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.

CUC 2015 Thoughts

Well then! The quadrennial event of teams competing to form the selection committee that represents Canada at WUGC has passed and a number of important outcomes should be discussed. I have a few thoughts from my armchair that I’d like to share with you.

First, it’s the last time that we’ll have a large combined CUC barring one of the big cities stepping up and hosting both gender specific CUCs and Mixed CUCs together. From the sounds of things it went very well and congratulations to all of those that made it or participated in the series. Even if you don’t make it you’re an important part of the community that develops and moves our sport forward.

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OUC 2015 Importance

WUGC 2016 shall be held at the UCL sports fields in St. Albans, England (this is also where U23s are being held this year) which makes the Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC), in Winnipeg, all the more exciting and interesting. In case you, the newcomer, didn’t already know: the winner of each division forms four out of five members of the selection committee for that division. As a result the winning team tends to have many of their members on the national squad.

Other players are not excluded as the national roster tends to pickup the best from across Canada. Typically the teams are composed primarily of players from Ontario and British Columbia and tend to be from Toronto or Vancouver. There are also pickups and they tend to be elite players from their own club teams that were defeated by the champion along the way.

What makes OUC 2015 so important is that in every division one of the top two teams is from Ontario. Which makes this the starting point for each of these in their journey to, almost certainly, the Championship game at CUC. Each of the favorites in each division will be looking, should they win, for pickups and that makes OUC and CUC a place to make an impression.

Perhaps more important to those players are not yet National team calibre is that this year is the most competitive ever. Every region in Canada is sending their best teams and competition to get into CUC and then at CUC shall be better than ever. This isn’t an off year like 2014, 2012, 2010 where the best teams in the country decide to attend other tournaments. This is the most important competition and you’ll see teams like Capitals, Traffic, TFP, Union, GOAT, and Furious competing to represent their country. Each game is do or die for them and shall be taken very seriously. As an opponent to those teams you should relish the experience and set a benchmark that you can strive towards.

In general I hope that teams attending all of the Regionals qualifiers shall test the strongest teams out of each region. By doing so each of the teams shall continue to develop Canadian Ultimate and develop the next generation of elite players.

There’s more to write about and I’m going to work on OUC previews, stay tuned over the next week for more.

WGUC 2012 Recap

Part of the reason that I haven’t written in quite some time is that after WUGC 2012 I wanted to write a recap.  There didn’t seem to be some clean way to wrap up what had happened and to properly describe what I felt.  I bring up feelings because WUGC was tough to watch as a spectator.  It was tough to watch TC lose in the semis and finals.  It was tough especially watching the Open and Women’s teams as at some point in each game it became obvious that our heros suddenly looked very old and tired.  Players that many of you have always known as the best and who have always been the best were worn out from being on the pedestal for too long.  Left in their places was the brashness of youth that was now skeptical and no longer implicitly trusted their team.

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WUGC 2012 – Day 6

What a day!  The upset of the tournament (so far) and conditions that influenced every game.  Round robins wrapped up and quarters started in Open and Mixed divisions.  While I did take some photos most of my day was spent chatting with the SkyD guys.  We walked between several games and had thoroughly interesting conversations.  We livened things up with spectators that got very emotional and in general experienced the fantastic atmosphere that is WUGC 2012.

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WUGC 2012 – Day 5

Day 5 and we’re past the midway point of this great tournament.  We’re now done with cross overs and power pools, it’s time for elimination play, and nerves for fans at home and on the sidelines.  For those of you new to the blog, please do not be put off by how negative this post will be, it’s not all cheery at J-GREEN SAKAI.

In this post I’ll cover:  Team Canada (as usual), Team USA, Team Japan, and Team Australia.  Yes, the big four are being talked about mostly because my friend Matt Kass pointed out that all y’all will have them on your mind and I should probably start making bold and wildly accurate predictions.

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WUGC 2012 – Day 4

Really short post as photos and results say it all.  It was a day of firsts.  The Women’s Masters division debuted at WUGC and is a huge step forward for the division.  We’ve seen Open Masters for a while but to see six solid teams in the Women’s Masters division is fantastic.  The teams are closely matched and it was a pleasure to watch high level Ultimate with a touch more experience.  A comment from the sideline says it all:  “Are these Masters Women?  They don’t look like it.”  Seems to me that we need a few showcase games to show off the ladies’ speed and skills.

First day of GUTS as well and I must say:  GUTS is Ultimate.  Spirit of the Game, speed, power, and fun!  The competitors all had smiles on their faces, were genuinely having fun, and made me realize one very important point:  GUTS is about not taking oneself seriously.  I think I’m going to have to get folks together and play some GUTS.  Photos in the album and expect more in the next few days as it’s quite exciting.

Another first was the first cross over games.  Big games to setup the next set of pools and as the top teams said:  “The tournament starts now.”  All of the top teams had a good day and very little rocked them.  Team Canada’s have collectively gone 23-0 so far.  Expect the tournament to get really hard now; getting gold ain’t easy.