EUMCC 2017 with Moonwalkers

This weekend I won a bronze medal at the Euro Masters Club Championships in Frankfurt, playing hex with a mostly Belgian team – Moonwalkers!

Tof, who captains the Belgian team Mooncatchers and with whom I played Shocker @ Paganello a few years ago, got in touch to invite me to play with what I assumed was a Belgium-based / Mooncatchers masters club team. Turned out the only thing we all had in common was that we knew Tof! We had three players from Brighton (Roach, Edgars and myself), three Mooncatchers, six from other teams in Belgium, and three players from France – so most of the team were familiar with seeing each other on the field as opponents and competitors rather than team mates.

Captain Christophe “Tof” Bihin

On the first day Tof told the team that I was strategist along with Olivier (Mooncatcher founder who has been playing since the 80s). For our first warmup we played Keepdisc – Ultimate without endzones – as this got us passing the disc around in very Ultimate-like situations, getting to know how each other cut / pivot / throw / fake in fluid situations, so we learn a lot more about each other than if it was a rigid drill. We played Keepdisc to warm up before every game for the rest of the tournament.

First game we played against D.O.M from Germany, and ran Mooncatchers-style D – work as pairs downfield switching and sandwiching, whilst handler marks play tight one-to-one defence. This progressed into a heavy focus on stopping the under passes as we realised D.O.M were very reluctant to throw deep – strange for a masters team! We took the game 15-11, a great victory as D.O.M went on to beat one of the finalists later in the group stage.

Flex – basic triple sandwich

Before the next match I explained some of the principles of Flex defence – communicate, switch/sandwich where appropriate, and maintain coverage of every offence player. We went into the next game with a more formulated approach to switching and sandwiching, so it was less chaotic than the defence of the first game, and worked well as we beat Wolpertinger (DE) 15-11. Last game of the day was against 7 Schwaben, I was unable to play due to heel pain so contributed from the sideline with strategic manipulations – forcing middle worked well, we switched it up to a zone until they called timeout, at which point we switched back to forcing middle so that they never got to adapt – a 15-8 win.

The next day was tough – we played Deduska (RU) and Wizards (SUI), both were very strong on both offence and defence, and although we got turnovers we weren’t able to convert enough of them and made too many mistakes on offence, so lost both games and lost out on a place in the final due to a three-way tie.

Wizards Grand Cru – EUMCC Champions 2017

On the final day, we first played Raging Bananas as our last group game, before meeting Wolpertinger again in the Bronze 3v4 match.

Before the Raging Bananas game I took some time with the team to explain Hex offence, as we had only been playing horizontal and some vertical up until then. The players were quite comfortable playing a fairly organic style (this is normal in Belgium, to fall into organic style after an initial setup), so I emphasised that there was total freedom in Hex outside the basic principles: Take the open pass, create/use space as you see it developing, and maintain the shape. Other than that, just do what comes naturally. The first two principles were easy to explain / natural to perform, so we quickly went over what the hex shape looks like on the field, emphasised that you shouldn’t surround the disc, played some Keepdisc and then got straight into the game.

Raging Bananas – spirit winners

Hex offence against Raging Bananas looked amazing – the scores looked to be easy, there was always an open pass free, and the flow looked unstoppable. Of course it is impossible to say whether this would have been the same if we played another offence, but at the very least it was a great way for the team to learn how to setup and the flow from the Hex structure, and gain confidence playing it. We took the match 15-6.

Then onto our final game, against Wolpertinger, for the bronze medals. For plenty of our team this was the highest level game they had ever played, so before the match I told everybody that we did not need them to do something extra special, they just had to give their 100%… to resist the urge to try to give 110% and be extra amazing, but just to be the same players as they have been all weekend, putting in the maximum effort and doing what they know will work. For example, rather than trying for a pass that will only work if it is a great throw, just make the pass which will work for a normal throw, as this is all the team needs to do to win each point. It’s interesting to note that, in my experience, players will often change how they are playing in a meaningful final match – either by saying more stuff to the team in between points / in huddles, or playing in a different style.

The bronze match was an amazing match by all accounts. We played Hex offence the entire way through, and it was 5-5 before the first turnover of the game. We got the first break, they broke back a few points later, and the points became longer – Wolpertinger tried a few times to play zone defence against the hex but we were very patient and used lots of accurate hammers to swing and score. We took the third break of the game in the second half to go up 13-11 in a game to 15, they stayed with us so we were on offence 14-13 up, they come down with tight one-to-one defence but we flowed downfield using the hex shape until we were near to the end zone. Olivier had the disc and couldn’t throw back to me or up the line, so I found myself near the end zone not really able to help when the stall was on 8… Olivier sees Tof coming under on the break side under a lot of pressure, makes the throw, Tof goes up high and fast with a bidding defender next to him, takes the catch down… I make three hard steps to the flick side and then plant and turn to look over my left shoulder, Tof sees me and puts up the hammer, I have time to get body position and go up with two hands, and secure the catch! I hold the disc up high and hug team mates as tears come to my eyes… what a game, what a tournament, what a team and what a medal!

Strategically I learnt that it is quite easy to implement Hex Offence with experienced players even if there is a variety of ability and they have not played much with each other before – helped by the tendency to be comfortable playing a more organic style in Belgium. It is harder to implement Flex defence for a couple of reasons:- it tends to break down if one player begins to poach – which is very tempting – and the positioning and movement in Flex is very unlike one-to-one or zone defences, so players are not used to it and have to learn it afresh. The positioning and movement in Hex offence is very similar to ‘organic’ or ‘fluid’ offence – which is something that happens in practically every point of Ultimate when the stack formations break down after a few passes, therefore players are used to it and so Hex doesn’t ask them to do very much different to how they normally play – just to ‘maintain the shape’ (which entails knowing what the shape looks like). Hex is essentially a set of guidelines which facilitate and support organic flowing offence, whereas Flex is an alternative approach to defence which introduces a number of new concepts and asks far more of players.

Had a great weekend with the Moonwalkers, winning a European medal (and the first medal earned by Hex offence that I know of – though Cape Town Uni may have won SA Nationals with it last year), meeting lots of fun players from Belgium & France, and I hope plans come together for us playing more in the future!

Captain celebrated hard, team mates help out

Felix’s updated medal table (as a player):

Gold Silver Bronze
UK Nats 2011 – Clapham (Open)
UK Nats 2010 – Brighton (Mixed)
EUCC 2009 – Brighton (Mixed)
UK Indoor Nats 2005 – Brighton (Open)
EUC 2011 – GB (Open)
EUCC 2011 – Clapham (Open)
UK Nats 2009 (+MVP) – Brighton (Mixed)
EUMCC 2017 – Moonwalkers
Paganello 2014 – Shocker
UK Nats 2009, 2013, 2015 – Brighton (Open)
UK Nats 2006, 2008 – Brighton (Mixed)

WCBU 2017: Playing for GB Men’s Masters

Catching in traffic for a score vs USA

I returned from the World Championships of Beach Ultimate 2017 a couple of weeks ago. The journey started back in September last year when trials were announced. I originally signed up for the Mixed Masters as well as Men’s Masters teams, and the first trial was actually playing with Men’s Masters at UK Beach Nationals. We came 3rd, beating the Grand Masters in the 3v4, and Hex came 1st in the Mixed division. Feeling out the vibe for the Men’s and the Mixed teams I made my decision to stick with Men’s, passed the further trials, and then trainings began! We had several months to prepare for heading off to Royan in France for WCBU 2017 in June.

We’d meet up every month or so on Bournemouth beach to play vs the Grand Masters. We had intended to go to a warm-up tournament but couldn’t get into Copa Tenga (which I really want to play in next year), so it turned out that our only training was playing against the Grand Masters – they were great. That team is made up of absolute legends of UK Ultimate, and every single person was a challenge to mark. They beat us overall – probably winning about 75% of the games we played over the various weekends. At the end of it all we were very aware that our training had been limited to playing against one team of players who are all older than us, so things might be very different at Worlds.

 

GB Men’s Masters average face

The vibe on the Men’s Masters team was great throughout the whole week in Royan. We didn’t get all the results we wanted – losing in sudden death three times where we felt we should’ve taken the wins (once vs Netherlands, once vs Australia, and finally in our quarter final against Spain after having the disc to win 3 separate times!) – so that was fairly gutting, but at the end of it we all had each others backs and it was a very enjoyable team to be a part of. By the end of the week we were down to 10 players for various reasons, which made the final few games tough, and we finished 8th. After the last game we all voted on MVP – overall, offence, and defence. I was very happy to win the overall MVP (and a prize of #10 Japan jersey!), Dave “Thrash/Stobbo” Stobbs won offence MVP, and Ewen Buckling won defence MVP.

I did pretty well in the stats – coming 3rd in the Men’s Masters division. I feel like I’m a better player now than I was before – playing regularly against the Grand Masters has helped a lot, but also the fitness work… finally I have been motivated to get out running in the hills regularly, and not letting myself slack off for a week at any point.

I got to play against the USA in the power pools, and it was clear they were operating at a different level to the other teams – one that I recognised and felt familiar to me, but not one which I’ve been having to play against for what felt like quite a long time. Instead of just doing the hard yards, you had to be very smart about where and when you are moving, as you can be sure they are thinking about it just as much. It was a good experience, despite the USA being quite ‘hands-on’ with their defence – I had to tell them a few times not to touch. At one point Voodoo hucked it to me and this guy (Barrs Lang) caught up and got a sick layout D over my shoulder – I thought he wouldn’t reach and that I had enough time for a safe clap catch, but that was a foolish thought! Someone captured a good photo of it:

Won’t make that mistake again! When playing the USA, catch the frisbee as early as possible, because the chances are that defender will catch you and their bid will make contact with the disc.

