Schedule for streaming is as follows:
Wednesday August 14th starting at 1600 PDT for the Juniors finals, possibly earlier at 1400 with a semi final.
Saturday August 17th starting at 1600 PDT for the Masters finals.
Sunday August 18th starting at 0900 PDT for the remaining finals.
Perched above field 3 at York University I had a unique perspective on a number of games at U23 World Championships. In one day I alone I watched, filmed, live streamed, and commented on five games in a row. Plenty of long days also led to a number of thoughts that I’d like to share with you.
Firstly, Ultimate is healthy and we should expect great things from our youth. While not everybody was able to make it there were a substantial number of teams from around the world and the growth of Ultimate in South America is a good step forward. The continued strength of the Australian and European programs is also an important indicator that Ultimate continues to be strong.
I tend to be a technical player and also watch the game from a technical point of view. I saw great displays of patience, excellent disc movement, and great awareness of the nuances of the game. From our youth these are things that we should develop and great progress is being made in these areas.
At the same time the follies of youth were on display with drops and throw aways due to poor decisions but mostly due to poor execution. Over time the numbers shall get better as the players refine themselves and in there is a heavy matter. Will they improve themselves?
Self improvement not only in ability, capability, and attitude. It’s the last of these that’s the most important because of what I saw. At the U19 level I expect tempers to flair and disagreements to arise as players are still in the maturation process. By U23 players should have developed character and an ability to compose themselves. This isn’t a league event, it’s World Championships and it’s bigger than you. Heck, every game of Ultimate is bigger than you and the game itself is more important than you. At least that’s my attitude and I try to live by it. Yes I may flare up but my first move is to try to calm myself (ok, maybe the second move). I do, however, always ensure I clear up the matter with an apology (if needed) and get on with the game. This is not life and death and winning poorly simply isn’t worth it. In fact, the win that you have fades quickly and only the memories of the altercations remain.
Let’s talk about a particular few events that stick out in my mind. I’d like to preface this with: I am friends with many of those that I’m writing about. I’ve known many of them since they were juniors and have played on field with them. There is nothing but respect for them and in that vein these aren’t criticisms but examples of areas of improvement.
A tough thing that players will need to recognize more and more is that a tournament is no longer a small community. Media is now more and more likely to be observing everything and we do not forget. So when a GB player throws a tantrum and I am on the sideline along with SkyD we talk about it. We talk about it because it’s important because of the context of where we are. Not only do we talk about it but we ask folks about and then we also try to get a sense of character in more subtle ways. Yes, we’ll come right up to you and chat with you. Unfortunately, that instance of your meltdown becomes the one thing we’ll remember about you far into the future. It’s like TC Open in Japan last year; they had a spectacular game against the USA but it’s not remembered anywhere near as much as they’re mutually hard-hitting fight with Japan.
Regardless, maturity is an important asset to have. I am perhaps most impressed with the maturity of Sam Bowen (also of GB Open) who made great plays and was very even keeled throughout the tournament. Players like Sam are important standouts and stars to watch. Moving forward we’re going to see a handful of players from each of these teams again on the World stage. Many will play prominent roles within their own countries and in continental battles but at the National team level they shall fade away. It’s a tough realization for many players that they’ll soon be entering the general selection pool with all of their idols and heroes. It’s tough to know that it’ll be even tougher to win a medal once you graduate. It’s even tougher when you put so much on yourselves and finish 4th.
Germany Open had one of the more interesting stories over the week. They started the tournament very well and battled throughout to enter the quarterfinals with a game against Japan. In a game described by many as one-sided unspirited they defeated Japan. Unspirited is an interesting way at looking at the game. The NexGen commentary (if you listen to it) was pointed at times and perhaps a little bit biased (Big Bear was generally quite fair). Many bystanders were not impressed with Germany’s behaviour but oddly the Japanese gave them a great spirit score. As outside viewers we need to reconcile what’s happening on the field with our own opinions. I happen to think of myself as unbiassed towards teams but biased towards wanting good games to watch (who isn’t?). I shall also demonstrate my lack of bias/favouritism shortly. However, back to Germany.
