Author: megan


What’s Happening This Week? (beginning Oct 8)

Run-down for the week:

Wednesday 1-3pm – experienced/invite only training. Felix is going to freak you out this week.

Wednesday 3-5pm – full club training. We’ll be working on throwing and catching this week. Why not go for a throw today in preparation?

Wednesday post training – the BAR!

Wednesday post bar – Anything But Clothes party. Ooo errr. Check out the forum for details (or pester Maggie).

Friday 2-4pm – Outdoors!* Games games games. You know you love them…

*Shim J will have been in touch if you should be at the Mixed Indoor Session. Remember to bring clean indoor shoes. This runs 1.30 til 4 – hall time is precious so don’t be late!

Mohawk Emails

Training – Friday 5th October

Hey Hawks,

Here are the plans for Friday training (2-4pm) this week!

Everybody meet in Hall 1 of the Sports Centre at 2pm – we’ll work out who goes where after that.

Beginners: Bring clean indoor shoes! You will definitely be indoors for the session.

Experienced players: Bring indoor and outdoor gear. If you can’t be bothered to bring both, just bring outdoor stuff. Where people end up will depend on how many beginners we have and how many experienced.

See y’all on Friday, and keep throwing!

Megan & Felix

Blog Posts

How to Get Good – Tips from Your Coaches

Hey Hawks,

Here are some tips me and Felix (those coach-y people scuttling around training on Wednesday) have put together to help everyone in the club, but especially our newest members, improve as quickly as possible. They seem pretty simple, but they’ll definitely help you develop your game.

1. Buy a disc, and use it. Don’t treat it like a trophy, but use it like a tool – it will get its share of wear and tear by landing on concrete, hitting walls and such, but it’ll all be worth it as your throwing and catching will improve constantly. Carry your disc around with you at all times, throw it at every opportunity.

2. Practice good technique. When you’re at training and a coach tells you how you need to change your technique or what you need to work on, focus on getting that thing better before the next session! You’ll then get something else to work on, and the improvement will keep rolling, rather than being stuck on that one thing. When catching or throwing, spend half the time striving for perfection (two handed clap catching in the centre of the disc, wide low pivots), and half the time trying new stuff, pushing your limits etc – but don’t linger inbetween these two extremes just throwing and catching in your comfort zone.

3. Play as much Ultimate as possible. Get on the pitch whenever you can, go to every training you’re invited and able to go to, get involved when you’re on the field, get the disc as much as you can.

4. Ask questions. Make use of the coaches by asking us as many questions as you want – we usually have good advice as we’ve been through the learning process ourselves, and may have helped dozens of people with the same question you’re asking. Don’t worry about the question sounding stupid – we all have to start somewhere and it’s always much better to ask than to keep it to yourself. It also helps to build up a rapport with the coach so any future advice we have for you can be communicated very quickly, and so that we know you are eager to learn!

5. Listen to the coaches. This seems obvious, but when a coach is explaining stuff to a group, pay attention and listen closely. There’s a lot of information being given out in a short amount of time, and any small part of it may change your game significantly. If the coach approaches you individually, listen to what they have to say, take it in, and ask a question if you don’t understand. Don’t feel you need to make an excuse or defend yourself!

6. Coach yourself. Overcompensation is the key to improving your own throwing and catching by yourself. If you drop a disc using your off-hand, then catch the next ten discs using only that hand. If your throws are ending up at a sharp angle, get them ending up at the opposite sharp angle. If your release is generally too high, release from ankle-height for a few minutes. By drastically overcompensating, you’ll be able to find the middle ground much easier and faster than making small adjustments.


Blog Posts

What We Leave Behind: Part 3

Fill Those Boots or Change The Shoe Size

Last year the first team had a play called skittles. I’m not going to tell you what it is or how it works (in case they wanna use it again; ask a first teamer if you’re a Mohawk and curious), but what I am going to point out is that it is a play built around Callum’s throws. Most plays ‘require’ stuff without us really realising it – God, for example, requires handlers with reliable overheads and a goon also capable of throwing – and this one requires Mancake’s particular abilities. It would require quite significant adaptation to work for our women’s team. For the open team this coming year, they face the choice of training someone to match Callum’s throws (a tall order), adaptation, or simply junking it.