Overall it was a great time in Royan – would have liked to come away with a medal from Worlds, but fun times were had, and it’s inspired me to try out again for GB Masters teams in the future.

I got to meet ‘little Felix’ – Bex Forth’s second child

Behind the Stream: Fanseat at Windmill 2017

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Last weekend I was at Windmill for the first time ever! Instead of playing, I was part of the production crew putting together the live stream which went out on fanseat.com (and is currently available to view in their archives).

Who are Fanseat?

On the ground at Windmill, the production team was: Mike Palmer, Will Foster, Felix Shardlow, Anthony Wilson, Ari Ojanperä, Edgars Dimpers, and Callum Ayre. This team changes from event to event, but are currently always led by Mike Palmer or Will Foster. Nobody physically at these events is ‘from’ Fanseat – we communicate with them via messaging apps during the events to ensure everything is coming through to their end correctly.

IMG_20170609_231138Other than Ant’s friend Callum, we are all avid Ultimate players who have also been involved in Ultimate media production – all except Edgars were active members of the WFDF Media Team providing coverage of WUGC 2016, all except Ari and Mike have worked for Push Pass previously, all except Edgars and Ari are involved with providing coverage of UK events for UK Ultimate, and Mike has been the primary provider of coverage in the southern hemisphere for many years through his company Ulti.TV and UltiSports (and was leading our team at Windmill).

Commentary workshop held recently by Tom Styles, with Evan Leplar via Skype

We worked together with the awesome commentary team to provide Fanseat with a high quality, fully-packaged live stream, which they then distribute to their subscribers. The commentary team included Benjamin Rees, Lorcan Murray, Georgina Morrison, Liam Grant, David Pryce, Ravi Vasudevan, and many others who all did a fantastic job in contributing to the coverage, adding knowledge, character, and emotion to make the matches really enjoyable to watch.

What does setting up for a 3-camera live stream entail?

We arrived at the venue a couple of days before the event to begin work. The place was already swarming with volunteers and Windmill crew, who were all great fun, and really friendly and helpful whenever we needed anything. Readying the cameras alone took hours – each camera requires the setup of all kinds of equipment and the use of much technical wizardry, all of which Mike Palmer has great experience with, in order to get the rig working together smoothly and allow the camera operators to do the best job possible. Once the setup is all tested in close quarters, the power/signal/data cables must be laid out stretching to either end zone, using cable covers at any points where players may be crossing. During the women’s final, apparently the Poland Mixed coach tried to move one of our power cables to make room for his team’s warmup, causing it to unplug, resulting in a complete power outage – nightmare! To get a solid internet connection to the switching desk when it was placed in the centre of the field, we used some beaming technology I didn’t even know existed to get the signal over from the clubhouse.

At the desk we have the main switching computer with control pad, plus a replay machine with a second monitor. If possible, we also set up a screen for the commentators so they can see the replays as they are broadcast, and have a better perspective on the play that just occurred – also helping them to stay connected with the viewers. As with everything technical, things rarely work immediately after first setup, so many hours was spent troubleshooting and even going into town to buy extra equipment – thankfully the experience Mike Palmer and the rest of the crew have meant that there were usually two potential solutions to any problem, which were weighed up and decided between, and we got everything working the night before the first games began.

What roles need to be filled during a stream?

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Mike Palmer, Will & myself

Aside from the excellent job the commentators do, there are three basic roles for the production team during a live stream:
1) Switcher / Director / Visual Mixer – they sit at a computer which displays all the live shots from the three cameras, plus the current live output. Their job is to switch between the camera angles and coordinate the coverage – staying in constant communication with the camera operators to let them know who is currently live (everyone is hooked up with voice comms), what shots they want lined up, which camera will be live next, if there’s anything interesting worth replaying which may have been missed (for example, if the commentators are talking about a particular play), and to give the word to roll the replays when they are ready. They are also responsible for ensuring the commentators & game audio levels are well balanced.
2) Replay mixer – their role is to queue up replays of appropriate action from the best angles and let the director know they are ready to roll, as quickly as possible. It’s the directors call as to whether there is enough time during a stoppage to run the replay – always a tough decision during a stoppage or turnover – and the director should keep an eye on the game so the replay mixer can adjust the speed of the replay accordingly (they have a machine which has a slider controlling the speed). The replay mixer also exports the clips between points for later use, and chooses ones to consider for post-game highlight reels.

3) Camera operators – at Windmill we had camera 1 (middle-sideline) capturing an overview of the game whilst camera 2 and 3 (back of endzones) stayed tight to the action around the disc for replays. Attention must always be paid to the tracking the disc, removing ‘dead space’ from the frame, staying in focus, listening to the director’s instructions, and communicating back with any relevant information (such as a particularly good shot the director may not be seeing, or heads-up of a missed shot for the replay mixer). During stoppages, camera operators zoom in on the players who are discussing the call, to give viewers the best idea of what is going on. After scores, they capture the celebrations with the best framing and tracking possible – get those faces! We also coined the phrase “ShameCam” – when an operator would track a player who e.g. mac’d their D instead of catching it, resulting in a score – cue comms of “cam2 find the defender for ShameCam please… switching to cam2… cam2 you’re live – shame! shame! ok, switching to cam3…” over our comms – keeps us amused. Between points, there is an opportunity to get ‘colour’ shots – of the crowd, of flags in the venue, an overview of the fields outside the stadium, birds perching on aerials – to add context, variety, and atmosphere to the coverage, without missing the pull!

During the course of the tournament we changed up who was filling each of the roles, so we were able to understand what each role required, and thus work together better as a team. As we found our routine during a game, the camera operators would naturally line up the shots the director wanted, and we could relax into the ‘flow’ – chatting about the current action over the voice comms and having some banter (working through every game, every day, gets tiresome without some chat!). Releasing the production crew’s comms as an alternative commentary track would be the source of much hilarity.

IMG-20170612-WA0003When a mistake is made on the stream, and you know that double-tapping a button, queuing up the wrong replay, or accidentally knocking the camera has just made thousands of people go “huh?” – breaking their concentration on the game – it can get stressful, so it’s important to stay positive and supportive over the voice comms. In a live streaming environment, nobody has the luxury of being able to take a break mid-game. When things go right, and you feel like an excellent game of Ultimate has been done justice by the stream you’ve provided, a strong post-game euphoria kicks in!

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Edgars and myself reverse-photobombing Clapham

On a few occasions I actually got up and danced after finishing the stream as director. The work isn’t over after the last game though – cameras need to be brought in, the clips on the computer need to be exported and then edited into daily highlight videos, and everything packed away ready to be unpacked, set up and tested before the first game of the next day starts – some days are very long for the production crew (0730 – 0030 when making daily highlights), and the concentration needed is full-on and relentless. We do all love watching Ultimate though, so we’re motivated by trying to do the games in front of us justice – capturing memorable moments on camera, and conveying the atmosphere within the stands to all the viewers at home.

Will there be more events streamed?

I’m hoping to stay involved in future crews which are brought together to cover European Ultimate events – when I’m not playing. Fanseat are covering a ton of tournaments over the next few months – next up is WCBU, where they’ll be streaming from two pitches each day! Beyond that there’s EYUC, EMUC, EUCF, UKU Tours 2 & 3, and UKU Nationals, just for a start.

The first month’s subscription is free and gets you access to their archive, which includes many tournaments including Tom’s Tourney 2017, and EUCF 2016 – after that it’s £8 per month, which I think is reasonable. I didn’t intend this article to be an advert for Fanseat; hopefully now you understand more about who the Fanseat crew are on the ground, and that by supporting them you are supporting coverage of Ultimate by the players, for the players – so you can make a more informed decision at least.

Was a pleasure to be directing the stream whilst these players I coached during their time at Sussex / Brighton Universities won the final with Clapham

If you watched the streams and have any feedback – positive or otherwise – we’re always keen to hear it, so drop me a message. I know if I was a viewer, I would want a live online chat room alongside the livestream – this isn’t a feature on the Fanseat page, but perhaps the Ultimate Discord #livestream channel could be used and promoted by the commentators in future. Hope you enjoy/d the coverage and I hope to be a part of bringing more to you in the future!

Russia: Strict stacks and hard cuts

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mapI travelled to Russia from 15-26 May, with the primary aim of running a Hex Workshop and playing lots of Ultimate! I contacted many players and teams in advance, working social media (including installing VK – the Russian equivalent of Facebook), got back in touch with a few Russian contacts I’d made over the years, and stayed at a friend’s place. It was my second time in Russia – last time I visited over new year where the temperature dropped to -27 degrees celsius – a coldness I could not even imagine before – but this time, in May, it was really quite warm! This article is broken into a few different sections:

Check out the full collection of photos & videos in the Google Photo album

Environment / culture

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Very weird but quite cool building in north-east Moscow

The first thing I did after settling in was go for a run in a forest near where I was staying. The ground was very swampy at times, and I found a creepy burnt out building to explore (pics & videos in the google photo album). On the streets of suburban Moscow you see the occasional cat, but they generally stay well away from humans and look after themselves. The buildings in the suburbs are huge – blocks of flats that are 6-12 stories high, and often 100m+ long. They were mostly built in the soviet-era and have an air of conformity and ruthless efficiency about them. Regular houses are nowhere to be seen – everyone lives in these blocks of flats – however most residents have a family dacha (a country house) outside of Moscow which they visit for the holidays. During my stay I visited a few parks, saw a second Kremlin, went to a show at the State Kremlin Palace Concert Hall, got the opportunity to drink vodka with some Muscovites (with bites of gherkin, as is traditional), and went to an Enter Shikari gig – where I immersed myself in a hardcore but very friendly most pit. Russians have a more direct attitude compared to British, and I’m a fan of it – if they’re angry or happy you’ll know about it; they say what is on their mind, they’re not afraid of how it might be taken; their emotions are closer to their skin. This is something I like.