Earlier in the tournament I had watched Germany play a fantastic game with the Brucklacher brothers playing in tandem (and almost every point) in a fantastic display of what high level players can achieve. They played with an intensity and focus that I have seen many times in high level players and they coupled that with superb execution. In the semi-finals with Canada that focus was lost while the intensity remained. The problem with intensity with focus is that it can be misdirected. The result was large margin win by Canada and an outburst of emotion by the German players. It’s very difficult to watch friends cry but it’s also difficult to not achieve your goals and dreams. What they regained in the next 15 minutes was focus and they needed it as they faced Australia in the bronze finals. I wish it was not raining as I could have filmed probably one of most intense games of the tournament and also one that needed a spirit timeout. In my opinion it needed a second spirit timeout. Australia has done a great job in developing spirited players and ones that are fair as well. When the calls from Germany and physical play started getting one sided the Australians took a spirit timeout so they could calm themselves down. It was a good call by the coaches and it changed their attitude and focus back onto the game. Germany was in a commanding position and they came out of the spirit timeout with no recognizable difference. They followed it up with their half time pushing drill and made no attempt to hide that they were planning on continuing their physical game.
To Australia’s credit the second half they changed tactics and worked on faster flow that avoid the physical pressure. The game went to Universe and when the final point was caught it was Australia with a medal. For the Germans it was another tough loss and one that leaves me with many questions. Playing German players in the past I have always enjoyed our games and found them to be fair. Those teams have been influence by the old guard and in many ways the outgoing players in their system. The new guard has a very different character; where did that come from? Is it prevalent in the region? Is it only an attitude in big games? I ask because Germany won the spirit prize in the Open division. I’ll have a follow up article to this as there are other issues afoot in general.
Finally I come to perhaps the most controversial game in the tournament: Japan vs Canada Women’s. Another Universe point game with long stoppages towards the end. I am impressed that the game got to where it did. Things I am not impressed with? It’s difficult to watch a team have a dance party at half time. Dancing to music is usually a method of relaxation and early warmup focus mechanics. To start the music and start the party with a big half time lead, Canada, is asking for trouble. Trouble is what Canada got as Japan brought the game right back. Things that don’t help? On field stamping of feet and wailing from Japan. Finally, strutting around on Sunday and cursing at Team Japan from the sidelines seems a little unspirited as well. Yes it was a tough game, and yes there were potentially many bad calls but you were not robbed of the finals; you had the disc and a chance to win.
Why am I being tough on Canada? As mentioned, lack of bias, and also because they’re not kids. They’re adults and representing our sport at a very high level. More importantly: we shouldn’t just expect great things from our youth, we should demand it. We should also show them the way and some of us have failed. No complaints about almost every coach at the tournament except perhaps a few.
The one coach that stands out the most as being somebody that makes things worse is Mr. Morri. Davide is an interesting character and one that I’ve had time to know better. Traveling to Italy he’s been somebody I’ve seen often and also somebody that, now moving to Toronto for the summer, I’ve seen around that city from time to time. He also has an interesting concept of spirit and coaching. No doubt he’s capable and when he’s focused he plays well but should he get angry then all bets are off. I have never seen anybody yell and scream at his own players and be as theatrical on the sideline in an Ultimate game as I saw during the Italia vs Colombia game. What I saw from the Colombians was extreme restraint and excellent ability to stay focused. Even more importantly was the ability of the players to work through the constant abuse until the end. Towards the end the theatrics involved more flailing and screaming while Davide’s character finally permeated the game. The end result in Italy’s favour will, I fear, enforce the behaviour we saw.
On the ground disappointment permeated most everywhere and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I too was disappointed. There’s one thing we need to realize though and especially the players need to as well: share disappointment is a good thing. Each team and player is not a standalone unit that achieved what they have alone. Every player has been coached, supported, and has been given opportunities to get to where they are. While we all hope and work towards a gold medal the failure to achieve it is not a personal one but rather a collective. Whatever the outcome there are two things to consider.
Firstly, we still care and don’t think less of you. In fact, the questions that I ask are what more can we do? What can we do with our youth programs so that we can continue to challenge the USA. The USA may have won three golds but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t domination. If the finals had been blowouts then it would have been a domination but it wasn’t. It means that we have work to do and the gold is within reach next time.
Secondly: you are young, you are talented, you are the best that we can offer, you know what mistakes you made, you will get better, and you will have another chance. Don’t waste it.
Congratulations to the Toronto Rush for winning in their first year in the league with a win vs Madison 16-14. The Rush capped a perfect season 18-0 and a large point differential; and therein lies a problem. A problem that I discussed way back at the start of the season and one that remains one of the most critical issue to both Toronto and the AUDL.
