Playing Ultimate on a Prosthetic

Features, highlight reel, Sheffield
Matthew “Jeb” Shepherd gives us a look into the challenges and unique experiences he faced playing ultimate after a life-changing surgical procedure…

On the weekend of the 29th and 30th of March 2014, I competed in my first Tour event: Mixed Tour 1 in Cardiff. Playing for Sheffield Steal 2, a promising weekend saw us finish 47th. For me though, playing the event was not about the result, it was the product of years of rehabilitation and hard work to be able to compete as an equal.

I started playing Ultimate in September 2009. After meeting a friend who played during the first year of my degree at University of Sheffield, I decided to take up the sport at the start of my second. Fondly christened ‘Jebend’, I played an indoor beginner tournament in Manchester. Unfortunately, this was the first and only tournament I played as an able-bodied player, and persistent pains in my knee throughout the weekend meant that my involvement in the tournament ended prematurely. However, I had caught the Ultimate bug.
ray ban clubmaster eyeglasses

Your Guide to UK Hat Tournaments

DUF, DUFFA, Hat, Manchester, Sheffield, UK Ultimate

There’s something quite beautiful about hat tournaments. At a hat tournament, you sign up as a single player, rank yourself on some delightfully arbitrary scale, and then get sorted into a team of people who you’ve probably never met before. You then play together, party together, play some more together and then go back home; probably never to play with those team-mates again. You take nothing back with you except an odd coloured shirt, possibly a prize or two and a vague recollection of enjoying yourself over the weekend, though doing what you can’t quite remember.

So why are they so great? Hat tournaments help remind you how Ultimate is bigger than just your club or uni team. Open to GB players and beginners alike, they have a very wide audience, from the high level athlete looking to escape from the pressures of tour, to the complete amateur (probably dragged along by a friend) discovering Ultimate for the very first time. They tend to be very well run, are always entertaining, always have a great party, and tend to have a wide variety of prizes too.

There are four major hat tournaments to watch out for in the UK this Summer, each with their own characters and personalities. Your loyal reporter has spent some time sitting down with the TDs of each to find out the facts, figures and the fun of hat tournaments.

Phoenix Knights Present: The Durham HAT

Tournament Date: 14th/15th June 2014
Sign-Up: Active, and almost full! Contact asap to get a last spot/early on the waiting list.

Cost: £30
Capacity: 288 players
Tournament Directors:  
Craig Hawes, Sam Thompson, Elizabeth Hopker, Tash Myhill, Lauren Forsyth

So, what makes you unique then?
2014 sees the re-birth of the Durham HAT. As one of the oldest and biggest HAT tournaments in the UK the Durham HAT has a strong Frisbee pedigree.  After last year’s hiatus the Durham HAT 2014 will see all the best bits of previous tournaments all wrapped up in Phoenix Knights Style. More fun, more colour, more entertainments but all the same high quality Frisbee. Open to beginners and experienced players, we cater for all. 

We bring you 24 teams, games, a party that will be a Knight to remember, prizes galore and oh yeah, a bit of Ultimate on the side. Included in the price is your very own Lookfly performance HAT shirt, camping near the pitches with full facilities, Saturday dinner, pitch-side music, a Friday arrival party and naturally the massive Saturday themed fancy dress party as well (and much, much more – but we’re not going to tell you everything at this stage!)
This years theme is Myth, Mystery & Magic. Expect the unexpected – we’ll be featuring a full Quidditch pitch, a mystery challenge running through the weekend with equally mysterious prizes, a private themed costume party and much more besides: join our Facebook group to stay on top of all the surprises.

Flying, Circular Love,
Phoenix Knights & Durham Ultimate Frisbee

tSG Review:

After a year out for Durham, Phoenix Knights (combined with DUF) are aiming to put on a spectacular show, and looking to live up to their name by reviving the Durham hat back from the embers to retake it’s place as one of the highlights of the Summer in a blaze of glory (end of phoenix analogy). Even if you haven’t heard of the Knights before, be aware that Durham has plenty of alumni and college players, so they’re going to have all the help and advice they need to really make a mark on the Summer. However with a very early sign up (and a lot of keen interest already shown), make sure you sort yourself out fast to secure a place at what looks to be a fantastic tournament.