Metro system
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IMG_20170518_222952The metro system, like everything else in Russia, is huge. A ticket costs 75 pence/cents and takes you anywhere you want. Plenty of the stations have interesting statues or decorations, and the metro lines are arranged so they all essentially cross over in the middle, with two circular lines connecting them – one in the centre and one around the outskirts. It’s a scaleable system which allows for unlimited future growth! I spent hours and hours on the metro, as practices in Moscow tend to be in the north east or south east – over an hour away from where I was staying – and, did I mention, the city is huge? Everything is huge in Moscow.

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Ultimate

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A few of the Moscow State University team, with the MSU building in the background

There are 4 Open teams, 3 women’s teams, and 1 mixed team in Moscow. Moscow State University has one of the best reputations in the world, and their team – MSU – are the current student champions. I was invited to run a training with them soon after arriving, and was impressed at the high level – especially the discipline not to turn the disc over on more speculative throws. Venues in Moscow can be expensive, but MSU have a good field in a small stadium in the south-east of the city, and it’s the same field where Ultimate in the city was originally born. The session focused on catching & throwing skills, with an introduction of Hex Offence at the end. Everyone seemed to pick it up quickly, and implemented the principles as I had explained them – so there wasn’t much to say inbetween points! Their ability to conservatively pass the disc around and gain yards ultimately highlighted how it can be tricky sometimes to score from Hex when flow has stopped outside the end zone, so I talked about a couple of options they could implement to generate space in such a situation. MSU train right near the main building of Moscow State University – the tallest educational building in the world.
Towards the north-east of the city are the training grounds for Dolgorukiye, Luckygrass, Lemongrass, and Brilliance. All but Brilliance share the same 3G floodlit field – Dolgorukiye’s trainings actually overlapped with Lemongrass and Luckygrass trainings, as it saves all the clubs money and the 3G field is large enough to accommodate two teams at the same time.

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Dolgorukiye

Dolgorukiye are on a recruitment drive, so had a few beginners at their sessions training alongside their strong core of dedicated players. As with most players who learn to play outside of university, the learning curve is very steep, but they showed a lot of promise. I attended three of their trainings in total – at the first I introduced a basic drill which Clapham ran at pretty much every training of theirs I attended in 2011, at the second training I helped the coach (Danil Kutov) with a few exercises and drills he had designed around the skills I taught at the Hex Workshop at the weekend, and at the last training we went over cutting techniques before playing a match against Luckygrass. Their warm up at the first training was basically a 30-minute fitness session, but at the third training they got warm by passing a disc in pairs whilst moving around the field – practicing decelerating into catches and accelerating out of throws.

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Luckygrass

The match against Luckygrass was interesting – Luckygrass went up several points at the start in a battle of vert stacks vs person-D, but then Danil changed our strategy by telling me to go deep. I took this to mean cut deep on offence (I was aware I’d thrown away a couple times), so I began doing that with some success… After their O line put in a couple of uncontested deep scores however I realised Danil was talking about defence! Talk about lost in translation… So then I played D at the back of their stack, switching onto whoever would cut deep, passing them off when they went under, and communicating to the rest of my team constantly as to where they should be going and who they should be marking if I switch onto their guy. It incorporated lots of the principles of Flex, with the added stipulation that I was heavily weighted towards covering the deep options whilst others took the unders.

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Brilliance – women’s champions

Luckygrass struggled to improvise against it, hucked it a few times without seeing me switch onto the deep cutters, and we pretty much stopped them from scoring from that point on. I continued to go deep on O for Danil’s hucks and hammers (a throw which is not very common or looked kindly upon in Russia!) and we clawed back point after point until the game had to end due to the field being booked for American Football. I think we left Luckygrass scratching their heads, and their coach seemed keen to attend the next Hex workshop I run in the region.

I also got an opportunity to coach at a Brilliance training session – there were just a few players there, but the high quality of the Russian women champions was very apparent. We worked on catching & throwing, with a focus on long throws, and effective throw+go techniques.

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Players from Saturday’s Flex workshop

Hex workshops
Saturday’s focus at the workshop was “Throwing + Catching skills & Flexagon Defence”. We had 15 players turn up and had a good session – I talked about the neutral stance / power stance for throwing, went into detail about hucking technique, talked about and practiced the finer qualities of clap catching, broke down Flex D into its principles of communication, switching/sandwiching where appropriate, and covering all offensive players as a team, and drilled them each individually and combined. We played a few games at the end where everyone was communicating loads, looking out for switches, setting up sandwiches, and I was able to illustrate specific scenarios like where somebody would poach deep (without marking someone, switching, or sandwiching) and it would cause the defence to break down – so lots was learned by all.
On Sunday the focus was Hex Offence, so we ran through a number of drills which put into practice the skills which are particularly useful for Hex play and principles – throw-and-go moves, recognising space developing on the field and moving into it, taking the open pass or faking if it’s not on, and maintaining the hex shape – which entailed illustrating what the shape looks like when the disc is at any point on the field, and guidelines on how to maintain the shape dynamically during play.

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Players from Sunday’s Hex O workshop who also played against Me & My Monkey

At the end of the Sunday session we played a match against “Me & My Monkey” – a fairly new Moscow team. M&MM came out with a vertical stack and we immediately surrounded it whilst pointing and shouting “five!” to indicate there should be five of us sandwiching around five of them. M&MM’s cutting was chaotic in reaction and we shut down most of their short options and stuffed their flow, however they had a couple of throwers who were able to sit the disc out amazingly far and flat for their receivers to run down, which they did very well and very often until we adapted. On offence, Hex worked well but was rather crowded – the pitch was slightly narrow, but we also had the common tendency of over-rotating downfield, meaning the downfield space was crowded and the backfield space was underused when on the sideline. We had some nice sequences of play however, some good deep shots, some quick passes off the line from static towards the end, and scored enough points to win the game. M&MM’s offence switched up to horizontal for a while – we tried Japan’s Hasami defence against it but figured there was too much space between the downfield cutters for it to work effectively, so went back to Flex and continued to get good results. From vert, M&MM tried a play we used to call ‘rubber’ in the UK – the front cutters split and the back cutter comes under – which is a great idea against Flex which doesn’t have a fully switched-on back defender, however we recognised this and prepared the deep defender to tighten up quickly if he saw this happening, so we continued to cause them problems. Towards the end of the game we decided to switch it up as we were getting physically and mentally drained – at one point we came out with a vert stack on the open side (to free up loads of break space), but M&MM quickly transitioned into a zonal-type defence as a counter – something they potentially had learned from us during the game, or that their coach had prepared them for (he had also attended the Hex workshop).

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Players note down drills during a break at the Hex workshop

Futures
During the trainings I got to know lots of Russian players by playing with & against them, and I believe that if I ran another workshop immediately then the turnout would be quite high. The Luckygrass coach told me he & his team didn’t attend the workshop as their strategic focus for the year was vert stack & man-to-man defence and they didn’t want to add confusion, which got me thinking about how the workshop could be tailored to account for this type of player/team. The throwing & catching part of the workshop is useful for any level of player, and teams are usually more willing to experiment with new defences over new offences, so potentially the “Flexagon Defence” part of the workshop could be marketed as “How to beat Vertical Stack using teamwork” or something similarly relatable.

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After the Luckygrass v Dolgorukiye match

The range of strategies played in Russia seem to indicate they’re a few years behind the UK. Vertical stack is very dominant, and though established teams know to play horizontal, they don’t seem too familiar or comfortable with it. The focus for both performance and for ‘keeping it simple for beginners’ is strongly on stacking tight and cutting hard. Deep throws are very common. On defence, we went through an entire game just forcing flick – despite the opposition having quite good flick throws. This is what teams used to do 20 years ago when not every player had a reliable flick throw. There was barely any zone played, however players were able to adapt to new defences when we introduced them, so the responsibility for progressing the strategic development on the field lies with the coaches at this point, who must be willing to experiment and take risks on defence in order to progress. It will be interesting to see over the next year or two whether Dolgorukiye and the other teams who had players present at the workshops adopt some principles from Flex defence, and begin to force their opposition’s vert-stack offence to evolve into a horizontal stack, or even Hex. Without defence evolving first, there is no need for the offence to evolve beyond the well-established vertical stack with hard cuts.

I hope to return to Russia in a year or two, and after playing in all the post-workshop games and trainings this time and seeing the strategies begin to have an impact, I’m sure that there will be plenty of players who will be keen to attend a future workshop in Moscow. I love the people and the country so I look forward to returning!

They do put potato on their pizza though – I’m not too sure about that.

Check out the full collection of photos & videos in the Google Photo album

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Addendum: Dolgorukiye were kind enough to put together this video for felixultimate.com!

Sussex Mohawks win UKU Uni Men’s Nationals 2017 – plus a look back to Uni 1989-2016 results

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Tom Aitken, Zach Fairclough, Charlie Butt, Luis Semple, Arran Belden, Christian Turvill, Chun Lee, Dan Prichard, Jake Betson. Kneeling: Chris Wastell, Desmond Mombo, Jonny Arthur, Will Seth, Dom Burnham, Ashley Yeo. Coaches: Felix Shardlow, John Maule, Glen Newell

University Outdoor Nationals took place in Nottingham this weekend, with Sussex Mohawks and UCL winning in the Men’s and Women’s divisions respectively.

Uni Outdoor Nationals Results 2016-17
Open:
1. Sussex
Dsc_01742. Bath
3. Glasgow
4. Birmingham

Women’s:
1. UCL
2. Oxford
3. Edinburgh
4. Birmingham

Full results available here.

