason caught up with the three captains of the Great Britain under-24 Men’s team before they jetted over to Perth. Here’s what they had to say about the build-up, what their hopes are and how the rest of the world needs to take notice.
Alright, let’s start with introductions, who are you guys?
Gabe Schechter: I’m Gabe. I’m the overall captain for GB U24 Men, and I’ve been playing for four-ish years now up at St. Andrews.
Olly Dodd: I’m Olly, I’ve been playing for eight years now, this is my sixth GB cycle and I’m the D-line captain.
Axel Ahmala: I’m Axel, I’m O-line captain, I’ve been playing for four years. I’ve played on various Glasgow teams for those years and it’s my first GB cycle!
Let’s start with a big one. What defines the GB U24 Men as a team?
Olly: I think the team is really athletic and talented, we have lots of people capable of big plays on both sides of the disc. I think as a squad we’re really capable of challenging anyone, especially when it comes to athleticism. From a D-line perspective we’re an athletic hungry bunch of lads with the ethos of going out and getting a break every single point they come on.
Axel: On the O-line we have been focussing on executing our structures right and trusting those structures to bring us success. We have also started making a point of turning into a top D-line if we ever turn over. After all, it is our job to score, whether with a perfect offence or a Callahan!
Gabe: We’ve been a collective squad for over a year now. Having a Development Squad process we all went through, we’ve got a really tight bond. It’s gonna allow for everyone to make some really big plays and should make for some exciting games.
Is this why people should tune in to see GB U24 Men specifically at Worlds? Any other reasons we should stay up late or get up early to catch your streams?
Gabe: I think that we’re definitely a entertaining squad to watch. I think the O-line is incredibly structured and tactically sound which means you get to watch some incredibly flowing pretty ultimate, and our D-line is really explosive – we like to play quick and fast and let our biggest athletes go out and make plays.
What was it like during that extended trialling period? Could you guys bond at all, knowing some people wouldn’t make it or would make different teams?
Gabe: The process was that, after an initial trial, we were put into a larger squad which trained together and played all the Tours together – Mixed, Open and Women’s. That went on for about eight months, and then the final squads were chosen from within that.
Olly: It was a different experience for me because for all the other cycles there was one trial and you were in or out. It was different because I hadn’t done it before but it was good because I got to know more people playing frisbee, which is good for the sport in general. It was a good challenge because you had to treat every training or tour like a trial so the level was pushed every single time, developing us into stronger, better players.
Gabe: I personally feel like it made me really improve as a player, but I don’t have another cycle to compare it against like Olly does in terms of was it more or less effective than just picking a squad right out. I definitely made lots of friends with people I had played against for a couple of years but never really got to know, which I enjoyed.
Axel: It was an awesome opportunity to get to know other competitive players who you wouldn’t otherwise meet. However it was interesting knowing you were always in competition with them. Having to adapt to lots of other players meant everyone is mouldable. It also provided everybody with multiple chances to impress the coaches, rather than being judged on a one-off day which could be a terrible or excellent performance. It also contributed to the #oneGB mantra we have going between the squads as we have bonded with players on all the teams!
Let’s talk about that #oneGB mantra then. We’ve always had a rough feeling of “let’s support each other”, even if it sometimes hasn’t quite panned out. How are you guys going to promote that mantra while you’re out there?
Olly: Referring back to the development programme, we’ve trained together all year near enough and we’ve had talks about supporting each other and making sure we have each other’s back and I think that’s what’s driven us to that motto, so I don’t see why that would change in Australia.
Gabe: Yeah I’d agree with Olly. I feel like I know those people really well and while I’ve bonded really well with the Men’s team, I still feel like the people on the Women’s and Mixed squads are my teammates, because they were earlier in the year, so I feel really invested in their success as well as our own.
Axel: We recently shared a training venue with the Women’s team, where we could see how each team worked. The Mixed team have also trained with the Women’s team. During the programme you became friends with everyone so we all care how we all fare in Oz!
Talking about the bond you’ve got in the squad, any words you’d like to give towards Nick Barker, who sadly has had to pull out due to injury?
Olly: Big loss, he’s a quality player who we definitely miss.
Axel: It was awesome to work with you buddy. I wish you the speediest of recoveries, hopefully we can bring a medal home for ya.
Gabe: Such a shame to lose such a talented player so late in the process, hopefully we can go do him proud and bag a medal for him.
Is there anyone in particular you guys are looking forward to watching from the other teams?
Axel: I’m really looking forward to seeing all the Scottish players! I know them all super well and I’m excited to see how they have all developed. The Mixed team also seemed to have lots of different looks when I saw them at Dublin Golden Cup, so they could be an exciting and versatile team to watch!
Olly: The Mixed team went out to Copenhagen and beat the likes of Germany so obviously they’re a really strong team. I’m interested to see how they do, I think they can cause some damage.
Gabe: I’m with Axel here, I think there’s a really good bond in Scottish uni Ultimate so I’m definitely rooting for the Scots in the other teams in particular, because there’s so many of us it should lead to a really good atmosphere.
Alright, back to Men’s. Who are the big names (teams are people) you’re looking forward to seeing and getting to play against?
Gabe: I’m really looking forward to seeing different styles of Ultimate from around the world. I think everywhere you go play people play slightly differently so I’m interested in seeing that. I think in particular I’m excited to play Japan, they have such a unique style of player and system and I wanna see it for myself on the pitch.
Olly: I’m interested in watching USA and Canada for players like Darren Wu, I have played against him before and he’s really strong and a player who can make a lot of big plays and can light up a tournament on his own.
Axel: I’m excited to see who is excited to play us! I think we should be up there as one of the teams to beat. GB have a top club scene and had some strong national team cycles.
What have your results and preparation been like leading up to Worlds?
Gabe: I think our preparation has been strong, we went to Italy to play a small tournament and came away with some really good results. Most importantly I think we really learned about ourselves as a team and where our focuses need to be, we’ve been able to focus on developing our mental strength and support systems throughout the team to ensure that everyone is put in the best place to succeed.
Olly: The prep was very good from my perspective! At Tour 1 we smashed everyone’s expectations and took one of the GB teams right into the mix of A Tour, just showcasing the strength and depth we have throughout the U24 players! Going further on to when the squads were selected, we’ve had matches against the likes of Chevron and Clapham, taking Chevy to sudden death! Also, in Bologna, beating the very best European teams such as Germany and Austria!
So, how do you think you guys will do?
Axel: People will know what we are about and we should love that! Maybe we aren’t the favourite but being a pool’s first seed isn’t a terrible starting point.
Olly: I’m extremely hopeful coming into this tournament, we have a huge squad and so much talent within it! Definitely contenders to cause some drama up at the top!
Axel: Let’s go take some scalps eh? If you get to the semis, it’s all about who is the in-form team, from there it’s anyone’s Championship for the taking!
Gabe: We’re such a deep squad I really think there’s no one we can’t handle on our day, I see no reason we can come away with a medal at the end of the day.
So to finish with, let’s look even further forward. What advice would you guys have for someone applying for next cycle?
Olly: Just go for it! At the end of the day what have you got to lose? A chance to play with the best players in your age group doesn’t come often!
Gabe: No matter what you think your chances are, definitely go for it, I became such a better player because of it, and I learned a lot that I took back to my uni team as well.
Axel: We were told at some point that athleticism is your pass into the game. So if you want to go trial (which everyone should, it’s an amazing time!) then put some work in to get fit. That will always keep you in the discussion. Know your strengths, showcase those and otherwise just have fun and put in a bid or two.
To keep up with GB Men during the tournament, you can follow them on Facebook.