Sounds great, where can I go to find out more?
The Phoenix Knights, hoping to brighten up a Grey summer by reviving
Durham Hat from the Ashes


Very Likely Tournament Date: 19/20th July 2014
Sign-Up Date: March (International players with flights to sort can email for early sign up)
Cost: TBA (Last Year: £33 + £8 for a disc)
Capacity: TBA (Last year 288, but looking to expand due to phenomenal demand!)
Tournament Directors: Rich Harrison, Alan Heckman

So, what makes you unique then?
I think the first year was so successful as it was mostly run by ultimate players who’d never been to a tournament before! They didn’t really know what was expected, so went all out and they blew the players’ expectations out of the water. As we’ve expanded year on year we’ve been able to build on previous years’ successes to go that extra mile every time. The word is definitely spreading – we thought a two and a half hour sell-out was great in 2012, but nothing could have prepared us for a four minute sell-out in 2013!

We’re lucky to have an army of willing volunteers who pour their heart and soul into providing the best tournament experience we can. Their only reward is seeing the players having a great time. We do it because we love it!

We try very hard to create a welcoming atmosphere for players of all abilities. Some of the players throw a Frisbee for the first time on the morning of the tournament, whilst some have played for years at a high Tour level, or even internationally. And of course, there’s a massive range of skills and experience in between those two extremes! See you in July!

All DUFFA photos courtesy of LOVEultimate from

tSG Review:
DUFFA set a reputation last year for the biggest, loudest and most popular hat tournament in the UK. With countless extra activities to do between games (3 pint challenge table and disc accuracy competition shown above), a huge party in an outdoor marque and one of the strongest international scenes in any UK tournament, last year DUFFA is staked it’s claim as *the* hat tournament of the Summer. However, with an incredibly fast sell-out time last year and this year looking to be busy too, make sure you keep very up to date with any updates they give. Also, they give a wide variety of very good prizes. Just sayin’…

Sounds fantastic, where can I go to find out more?


Manchester Hat

Very Likely Tournament Date: 9/10 August 2014
Sign-Up Date: late March/early April 2014
Cost: TBA (Last Year – £25)
Capacity: 120
Tournament Director: Elly White

So, what makes you unique then?:

Manchester hat is only in its second edition after a very successful début last year. It is a small, intimate hat tournament (120 people limit) which means everybody gets to know everyone and it creates a very friendly atmosphere. It also means everyone can fit into the combined bar and dance floor area of the Rugby Club, ensuring a really personal party experience with the entire tournament.

We have evening activities for you to bond with your team, last year this was a pub quiz and a school sports day (think egg and spoon races and three legged races!). This year there will be similar things!

Manchester Hat has great prizes, last year this included Manchester Hat trackies and boot-bags (and naturally prizes of alcohol for anyone who won a school sports day event – got to keep it realistic after all!).

This years theme is Fairytale, so Knights, Princesses and Dragons! Hope to see you all there.

Manchester Hat helped unlock the inner children in Ultimate last year. 
Top pictures from disposable cameras supplied free at tournament. 
Bottom picture of egg and spoon race courtesy of 

tSG Review:

Manchester Hat was an oddity in the tournament scene last year, and we absolutely don’t mean that in a bad way. Due to the combined hat format, relatively small size and excellent organisation and extra activities, it really was the tournament that you bonded most with your team for. It felt the most like an entire tournament enjoying Ultimate together, and it did feel like a community for a weekend. It’s not what everyone looks for in a weekend of Ultimate, but for its first year it sure found its feet quickly. Expect big (well, small but well organised) things on its second outing.

Sounds fantastic, where can I go to find out more?:


Sheffield Hat

Tournament Date: 6/7th September 2014
Sign-Up Date: Likely the end of June
Cost: £30-35 + £10 per tent camping charge. 
However, some of this does go to charity!
Capacity: 140 players
Tournament Director:
Si East (Mix & Mingle, ex-Indoors DOC, Competitions Committee member & more!)

So, what makes you unique then?
2014 will be the 5th Sheffield Hat, and the 3rd year at the current venue in Hillsborough. It is different to all the others because the venue is small so we use BULA (beach) sized pitches and play 5v5. That’s right: 5 a side on grass!

We also raise money for charity; previously Right To Play and Access Sport but this year we will be supporting someone local to the event. A small % of the player fee goes to charity and any other amounts we can raise over the weekend. We always have a show-game on Saturday evening and spectators have the chance to raise money and have fun through playing Fantasy
Ultimate (with a cash prize on offer too!).

We always incorporate other disc games too, in 2013 we had a DDC pitch and held an accuracy competition. We hope to have at least the same this year, hopefully some disc golf too.
Lookfly have been fantastic supporters of this event since the beginning and in 2013 they provided Spirit and show-game prizes.  Catch The Spirit were also very supportive in 2013.
The other way we’re different is that there isn’t a big party (shock!).  This is a pretty chilled out weekend to finish your season so we just relax in the bar with some pub games until they close, then potter to bed.  We are planning an alternative option this year as well, likely discounted entry into one of Sheffield’s top nightspots so don’t be put off if you only go for the parties!