Sussex faced St Andrews in their quarter final due to losing to Strathclyde in the group stage. It was a rematch of the Uni Indoor Final from earlier this season, with both teams programs culminating in a big year this year. The Brighton-based team saw the indoor champions off 7-4 in a well spirited match, went on to beat Birmingham 9-6 in the semi final using their alternative approach to defence, before facing Bath in the final – a rematch from the group stage. Both teams scored upwind multiple times, Sussex were able to take half with an incredible trailing edge catch from Luis Semple (below), and saw the game out 9-7 to take the National Championship title.
This is the 4th Uni Men’s Outdoor title Sussex University have won – their third in the last 7 years with Felix Shardlow as coach (joined this year by John Maule and Glen Newell). Sussex now hold more Uni Open Outdoor titles than any other university in history.

4 titles: Sussex
3 titles: Edinburgh, Bristol, Leeds
2 titles: Cambridge, Warwick
1 title: Nottingham, Birmingham, Cork, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Loughborough, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Sheffield

Luis Semple with a fade-away layout save before Sussex get an upwind point for half. This angle is generally considered by those present to not do the play justice.
UK Uni Open Outdoor National Titles, 1990-2017:
1989-1990: Warwick (Bears), Sussex (Mohawks), Reading (Dragons), Leeds (Lizards) [read report on final here]
1992-1993: Cambridge (Bad Company), Edinburgh (Sneekys), Southampton (Skunks)
1993-1994: Bristol (Mythago), Warwick (Bears), Sussex (Mohawks), Edinburgh (Sneekys)
1994-1995: Bristol (Mythago), Southampton (Skunks), Sussex (Mohawks), Warwick (Bears)
1995-1996*: Bristol (Mythago), Leeds (Catch 22), Oxford (Ow!) *Sussex finished 1st but stripped of title due to rostering
1996-1997: Leeds (Catch 22), Southampton (Skunks), Bristol (Mythago), Sussex (Mohawks)
1997-1998: Sussex (Mohawks), Bristol (Mythago), St Andrews (Flying Sorcerers), Leeds (Jedi Children)
1998-1999: Leeds (Jedi Children), Sussex (Mohawks), Bristol (Mythago), Edinburgh (RoShamBo)
1999-2000: Sheffield (Phat Eds), Leeds (Jedi Children), Warwick (Bears), Edinburgh (RoShamBo)
2000-1: Edinburgh (RoShamBo), Sheffield (Phat Eds), Oxford (Ow!), Sussex (Mohawks)
2001-2: Glasgow (Far Flung), Leeds (Jedi), Bristol (Mythago), Oxford (Ow!)
2002-3: Leeds (Jedi), Oxford (Ow!), Bristol (Mythago), Loughborough (Haze)
2003-4: Aberdeen (Positive Mojo), Leeds (Jedi), Loughborough (Haze), Edinburgh (RoShamBo)
2004-5: Loughborough (Haze), Edinburgh (RoShamBo), Bristol (Mythago), Southampton (Skunks)
2005-6: Edinburgh, Bristol, Cardiff, Loughborough
2006-7: Edinburgh, Bristol, Exeter, Cambridge

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Dom Burnham scans the field

2007-8: Cardiff, Cambridge, Bristol,  Durham
2008-9: Warwick, Portsmouth, Loughborough
2009-10: Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Warwick
2010-11: Sussex, Cambridge, Edinburgh
2011-12: Sussex, Cork, Bristol
2012-13: Cork, Edinburgh, Birmingham
2013-14: Cambridge, Sussex, Manchester
2014-15: Birmingham, Dundee, Manchester
2015-16: Nottingham, Glasgow, Birmingham
2016-17: Sussex, Bath, Glasgow

UCL Women came in with a small squad with the aim to use Nats as a development tournament for many of the freshers on the team. Despite losing some star players this past year, including Vanessa Lowe (Iceni), Alison Walker (ex-Iceni/Deep Space), Ruth Kilsby (on a year abroad in Texas), the team gelled and brought together a zone which threw off many of the teams they faced.
On offence Alix Henry was instrumental, throwing many hucks. For some more perspectives, check this reddit thread.

UK Uni Women’s Outdoor titles, 2006-17:

Click for full Uni Women’s results 2006-2017

2005-6: Leeds, Loughborough & Nottingham, Southampton
2006-7: Sussex, Southampton, Cambridge. Scotland
2007-8: Bristol, Loughborough & Nottingham, Oxford
2008-9: Sussex, Newcastle, Warwick
2009-10: Warwick, St Andrews, Sussex
2010-11: Sussex, Cambridge, St Andrews
2011-12: Sussex, Southampton, York
2012-13: Sussex, Edinburgh, Newcastle
2013-14: Bangor, Durham, Birmingham
2014-15: Oxford, Birmingham, Loughborough
2015-16: Birmingham, Exeter, Newcastle
2016-17: UCL, Oxford, Edinburgh, Birmingham

5 titles: Sussex
1 title: UCL, Birmingham, Oxford, Bangor, Warwick, Bristol, Leeds

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Christian Turvill puts up a flick huck

UK Uni Mixed Outdoor titles, 2006-17:

Click for full Uni Mixed results 2006-2017

2005-06: Edinburgh, St Andrews, Leeds, Sheffield
2006-07: Trinity College Dublin, St Andrews, Aberdeen, Newcastle
2007-08: Warwick, St Andrews, Leeds, Edinburgh
2008-09: Warwick, Cambridge, Nottingham, Manchester
2009-10: Warwick, Manchester
2010-11: Sussex, Warwick, St Andrews, Aberdeen
2011-12: Southampton, Loughborough, Manchester, Sussex
2012-13: Edinburgh, Leicester, Sussex, Durham
2013-14: Birmingham, Dundee, Bristol, Nottingham
2014-15: Birmingham, Dundee, Heriot-Watt, Oxford
2015-16: Birmingham, Glasgow, Dundee, Durham

3 titles: Birmingham, Warwick
2 titles: Edinburgh
1 titles: Southampton, Sussex, Trinity College Dublin

Footage: I will be posting footage here when it surfaces – if you have any then please send me the links! Two short videos are available on the UK Ultimate Sofa Sideline group.

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Some drama in the ro-sham-bo for the spirit prize between Sussex 2 and Oxford, as Oxford make a false-start call

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Five players who have been on the Sussex team for 3 years – Chun Lee, Will Seth, Christian Turvill, Chris Wastell, Tom Aitken

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Ashley Yeo, a returning post-graduate currently captaining GB Open Beach & Clapham Ultimate, picks up his 3rd Uni Open Outdoor gold medal & trophy

Summary of all divisions from UK Ultimate:
Congratulations to all the teams and players for another fantastic BUCS Championships in Nottingham last weekend. The famous Nottingham wind made for very different conditions on Saturday and Sunday, but the standard of play was high throughout.
In the Men’s Championships, Sussex won their third title in 7 years with victory over Bath in the final, recovering from a pool play defeat on Saturday to power through the bracket. Glasgow took the bronze with their second victory of the weekend over Birmingham.
The Women’s Championships were won by UCL over Oxford in a strong showing for the East region, with Edinburgh taking the bronze. The big story in this division is the increasing parity and depth – 1st beat 8th in sudden death, 6th beat 16th in sudden death…
Nottingham won the Men’s Trophy, in theory making them the best 4th placed team in the BUCS leagues and the most unlucky to miss out on Division 1 due to their tough region – except that their final opponents, Edinburgh, were actually 5th in Scottish 1A, and Scotland 4 (Strathclyde) made it as high as 5th in the Championship! Surrey took home the bronze.
In the Women’s Trophy, Huddersfield dominated from start to finish, with their closest result a comfortable 8-3 win over Southampton in the final. Bath took the bronze.
In the Men’s Conference Cup, the top 4 teams were very closely matched, with Oxford eventually seeing off Newcastle in the final and Southampton taking the bronze over Sheffield.

Albania: Introducing Ultimate to an entire country

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Click for full photosphere from Petrela Castle

I recently travelled to Albania for eight days as part of a 10 Million Discs project in the Balkans. There were 5 of us present for most sessions – Trent Simmons (Founder & President of 10 Million Discs), Juan Amado from Columbia (coach), James Martin (coach), myself (head coach), and Erjona Kurti from the US Embassy.

Also see: Full Google Photo album | Full day-by-day blogs from Albania

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10MD with US Embassy staff Erjona & Meghan

10 Million Discs is an international youth development NGO which engages youth through sports, frequently with a focus on bringing together people from countries or cultures with a history of conflict. By engaging them in a fun, new activity, 10MD are able to break down barriers whilst teaching conflict resolution, gender equality, mutual trust, personal accountability under pressure, and other important life skills. At the same time, 10MD programs are also tailored to advance social and humanitarian causes unique to the host country and communities.

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US Embassy in Tirana

In the build up to our trip, the US Embassy in Tirana worked together with the School Sports Federation, and arranged for 250+ PE teachers (covering 7 of the 10 major cities) to come together and learn from us how to teach Ultimate and its self-refereeing principles to their pupils. They produced 200 “Better Together” discs to be distributed amongst the schools, featuring US and Albanian flags, and 10 rules of Ultimate printed directly onto the discs in Albanian with English translation. Alongside map-to-albaniathe teacher-training sessions we also worked directly with a number of youth groups to introduce the sport, the principles of Spirit, and how they relate to real life skills.

Ultimate in Albania has been fairly sporadic over the last decade or so, with no sustained clubs in existence and no pickup happening currently. In the past there has been the occasional team or game, mostly comprising of ex-pats, but even that seems to have faded out now.