It’s difficult to junk a play, or even an entire strategy set, that has worked for you in the past. It’s difficult to remember to return to strategies which you did not have the personnel for in previous years, but now may have. But in university ultimate, with player turnover and variability what it is, it’s essential to keep evaluating what you have in your skill set as a team.

Some skills and player positions are vital. You need people who are cool and collected on the disc. You need players who are going to get free for you upfield. You need players who are going to get you blocks. You are going to need some people with longer throws and some people with breaks. And to an extent you can train this stuff in your players – you can put an emphasis on teaching second years to huck, to break, to get free as a dump, in order to replace yourself as a handler. You can in effect hope that the kids grow into your boots.

But some boots are just too big to fill in one go. As an example for the first team, it is entirely feasible that we could train someone up to have as good breaks or handler movement in general as Callum. But it’s more difficult to train someone for the same monstrous distance, or to have the natural advantage of being a lefty and therefore getting several cheap backhand hucks each game before teams cotton on.

The trick then is working out what is teachable and moulding your team plays and strategy to what you have this year. The big trick is working out what you’re gonna have the year after that and making sure you’re training people up for that too.

Hey, don’t look at me like that. I didn’t say it was easy.

Blog Posts

What We Leave Behind: Part 2

Pass the Baton Before You’re Ready

One thing I’ve noticed as Uni Women’s coordinator, going into my second year of the role, is that a lot of teams have the same women’s captain two years in a row. And I can definitely see the advantages: you’ve already blundered through the main mistakes of being a captain and learned from them, you’ve refined the systems you have in place for getting people to pay, getting people to training, getting people to tournaments.

But from my perspective as a non-graduater (actually I’ve graduated twice already, so ha), it’s pretty clear to me that one of the strengths of our club is that if we can absolutely avoid it, we don’t have the same captain two years in a row. Not because any of our captains in recent years have been outright terrible and you wouldn’t want them to do it again – on the contrary, we’ve had some fantastic tacticians and motivators – but because captaining is a skill, building a team is a skill, and it’s one we need to keep passing on to future generations of the team.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t love another shot at captaining – mostly to implement the lessons I learned the year I was captain. But actually, I can implement that learning by helping our new captains, and that’s going to be way more useful for the club.

Yes, this system means our new captains often have the challenge of working out how to captain their old captains, and sometimes even how to captain their coaches, and how to manage players who are often more experienced than themselves, but it keeps us getting fresh blood into the committee. Fresh blood means new ideas; it means innovation. Innovation means improvement.

Bringing in new people to the ‘inner circle’ is critical if you’re going to keep your club going after you’re gone. Sure you need some overlap: you need the old hands who know exactly what they’re doing and can register and pay for a tournament with their eyes closed, but you also need the people who are going to become those old hands in a year or two’s time. With a few exceptions, we only get players for 3 years, so you need your second year players learning as much as possible so they can pass it on in their third year. University ultimate is relentless in its turnover rate, so you have to be relentless not just in your recruiting but also in your training and knowledge transfer.

Captaining is an obvious ‘baton’ that I believe needs passed on, frequently, and it’s the one we’re good at passing on as a club. I think the more subtle things to pass on are some of the more difficult ones, like game planning, strategising, tactical knowledge and understanding.

Personally, I am a bit of a nerd in all areas of my life – I learn things better by both doing and thinking about them – and I’m also a little bit obsessed with ultimate. It means in my years of playing ultimate I have watched literally hundred of hours of game play, and spent lots of that time working out what I’m seeing tactically on the pitch. I’ve pestered more experienced players than me to talk about tactics, to explain why certain stuff works. I’ve analysed the differences between tactics for mixed, vs. women’s, vs. open, and have tried to work out what works in each and why. Really, I felt like at undergrad I ended up with a joint degree – in psychology and ultimate.

But not everyone is a nerd about ultimate. This is definitely a good thing, but it also means that for the Squaws teams I coach I need to work out a way to pass on tactical understanding and the ability to strategise without the players I’m trying to teach being as obsessed as me. Lots of people learn by doing, rather than thinking, so I need to think about getting our returning players to do tactics in games, to work out in the middle of the action what might work better. It’s going to be tough, and I love the tactical side of the game, so I’m going to have to remind myself again that it’s not about me having fun being a brain, it’s about training up some brains to replace me.

