A few months ago I was contacted by Stefan Surowiec, one of my team mates from the mostly Belgian/French Moonwalkers team (we won bronze at the European Masters Championships last year) – learning Hex with the Moonwalkers had left a good impression on him and he wanted me to come over to Belgium to introduce and train Hex with his local team, Helgtre!
The team is a group of friends who have been playing together for a number of years. The vibe in the team is great; they go for a beer after each training and there’s a lot of positive social energy – something I believe is very important for a successful team, but an element which seems to have been on the decline in recent years, in the UK scene at least.
Not only are they a great bunch, they’ve been getting better and better at ultimate over the years – last year they were the 5th highest finishing club at Belgian Nationals, and are keen this year to break into the top 4!
Belgian Nationals is run over 3 weekends – the first weekend determines the top 8, the second weekend determines the top 4, and the final weekend is invite-only, with only the top-4 teams attending to battle it out for the podium positions.
Helgtre have never made it into the top 4, so this year they can feel things are coming together and that finals weekend is closer than ever!
I arrived on Friday and joined in one of their practices, initially as a player, before setting up a simple drill later in the training, getting a feel for the level of the team and their understanding of the game from a strategic and technical point of view.
Saturday started with a 2 hour interactive seminar / classroom session on Flexagon Defence, followed by a three hour outdoor training with drills to reinforce the principles, and game-time to practice them.
On Saturday evening we headed out to a Greek restaurant for food, before going to a brewery/pub for some drinks, where I sampled many of the famous & tasty Belgian beers.
Sunday had a similar structure to Saturday, this time focusing on Hex Offence. It makes a lot of sense to me now to train Flex defence before Hex offence – the current state of the game means there is no immediate need to make a fundamental change to how we approach offence in high level games, however from the perspective of Flex, current offence is flawed and can be punished for those flaws. It’s only after these flaws and the vulnerabilities they expose are realised, the need for truly balanced offence becomes clear, and so offence on Sunday following defence on Saturday works really well to offer a complete view of the current and potential future state of strategy in ultimate.
Helgtre were a pleasure to coach, I thank them sincerely for their hospitality over the entire weekend, and they all seemed keen and enthusiastic about the new strategies and new approach to the game I showed them. I look forward to hearing how they do at Nationals and beyond!