Anything else?
I think Hat tournaments are great (the Melbourne Hat was one of my first tournaments) and it is good that there are some successful ones in the UK.  DUFFA goes from strength to strength and it’s certainly good to see Durham back this year.  They all offer something different, but are equally all a great way of meeting new people and practising those Frisbee skills!

Sheffield Hat 2013 managed to raise £347 for Access Sport last year

tSG review:
Sheffield Hat’s strength lies in the fact it’s at the end of a season. It’s the perfect way to wind down from an intense summer of Ultimate, play some great games and in fact just relax with all the people you’ve probably been playing against all season. Whilst it is normally at the same weekend as Glastonbury, it’s relatively accessible location and extra touches (naturally I’m a fan of the show game, and the related Fantasy Ultimate was a personal highlight) mean it’s certainly proving more and more popular each year, and deservedly so.

Sounds fantastic, where can I go to find out more?

In all, it’s been great to see that Hat culture grow in the UK over the part few years. I’ve personally been to everyone one of these, and loved every moment. Each tournament really does have it’s own culture and flavour, something which in no doubt thanks to the phenomenal effort placed into organising these things by the TDs, and of course the teams behind all of them. So there’s no way I’d rather end than by wishing them the best of luck in the future, and thanking them all for their effort they put in to making these things happen every Summer. Really, hats off to you all. Now see you on the pitch.

Did you go to any hat tournaments last year? Are there any we’ve missed out? Do you have any memories from previous tournaments you’d like to share? Please comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Northern Uni Open Indoor Regionals

Chester, Durham, Hallam, Hull, Lancaster, Leeds, Leeds Met, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, North, Sheffield, UK Ultimate, UKU Regionals, University, York
Andrei Mandzuk from Bangor Ultimate takes us through the Northern Region.
The weekend marks the start of the Northern University indoors season, with teams from across the region converging on Leeds to battle it out for prestigious spots at Nationals. The north consistently proves itself to be a strong but very open region, with an array of teams feeling that they’re in with a shot of qualifying. After going through what many felt was a developmental period for the region last year, it is expected to return to full strength with many key players reaching their final years of study.
I shall begin by providing short previews of top teams in the region in order of their predicted seeds. All content below is based on predictions from team captains and information gathered from the UK Ultimate rumour mill.

One of the biggest regions and what a region! Image courtesy of UK Ultimate.

Manchester will undoubtedly be going into Regionals as top seed after consistently winning the region in recent years, and claiming a silver medal at Division 1 Indoor Nationals last season (ED: Second in 2012, 2011, 2009 and Bronze in 2010). Despite a high turnover from last year’s squad they have retained Chevron player Jake Aspin for another year running. Alongside this, their strength will be sustained by the maturation of GB u20 Simo Low and picking up GB u23 Mixed MVP Steve Dixon as an undergraduate. A 3rd place finish at Sheffield Experienced has shown them to be the region’s top team once again.