PE teachers in Shkoder

PE Teacher Training
In order to introduce the game across the whole country, our highest priority were the PE teacher-training sessions being held at the big cities – Kavaja, Shkoder, Durres, Tirana, and Vlore (plus Fier and Elbasan after I left). We went equipped with discs, a translator (most Albanians over 25 years old do not speak English), and a sound system for the sessions. The venues were varied and often challenging due to the high number of participants, but we made do with what we had to deliver the best sessions we could.

Each teacher-training session had 50-70 PE teachers attending, maximum 2 per school. Each session started with us explaining four cornerstones of 10MD’s take on Spirit of the Game / self-refereeing – Personal Accountability Under Pressure, Gender Equality, Mutual Respect, and Conflict Resolution. We introduced Ultimate as not only a new sport, but as a new approach to sport.

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51 PE teachers in Vlore – some of the 250+ PE teachers who learned how to teach Ultimate

Several teachers told us that such an approach (relying upon mutual trust & fair-mindedness in the heat of competition) would not work in Albania – a country which has a lot of problems; where life can be a struggle, people have their guard up, and a ‘take what you can get’ mentality is pervasive. However, we held strong that Spirit does work, and that the game of Ultimate ceases to function if mutual trust is not present – therefore those who play will quickly learn the importance of trusting and being trusted. We also expressed our hope that through playing Ultimate, the youth in Albania will learn new ways to approach situations in life where mutual respect and non-confrontational conflict resolution can go a long way, rather than following the example of some current sports (such as the most popular in Albania – soccer), which often reinforce a different way of thinking.

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Roma community, volunteers, and locals

The teacher-training sessions were challenging for a number of reasons (oversubscribed venues, communication issues), but we learnt a lot from each one, and we hope the teachers did too. Every teacher went away knowing the basic rules of the Ultimate at the very least, and at the most they understood spirit, good technique, and learnt some drills which they can run at their schools. Considering how the numbers scale up in terms of pupils getting to play the sport, I believe our PE teacher training program will give Albanian Ultimate a healthy kickstart, and I would expect a few Ultimate communities to take shape, develop, and grow over the coming years. Once a certain number of teams form and are recognised by a certain number of NGOs, an Albanian Flying Disc Federation can be established. After I left Albania, Trent met with the president of the School Sports Federation who said he wants to ideally start the Albanian HS Ultimate national championships next year, citing potential for SotG principles to change Albanian society as his primary reason for endorsing us. The cost savings of not needing referees was also mentioned as a big edge over other sports.

US Marines
As well as PE teacher training, we ran a number of sessions with other groups; one was at a gated community connected to the US Embassy, where kids and their parents came to learn about the game and take part in fun drills & games. Also present at this session were 7 US Marines. Speaking to one who had played before, he said that Ultimate was played amongst the marines in Baghdad “like a religion” – he would take part in games which would grow to 10v10 in size. Interesting to know! I imagine it’s favoured amongst marines due to the minimal equipment needed, the low risk of injury due to contact, the high levels of fitness that can be used, and the way it encourages and rewards good teamwork. The marines who hadn’t played before picked it up very quickly, and using them to demo a drill was a fantastic experience as a coach – not sure I’ll ever have a beginner group again who listen to and follow instructions so clinically!

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US Marines stationed in Albania – Ultimate is regularly played by marines in Baghdad

The marines also fell into team roles very quickly. One tall guy would defend the end zone and get the disc moving on the turn. A particularly quick-turning guy from New York had mastered end zone cutting by the end of the session and scored many, many points. Loads of them had awesome American-football style toeing-in ability, which was great to see. Whilst they were playing, we also had two other pitches set up for the kids & parents in the gated community, meaning everyone could play at the same time at a level they were comfortable with.

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The juvenile prison looked very modern from the outside

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Demonstrating throwing inside the juvenile prison

Juvenile Prison
We ran a number of sessions directly with youth in the cities we were working in – a model UN group, members of the Roma community, a few sports clubs, the political youth groups, and a session at a juvenile prison. The prison session was a very memorable and humbling experience – there were high levels of participation (43 inmates), though the prison warden stopped us from playing cross-cellblock games as we had hoped in case trouble started. We had four games going at the same time, and all the players I saw were enjoying themselves and playing fair – avoiding contact where they could, and settling disputes peacefully and respectfully on the field as and when they arose. As with any group, encouraging them to discuss the call between the two players involved would quickly lead to a resolution – usually the fairest one too. In the yard we were surrounded by 15ft high walls and almost all the prison guards were surrounding the pitches whilst we were playing.

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Political Youth Groups
We brought together three political youth groups, who played alongside each other as team mates for the first time, all of them learning the rules of the game and how to resolve disputes together. Some of them were really competitive and weren’t afraid to make calls (again, easily settled when the two parties involved are encouraged to discuss it between themselves), nor were they afraid to sky each other and throw themselves around after the frisbee to make awesome catches and interceptions. Initially there was some unwillingness to inter-mingle between groups, but through learning the rules together, translating for each other, sorting out calls and figuring out tactics, we saw plenty of barriers being broken down and the youth really embrace the ideals of mutual trust and respect, despite their political differences in a time of political tension.

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3 political youth groups learn Ultimate and SotG ideals of mutual respect during conflict resolution

National TV appearance

Towards the end of my stay we appeared live on the top Albanian national TV breakfast show! We were given a number of questions to prepare answers for, but to our surprise the presenters went immediately off-script and threw curve-balls our way. This again put us in a very challenging situation – the questions were being translated behind the scenes, so when the hosts finished their questions there was an awkward (and ultimately hilarious) pause before we even began to answer, as we waited for the translation to come through. They started off by comparing the sport to dominoes (?), and although we had to think on our feet regarding the answers, our preparation meant we did manage to say most of what we intended to – I explained the basic rules (after the classic ‘how is it different to throwing a frisbee on the beach?’ question), Trent explained the principles of Spirit of the Game, and Juan clarified how spirit works in a practical way on the field whilst Erjona was working in very difficult circumstances to translate back and forth. The section ended with us throwing around in the studio – one of their throws actually bounced off one of the cameras off-screen making a huge crash! Full video here.

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Socio-economic situation & the natural landscape of Albania

Unfinished buildings are scattered around Albania – concrete frames of houses where construction seemed to stop just before windows & doors were put in. The location of these houses is great from an aesthetic point of view – surrounded by green hills and the Dajti mountains, but the unfinished structures are a haunting reminder of the economic problems the country faces.

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Click for partial photosphere

The highways are generally well maintained, and took us on a path alongside beautiful scenery. Most of the central and eastern parts of Albania are covered in huge mountains; I took the opportunity to go up one of these mountains on our day off. Along the way up were many houses, with electricity getting less common the further up you go. Half way up was a small village with a lake, overlooking the city of Tirana – very picturesque indeed. The top of the mountain was enshrouded by a cloud, giving everything an eerie feel.
There are a few recurring structures amongst the mountains which hark back to a more violent history – I noticed two or three castles, and had the pleasure of visiting one called Petrela Castle, at the top of a mountain just south of Tirana. Inside we found an open-top restaurant/bar with one amazing table from where we could see the sun setting whilst enjoying an evening beer and making plans for the following day’s sessions. pillboxThere are lots of one-person concrete pillboxes / bunkers dotted around the scenery – built within the last century as what looks like a form of guerrilla war defence system – apparently there are 700,000 of them in total.

The city has a stray dog and cat population – the dogs are generally friendly and the cats are surviving by being very cautious. I didn’t get a chance to explore any real wilderness, inviting though it was, however I did come across a particularly large grasshopper / locust. Walking around in Albania was at times dangerous not because of wildlife or crime, but because of problems with the infrastructure – torn up pavements and roads, unguarded drops, or manholes with covers missing unguarded in the middle of the pavement could easily cause injury if you don’t keep your eyes open.

Summary – a glimmer on the horizon

If the 250+ PE teachers we trained get their frisbees and go on to introduce the game to 100+ pupils each, our immediate reach will be 25,000+ pupils. It will be interesting to see how the Ultimate  communities emerge and develop after this blanket approach – for middle- and high-school pupils it may be a few years before they organise themselves into clubs and teams outside of school, however by introducing the game to 120+ college students, working with 6 NGOs, appearing on local TV 6 times and on National TV twice – many adults could be encouraged to start clubs which the youth players can then join. Our next step will be to deliver leadership training courses and level-up the Ultimate knowledge amongst those who are growing the sport. We are in the process of distributing 450 discs to all the schools this year, with 1000 planned for next year – an ongoing supply of discs going into Albania would be ideal for supporting the developing Ultimate communities over the coming years.

To quote one of the PE teachers: “Albania is a country with many problems, and [Ultimate] is not one of them.” I hope that in time, Ultimate can be seen as a step towards a solution for some of the underlying problems Albania faces.

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Click for partial photosphere

South Africa – country of hills and fences, beauty and disparity

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In October I was contacted by Fergus Klein, Chairperson of the Gauteng Flying Disc Association. Ferg graduated from Sussex (Mohawks) in 2014 and unbeknown to me had stayed heavily involved in Ultimate. The GFDA were looking for a coach to come over to up the level of the game in the region, which typically lags a little behind Cape Town, so I said I was keen to get involved! Ellie Tournier (GFDA Secretary) immediately got to work in planning fundraising efforts and making a packed schedule to make the most of every day I would be in SA. We coordinated to make this awesome video which tells a little about the history of Ultimate in South Africa, and the short and long-term aims for my trip:

I’ll break my report into three sections: Frisbee, Socio-economic-political environment, and Nature.

Frisbee:
Teams in the Gauteng region of South Africa play in a weekly mixed league consisting of 6 teams; two from the local universities – Wits and Zone Rangers (Tuks + graduates, from Pretoria), two teams which have developed from outreach efforts – Soweto and Orange Farm, plus Skyveld (originally Wits graduates), and last year’s champions Ultitude Grey Wolves.

