Happy New Year and welcome back to the Release Point!
What a year we’ve just had. Ultimate in 2021 felt uncomfortably similar to the “Red Light, Green Light” game recently repopularised by Netflix’s Squid Game: stand around doing very little as you wait until the coast is clear, then play as much frisbee as possible while trying your best not to die. Then immediately stop playing frisbee again because the case numbers are up. Again.
We might have hoped that by now we would be finished with Covid, and this feature could be all about how Scottish Ultimate has hit the ground running in 2022, perhaps by talking about some phenomenal plays at Glasgow Ultimate’s Winter League, or by ramping up the hype for the GB Womens’ Indoor squad (comprising a significant percentage of Scottish players and managed by Audrey “Lover of Indoors” Melançon-Fournier). Instead, we’ve spent January casting furtive, jealous glances over Hadrian’s Wall at the English carrying on as normal while we tut inwardly at mask-less mouth-breathers in the supermarket and go home to eat another piece of cake.
However, we are nothing if not optimistic and there is still plenty to look forward to in 2022. All being well, indoor tournaments will resume at the end of January with Rabbie Burns, allowing people who don’t want to venture south to finally get their indoor fix. Good weather and the outdoor season are just around the corner. Preparations for WUCC are well and truly underway for SCRAM and ALBA, with both teams pooling some of the crème de la crème of Scottish talent. The only slight drawback is WUCC is once again being held in Cincinnati and, despite Bowling for Soup telling us there’s nothing wrong with Ohio except the snow and the rain, it’s neither the most exciting nor the easiest state to get to in the US. But with all the Covid fatigue everyone is feeling I think WUCC going ahead at all is a victory in itself, and I can’t wait to see some excellent Scottish Ultimate on the world stage once again.
There are a strong number of clubs in Scotland, providing playing opportunities across Scotland and across a wide range of ability and competitiveness. I was able to catch up with the captains of some of Scotland’s top clubs to see what they have been up to over the past season and what their dreams and ambitions are for the coming season.
EDI is one of the main open teams playing out of Edinburgh, their captain is Cameron Dick. He had this to say:
After the 2020 season which had no competitive club ultimate, we started planning the 2021 season with no guarantee of playing games. We prepared on the basis that we would get some semblance of frisbee, but were unsure of the capacity or structure. Our first few sessions of the year were conducted virtually, then in small pod clusters, before amalgamating to have full squad sessions by the end of April. Looking back, our club has grown from a rag tag bunch into a great group of lads, dedicated to achieving its goals and are set to continue our fun into 2022. We’ve even brought ourselves into the 21st century with new Instagram and Tik Tok accounts (@edi_ultimate) to generate some buzz and showcase our talents!
One of EDI’s core values, are that we are process orientated and focused on the steps required to reach our goals. We were always going to enter the National Cup with ambitions of making it to nationals: made even harder with only eight spots that season! We knew that this would be challenging, requiring must win games all the way to go. I am proud of the team for buying in to the culture and knocking on the door to go, finishing somewhere as the 9th – 11th best Open Club team under the UK competitive structure.
This coming season, we intend on competing within the three UKU domestic tournaments as a minimum and building progressively throughout the season to peak for UKU Regionals/Nationals. Tournaments will be a welcome relief where we will be able to trial new systems and adapt as the season progresses. With Covid constantly hanging over us, things may change, however I can guarantee at least some form of spikeball/goaltimate/tinnies will be happening outside of trainings.
The EDI 2022 expression of interest form has just went live and closes on the 4th of February. We are looking for players around Scotland that are interested in joining us for a jam-packed summer, with trial dates set for the 13th of March (10am-2pm) and the 19th of March (10am-2pm), both in the Meadows, Edinburgh. We don’t ask for you to be an ex-national team caliber player (although always more than welcome), but we are looking for players that are driven, positive and want to push themselves.
I’d like to give a shout out to the other EDI club board members (Sam Lord, Gregor Stewart, Ben Cowmeadow and Josh Hewes) and the 2021 captains (Gregor Stewart and Joe Pennington) for their continual involvement and commitment in driving the team forward throughout the season, including a special shout out to Sam Lord for his coaching commitment to the squad and wise words at the National Cup games.
SCRAM is an elite woman’s team representing all of Scotland and competing at the highest level. The following is from their captain, Lulu Boyd:
In 2021 we had a bit of an uphill battle with covid restrictions in Scotland differing from those down south, so our trainings had to evolve. We started with smaller pod sessions in our local cities/areas which was a great way to get us back into ultimate and let us focus on our fundamentals. Once we were allowed to have our full squad trainings, we met weekly and on select weekends.
