With the University Indoor season drawing to a close, all teams in the Midlands Region are once again drawn to Cambridge to compete for 6 Nationals places (3 in each Division). Here’s a preview of what we’re likely to see.
The south east has finally found a venue and the largest region will get its qualifying tournament for another year. Realistically I can only see two teams having a chance of winning the tournament, the first of course being Sussex (Mohawks).
The other team I can see pushing division 1 is Surrey. They were unlucky to miss out on division 1 indoors qualification to a strong Mohawks 2nd team and will be looking to make up for this outdoors. Jon Francombe is the man to watch with some unorthodox breaks that will keep defenders on their toes. I expect to see Surrey in the 3 vs. 4 looking for revenge against Mohawks 2.
Other teams have remained tight lipped upon their current situation, but going on past results, of these only LSE stake a strong claim to qualifying. Saying that, anything can happen at regionals…!
Always challenging, the run up to the University outdoor season seems to have been particularly tough this year with the addition of flooded fields and 80mph winds meaning it has been nearly impossible for teams to get outside. Those who have persisted will be rewarded, however, with the opportunity to represent their University at the BUCS National Championships.
|Ben Powlay in blue for Plymouth University. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.|
The South Bristol Sports Centre will host those Western University teams hoping to make the elusive top six in our regional competition, and thus a spot at Nationals in Manchester. An expanse of quality, well-drained fields means the tournament has a huge capacity, and clubs have taken advantage of this with most fielding second and third teams. Some fairly exposed pitches means that wind will likely be key factor in this tournament.
Southampton consistently make the final in this division, but last year a determined Bath side meant they had to settle for second. A strong Nationals saw them placed as the highest Western team and sixth in the country. Bring his experience from European competition, William Caldwell (Ka-Pow!) hopes to captain Skunks back to first place, and looks forward to his team playing a quick offence with isolated cuts. Big plays are likely to be featuring GB u23’s Mike Speer and up-and-coming rookie Joe ‘Beans’ Benians.
Predicted to join them in the final are defending champions Bath. They have a star-studded team of GB and Jen players hoping to retain that top spot. Alex Brooks (Jen captain), will have been enforcing his club team’s ethos of elite athleticism on this university squad, which combined with already experienced players Piers Nicholas (GB u20), Michael Guise (GB u20) and Andy Watt (Jen), this is going to be a powerful team looking to retain their spot in Division 1. Watch out for Danny ‘Jumps like a Salmon’ Ryle (Reading Ultimate) leaping over people in the end zone.
Bristol placed in fifth last year, but beat Bath at indoors so are going into the tournament confidently and with eyes on that Division 1 spot. Josh Kyme (GB u23 Open, Chevron) leads a team relying on their athleticism from a standard stack play. This team includes solid handler Joe Brown, who missed the indoor season with a string of injuries and returns to the firsts in a blaze of outdoors glory. With James Bogie (Mythago’s ‘Most Charming Man’), Jamie Lowe (Mythago’s swimsuit calendar ‘December’ 2013) and Ollie Towers upfield, opposition will have a hard time containing the flow these quick guys can maintain. However, translating indoor success to outdoor victories isn’t an exact science, and if the weather turns nasty, it remains to be seen if Bristol have the depth of handling experience needed to deal with the difficult conditions.
Perhaps a controversial prediction is for Exeter to miss out on that Division 1 spot. Despite edging a final victory in Open Indoors at the end of 2013, the absences of Tom Cartwright (Chevron, GB u23) and Rhys Evans (Chevron) means this regional tournament could be a struggle. Squad depth will be tested as inexperienced players have to step up to the first team, some in their first ever tournaments for the University. Don’t underestimate this team however, as under the captaincy of Rob Vile (Devon) and backup from Greg Mann (Devon), this team still has a wealth of ability and will be fighting for those top spots.
Last year saw Cardiff take third, although current form puts them as only an outside chance for taking that Division 1 spot again. However, after an indoor season focusing on player development, this team promises an unpredictable tournament as they move into their preferred outdoor domain. Kei Matsumoto will be leading the plays as usual, with a solid base coming from experienced players Mike Walter and Alden Ching who offer solid handling when required. It is the influx of freshers who may have the largest impact on Cardiff’s standings – Dan Rowland and Ollie Crowther have showed promise on D, and if Cardiff’s outdoor focus this year has paid off, we can expect big things from these rookies.
