For the first award of the inaugural tSG awards, I thought it would be best to focus on the people that were nominated as those who have helped to develop the ultimate community this year and in previous years. These people have given a lot of their time to grow the game and invested in the sport across the UK. Many of them have done that in very different ways, but our sport is in a better place because of all of them.
A quick note here – we had so many great nominations. There were university coaches who coach for free, there were university captains who travel with every team and provide support for the whole club, there were people who’ve helped establish and maintain clubs and there were a few people who were just great teammates who were welcoming, friendly and the lifeblood of their clubs. To everyone who nominated someone, thanks for sharing so many wonderful stories.
A final thing before we get to the nominees is to say a separate than you to all the Covid officers across the UK. The last two years have been so different to what we are used to that it’s been almost unrecognisable. The hard work of volunteers to make sure everyone was kept safe throughout the pandemic has been incredible, and everyone who has played a part should be commended and should feel proud of themselves. Hopefully your jobs become obsolete sooner rather than later.
Without further ado, here are the winners. We’ll have more on each of these people in the coming weeks, once we’re able to talk to them and to the people that nominated them and who see them all the time, but here’s what we have for now:
SHAUN AND PHIL WEBB, GLASGOW
Scotland has been churning out good players for many years, but Glasgow in particular has been a breeding ground for players that have made a huge impact on all levels of the game. Shaun and Phil have led those efforts for many years through Glasgow Ultimate, an organisation which now has a huge array of opportunities for those in the local community. There’s an elite team but there’s also pickup games, leagues in summer and winter and a youth development programme to get more kids playing the sport. There are plenty of people who have played a role in making Glasgow Ultimate a success but Shaun and Phil stand out as worthy winners here.
JAKE WALLER, BRISTOL
Jake established North Bristol Ultimate several years ago to get more beginners into the sport. Since then it has been brought under the Bristol Ultimate umbrella and is now called Bristol Ultimate Development (BUD). He spent time coaching, organising and developing both the club and the new players, with three sessions every week now dedicated to bringing more players into the sport. He’s also played for and captained Bristol Open and Mixed, as well as coached the elite teams for Bristol Ultimate, and next year will be branching out the help develop ultimate elsewhere in the country as he coaches Spice ahead of their WUCC 2022 campaign in Cincinnati.
FI RAE, SYC/BRIXTON/MESH
Fi plays for SYC and has been one of the Brixton captains as well, helping bring more beginners and inexperienced players into the sport that way. She’s also hosted a forum for women to discuss leadership and team building (and an episode of our podcast on that very issue) and is part of the UKU women’s mentoring programme. But the reason she was nominated specifically is the huge amount of work that she has done to help facilitate the MESH project alongside Rupal Ghelani and Fowzia Mahmood, doing admin work and organising and helping the whole event happen. With all this stuff going on she also found time to make the GB mixed masters going to Los Angeles in 2022.
CHRIS BAMFORD, LEEDS
Bamford has been instrumental in the Leeds community for a number of years, but this season set up numerous new sessions to help people get back into playing after the pandemic, catering for all experience levels, and has continued to help develop players that were playing with Leeds already. He’s always looking for ways to improve what the club can offer, and always keen to help players improve.
NATHAN SANDERS, LEAMINGTON LEMMINGS
Nate was one of Lemmings’ star players this season and combined that with being the key conduit between his old school team, Aylesford School’s Evolution, and Lemmings. That has created a pipeline of extremely talented players into Lemmings and they have reaped huge benefits, qualifying for Nationals in two divisions this season. Nate took on the responsibility of coaching the mixed team, leading multiple sessions every week, as well as leading sessions at Aylesford to help the kids in the club there develop as well. Their beginner team won a tournament in Warwick against university beginners teams, so it looks like this is just the start for Lemmings.
BECKY THOMPSON, LONDON WILD
Becky, one of Iceni’s new captains, was instrumental in setting up London WILD last season. WILD provided an opportunity for women in London who didn’t play for one of the top teams to play, develop and enjoy the sport. She led sessions and helped younger, less experienced players in taking on leadership roles. WILD helped to address the issue of women having few places to play in London outside of elite, competitive teams and has provided a place for them to learn and develop in an encouraging, empowering environment.
PAUL RUFF, AIRBADGERS
Paul has led the ultimate programme at St. Peter’s School in Exeter since 1997. He has developed dozens of players who have played at a high level in the UK, including plenty of GB representatives at all levels up to masters, but just as importantly has introduced the game and the concept of spirit to hundreds of kids who never played after they left school. Despite never having played the sport to a high level, his coaching and guidance has built an incredible club that has dominated junior-level ultimate for years, with AirBadgers now one of the models for people trying to develop ultimate in schools.
CONOR HOGAN, SEND IT
Hogi has developed ultimate in a slightly different way to everyone else this season. He’s travelled around filming games, particularly those in the National League and at Nationals during the summer, so that more people could see the games they might usually be able to keep up with at Tour events. Media coverage is growing in our sport but it’s still difficult to find coverage of games outside the main tournaments, and Hogi was able to provide that in plenty of instances this year including the MESH game in September.