We’ve really been developing a lot of our new talent on the squad. We’ve been putting some of our less experienced players into key roles on the pitch and they have all flourished.
Our team as a whole have been developing a lot more tactfully in learning and implementing new structures on the field, as well as changing up our defensive mindset.
Our squad aim was for a top 4 finish at nationals. Unfortunately, we did not reach our target, however I think we did a great job at building a hardworking mentality in the run up to nationals and providing our less experienced players with exposure to these high-level tournaments.
My personal aims for the squad were to try and get as many of the girls back playing ultimate. Having so many lockdowns really took the spark out of a lot of people, and that reduced people’s drive to want to compete and work hard at frisbee. I really wanted to drive the ladies back into frisbee, back into playing elite, and most importantly enjoying themselves. I think on the whole we managed to achieve this.
This year is going to be crazy fun for SCRAM. We are competing at WUCC, Toms Tourney and potentially another international/national tournament, so it’s going to be a ton of fun! We are holding trials for SCRAM on 19th February and 6th March, so we are well open for trialists! We want to get a highly competitive squad out to Cincinnati.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rhona Gordon for her unwavering enthusiasm and positivity for the team. She has been a beacon of what a great ultimate player should be and a fantastic role model to our newer squad members.
I’d also like to thank Oli for not only his coaching but his organisation. He’s done a fantastic job of keeping the club together and driving towards becoming better ultimate players!
Thanks to our fabulous committee last year who were incredibly flexible and versatile when it came to adapting to the absolute sh*t show that was the forever changing covid restrictions.
Alba is an elite men’s team which represents Scotland as a whole and competes at the highest level in the UK. I spoke to their captain Cameron Agnew:
Last year was a busy one for us, returning to play, playing in the League, and trying to manage trainings throughout covid restrictions. We were very happy Nationals went ahead but sad we couldn’t realistically attend EUCF as we felt we had something to prove after our nationals’ result.
I think the team has developed extremely well, last year we had an extremely talented squad which made team selection very difficult at every point. A lot of individuals have put in a tonne of work, and it showed at nationals with some great performances.
This year we want continue to develop everyone in the squad with the aim to peak at WUCC.
It’s no secret that our aim is to win UK nationals. And it’s obvious we didn’t do that last year. That being said I’m incredibly proud of the performances we gave Clapham and Chevron during the season. Our other main goal was to quality for WUCC, which we did thanks to a few dropouts around the world. We’re all stoked to be able to represent Scotland on the world stage.
We achieved a lot in quite a weird year, and as we have retained almost all our talent, we are set to hopefully achieve more in 2022.
It’s going to be a big year, mainly we are looking forward to playing on the international stage. We had a taste of this at EUCF in 2019, and feel we have a lot to prove. We plan to train hard, attend a few European tournaments, WUCC and Nationals/EUCF.
We ran trials in December and have selected a team and training squad. We decided to do this a bit earlier than usual to get ourselves kick-started in the new year. We have our first squad training this Saturday for example.
I suppose my shout-out is to my co-captain Cameron Mackie, he does a lot behind the scenes for the team, and I really appreciate his support. He’s also going to have a big year on the pitch too, hopefully having people chase him rather than him do the chasing….
I’d also like to shout-out all the Rookies on our squad for this year, we’ve had some big money transfers that weren’t cheap so very much looking forward to welcoming them on the pitch and seeing that they can achieve.
Glasgow Ultimate Mixed is a mixed team which play and train in Glasgow. I was able to speak to both their male and female captains, Ben Cornelius, and Audrey Melancon-Fournier:
Sitting close to the top of the UKU mixed ranking, GUX got a spot in the brand-new National League last season. So, we spent most of the summer travelling down to England… Genuinely though, this was very much a development year for us. With the new ‘pandemic’ structure forcing players to choose between mixed and single-gender, GUX 2021 was a very first club season, or very first Glasgow season, for almost the entire squad. And to be honest at the start of the season I had major doubts as to whether anyone would be keen to play at all. But we got the most amazing bunch of really dedicated players who showed up week after week for GUX in the Park, or shared their fitness achievements, all keen to work hard despite tough COVID restrictions. We pretty much built a brand-new team, which was not easy with the League format, and COVID, and people trying to have a life when restrictions allowed it, and I was really proud to see so many players develop, and to see a glimmer of what the next few seasons have in store for GUX.
When UKU announced the competition format, it was pretty clear we should be aiming to qualify for Nationals. Unfortunately, we all know we did not manage that. We were really close though. When we played our best ultimate, I have no doubt we were a good enough team to earn our spot, but we were not consistent enough to deliver our very best point after point. The top teams are where they are because of their ability to deliver over and over (and over) again. That’s commendable, and what GUX needs to aim for to get back to the top.