Let me expand upon this by saying that I have been to almost every home game this season. I have sat through the cold, the rain, the heat, the sun in the eyes as it sets, and I have been the first to jump back into the stands after a lightning delay to cheer for my friends. The problem, my friends, is that you’re too good. Games are boring and lack drama. Any drama that does come is when an opposing team manages to make it past half and doesn’t wither under the pressure. I love that the Rush continues to play hard and doesn’t give up or doesn’t mind running up the score; that’s their job. The problem is that the league lacks the depth to challenge Toronto and that carries perils.
The AUDL already has their own share of issues. On a cloudy, cold, and rainy day Toronto has more fans, in less than ideal conditions, than their competition does at home on a great day. The lack of crowds leads to an unsustainable model and Toronto will face the real issue of a lack of any competitors.
A question that has bothered me from the start of the season is: If Toronto wins easily and without drama, what’s the point of going to the games? I stated early on that it was to support my friends and the sport. The problem is that supporting the sport is distinct in many ways. All of the players on the teams have a spot on GOAT or GT and the AUDL is supposed to be entertainment, much like other professional sports. Problem is that I’m not entertained. So I’m at a crossroads and it’s something that the AUDL needs to address. Fortunately they have the time and resources to address some of the issues I’ve brought up. The bigger question is: Can they?
We’ll be at U23 all week with as much live broadcasting as we’re allowed to do. Hope you join us at live.iamultimate.com.
After a long weekend and a few days of rest it’s time to look at outcomes from the weekend and fallout for those involved. Teams in bold are heading to CUC or at least planning on doing so.
Phoenix takes the #1 spot as expected. Two big surprises with Firebird not only going to CUC but taking the #3 spot and Too Bad being knocked out of CUC perhaps for the first time in the history of the team. Goose finishes up one spot as well with the final results being:
- Grand Trunk
- Too Bad
Quite a few statements all around but a topsy and turvy weekend came to a close. Both Maverick and Too Bad had quite inconsistent games and both were missing top players. Maverick had many veterans on Goose as they are unable to make CUC whereas Too Bad had many of their top players playing in Mixed where those teams did not intend to go CUC. Bad luck for Too Bad.
Great news for Firebird, though, and a strong tournament for them with a large and strong squad. Phoenix played a good finals and will look to head to Worlds next year after a strong showing at CUC. Grand Trunk is the team with the most potential and have started to work together quite well. Overall the squad is young and determined. They are a top 6 CUC team right now, their challenge is to be top 3.
After a first day upset by Stella, PPF went back to the top with their championship win. No real surprises other than Lotus having a few tricky games. Terra dropping is a consequence of the team gelling and realizing that not everyone is a Capitals player and that pace needs to change sometimes. The final standings are:
- Stella B
PPF and Stella both have good shots at getting to Worlds next year.
Finally, the most dramatic division. Pirates Dogs and some local youngsters caused plenty of turmoil in the overall seeding. Everybody overestimated the strength of the strong teams with all of the top 4 (outside of Union) dropping, on average, 3 spots. The underestimated teams made some big jumps including Legen-Dairy and Zen who were one win away from making CUC. It’s a tough situation for all involved but none more than Whiplash who came in well placed but lost out on Day 2 due to a number of factors including injuries due to a short roster. The final standings are:
- Surge (declined bid to CUC, maybe we can convince them otherwise)
- Quick & Dirty
- Big Fish
We’re seeing a transition from older players and traditional centers to players that have worked hard over the last few years. Surge’s journey starts in the Universities and centers around hard work on defense and big moves on O. Alliance has worked hard for at least three years. I remember playing London Calling with Maverick and PPF players and being knocked out in quarters by Yarrr. We underestimated them then and again this year. They thought they had an outside chance and how they will head to CUC seeded second out of Ontario and probably in the top 8.
Ontario Ultimate Championships shall be held in Kingston this weekend and I shall be there to live stream the event. It’s exciting as there shall be five divisions competing for a limited number of spots to CUC. With the seedings and schedule available it’s time to look at how tough this weekend shall be in each of the divisions.
Let’s start quickly with the Junior divisions. The Junior Women’s division shall have OverDrive (GTA) vs Wicked (Ottawa) with two games on Saturday to decide who is the top seed going into CUC; both should make it. On the Open side things are a different story with three teams competing for two spots [please see correction below]. Capital Punishment (Ottawa), OverDrive (GTA), and High Octane (GTA) get two games each in a quick three game round robin. High Octane is the #3 seed going in but the Juniors Divisions are notoriously unsteady and there is a good outside chance that they can knockout OverDrive or CP to make it.
