2023 Club Season: SCRAM

Features, Interview

SCRAM, up until recently, was Scotland’s elite women’s ultimate club. Since their beginnings in 2019, they’ve had a successful run, making it all the way to the World Ultimate Club Championships in 2022. But now, the club has disbanded. Audrey Melançon-Fournier gives us an insight into SCRAM’s 2023 season, and touched on the club’s future.

2022 was a good year for SCRAM. We kicked off the Worlds season at Tom’s, got a top 8 finish at Windmill and had a week of ups and downs (but a lot of fun) in Ohio. But like many clubs after a WUCC cycle, we knew many changes would be coming before the start of the next season.

The new leadership’s first challenge would be to find some fresh faces to replace half the Ohio roster SCRAM had lost at the end of the season. Captain (founder and dictator) Lulu Boyd moved down to Wales and joined Bristol, Gemma Henry moved down to Bristol and joined Bristol, Rhona Gordon and Shona Whiteley (sort of) retired (at least from competitive outdoors), Yu Wei Chua and Kathrin Möbius moved on to GUX and all English players recruited for the 2022 season stayed in England. And to top it all, Eva Caie (who had stepped up as vice captain) and Katie Trim both got selected for U24s and got busy living their best GB lives all season.

So we knew we had our work cut out for us.

Claire Simpson took on the role of president (commuting from Solihull for training – talk about commitment) and Alex Hiley went in as co-captain but quickly ended up with the job to herself. With myself as fitness coordinator and Leah Dobbs as co-spirit captain and rookie officer, the new leadership was ready to see what the future of Scottish women’s ultimate had in store. We were aware COVID had obviously impacted the universities’ intakes, and of how the focus on performance at Worlds had meant we hadn’t been looking at women’s development at a high level recently.

Alex Hiley, Audrey, and Claire Simpson

The trial at Ravenscraig was well-attended and we were all looking forward to seeing the new talent coming through. As I’m personally acquainted with the university scene as a coach, I had a good idea of who the new generation might be. For the observers who didn’t constantly hang out with students, there were some very exciting new prospects. Following the trial, it was decided we wouldn’t be selecting training squad players for the season. It wasn’t an easy decision as we knew that meant saying no to skilled players who’d bring the level up at training sessions. However, we had all felt a divide the previous year between the WUCC squad and the training squad players, and weren’t sure the «us v them» was the best way to improve team chemistry in a rebuilding year. It had also been very noticeable that some of the previous year’s training squad players had felt they weren’t held to the same standard as the WUCC squad and weren’t attending training or putting in work outside of training and the new leadership didn’t want to see a repeat of that. We knew building the 2023 squad was going to require commitment and regular attendance and made the squad selection based on trial performance, but also according to the trialists’ expected availability.

After training over full weekends in 2022, we decided to move on to training only on Saturdays every 2 to 3 weeks, and having local pods for fitness/skills/game reps every week. Our season timeline was however weirdly set up because of the tournaments the team managed to get into. 

The season kicked off in April at Spring Invite in London at a fairly underwhelming venue right across the street from absolutely nowhere and with precisely zero ambiance. It was the first big club event for many new team members. And a big adjustment for many of the returning players who were now having to step up their game and get used to playing a different role on the pitch. Some games were tight both on the pitch and on the scoreboard, whilst some others felt tight on the pitch but not so much on the scoreboard.

It was a promising start for such a new squad. We finished exactly where we thought we’d end up: at the bottom of all the established elite teams, but above the more developmental teams. We introduced a new end of tournament award for the season: the soufflé. 2023 being a rebuilding year, we decided to acknowledge a player who had stepped up and risen to the occasion, not to the point of being MVP but definitely playing at a higher level than was expected of them. Alice Bates was our first soufflé of the season.

It was only about a month until the squad was competing at our first international event – Vienna Spring Break. Only 14 players were available for the event, with barely a handful of WUCC 2022 players. This represented a first ulti.TV stream for many, which really highlighted how much we needed to work on our endzone offense – feel free to absolutely not go and watch that game again. However, despite the lack of overall experience, we managed to pull a huge win in a decisive pool game on the Saturday, which saw us out of the bottom bracket (lovingly called the ‘potato bracket’).