Sheffield are a team who’s strength lies in the A Tour experience at the top of their roster with Manchester Ultimate’s Dan Sumner and LeedsLeedsLeeds’s David Sparks. Along with this, their core is completed by the pickup of Will Jackson from Halcyon. They’re expected to run the same strict iso which proved so effective on the large pitches at Ponds Forge last year, and will keep the disc in the hands of their key players whilst challenging teams with athletic man-to-man defence. Although they gathered mixed results, Phat’eds are a team who managed to enter three warmup tournaments and this pitch time together may prove invaluable at the weekend.
Leeds almost caused the upset of the tournament last year, reaching the final and taking Halcyon to double game point. They will look to run a traditional offense, controlled by veteran Nick Moss, and captain Joseph Fisher, both of LeedsLeedsLeeds. They have tended to throw a mix of solid man defence, alongside a poachy zone which looks to prevent breakside throws. With disappointing results at warmup tournaments and losing varsity to local rivals Leeds Met, Regionals is their chance to prove themselves as a force in the North for another year running.
Newcastle are another team who qualified for Division 1 at last year’s Indoor Regionals but have been struck with a high player turnover from last season. This has given role players the chance to step up and it’s expected that Alex Mazzon will top the score sheet, with Ben Withers getting a lot of touches on the disc upfield. Despite getting incomplete rosters to warmup tournaments, and chalking up results at both ends of the spectrum, they’re a team who will be looking to show that their strength runs deeper than in previous years.
Durham are not a team who are known for strong indoors performances, instead using it as a chance to build their team for the outdoors season. Although they’ve suffered with large numbers of players graduating from the team that qualified for Division 1 at outdoors last season, they too will be looking to show a strength in depth that’s built on their impressive collegiate participation. A solid 6th place finish at Sheffield Experienced shows that they’re going to be hungry to push for indoors qualification this year.
Liverpool will be looking to avenge a poor showing at Indoor Regionals last season and show more similarities to their solid performance at Div 2 Outdoor Nationals. With last year’s handler core graduating, Sion Regan will be looking to experienced players Stuart Johnston and Andy Garner to control the disc upfield whilst he produces a downfield matchup to be feared. Despite being a team with their eyes on the bigger picture of outdoors, they’ve shown to be well organised and produced an impressive 4th place finish at Liverpool Experienced. It would be foolish to write them off again this season.
Leeds Met have fostered an impressively growing program in recent years, shown by qualifying for last year’s Division 2 Indoor Nationals after winning the game to go. Chevron player James Mead will look to make plays both on and off the disc, and Cambridge Mixed’s Dave Littler will control the disc upfield. Coming off the back of mixed results at warmup tournaments but a convincing victory over local rivals Leeds at their varsity, this is a team who are hungry to sustain last year’s success.
Bangor are a team who have graduated only one player from last year’s outdoors squad. Despite this, a run of poor luck on the injury front alongside personal issues has left them shorthanded for this year’s Regionals. Expect big plays on both sides of the disc from Daniel McLean and GB u23 Mixed’s Cameron Burgess as the team tries to gel after being forced to take a skeleton squad to Liverpool Experienced.
Lancaster are a team who are going through a rebuilding phase currently and are still reeling from losing all of their Nationals qualifying first team. Despite this, they reached the game to go last year against Leeds Met and will look to go into the tournament to cause upsets this year around. Captain Reece Stanton will aim to find Michael Sharkey downfield for large gains.
Sheffield Hallam are another team who, similar to Leeds Met, pick up a sport-minded group of beginners each year. This is shown by their success yet again in beginners tournaments and is always promising for future years. Hallam, led by GB u23 Mixed’s Alex Walsh will look to take advantage of this, as he tries to find athletic cutters downfield. Teams should expect a hard running defence and tough match-ups all across the pitch.
York are set to be the big story of this year’s Regionals. A team which has been built from the ground up is set to peak this season in spectacular fashion. They have had strong results at warmup tournaments, and been tipped by many captains to be the team to watch. This year’s York team looks to establish themselves as a force in the North. Cohesion gained from the core of the team playing on the successful ‘fun’ team SMOG, and 2 years of university pitch time together will serve them well as they look set for their most successful year in recent history. Joshua Briggs will be throwing the bulk of their assists to tall cutter Max Moseley, although any of their athletic core can be a force downfield.
Hull are an inexperienced team who will be looking to use Regionals to develop. Led by captain Nick Brownbill and tipped to be a team who keeps working until the buzzer, it’s not hard to see them scaring some of the less well organised ‘big’ teams.
Chester are another growing program in the North. Captained by GB u23 Mixed’s Ben Main they produced impressive results at Liverpool Experienced, making their way into the top 8. They are fielding an inexperienced, but enthusiastic team. Main will try to control the disc on offense and their offensive flow comes out of a traditional vertical stack. Going into Regionals with no expectations and everything to gain they can look forward to a productive weekend!
On the back of this all, I’ve based predictions on the surveys we had returned and pre-season results.

6.Leeds Met
As with previous years, Manchester are expected to top the region, albeit not without serious pressure from other contenders, and will hope to go on to replicate their impressive performance at Nationals last year. With impressive pre-season results, and mentions from many captains as being much stronger than previous years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see York secure themselves a second place finish this weekend. Rounding off the qualifiers for Division 1 are Sheffield. Selected by all captains to be up there, and with solid pre-season results, they should be able to secure the final spot.
Division 2 is far more open, with as many as six teams having a genuine shot at making it. Both Liverpool and Newcastle performed well at Liverpool Experienced (despite Newcastle’s depleted squad) and could take the 4 and 5 spots respectively. Rounding off the qualifications places, it’s hard to avoid the romance of a home town varsity rematch in the game to go, with Leeds Met facing off against Leeds Uni. It’s a tough one to call, but I’m tipping Met to win this one and repeat their varsity success.
Outside of the top 6, other contenders for qualification are Durham and Bangor. I suspect Durham’s pedigree for not quite clicking indoors will continue, whilst Bangor’s lack of pitch time together will be their unravelling.
With the Northern Region seeing one of the most open battles to date, I look forward to seeing all the drama and upsets that University ultimate can produce.
Good luck to all competing in Leeds this weekend, and I’ll see you Saturday!

That’s all for the uni indoor regional previews, sadly we were unable to hear from the Western region but good luck to everyone competing across the country! DP @ tSG.