Swansea have had a fantastic season so far, making Indoor Nationals in both the Open and Mixed divisions. They are hoping to see similar success outdoors, after missing out closely last year. Ben Yarnold (BAF) continues to lead the team, implementing a new playbook for 2014 which is likely to utilise Jacques Laloë’s (Brighton) pinpoint hucks and Matt Bolton’s consistency and experience. A team which has primarily been associated with the social side of the sport, they’ve demonstrated this year that they can put their heads down and cause some big upsets. Expect a good game-to-go on Sunday afternoon.
Seaside team Bournemouth has come a long way since their starring role in the ‘World’s Most Mediocre Callahan’ video this time last year. Captain Mark Shepherd has had an influx of fresh talent to choose from, in addition to some legacy returning players he hopes won’t be too much of a liability. Historically around the seventh place mark in this competition, making Nationals only once since the team was founded, Bournemouth will want to make a dent in some of the top teams and squeeze into that last Division 2 spot. Rapid fresher Henry Pym will be showing his youthful enthusiasm for the disc, whilst Will Burton’s stamina will only be matched by his side-line heckling.
Finally, Winchester have entered Uni ultimate with a very large club considering their infancy. Two teams at Mixed Indoors and showing solid standings from their first team, they will be in contention for those Nationals spots in future years. Phil Rowlandson captains the team to their first ever outdoor regional event, accompanied by familiar face Robin Younge. A strong contingent of freshers complete the team, who are already starting to make impressions at club indoor nationals and the GB junior trials. Expect a lively game from these guys, who won’t just roll over and give you an easy win.
At a time where sport and mental health is very much part of the cultural zeitgeist, Nakul Pande brings us a touching and intimate insight into how Ultimate has affected his own life.
Well, not ‘beat’ exactly. You don’t come back from depression in quite the same way as you do a torn hamstring or a busted knee. Even the best therapist in the world can’t take a broken mind and reconstruct it so it works as good as new. They certainly can’t just tell you to stay off your head for a few weeks or months and avoid any heavy thinking. But I am me again. Perhaps a different, more thoughtful, more emotionally attuned me, but me. And I don’t know if that would have happened without ultimate.
Here’s when I knew I’d be okay. It was halfway through the Sunday of Open Tour 2. I was in a field in Nottingham that was totally exposed to the elements. Thanks to the constant gusting wind it was raining sideways, so heavily that my two-year-old boots were beginning to fill with water. I was covered head to toe in cold mud, and my ankle was throbbing because an opposition defender fell on it. The match was of no real consequence, and to top it all off I was sleep-deprived thanks to a roommate whose snores registered on the Richter scale (you know who you are). I was unarguably, unambiguously happy.
Happy means something different when you’ve been depressed. It’s not the same as when someone who’s never been ill like that laughs at a joke or dances at a gig. I could still do those things too, in fact like every other depressive to an untrained eye I’d look as if nothing had happened, but I’d still be more or less vacant inside. To be properly happy (or for that matter properly sad, as opposed to depressed) you need some sense of self, some kind of internal reference point against which to measure your emotions, and for a long time I didn’t have one.
Ultimate gave mine back to me. It helped me work out who I was again. I was playing for a new team whose role-based style meant that I could play to my strengths, and although over the course of Open Tour we shot ourselves in the foot more than once (coming bottom of two- and three-way ties on points difference, butterfingers, and a dropped pull on universe point of a virtual top 8 playoff we still haven’t forgiven [NAME REDACTED] for) I felt like I was making a real contribution to us getting into those positions in the first place. It may not sound like much, and in the grand scheme of things it probably wasn’t – it was C Tour after all – but it was the extra foot of rope I needed to pull myself out of the hole I’d been in for over a year. Because that’s how depression works: you fall; you hit the bottom, sometimes very hard; you call for a rope; and slowly, fitfully, you pull yourself up. Sometimes you slip and a month’s upward progress can go in an hour. But because at some point you may not have been aware of you decided you wanted to live and you wanted your mind back, you keep climbing.
My illness took many things from me: my degree, my dignity, my sense of self-worth, and my ability to take pleasure from things I had previously loved doing. The only thing that remained constant throughout was sport, which for me, apart from the few weeks of the cricket season that weren’t disrupted by the weather, meant ultimate. There were days where playing and practicing, and the obligatory beer afterwards, was the only time I got out of the house or said more than a cursory ‘hello’ to another human being. There were whole weeks were the only positive words I heard were from my teammates, most of whom had no idea I was ever ill and were simply doing what teammates do. The encouragement often didn’t really register through the static and self-flagellation that was what passed for my thought pattern at the time. But now that I’m healthy, or as healthy as I’m ever likely to be, I’d like to say thank you to all of them, and to everyone at my old university team who put up with me turning up to practices and socials and parties even after I’d left. The reaction of the committee when I told them why I was leaving was genuine, it was spontaneous, and even in the deeply messed-up state I was in at the time it was deeply touching.
