Happy New Year (2016)

Alright folks, you’ve recovered from last night/last year and are ready to start things afresh. This is an exciting year and there’s a few things I’m looking forward to.

First is WUGC at St. Albans in England. This is an important benchmark event that allows the program in each country to measure their progress. The past four years have seen a major transition in the top tier within each country with the legends giving way to the, relatively speaking, youth. The new faces we saw four years ago are now the leaders driving and implementing strategy. I think we’ll see the same top contenders that we’ve always seen but the ranking outside of that is very uncertain which shall provide for plenty of excitement.

In Canada there’s a split in CUC with Open/Women’s happening in Edmonton and Mixed in Hamilton. It’s an off year so it’s a good time to see whether it works and what logistical issues there may be (I expect few to none). We’ll likely see 7 or 8 teams from Ontario, if not more, as the West decides that this year isn’t worth attending. We may also see fewer teams from Québec as they focus on sending a large contingent of Women’s teams out West.

Speaking of Women’s teams: the FQU Iris program has had a phenomenal year and it’ll be interesting to see whether they continue the trend. In 2017 teams shall look to qualify for WUCC and with CUC likely in the East they’ll want to get as much experience this year as possible. While sending more Mixed teams may seem attractive from a cost perspective it’s likely in the interest of FQU to send as many of their Women’s teams to Edmonton this year. An invitation to the US Open is also in the cards (if they haven’t already received it).

I’m looking forward to what the Capitals do this year. Last year was tough and many have been quite critical of the program. There’s a push to move them back to city based programs which I think is the opposite of what needs to happen. There’s complaints about lack of development which is something that a strong provincial body can assist with. Basically, Ontario needs to get it together and unify in their Ultimate development otherwise we’re going to see waning results going forward.

With 2016 starting off it’s worth thinking forward to where Ultimate is going to be in Canada in 2019, the next CUC that decides who forms Team Canada in each division. Actually, will that still be the way we do it? I’ve received plenty of feedback and comments that we should select All Star teams with tryouts. The advocates point to the US model of picking All Star teams (this model is use in other countries as well). I’m still leaning towards our current model as we have seen greater openness and the stars are quite well known. Picking an All Star team is not like picking a team that shall play over a single season or multiple seasons. You want to pick the best team that shall perform as well as possible at a single tournament. Those players need to be able to handle the mental and physical demands every moment that they’re both on and off the field. The US can do it because they have hundreds of star players; the rest of the World, not so much. So we’ll see how that selection conversation turns out but it’ll certainly start up this year based upon performance of Canadian teams at WUCC.

Back to 2019! Open shall remain focused out of Toronto and Vancouver. They’re major population centers where there’s a higher concentration of the type of smart team player that plays elite Ultimate is based out of. Before anybody snaps my head off, those players exist across Canada in major cities and villages, it’s the GTA and Vancouver that have the highest concentrations needed to make winning teams.

For Women’s we’ll see Vancouver, Ontario, and Québec all contend for the title. I’m saying Ontario rather than Toronto or Ottawa as I hope that players and coaches figure out how to put together a great Ontario based team. We’re going to see some great players out of the east and prairies as well but they’ll likely move to and play with a Vancouver or Toronto team.

Mixed is a strange conundrum given how Vancouver/TFP operates. There shall likely be some sort of TFP team, yet again. Their closest challenger is likely to be out of Québec as players cycle out of Open and Women’s to form a strong Mixed team. While Ontario has some strong programs we’re going to need some elite Open and Women’s players to shift to Mixed to put up a strong fight for gold. But I see a resurgence in Mixed from Québec in the next few years.

For Open Masters the focus is going to be between Vancouver and Toronto. The matriculation from Open to Masters at a fairly young age should be a sign to the rest of Canada that this division is now population center focused. There is a steady stream of players in each region that shall now graduate to the Masters division from Open.

The same could be said for Women’s Masters. The division is healthy now and shall continue to remain as such. The power center is currently in Québec but Vancouver and Toronto are close on their heels. In the next four years we should see a team outside of Vintage win CUC. In 2019, though, there’s going to be some very strong Iris players moving on up.

Finally, I foresee a Mixed Masters team and an Open Grandmasters needing to be selected in 2019. I don’t see either of them getting divisions at CUC within that time period.

In any case, I welcome feedback and dialogue. I was happy to hear from you on the Women’s article earlier as I gained quite a bit of insight. Hope you all have a safe 2016 that’s free from any major injury but enough bumps and bruises that you feel like you left it all on the field.