Separation between university and club teams seems to be similar to how it was 15-20 years ago in the UK – i.e, university teams often enter club-level tournaments, and players who have graduated continue to play for them – or form their own team of graduates. For example, SA Nationals last year was won by the University of Cape Town (who play Hex Offence).

Whilst in SA I had the pleasure of running sessions with most of these teams, plus extended advanced clinics during my final weekend aimed at higher level players, and potential coaches.

Wits:
I ran two sessions at the University of the Witswatersrand. They’re a fun group who haven’t been doing too well in the league recently, and have suffered a bit in the last few years from changes in personel and leaders. For the first session, their captain Paul had requested I teach horizontal stack, IMG_20170302_211041so I put together a comprehensive 3hr session which drilled all the major aspects of the offence as it was played when I was on Clapham – with “peppermill” cutting patterns. They were attentive and picked up the ideas pretty well despite the fast-moving nature of the session, and when it came to implementing the ideas in the game they did well but were usually let down by simple catching or throwing errors.

For the next session, I spent the first hour focusing on catching and throwing fundamentals, and moved on to Hex offence. Ho-stack can be very effective for developed teams against person-to-person defence as it simplifies cutting and throwing options, however from a development point of view it can be counter-productive to impose rigid structures on a team who are just enjoying exploring their options on the field whilst developing their catching and throwing skills – allowing them freedom to choose from a variety of fluid options provides a more sound foundation for the learning process. The game at the end felt different when applying the Hex principles – still fairly stop-start due to turnovers, but the turns seemed to be happening in the middle of good sequences of play, rather than being like punctuation marks at the end. With some practice dedicated to catching/throwing fundamentals, and training with the freedom Hex allows, Wits have a good vibe and strong characters to hold them together whilst they go from strength to strength.

Pretoria / Tuks / Zone Rangers:
The session in Pretoria, a city just north of Johannesburg, brought together players from Tuks Uni and the Zone Rangers / Ranger Danger players. Whilst in Pretoria I stayed with Justus and Arno, who have a couple of amazing German Shepherd dogs, and five puppies! IMG_20170307_210528I’m a total sucker for cuteness and spent most of the evening sitting on the kitchen floor playing with them – though they do hurt when they decide to bite your socks – and they don’t give up! Justus took me on a trip to the Voortrekker Monument during the day where I learnt about the history of Afrikaners – a Southern African ethnic group descended from predominantly Dutch settlers who first arrived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who make up the majority of the Pretoria population. The players even joked about whether I could repeat what I was saying in Afrikaans, a daughter language of Dutch. Photos and videos from the Voortrekker Monument are in the full album.
The Pretoria bunch were really good fun – the session had a really great vibe and a wide spread of experience, they don’t take themselves too seriously but they are more than capable of pulling out some great plays when they want to, and really put their heads into learning and applying the things I had to teach. By the end of the game they were absolutely shredding zones, using the Hex structure to move the disc around in a flurry of short passes to get around and through the cup. I can’t quite get over how they differentiated between the two teams just with very thin orange or green sashes (you can see an orange one in the photo) – shirt colour was completely irrelevant! That said, I didn’t notice any of them getting confused on the field, so I guess they have adapted. Consensus seemed to be that Hex suited their approach to the game, so I look forward to hearing how they’re getting along with it all in the future!

Orange Farm:
A few miles south of Johannesburg lies the township of Orange Farm. The Orange Farm Ultimates were started 8 years ago, and have competed in tournaments in the past but are geographically isolated. The captain, Bongani, is a sports teacher at a local school, which has allowed him to add Ultimate to the curriculum and ensure a flow of new players. 17038907_731463740346749_2392655533295384340_oTheir objective is to become competitive enough to compete on an international level, while providing an alternative to the youth of Orange Farm to get them off the streets and live an active and positive lifestyle through sport.
The journey to Orange Farm started by leaving a street with large houses surrounded by 10ft high walls with electric fences, driving to the southern outskirts of Johannesburg, into the township, alongside homes made from corrugated iron sheets, through the dirt-track bustling town centre, and onto a large field with long grass. During the session we worked on throwing techniques, forcing & breaking the force, and then Hex principles in the game. As the game went on, everyone got into it more and more, and by the end I was finding it very difficult to contain U24 squad member Sizwe as he passed and moved all around the field – getting the disc back at will like a Hex pro. Towards the end of the game Lindelani, also on the U24 squad, caught an incredible backwards layout which got everyone cheering. It was great fun playing with them and seeing how much they improved during the time I was with them!
They went on to beat Wits in the league a few days later, 15-8. Congrats Orange Farm! Big things to come in the future.

Soweto:
As we arrived in the western outskirts of Johannesburg at the Soweto fields, we saw 20 players wearing yellow shirts with frisbees flying between them. It was immediately apparent that these players train a lot. Throws were coming out smooth and flying great distances. They apparently meet up 3+ times a week, but have had little contact with the outside frisbee community. 17159093_732281100265013_14164593474783809_oI had been told they have a fast-paced style and would run for days – however upon talking to them, they seemed to think fitness was one of their biggest weaknesses! Certainly nobody can say they don’t have a fast-paced style – they took to Hex like ducks to water, and seemed to really appreciate the throwing/catching tips and strategy chat that I had with them at lunchtime.
Playing in the game with them at the end, at times on defence I honestly felt out of my depth. They were able to move the disc around without hesitation, tossing backhands over defenders with ease, rarely allowing the defence time to figure out what was going on.
The enthusiasm of this team, combined with the amount of training time they’ve had and the lack of influence from the external frisbee community, mean they have evolved a natural organic style which I think any player can learn a lot from. IMG_20170306_210400Toss passes were particularly common – a natural counter when tight person-to-person marking stops short flat passes, and very hard to defend against if thrown accurately. They were all on the same page regarding their style; when James stepped onto the field – a Skyveld player with very solid but ‘traditional’ style/technique – the rhythm/tempo was occasionally disrupted and flow halted, showing that this team had truly developed their own way of playing which didn’t line up with the traditional approach – and I preferred it!

Hex works fantastically with this style, providing a guideline for creating and using space effectively which supports quick movement, without restricting the freedom of the players to run where they want at any given time. I ran a load of Hex drills with them, and if they dedicate training time to perfecting those drills then I wouldn’t be surprised if they were competing for the National title in a couple of years.

A really nice sequence of play at the Soweto session
I was invited to play with Soweto at their league match on Monday against Zone Rangers – I was honoured and enjoyed it immensely. Zone Rangers noted that when Soweto got the disc moving quickly against their zone, it got shredded and forced them to switch to a person-to-person mark. Despite loads of great play we weren’t able to get the victory, but went 2-0 up and kept it fairly close, finishing 15-9.

Check out the full drone video made by Davin here, and more footage from the Orange Farm and Soweto sessions here.
Coaches & Players clinics:
My final weekend in South Africa was the big one – players travelled from afar (some flying 2 hours from Durban – the same distance as London->Paris) for a coaching clinic on Saturday and a players clinic on Sunday. It was great having representatives from so many different teams – we took the opportunity to share our thoughts about Spirit of the Game at the start of the coaches session, and progressed onto coaching theory, methods for teaching sound techniques, designing and running drills and set plays, planning sessions, coaching advice for match/tournament situations, and guidelines for adapting your team strategy in response to what your opponent is playing in real-time. 17274027_10104902494244133_1470253876_oWe had practical sections where the participants would role-play as coaches welcoming beginners to practice – throwing around with them and then offering technique advice in a way that encouraged the pupil to buy-in to the idea of being coached. Participants also paired up to design a drill and run it with the (incredibly attentive) group we had, before receiving feedback from the whole group on how they thought it went – hopefully everyone went away with the knowledge and confidence to improve their teams training sessions!
At the player clinic I introduced myself by talking about having played Ultimate non-stop for 17 years, and coached non-stop for 15 years, before talking about how we were going to look at sound catching & throwing fundamentals today, followed by some Hex offence drills and play. Fergus prompted me by asking what my relation to Hex was, and when I said I had invented it, there was a noticeable sound of surprise from those gathered – most if not all had heard of or even played it before, but hadn’t known where it had originated!IMG_20170311_162344 Hex is quite big already in South Africa as it’s played by Chilli (club team from Cape Town), University of Cape Town, SA Masters at WUGC, and was taught at the SA U24 training which took place just before I arrived (unrelated to my visit).
Teaching the fundamental catching and throwing techniques I’ve come to trust really surprised a lot of the experienced players – some commented that they would have to completely re-work their techniques. We went through a variety of different throwing skills, such as how to put touch on passes and key elements to efficiently transferring power from the core to the throw when hucking, and I believe everyone got something useful from the technique section of the day, with some people almost being overwhelmed with the amount of stuff to learn!
17237186_10104902492742143_95229856_oIn the afternoon we went through a number of Hex drills quite quickly – the Give-Go-Swill Drill, Hex Puzzle Drill, Hex Huck Drills, Keepdisc, and the all-new Red Zone Drill to practice scoring without breaking away from the Hex principles. The game at the end was high quality and I was really happy with how everyone was adopting the principles. I stopped the game a few times to highlight points at which we were surrounding the disc, not rotating the shape or crowding the narrow channel, and these elements got better and better as the game progressed. When the defence put on a zone, we experimented with surrounding the disc and it felt awesome – so I ended up learning quite a lot from the session too!