I’ve played a number of team sports since I was eleven years old. Had I carried on playing rugby when I came to university I probably would have denied my illness to myself for even longer than I did, and by the time I hit rock bottom it might have been too late – my university’s men’s rugby team have a bad reputation even among others of that often boorish breed. Had cricket, which following the very public struggles of England stalwart Marcus Trescothick (if ever a sportsman were worthy of a knighthood it is he) does an excellent job at the professional level of fighting against the mental illness omertá that sadly still largely prevails in the lower reaches of the amateur game, been my only outlet, the winters would have been even longer and even emptier. By the time summer came around again it might have been too late.
Football? Forget it. The guys I play eight-a-side with on Sunday are good company, but as a support network they’re worse than useless. It took the tragic and utterly avoidable deaths of Robert Enke and Gary Speed before football even began talking about depression, although it hasn’t done too badly since thanks to the likes of Clarke Carlisle and Stan Collymore. Note to all North American readers: I’m British, adjust terminology accordingly.
Not that the padded and helmeted oval-ball version is immune: as you might expect from a collision and concussion heavy sport, brain injuries are worryingly prevalent, which can’t do much for anyone’s mental state. The sport was rocked by Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide in 2012, but when the New York Daily News ran a story a week later examining the link between what he did, what his body had been through and what he might have been thinking, the NFL declined to comment.
I was lucky that when I lost my way I had a few years worth of ultimate connections to call on, some of whom I count among the best friends I’ve ever had. Simply by being around and being themselves they helped me hang on to myself and rebuild. It’s not over yet for me. It might never be fully over. As we’ve sadly seen this week with Jonathan Trott, even if you think you have a handle on it those coping mechanisms are not necessarily permanent. But I have a fighting chance – all because I thought in the first week of university, ‘Ultimate frisbee? Hey, why not!’
And here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. In fact the numbers alone mean that I’m not. Let’s just take the UK and USA. As of 2012 UK Ultimate had around 3,000 registered members, and there will be uncounted thousands more who play recreationally on a regular or semi-regular basis. Across the Atlantic, the number of officially registered players climbs to around 35,000 (as of 2011), and total US numbers have been estimated by as being as high as 4.8 million by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Given that according to official figures in both countries one in every four people – you read that right: one in four -suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in any given year, it’s pretty likely that someone reading this article knows all too well what I’m talking about. We owe it to them, and to everyone else who plays this amazing sport, to have this conversation. The game saved my sanity – and if we start talking and listening, it might save someone’s life.
Thank you, ultimate.
This weekend shopparajumpers the Alan Higgs Centre in Coventry was the venue for the UKU University Indoor BUCS Championship. With 16 teams having fought their way through regional qualification all fancied their chances of making the top 8 and claiming BUCS points. The unpredictable nature of the tournament, with most teams having not played each other since nationals last year meant the 5 regional champions: Dundee, Manchester, Cambridge, Exeter and Sussex started as slight favourites with Dundee returning as defending champions.
Thanks to Chris and the whole UU committee! DP @ tSG.
The Grapevine the place to read about this week in Ultimate.
This weekend is University Open Indoor Nationals, schedule was out this week and the 16 teams will be converging on Coventry to crown the 2013/14 champion! Follow the action with the #UOIN13 hashtag. Also not forgetting Div 2 taking place in Dudley!!
Tim Morrill has just passed through with his Performance workshops, Brummie and Colonel gave Ireland its first Elite Skills Clinic and now Brighton Ultimate are teaming up with a selection of current and ex-Mohawks to give a Skills Clinic aimed at University players! Join the event and get down there!
SkyD have made the $12k target!! This means more great coverage from US and International Ultimate! Since they made it with time to spare there are even more perks, go see.
Understanding Ultimate discuss the Honesty Guy.
Ultimate Interviews have now official moved to Get Horizontal and this week interviews Kev Timoney from Ranelagh.
Finally Nice Bristols get interviewed on the Women’s Sport in Bristol blog talking about their road to worlds next summer.
Harry Mason wrote this preview for the Midlands Women’s Regionals on theStudentReview, he has kindly let us share it here too!
Welcome to the Midlands. It’s a relatively nice place. Home to some good architecture. Some nice pubs. Friendly people to visit. Oh, and home to one of the most competitive regions in Ultimate, no matter what level/division you happen to find yourself playing in. And, if you’re like me, that makes it one of the best places in the world.
Cheers Harry and thank you again to the UU committee! DP @ tSG.