I can think of plenty of ‘batons’ that need passing on – the main handler, the key upfield receiver, the tactician, the team idiot (although I hear we’re getting Fluff back next year)… As an experienced player, sometimes it’s about going out and making game winning plays. But sometimes it’s about making space for the less experienced players to learn how to make those plays, and learn how to fill those roles – and helping them along the way. Yes, it’s your final year, and you want to dominate, but you also need to teach others to dominate, which means passing on the baton before you’re ready, so that the new recipients get a chance not only to learn how to do all this cool stuff, but also how to pass it on when it’s their turn.


Note: Sorry for the delay – been doing some real actual academic work for a few weeks, so been behind with posting. My bad. Expect more (and better!) posts in coming weeks…

Blog Posts

Quick Hits: Tactics and Throwing

So, I foolishly left my biiiiiiiig developmenty blog post on my computer at home, but while taking a little break from work I thought I’d put up a couple of things I’ve wanted to mention, but don’t really merit posts themselves… So here they are.

Tactics, or Hmmm, why do we do this again?

I played with a cool Austrian team at Windmill Windup a couple of weeks ago. And they played a ‘standard’ offence which freaked me out. Playing out of vertical stack they had THREE handlers back. Three. Not two. Weird.

I didn’t like it. And it took me a while to work out that it wasn’t that I was just being fussy, and it wasn’t what I was used to but that actually the 2-5 set up suited my “style” better. To me, vert is all about breaking the mark, which becomes super difficult when there’s an extra poachy d player hanging out in the around break lane – all you’ve got is the IO, and if the force takes that away, you are stumped. Sure, you can throw the disc to the handler whose mark is in the around lane, but it’s not a damaging, play-starting throw.

Lesson learned: 2-5 is cool, and not just cos it’s the way we play vert, but more generally, try to work out *why* we play particular sets we do, why in women’s we play “don’t get beaten to the open side under” defence… If you know why a tactic is getting used, you can work out when it won’t work and stop using it.

Throwing, or Why does my sidearm suck?

My main whinge at Felix in the Spring term was, “How come my sidearm sucks?” And y’know, I tried a few adjustments, failed to improve, tried a few more adjustments, still sucked. I was frustrated. Because it’s frustrating to be rubbish at a particular throw (or at least, behind where you should be for how long you’ve been playing).

And then I started throwing more. Not just a bit more, loads more. Right now, I haven’t thrown for two days. And that feels weird. It feels like ages since I’ve thrown. And while it’s not cool that I haven’t thrown for two days (naughty Megan), it is cool that it feels weird. And that my sidearm sucks less.

Lesson learned: If you want to be better at throwing, throw around more. It is embarrassing that I had not tried this before…

Blog Posts

What We Leave Behind: Part 1

This is the first in a series aimed mainly at players returning for their final year of uni ultimate – originally an idea for one post, it turned into a series when I realised that I wanted to set the backdrop properly, and that there’s a ton of stuff going on in your last year(s).

Part 1: Legacy

“What you build, what you’ve built, means nothing, weighed against what you leave behind.”

Knuckle Hungry, Planes Mistaken for Stars.

This, for me, sums up my first ‘round’ of university ultimate as an undergraduate, and a lot of the feelings I have as a post-grad player, with the “end” rapidly approaching.

As an undergraduate player, I was obsessed with ultimate in a particular way: determined to be less terrible than I was (and I was pretty terrible at first!), desperate to understand as much of the game as possible, desperate to play as much of the game as possible. I think this is a pretty defining feature for many of us in our first few years – it is about us and us getting better as players.

I captained in my second year, which felt like a pretty giant responsibility – making sure we recruited enough players to survive, while trying to develop those we had already (which wasn’t many). We took 7 players to indoor regionals, and that was pretty much our entire women’s team. It was a tough year to captain.

Looking back, I am a little saddened that captaining in my second year didn’t give me a better appreciation of the importance of ‘development’ in my third. My last year of university ultimate, and I was concerned with how we would do as a team that year, rather than with who would replace our four big players when they left at the end of the year.