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Disc Run

Ellie arranged for me to go on a ‘Disc Run’ a couple of days into my stay. All I knew is that a guy called Lionel would be picking me up on his motorbike in the morning, and I had to be ready at 5am outside the house with a disc in hand. IMG_20170303_052655Sure enough Lionel turned up before sunrise, so I hopped on as he told me to relax (it was my first time) and we rode to to a nearby (huge) park. Whilst we warmed up other disc runners arrived – Brett, Jon, and Angus, and they explained the basic rules; basically a cross between throwing around, speed disc golf, and hill running – you go round the course in pairs completing long passes to each other between tees and trees or disc golf baskets. IMG_20170310_062222An incomplete pass counts as a dropped shot, and you aim to complete the course in as few shots as possible, as quickly as possible. This effectively means you throw long to a partner, then hill run past them, read & catch a long throw from them, and repeat the process until you’ve putted out (all holes are par 4). We completed 36 holes – a front 18 and back 18 – and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, combining loads of things I love together!
To top it all off, the sunrise scenery was absolutely awe inspiring, and I captured it in one of the best photos I think I have ever taken. #nofilter

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Sunrise during a disc run

Socio-economic-political environment:

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Every house for streets looks like this – those are 10,000v electric fences

Johannesburg is not a safe place if you don’t keep your eyes open and your wits about you. The streets in the area I was staying were lined with 10ft high walls with 10,000 volt electric fences on top. When approaching your house, you press your key to activate the rolling gate, but you must not approach the gate before it fully opens, as this gives hijackers a chance to drive up behind you and block you in. Keep your car windows closed and your doors locked. This is all taken for granted by those who live in Johannesburg – do not allow yourself to be in situations where you may be a victim of crime. Those situations are far more common than one might imagine – essentially, there must be security in order for you to be secure. When I arrived it all seemed a bit over the top, and perhaps fear is one of the most damaging elements here – first comes the fear, then comes the walls, then comes the crime… underlying it all is a huge economic disparity and a conflict between people who want to keep things pretty much as they are for as long as they can, and those who are keen for real change to happen but often powerless to do much about it.
IMG_20170304_161555Apartheid ended in 1994 – really not very long ago – and the years since then have been troubled, under the ANC party who were originally Mandela’s party. Now the general feeling is that the ANC remain in power as the masses are kept in the dark, believing they are still voting for the party that will bring the change and equality Mandela championed. In reality, president Zuma has gone mad with power, has lost touch with reality, and does scant to improve the situation. Recently the 3rd most popular political party, the EFF, got evicted from the houses of parliament because they were asking Zuma when he was going to pay back the money he spent on his sprawling mansion for himself & his multiple wives. The 2nd most powerful party, the DA, staged a walk-out protest immediately after, when the speaker could not confirm nor deny that those who evicted the EFF were police officers – which would be a gross violation of the constitution. The political situation however is far from hopeless – democracy does seem to be alive, and the main enemies of change in this situation appear to be mass ignorance and a desire to hold on to privileged comfort. Who knows how Zuma will react when he loses grip though…

IMG_20170313_154245The economic disparity on the ground is like nothing I could have ever imagined. Generally speaking, white South Africans live in secure residences with high walls, electric fences, maids, gardeners, and security guards at the complexes, whilst black South Africans reside in townships constructed on the outskirts – small bricked bungalow houses, some with corrugated iron roofs, signs on planks, with a supply of electricity and water if they aren’t the unlucky ones. These two extremes exist just a couple of kilometres away from each other (or less) and there are no middle-ground houses – no semi-detached or terraced houses which are so common in England. You can’t just hit the middle ground and build a ton of terraced houses for everyone to live in though – this divide runs deep.
At every road junction, modern first world cars (mostly populated by one white driver) pull up at the red lights whilst black street entertainers, beggars, window cleaners, rubbish collectors, street vendors, and so on come to their windows and ask for money one way or another. Every single junction. Practically all outward-facing jobs are populated by black South Africans – road workers, waiters/waitresses, security guards, parking attendants, shop assistants, maids, gardeners… whilst this other class of white folk somehow exist between the cracks, safe in their cars and fortified residences, writing the paychecks and keeping the financial and business worlds spinning throughout it all. This division of labour leads one to think that whilst these two worlds are existing within one country, it naturally follows that those who have it want to keep it, and those who don’t have it want to take it.
IMG_20170308_114714In the end it comes down to the government, and so long as internet data is kept expensive in South Africa, knowledge is controlled, ignorance is king, and the ANC with Zuma will continue to rake in the votes from the townships who are in the most need of change.
The political situation is very complicated and I have a limited understanding of it from my two weeks in the country – I simply tried to soak it up from the experiences and conversations I was able to have in that time, which means my opinions are pretty biased and I have generalised in order to save space – so I’m not claiming to do the situation justice at all. I’m sure there are many elements I am missing and you should by all means form your own opinions from your own information sources. Guard dogs, which are an essential security measure for residences, are all massive racists though – that’s for sure.

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This punk chick was just chilling on the side of the road

Nature:
The South African landscape is awesome. Huge hills everywhere, vast expanses in valleys. In the typical garden you’ll find birds with extravagant colours, lizards, and apparently the occasional snake or scorpion – though I didn’t encounter any. On the roads there are zebras and other large mammals just hanging out. Whilst visiting the Cradle of Humankind (where there were signs warning of deadly snakes as soon as you strayed from the paths) with Andy, we went on a walk through the Sterkfontein Caves, where there was an underground lake which went on for miles and miles – nobody knows how deep it is, and one person died trying to find out!
I visited the Lion and Rhino park with IMG_20170310_123732Paul from Wits – not a very big place, containing plenty of big cats and other animals. There was a resident cheetah that I heard purring loudly as some guests stroked it. I got to feed a giraffe and play with some lion cubs using a frisbee… it was a fun and interesting experience, but ultimately a bit saddening that they were being kept in fairly small areas, and even more so when I later found out some of the cubs will almost certainly be used for caged hunting later in their lives.

Fergus took me and his brother Lewis to Pilansburg Nature Reserve & Wildlife Park – a massive expanse of land where animals roam free, and humans are strictly forbidden from interfering in any way. The main tracks through the park were tarmac, but the others were dirt tracks which were often incredibly difficult to navigate a regular car through without getting stuck – thankfully IMG_20170302_131108Ferg has hundreds of hours of experience as a qualified field guide so we didn’t get stuck once, and he was able to identify all the animals we saw, and bird calls we heard! Whilst going along the tracks you have to keep a keen eye out to spot any animals in the vicinity, as you never know where they will be. Sometimes we’d just catch a brief glimpse of something flat and grey between the bush, reverse the car, and suddenly a full grown elephant would come into view… or the top of a tree would look funny, and it’d turn out to be a giraffe. Sometimes the animals would appear on the road in front of us, or pop out of the bush right next to us!
IMG_20170309_073230Seeing wild white rhinos and elephants on the track about 15m in front of us felt so unreal. I was acutely aware of how the animals regarded us – did they have a concept of humans as an animal?
Likely they just saw cars as an uninteresting animal – they don’t smell nice, they keep to the tracks, they keep their distance, and they don’t bother us. This meant they seemed to be totally relaxed in our presence – we even saw the rhinos playfully tussling a little – though when they started coming down the road towards us we made sure to back off and keep our distance.

Also seen were; hippos – minding their own business in a swampy lake; kudu – nice looking large stripe game-type animals; and plenty of wildebeest, impala, birchel zebra, and more. It felt fantastic to be surrounded by nature, and encouraged thoughts of “could I survive in this environment?”, IMG_20170302_123532but there was a lingering awareness I had that the whole area was ultimately surrounded by a fence, leading me to realise we were having to fence the most dangerous animals out – humans – and in places where nature exists without any fences, poaching is very rapidly reducing the large animal population to nil. Nature reserves are becoming like a window into the past, where we can witness how beautiful, balanced and diverse the earth had become before human evolution spiked.

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All the photos and videos I took on my trip are available in this Google Photos album – some of my remaining favourites are below. Lastly I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who made my stay in South Africa possible, and so hugely enjoyable – Ellie, Fergus, Justus, Arno, Paul, Andy, Charlotte – everyone who let me crash at their place and drove me around to show me the wonders your country has to offer, and all those who donated to the fundraiser! I hope my work has long lasting impact in the region and I aim to return in the future (to talk about defence!).

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Giraffe popping it’s head over the bush

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Arno’s German Shepherd & pup

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Sunrise over a city in the Sahara desert

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With Fergus & Ellie, and one of the presents from the Soweto team

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Fergus & Ellie’s dog Wiley – a big softie

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Click for full photosphere

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EUCF 2016 report & play-by-play of the Open Final

EUCF 2016 is the 10th European Ultimate Club Finals, it was held in

Sunday:
Open final play-by-play, as it happened:

Clapham with a stifling zone at the start, after the first point Funk had a couple of turnovers, a few points traded and a break for CUSB. 4-4.
Clapham working it well but footblock from CUSB and the score. 5-4 CUSB
CUSB show great awareness of the stall count as a team to get a D with the wall and then the stream dies. Comes back and it’s 6-4 La Fotta.
Couple of travel calls. La Fotta with a zone, some fouling on the mark from Davide. Ashley Yeo with another score from Justin, 6-5.
Huge Justin sky after a floaty CUSB huck – will be a good photo! Timeout.
Long possession with only short passes, Clapham work it up the line and bring it level, 6-6. Stream dies.
It’s back and I’ve missed a couple of turns, then Chris Baker sends a flick skyward but gets saved by newcomer Connor McHale. Contested foul. Conrad Wilson with the Clapham score, 7-6 Clapham, then they take half 8-6.
Justin with a layout catch on a lateral cut, then a big hammer across to Ashley Yeo who lays out big for 9-6.
CUSB mis-throw and then Briggs to Jackson deep with a flick – 10-6. Timeout – feels like a push coming from CUSB but they have to put in their offence…
Deep throw by CUSB just out of the reach of defender Garner, 10-7.
Clapham timeout on stall 8, they get out after a false re-start, Stobbs cuts up line for 11-7 score.
Floaty mistake mid-field from La Fotta and Clapham sustain their offence outside the end zone to score, 12-7.
Tom Abrams with the layout D on Davide, quick move up the line for 13-7.
La Fotta trapped at the back of their end zone, manage to complete a huck but then another unforced error on the next throw. Clapham bomb it deep to Andrew Jackson for another goal, 14-7. Stream is dropping in and out quite a lot.
A couple of turnovers before another unforced error for La Fotta, this time on their own goal line, and Clapham pick it up quickly and slot it in for the win! 15-7, Clapham are EUCF 2016 champions!