Originally my personal aim was to beat deep space due to my stubbornness to never be beaten by them. They developed a very good team year over the year and had one hellava performance in the final against Smog.
As a wider club an important goal was to develop ultimate in and around Glasgow and to create a structure for people to train both competitively and more recreationally. I think we achieved that by having one mid-week session and one weekend session every week that was well attended and exciting. This was especially important as restrictions were loosened to have a welcome return back into competitive ultimate
The GUX roster is wide open for the upcoming season. The 2022 competition structure seems to allow players to play both mixed and single-gender, which is exciting. The first GUX session is scheduled for the end of the month, and I’m very excited to see who shows up. Also excited to see if someone steps up and takes captaincy. No pressure.
I’d like to thank anyone who put effort into a very challenging 2021 season, anyone who drove their cars hundreds and hundreds of miles to get us to our ‘local’ games, coach Philip, and co-captain Ben. It was a really difficult season for many obvious reasons, but it was also a really fun and rewarding season.
I would like to thank all of the drivers that carried our asses back and forth to England SO many times for the national League Structure. They truly are the unsung heroes of the team
I would also like to Thank Phill Webb for his endless insight and coaching wisdom throughout each and every training session. Even the one where it was his Birthday.
I would like to also thank whatever was in the air that day that we played smog 1 and its credit towards a game that I can’t quite seem to forget. Lastly, I would like to give a HUGE foxy shout out to m co-captain Audrey. Without her tireless efforts communicating with English teams, we would probably end up playing in some kinda car park in Huddersfield. Audrey gave just as much effort on the pitch as she did off it and should be commended highly for it.
Women in Scottish Ultimate:
Women’s ultimate teams around the world historically haven’t been as prevalent as men’s or mixed; however, women’s ultimate is on the rise, with more teams popping up and competition levels rising. Similarly, Scotland’s women’s community has been growing, with teams and players competing at the national and international stages. In light of some of the recent controversy in the UK women’s community, we at Release Point wanted to take this opportunity in our inaugural 2022 issue to show our support for the women’s ultimate community and highlight some of our talented teams in Scotland.
It’s no secret that our opportunities in Scotland are fewer and farther between than our counterparts down south, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t foster similar talent and growth. While we’ve seen some of our dearest friends move away and join teams in other regions, the women’s community in Scotland has seen significant growth in recent years, and is competing at higher levels.
To gain insight into this growth, we spoke to Rhona Gordon, a long time competitor in both the mixed and women’s scenes in Scotland. Having started her frisbee career at the University of Stirling, Rhona has since climbed the ranks, attending WUCC with GUX in 2018 and leading successful women’s clubs like Swift and SCRAM. When we asked Rhona how she felt the women’s community has evolved throughout her time as a player, she told us that she thinks the university scene has changed massively and that the club scene has seen increasing opportunities.
“When I first started playing, [university] women’s wasn’t BUCS. Even indoors, the only opportunity for women to earn BUCS points was by playing with their men’s team. The first time I played a full competitive match of women’s 7s was after I’d been playing almost two years, and that was picking up with Aberdeen at nationals.”
In terms of club, “the player base has increased overall. When I started playing, neither indoor regionals nor Glasgow one day (experienced) had women’s divisions, and “loose mixed” was more acceptable.”
When asked if she thinks the women’s community has come far enough to provide opportunities to compete with some of the stronger clubs in the UK, she said, “I don’t see any reason why we can’t – we’ll have to see how this season plays out!”
As for the future, when asked if there were anything she would like to see in women’s ultimate going forward, she simply said, “more of it,” and we can’t help but agree.
Today, there are strong women’s programmes at the university level in Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, St Andrews, Stirling, and Strathclyde. Heriot-Watt and Aberdeen are also actively recruiting more women to join their clubs. You can catch some of these amazing and talented young women at the upcoming indoor women’s and mixed nationals’ events at the end of February and March!
At the club level, there are opportunities for women to play with Glasgow (women’s and mixed), Perth (mixed), Aberdeen (mixed), Edinburgh (women’s), and SCRAM (women’s). SCRAM is Scotland’s elite level women’s team, and you can catch them this year attending Tom’s Tourney, London Invite, and WUCC, so keep your eyes peeled for streams to catch their big plays!
The women’s community in Scotland is ever changing and growing towards bigger and better things. If you want to be an ally to women’s ultimate in Scotland, you can take steps such as supporting your local teams, encouraging mixed opportunities, getting involved at the university or even junior level, and simply being inclusive and kind.