Hitting the deck with the third team in fifth year

Doing a masters was pretty important for me academically, but in ultimate terms, I began to view it as a second chance – a chance to make amends for the short-sightedness of my time as an undergraduate player. I struggled to have enough time in my masters year to put in consistent coaching hours, but since then have done my best to ‘make amends’.

One of the reasons we won nationals every other year for so long (2007-2011) was that we were almost always planning for ‘next year’. I’m here ‘next year’, but I can’t guarantee I will be the year after. As I get closer to the end of my university time, I realise that this year, I don’t just need to plan as a coach for next year, but the year after that also. Without meaning to be a big-headed ****, I know I’m leaving behind some big throwing away shoes for people to step into, and more importantly (I think) some big tactical shoes. It is going to take more than one season for our team to work out how to fill them – so we need to be starting the whole process now.

I’ve had some wobbles with coaching motivation recently – weighing developing the team against developing as a player and the benefits of each is a tricky one – but the more I think about leaving Sussex, the more I realise that I would rather leave a fantastic team behind, than leave as a better player.

Possibly my favourite fact about our women’s team is that I remain the only captain of the last six years not to have captained a nationals winning team. And that’s ok with me, provided I leave our future women’s captains with the tools they need to keep winning, long after I’m gone.

The Nationals Winning Team of 2012 – and 2013, and 2014…
Blog Posts

What Makes a Monster? – Women in Mixed

Last post, my main point was that the men need to be able to throw and not hog the pitch (brief summary…). But what about the women? As a woman at mixed, I’ve sometimes felt like I’m fighting my own team – for the cutting lane, for the deep space, or even just to get them to throw me the disc when I’m free (in my head, I’m always free…). I’m not saying this is a universal experience – just one that I know is shared by quite a few women I’ve played with or against.

I think the players who end up feeling this frustration most keenly are the all-rounders: the women who can ‘do it all’, whether that’s chucking it at the endzone, breaking a mark to start play, winning their matchup in the cutting lane. It’s that feeling of ‘I can do everything, but I can’t do anything’. One reason why the all-rounder struggles is that it’s difficult for the men to remember exactly what she’s good at (“everything” is a tricky concept), which means that she accumulates less ‘trust points’ in any specific area.

Contrast this with the ‘specialist’. “She only runs deep”. “All she can do is break marks.” Often said with derision from the other team BUT within your own team, this helps – because the menfolk have seen you do the same good thing over and over again. They know you can do it, and they know it’s not a fluke. Trust points galore. If above all, you want to be a phenomenal female mixed player, consider specialisation. Pick the thing you’re best at and make sure the team know it. If you’re the all-rounder, you’ve got the joy of picking whatever you want to do most, but I would argue there are some things that are better to specialise in that others.

If you’re a handler, I strongly advise breaks as an area of specialisation. Case in point: Nicole from Brighton. She’s not our biggest lobber of the disc, but when it comes to the endzone, if we have a static disc mid-pitch, it will be Nicole picking it up (or it should be anyway!). She has near unblockable release points and I would bet on her rather than any force that is put on her. Again, breaks are handy in the women’s game, but in mixed they are a great way to hustle your way onto the disc, and give your team the benefit of a potentially less aggressive and mobile force than the male handlers will be facing.

Why not hucks? I hear you cry. Hucks are trickier to use effectively, from female handlers in particular. With breaks, you’re looking for roughly the same areas of the pitch as the male handler, so nobody needs to adjust their cutting style. With hucks, your upfield players need to be cutting for your huck distance, which is likely to be shorter than the male handlers. A key problem we’ve had at Brighton this season is the waste of having so many female players that can stick it but having our deep cuts constantly geared towards the Dougies and Sions of the team (the BIG guns). Our women look off the deep cuts, because they’re (for our throws) badly timed and too far away. The men conclude we can’t stick it and stop cutting deep. Having said that – that’s us sucking as a team. It can be done – if you want to see a team use a female hucker well, check out Brass Monkey’s lanes set from 2006 WUCC. They have a biiiiiig female handler (Lauren Casey, #33 if memory serves) and make sure that she can stick it at their big male receivers by setting up their lanes short, and having her always take bricked pulls – the short lanes mean she can easily get the disc into the space ahead of the receiver, and starting from the brick mark makes it easier for her to hit the endzone.