Our first game on the Sunday was big-time wet. So wet. Clearly too wet because the TD cancelled the rest of the tournament (minus the finals) so we didn’t wreck the venue. So we ended up playing a total of 4 games, but most of us got to hang out in Vienna a bit, so all in all, a good weekend. Ailsa Cameron smashed it out of the park and was our soufflé for the event.

SCRAM at Vienna Spring Break

Our last event before Nationals was in Cologne at the start of June and it was glorious, and confirmed we had made the right decision flying to Germany for the weekend rather than driving down to Nottingham for Windfarm. The weather was superb, we had booked ourselves a nice hotel and the venue had a giant outdoor swimming centre. The frisbee part wasn’t too superb on the Saturday though. Tough losses against arguably poor opposition, with our team making silly decisions, playing average defense and not working as a unit. Plus we got destroyed by the German U24s who were decent, but mostly we just couldn’t complete a pass. Because of the nature of a Swiss draw, we then found ourselves relatively low in the standings and then looked like superstars on the Sunday, which was a confidence boost and showed us we could actually be pretty good at that frisbee thing. Early finish meant we got to eat sausages by the pool, which is probably how all tournaments should end. JJ Lim was the team soufflé.

JJ Lim and Ailsa Cameron

We now faced a long break from competition before Nationals. Training attendance became relatively poor at times, which was difficult to deal with. When you have critical mass, you can leave behind anyone who doesn’t commit to a season. When your team is crippled with injuries and when there aren’t that many women to begin with, there really isn’t much to be done. Annoyingly. It’s frustrating for the leadership, but also for all the players putting in the work. We set up a conditioning program to keep building fitness over the almost 3 months we had until Nottingham and attempted to work on getting the basics right.

We weren’t too sure what to expect from Nationals. The team played well in general and showed we had what it takes to compete against the other established elite teams, but just not for full games. We finished exactly in the same position as the year before though, so we couldn’t be too disappointed about that.

Then came the AGM. Honestly, none of us really knew what to expect going in. As much as we had seen remarkable progress in many players over the season, we also had been disheartened by the lacklustre commitment from others and by just how much work had been required to see the season through. Many players at the top end of the roster had already said they’d be playing mixed in 2024. The outcomes weren’t all bleak though. Many women stepped up and expressed interest in continuing to develop women’s ultimate in different parts of Scotland, even if that meant without competing at an elite level. Awards were handed out: Alice Bates just beat Ailsa Cameron for Rookie of the Year, Andreea Gradinaru firmly won MIP and Alex Hiley beat me (sad days) to the title of MVP.

So yeah, the upshot is that SCRAM no longer exists. Which is a real shame because so much hard work went into building the team over the years. It was great fun while it lasted and gave opportunities to play women’s at a high level here in Scotland (and abroad). Sadly, all SCRAM-like teams over the years slowly died in a similar fashion, and for similar reasons (it would obviously help if the job market in Scotland wasn’t so depressing, but that’s a discussion for later.) We’re hoping FMPs realise they can play a big part in developing the women’s scene by supporting and growing their local ultimate communities, or even starting a women’s initiative if they can’t find one to join. You don’t need to know everything about the sport to get going, you just need to be motivated and (at least a little) organised. There is plenty of help available if you ask. 

SCRAM at Nationals 2023

Thank you, Audrey! With mixed and open ultimate being the focus in Scotland this season, it’s really unclear what the future of Scottish women’s ultimate will look like. Frankly, it’s a tale as old as time, but unless the buzz surrounding mixed dies down, there’s just not enough women to go around to allow for a competitive Scottish womens team (for now). A focus on development at university level and a boost of players from elsewhere in the UK is what Scotland needs to allow competitive mixed and women’s ultimate to co-exist indefinitely. But, easier said than done.

There are still opportunities for women’s development: a new training group, Northern Frisbee Women, has popped up, appearing to be based in Aberdeen/Dundee, and Audrey, as a part of Glasgow Ultimate, is running regular women’s training/fitness sessions. ELF (Edinburgh Ladies Frisbee) is ever-present, with a core group of friendly players, having just celebrated their 10-year anniversary. For now, Glasgow Ultimate and ELF will hopefully continue to make appearances at domestic tournaments, and maybe even HECK will get involved too. Or, perhaps we’ll see some kind of amalgamation of them all. There’s lots to be a part of, but as Audrey said, the community relies on individuals stepping up to make things happen. If you’re thinking of starting up any women-focused ultimate group in Scotland or similar, get in touch, and maybe we can connect you to the right people!


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