Quick Update on Junior Open: Ultimate Canada has corrected a misconception on my part. Ontario had 3 bids, but High Octane declined their bid. The Championship will not affect who heads to CUC but will certainly have plenty of pride on the line.
Moving onto Open we have 7 teams for 4 bids. The seeding is as follows:
- Grand Trunk
- Too Bad
With a straight round robin running over Saturday and Sunday before heading into the tough games on Sunday afternoon teams face a tall order. Consistency will be a major issue for Maverick and Too Bad. I believe that this should be a strong year for Grand Trunk with them taking the second seed. Firebird has an outside chance of knocking Maverick or Too Bad out and those games in particular shall require particular focus by all teams. All said and done it’s probably going to be the top four that head to CUC. As a final note, both Goose and ROY are development teams and while ROY has defeated Firebird in the past I anticipate it’ll be much tougher this time around. Nonetheless, it would be quite the statement if ROY finished fifth. The first Open match will feature Phoenix vs Maverick at 1345.
Onto Women’s! Once again Ontario will send a strong contingent of Women’s teams but they’ll have to fight for the three bids to CUC. The seeding is as follows:
- Stella A
- Stella B
Like in the Open division the top three teams are very strong and it will be hard for Lily or Stella B to upset them. Terra is already heading to CUC in the Women’s Masters division but compete in the Women’s division at OUC. This means that the pressure is off the top three teams and it should be a fairly straightforward task for them to finish in a spot that gets them to CUC. That said, Terra is a strong and exciting team and they’ll be featured in our 1200-1330 game on Saturday. For PPF this is an important event as they need to get a high seed for Nationals and they need to prove that they can play consistently through a championship. Lotus is both a development team and a Nationals team; an interesting statement for them. Having been one of the strongest teams throughout Canada they have lost ladies to Capitals and now to Union. That hasn’t dampened their fire and they have always shown the ability to take on much stronger teams and win. Lotus has and will continue to be a thorn in PPF’s and Stella’s side. Stella will challenge PPF at 1015 on Saturday.
Finally, to the largest and most watched division: Mixed! Seedings are:
- Quick & Dirty
- Big Fish
With five bids available there’s quite a few possibilities as to who can make it. The seeding above has fallen close to my latest prediction with possibly Surge placed below their potential. I’ve written previously about this division and won’t rehash it other than to say that it’s going to be amongst the most exciting at OUC. The first live streamed game will be that of NoBS vs Quick and Dirty at 0830 on Saturday. If seedings are not upset then the 1530 game will feature GLIDE vs BFC. With the crossovers on Saturday afternoon there is huge pressure right through the two days on all teams. It’s still wide open.
In any case, I look forward to seeing you all online on the weekend.
Moments ago Ultimate Canada released the new bid allocations for Mixed. The primary change was to move an unused allocation from the Prairies and moving Ontario from four to five bids. This change makes four bids available to teams not named Union.
In a previous post I seeded Ontario as follows:
- Union – Toronto
- Surge – Kingston
- GLIDE – Ottawa
- NoBS – Toronto
- BLeD – Hamilton
- Whiplash – Kitchener/Waterloo
- Smoke – Peterborough
- Bytown Flatball Club – Ottawa
- Alliance (formerly: YARRR) – Oshawa
- Quick & Dirty – GTA
- Legen-Dairy – Port Perry
- Zen – Toronto
- BigFish – Ottawa
- TWO – Kitchener/Waterloo
- Default – Waterloo
(note, BULLDOGS removed as they are not attending Regionals and have merged with other teams)
With four bids remaining any of Surge, GLIDE, NoBS, BLeD, Whiplash, Smoke, and BFC have a good shot at getting to CUC. YARRR and Quick & Dirty will looking to upset. If Zen has a good Saturday and a good game on Sunday they too will be in the mix. With the new bid opening up I think Whiplash, Smoke, and YARRR are the teams to watch out for.
All of the teams have fairly consistent A lines with great men and women but the drop off in experience is something that should cause concern. Game management will play a big role on Saturday in order to have fresh lines for the important games on Sunday. With that comes the need for consistency and solid play from all members of a team and I think that it’ll come down to the strength of the women. The veteran guys are fairly consistent and haven’t changed teams all that much. However, we’re seeing a move where the top Women players are consolidated on some teams and then evenly distributed amongst others. The net result is that the small differences amongst the Women players will play a big part in the final outcome. i’ll have a post in a bit about why that is but it comes down to B-line male players that aren’t great at throwing and the talent that the lady receivers have to make them look good.
In summation: Ontario Mixed continues to be exciting.