So yes, hucks on women = awesome, but they require the entire team to alter how they set up and cut to be effective. Breaks are a weapon on women without the team having to alter their set – it’s a chance for you to beat your mark one on one, without the rest of your team messing it up for you.

For upfield players, you’re gonna want to be a big threat deep. Bobbi is probably one of the best female receivers in mixed – and not for the reason you’re thinking. Yes, she’s outrageously quick, but that’s not why she’s so handy. What sets her apart, I think, is her read of the disc and her body positioning. Even if the disc is bad enough that a male poacher can get in there with her, she’ll still box him out, or just plain outread him. The number of times I’ve seen Bobbi standing with the disc in the endzone, curiously looking down at the guy sitting on the floor in front of her, is inappropriately high. If you want to be a deep receiver in mixed, don’t focus solely on sprints. Practice reading the disc and taking it at the peak of your jump, visualising defenders to box out. Practice ‘misreading’ the disc – pulling the male D in front of you for a bid he can’t make, and sneaking off to mop up behind him. You need the speed and agility to beat your own mark and get the disc thrown to you, sure, but sometimes, you’re going to have to be able to go up against the other team’s goons. And win.

Are there other skills that are useful at mixed? Undoubtedly. Is there stuff I’ve missed? Of course. These are just a few points that I think would dramatically help most mixed teams I’ve played on. I also think that we very infrequently talk about the challenges of mixed as a division, especially in the UK, where many people play both open/women’s and mixed and have to swap between them with often a very short adjustment period.

Blog Posts

What makes a monster? – Men in Mixed Ultimate

So, with the mixed season over, I thought it was worth a little think about what makes great players in the mixed division, or rather the areas where most players could think about developing to be bigger and better mixed players. Definitely got a future post planned for domination of the women’s game in a few weeks – and of course some thoughts on double-double nationals – but all in good time…

Ultimate is still ultimate in the mixed division. Just thought I’d make it clear that I don’t think that there are no transferable skills. However, the value of different skills changes in the mixed division, and stuff which is ‘a bonus’ in open or women’s suddenly becomes essential for your team’s success.

This was originally going to be one post – but turns out I’m talking too much again. As such, I’ll deal with men and women separately (not that I approve of segregation…). So, gents first, for a change!

Advice piece 1: adjust your bids. Try not to kill anybody. It’s pretty obvious, but in mixed you can’t always make the same bids you could in open. There is far more potential for breakage.

Obvious point aside (and provided you’re not an injury machine at open, you probably won’t be at mixed), I would argue there are two skills that are essential for every male member of a successful mixed team: throwing finesse, and pitch awareness.

Women are smaller targets – sure, they get free by the same amounts as the men, sometimes more so, but throwing to a free woman is more challenging than throwing to a free man. Your margin for error is narrower. In open, distance is a big winner on hucks – you need to be able to get that disc into space in front of your speedy receivers. In mixed, it’s easier to get the disc in front of your receiver, but harder to then get it within a window they can actually reach. Enter finesse.

Two of the best mixed players I have had the pleasure of playing with (Pencil and Steve Balls if you’re wondering) are not the biggest throwers (Pencil might be if he stopped injuring himself…), but it is the quality of their throws that sets them apart: accurate, with touch, and weighted to the speed of their receivers. Obviously, these abilities are pretty damn handy in open, but they are crucial in mixed. In open, there will always be the Ashley Yeos to leg it after your discs – you might even have a few on the same line. In mixed, your completion rates will plummet without touch and accuracy.

Equally important for throwers (ie. everyone) is the mental ability to trust your female players. In an ideal world, everyone on your team is able to throw to your women, deep or under, and has the confidence to do so, even your goons. Another great mixed player to highlight this: Dyno. Ok, he’s a great open player as well (see above re. “ultimate is still ultimate”), but at mixed, his great throws combined with unfaltering trust in his female team-mates is what sets him apart, not just his ridiculous grabs. In lanes with Dyno, you know he’s going to get free, and you know that wherever you happen to get free afterwards he is going to throw it to you. Sounds pretty basic huh? But let me tell you, that’s some motivation for cutting right there.

