Sam Taylor demonstrates his passion for Ultimate in the South West and tells us about the vision that this community have created for Men’s Ultimate in their part of the country.
Devon Ultimate was established in 2004. To start with, it was a combination of students from Exeter and Plymouth universities. A local school, St. Peter’s, had already formed a team called AirBadgers a few years previous so some of the players from the newly-formed Devon team went to the school to help train and recruit the younger players. That connection led to an influx of young players that still continues today.
Over the past six years in particular, Devon has had huge success. The club has gone to three EUCF tournaments, finished sixth at Tom’s Tourney against some of the best in Europe and finished as the third-best club team at Windmill. To top it off, Devon represented the UK at WUCC 2018, finishing as the 30th best club team in the world.
It isn’t just in the club game that Devon has made a mark, either. Too many GB Juniors to name have played for the team thanks to the link with AirBadgers, and the club has provided players to every senior GB team (shout out to Devon alumnus Izzy Burke who played at the World Games in 2015), a number of under-24 teams and even to Australia Mixed.
These exploits have meant that ‘Devon’ is a brand name that is renowned on the world Ultimate scene. It represents athleticism, passion, creativity and most importantly an incredibly tight-knit group of friends. Devon isn’t just a team, it’s a band of brothers who share love and respect built up over, in some cases, over 10 years together (or, in a number of other cases, being actual brothers).
With a huge focus on trying to have one elite team, the club has reduced from entering four Open teams and one Women’s team in UK Ultimate to only one elite Open team over the past few years. This is a shame as we have lost focus on nurturing the huge amount of grassroots talent from the area – not only air AirBadgers still going as strong as ever, but Devonport High School for Boys in Plymouth has started a team and the local universities continue to produce talented players.
Therefore, we made a decision to change how we did things. The decision has been made for Devon to solely focus on being an elite team rather than a club, moving our base to Bristol since the majority of our captains and coaches live in Bristol. In turn, Exeter Ultimate has been created to nurture talent in Devon and the south west more widely.
We decided not to change the name of the team from Devon Ultimate because, to us, it represents more than a geographical region. Devon Ultimate is that brand, the name that so many people have helped to build over the past 16 years. It’s a home for players to compete at the highest level in world club Ultimate, to focus on training to be at your peak physically, mentally and spiritually while building lifelong friendships.
The change means several things for us. First, for the elite team, it means that 2020 is the first year in a long time that we will be able to hold regular trainings. Previously, Devon has relied on athleticism and creativity to succeed – the chemistry that has been built up over the years and the throwing talent in the squad has meant that we are able to be dynamic and unpredictable, which is difficult for even the best-drilled teams to play against.
Second, it means more opportunities for young players to play Open at the highest level. Exeter Ultimate will train regularly and will also take part in development sessions with coaches from Devon to help forge and maintain a strong connection between the Devon players and the region that we’ve called home for so many years. Exeter will also be a feeder team, with players being given chances to move into the Devon squad when they’re ready.
Devon trials are taking place on the 18th & 19th January in Bristol with 60 players signed up to trial. We are hoping to again compete at Toms Tourney, Windmill & Vienna Spring Break on our European preseason tour & our intention is to enter two split teams in to all UK domestic tournaments culminating in both teams at Regionals & Nationals.
Our aspiration for 2020 is to have two teams in the top eight of UK Ultimate, qualifying for EUCF in Bruges with an eye on WUCC qualification in 2021! As the most spirited team in the UK we will always maintain a high level of competitiveness whilst ensuring sportsmanship & fair play is at the forefront of our mind.
This is a new, long-term era for Ultimate in the south west, and we are excited to see where we can take this.