Women’s Final:

CUSB Shout put in a good performance against Flying Angels in the women’s final, with Eliza Frangalini making many huge grabs for them, but FAB’s experience shone through as they closed the game out 15-13. The match turned into quite a huckfest, both up and down wind, many contested catches and D’s in traffic.

Mixed Final:

After a fantastic domestic season where they took the UKU Nationals title, Reading secured their first EUCF title by defeating the very young team Grüt (FC Airborn, Netherlands) in the Mixed Final – this Reading side are incredibly strong and didn’t have many problems, dealing with the unpredictable and brave offence of Grüt – 15-8 the final score.

Saturday:

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Semis:
Clapham 15 – 8 Tchac:
Tchac’s fairytale rise gets firmly stopped by the UK powerhouse. Tchac’s unconventional style got them a few points and some incredible layout blocks, but Clapham seemed solid and confidently put away the game. Clapham’s Justin Foord connected with Ashley Yeo for the winning point.

Bad Skid 11 – 14 CUSB La Fotta:
The firey Italians, after a heated battle with Switzerland’s Freespeed in the quarter, had the edge on Germany’s Bad Skid and secured their spot in the Final for the second year running.

Clapham vs CUSB La Fotta is a repeat of the EUCF 2015 final, where Clapham won 15-8.

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Semis:
Iceni 14 – 15 CUSB Shout:
Last year these two teams met in the group stages, and Iceni won 12-11. This time, the Italian side CUSB Shout got their revenge and denied the reigning champions a place in the Final, in another exciting universe point match.

Troubles 10 – 15 Flying Angels Bern:
Switzerland’s FAB bring the Polish “Troubles” team’s good run to an end with a  5 point cushion.

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Semis:
FC Airborn 15 – 14 Hässliche Erdferkel:
Netherlands’ FC Airborn (“Grut”), with players ranging from 14 – 25 years old and an average age of 19 (the 54-year old coach is one of their fathers) have a very exciting style where they are not afraid to huck to double cuts and find unexpected spaces with their throws, and it paid off for them as they took this thrilling semi final in sudden death against the German Hässliche Erdferkel team.

Reading Ultimate 15 – 10 SeE6:
UK’s top mixed team Reading with a fairly comfortable win over the Swedish SeE6 side.


Playoff bracket graphics with scores: OpenWomen’sMixed

Scores, Groups, Results & Standings website
Clapham v Otso – last two points (universe point)

Southampton Hex Clinic

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Hex Clinic on Sunday in Southampton

Liam Kelley from the UKU got in touch about running a one-day UKU Level 1 Coaching Course in Southampton, and I figured it’d be a good time to start getting Hex Clinics on the road in the UK! I would deliver the Level 1 UKU Course on Saturday, and a Hex Clinic on the Sunday. I stayed in and AirBnB in Eastleigh, a couple of miles from Southampton, and rode my bike to the University in the morning.

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Seventeen people turned up for the L1 course, including captains from St Marys / Southampton / Exeter Universities, Clapham/GB player Magnet, and reps from Guildford including Elliott J – the up-and-coming 15 year old Ultimate-playing-trickshot-star.

It was great to see so many Uni captains in particular taking the L1 coaching course, which I hope have a great positive impact on their teams. After the course I cycled towards the river Itchen which runs through Southampton, and noticed a group throwing an Ultrastar around on the green. I joined in and met Mike – he played Ultimate at Bath Uni and could spot a fellow Ultimate player a mile away. He doesn’t play at the moment as unfortunately there isn’t a club in Southampton – hopefully in the future one will emerge, perhaps when alumni who remain in the city want to keep Ultimate in their lives. As I understand it, current club players from Southampton play for county-wide team Hampshire Ultimate.

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After a good throw, I headed along the river on my bike, going past a 300 year old lock. Barges on canals were the most efficient way to transport goods around the UK before railways.

 

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The plaque was covered by brambles. Can you find & name the animal?

 

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The paths along the river Itchen go all the way to Winchester.

 

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A bridge and a pipe-bridge.

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The water was very clear.

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Something really freaks me out when I go through these concrete river-tunnels. Takes a fair amount of self-restraint not to break into a run

 

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As day turned to night, I happened across a lovely riverside pub for dusk dinner.

Next day at the Hex Clinic we had 10 attendees, all active Skunks players (Southampton Uni), with elements of Punt, Reading, Guildford and Hampshire. The theory session on Flex went really well, then we went outside into the sunshine and I tried out a couple of new Flex drills – the Skunks smashed them!

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Triangle-Sandwich Drill

In the Triangle-Sandwich Drill they were using both sandwiching and switching really well  – next time I think I’ll start with a ‘no-switching’ rule before developing it into full sandwiching & switching, to make sure everyone is developing their sandwiching skills.

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Switch Drill

In the Switch Drill, where a 1v1 cutting situation plays out near a static O/D (who can only be activated by a ‘switch’ call from the active 1v1 D player), everyone was picking the right moments to switch (or stick), as well as closing down the newly-activated O player quickly to complete the switch. Next time I’ll add in another O/D pair to be activated and see what develops from that (switching in & out of sandwiches!). I’ll also take more photos of the outdoor frisbee stuff!

It feels like some huge steps forward were taken at this weekend’s Hex Clinic. Finally we have some proper Flex drills! Plus the course material gets better and better with each Clinic. I’m excited to introduce the new drills to another group soon – possibly the next Hex Clinic will be in Exeter. If you’d like a Hex Clinic in your city & you can help with getting a venue, get in touch!

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Train journey home on Sunday night took me to strange places (who ever thought there was a West Croydon?) and lasted several hours – more than enough time to write this article.

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felixultimate in Latvia – report

Last week I was in Latvia, delivering a Hexagon Ultimate Clinic.

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Sunset in Riga’s suburbs, Soviet-era accommodation on the left

I was staying in Riga, which has a mix of modern and old orthodox-style architecture in the centre, whilst the suburban landscape is dominated by the huge Soviet-era accommodation buildings often seen in the Baltic states. There are no houses near the city – everybody lives in these huge (9 or 12 storey, and very wide) blocks of flats, where it is traditional to stay up late sitting in the kitchen drinking vodka and chatting about life, politics, philosophy, and everything in-between.

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Pine trees just outside the suburbs. Easy to get lost in after sunset!

Just outside the city limits are huge pine tree forests, which are perfectly suited for night time gatherings, as groups head out before the sun goes down to find one of the countless nice spots for a fire – the undulating terrain creating picturesque and unique areas for dozens of groups each a few dozen yards away from each other.

On Saturday I travelled to Ogre, the geographic centre of Latvia, to deliver a 7-hour clinic on Hex strategies. 30 players from all over Latvia attended, 1/3rd of them were juniors, gender was split 50-50, and they came from 8 teams from all over the country – from the coast with the Baltic Sea on the East, to the border with Russia on the west.

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In the classroom for the theory part of the Flexagon clinic

Indoors is the preferred division in Latvia – with 12 men’s and 4 women’s teams competing. For outdoors, there are about 8 men’s teams and ~5 women’s teams.

The spread of experience at the clinic was great – some players had been playing one year, some fifteen – but they all helped each other to understand the new concepts being discussed, and everybody I spoke to felt like they got something valuable out of the clinic. When learning Flex, sandwiching players was new to some and uncommon to others, but I saw plenty of it happening during the game, and I noticed a few pro-active (not reactive) switches in there too. We had less time to play Mex Offence, and split the group into two games based on ability/experience – simply having all these players together in the same place, at the same time, playing alongside each other as team mates rather than opponents was quite a new experience for all of the attendees, as inter-team mingling does not happen so much in Latvia.

latvia-hex-workshop-selfie-3I hope some connections were made or strengthened between the teams present, and that the new ideas are spread by the attending players when they return to their clubs – maybe we will see some hex elements incorporated into Latvian Ultimate in the years to come, as the next generation players mature and explore the various facets of the strategies for themselves! Set plays are very popular in Latvia, with vertical stack being the dominant offensive strategy played outdoors, and a lot of focus put on athleticism to beat your mark to the open side. Hopefully the principles of Hex style Ultimate will add a new dimension to the Latvian style, or at least an interesting alternative.

Big thanks to Edgars Dimpers, a Latvian who has been playing in Brighton for the last 8 years and did a full translation of the classroom material, and to Jekabs and Ogre Ultimate for booking the venue and hosting the clinic, and to the players from all the clubs who attended: Sirocco Ultimate, Ultimate Decision, KCN Riga, Valimera, Ventspils VFK, Nightwatch / Moments OFK, Salaspils WT / JR, and Flying Worms VFK.

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Players from all around Latvia gather for a photo after the clinic

 

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View from Skyline Bar in the centre

 

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Hexagon spotted

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Gathering in the forest just before sunset

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Skyline Bar – above Riga

360 degree view from Skyline Bar’s windows (attempt) | 360 degree view from inside Skyline Bar

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Latvian cat, startled