Pitch awareness is the second skill that pays big dividends in mixed. Having great female deep cutters doesn’t mean a thing, without having male cutters who can keep their big goony defence away from the lovely weighted hucks thrown to those women. Again, pitch awareness is handy in open and can dramatically reduce the number of poach ds opponents get on you. In mixed it is vital to enable you to complete hucks to your women.  Yes, if the disc goes up and you can bid on it as a male cutter (or handler!), by all means go get it – because your man probably can too. The impulse you need to fight is the one to run deep without cutting, with your man right on your shoulder, because you’ve just seen one of the women go past you five feet free of her mark and you’re pretty sure it’s going to go. Maybe it is, but your job isn’t to catch it – it’s to make sure your mark is too busy D-ing you to go get a bid on it.

Pitch awareness is recognising who else is free where, while you’re trying to get free yourself. It’s a challenge in itself, a critical piece of the ultimate skill set. The easy place to start is conditioning yourself to spot other players going deep and dragging your man under or break, before they even know they could go poaching. Think of it as aggressive clearing out.

Pitch awareness and throwing finesse. If you want to be a big male player at mixed, you’re gonna need these.


Next week: Mixed Skills for the Ladies.

Blog Posts

Theory vs. Practice – A Grudge Match Case Study

So, had a bit of hiatus from blogging – 7 straight weekends of ultimate tends to ruin other plans… As a result I’ve got a bit of a backlog of things I desperately want to write about – especially after a rather historic nationals – but this one has been sitting about for a while, and really deserves to get to see the light of day.

Grudge Match 2.0

It was *the* match. The game we’d been hoping to avoid all weekend. And unfortunately we messed up and found ourselves playing it.

Our very own Grudge Match.

Now, having written a post about precisely that sort of game (with exactly the game we ended up playing in mind!), it felt to me at least like there was a fair amount of pressure on us for this game to not completely stuff it up, from a spirit point of view.

So with some wise words from Shim J and Kneetu pre-game we went into it with a new mindset.

No contests. Our aim was to come out of that game smiling, and long, scrappy, rage-y calls (like we’ve experienced previously against that team) weren’t going to help that. We could call stuff ourselves, but the plan was to not spend too long discussing stuff in a potentially bad way and instead to just play ultimate.

Equally, with the aim of smiling and the no contest rule, the pressure was off. I think previously we’ve felt the NEED to win against that team in order to prove that they were making bad calls, that we were better, that we were the righteous. By separating the calls from the outcome so drastically and by giving them so little space in the match, the game felt lighter – even before we started playing.

We went into that game with the aim of being well-spirited. Of introducing ourselves. Of finding a way to connect with a team when we’ve previously struggled to do so. Of calling only what we really needed to. Of complimenting their good plays.

So… what happened?


No Contest – Respectful or Cynical?

Me and Robbie were having a chat about the concept of a team-wide ‘no contest’ rule recently. I quite liked it as an idea as I’d never heard of it, and I thought of it in a kind of ‘ultimate respect’ way – you’re trusting your opposition to only call stuff which is true, and when they call it, you take for granted that it is true (plus, my US college crush team implement it, so it must be good, right?). Robbie took the position that it’s actually disrespectful to the team you’re playing against – to an extent you’re saying that calls aren’t worth discussing, you don’t think they can discuss calls properly, and hey, you’ll beat them whatever crap they call, so bring it.

Putting it into practice in a game was interesting. And I think that a no-contest rule has a great application, but not in the way I’d initially thought. And kind of in the way Robbie thought. If you’re playing against a team who are very respectful, and good at discussing calls, who call things in a discursive manner (“I think you fouled me, and I’d like to hear your interpretation”), then there’s no need for a no contest rule. You will inevitably uncontest most foul calls, or agree between you amicably that it was not a foul – or even that you don’t really know what happened even though you’ve both thought about it, so you’ll send it back.

Where No Contest comes into its own is against a Drama Team. I’m talking about ‘drama’ here in the way that Lou Burruss talks about it in his series of posts – a team which thrives off high intensity ‘discussions’, aggro behaviour and general high levels of rage and disgust for the other team. He points out pretty accurately that these teams almost unstoppably ‘drag you down to their level’ of drama, and while they thrive off it – you suffer.

Against a Drama Team (or a team with Drama players), No Contest is devastating. Suddenly, whenever they call foul, it is uncontested. There is no discussion to enlarge, to infect the sideline with righteous fury. Equally, our reduced calls for fouls on ourselves stripped the game even further of instances where drama could be injected.

As an individual who was always going to struggle just a little bit more in that game with spirit, the No Contest rule gave me a framework to follow. If you do not contest a call, it is correct. If it is correct, there is no need to be pissed off about how outrageous it is/how not in keeping with their own physicality it is/how badly it is being discussed on the sideline. It’s just a call. It happens. You play ultimate.


Drama’s Arch Nemesis

So, No Contest neutralises Drama, for sure. But what really kills it?

Because some of their players were trying pretty damn hard to generate drama anyway. Maybe this is a personal perception (it may well be), but I struggle to find a more generous way to interpret the repeated suggestion to our players that they “fuck off” (4 times, if you’re wondering).

In previous games, shit would have kicked off. We’ve never gone into a match with them with the aim of being badly spirited, but I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve descended there as we’ve been (from my perspective) worn down by this kind of disrespect and drama-generation. It’s tricky not to be.

The enemy of Drama, it turns out, is humour.  Lots of it.

I have never laughed so much on a sideline of a game I have been playing in. I have never come off from every single point smiling. We joked amongst ourselves on the sideline. It made the occasional bouts of ‘aggression’ easier to deal with. We joked with their players on the sideline, and it was really nice to be able to do that – it’s definitely not something we would have managed in other games when we hadn’t had Drama Reduction as our main goal for the game, and I’m so glad we did.

Because that team has a lot of well-spirited and just generally nice people on it.

Equally, in calls, the introduction of joking about our own failings seemed to throw them a little. It’s hard to call someone a cheating dickhead if they’re already calling themselves that while uncontesting that foul. Drama cannot be born from laughter.


Never Lose a Game

We lost. Maybe if we’d played harder, played more intensely, smiled less, we would have won.

But here’s my strong belief: if we’d played harder, played more intensely, we still might have lost. And we would have felt like we lost to bad spirit, and with bad spirit.

It would have sucked.

I realised this weekend that you never need to lose a game to bad spirit.

By not rising to it, by actively playing with almost ridiculously good spirit, you take back control of the game. By denying their drama a space to grow, you make the game yours.

That weekend, we lost to two good teams. There’s no shame in that. One of them didn’t do so good at spirit when they beat us. There’s no shame in that either (for us). They played hard, we played hard, we’re both good teams. It ended in sudden death.

Our biggest fear of losing to them has always been, I believe, that their victory would serve to validate some of their players’ behaviour. Having faced that situation, we know now – it does not. We still know it is unacceptable to tell another player to fuck off. And so do they. They still did it, sure, but I doubt that they would be able to argue that it was acceptable, even though they won the game. The outcome of the game changes nothing in terms of what is spirited and what is not – and that’s good for us to experience.

I won’t say that I am ok with the abuse that some of our players took in that game. I am angry about it, as someone who cares about respect for other players and about spirit of the game. But there is an odd thing going on that while I am angry about that player’s disrespect for us, I have no rage towards their team to bring away from that game, I have no niggling resentment, I have no bitterness about this call or that call.

This is because we went into that game to win spirit and, yes, I believe we won.


Note: I had a big think about whether it is fair to talk about another team’s spirit/behaviour, when it’s pretty clear who they are and when I’m not portraying them (or all of them) fantastically well. I then realised that anything I do on pitch that I do not apologise for I should be willing to have examined by other members of our community. Sometimes we all get a little angry on pitch, or frustrated by a call. We discuss stuff badly. Then we apologise for it, talk it through with the other person, learn from it, and do our damn best not to do it again. My assumption is that if you don’t apologise for it, then or later, you mean it. You think it’s acceptable. So you should be happy having it examined by others.