What Went Down At: EUCR-W Women's (UKU Nationals)


Main Editor/Chair: doug (SYC)
Additional Editing: ali, hazard
Main Contributors: mara (Iceni), saz (LLLeeds), mairi_mcclean (Chaos), hazard (fanseat commentator), brew85 (Brighton), deano (Nice Bristols), rosieomahoney2012 (Rebel), nyssa (Reading)






Final Women’s Standings
1.    Iceni (EUCF Q)
2.    SYC (EUCF Q)
--------------------
3.    Nice Bristol
4.    Rebel
5.    Chaos
6.    Brighton (Spirit)
7.    LeedsLeedsLeeds
8.    Reading

Headlines
SYC beat Iceni in pool games - Iceni’s first loss to a UK team since 2010
Bristols just lose out on EUCF spot despite strong weekend
Rebel beat both SYC and Brighton to claim a top 4 spot
Brighton finish lower than anticipated


doug
Welcome to the discussion on EUCR-W UKU Women's Nationals 2017. Despite early concerns about the number of women’s teams at the competition (and with Women’s Regionals being cancelled due to lack of interest) the weekend proved the Women’s Division is growing in strength, though  still lacking in numbers.

We will start the discussion at the top, which of course means Iceni. Iceni claimed another title, but lost their first game at Nationals for a long time (SYC beat Iceni in the pool games, 15-12). What was different this time?

SYC and Iceni had some fierce matchups this weekend.
Photo by Sam Mouat for the ShowGame
mara
SYC have a fantastic long game (Caitlin WIlson has some ridiculous puts - many of the other players do as well, but hers really stand out). SYC receivers are not only super-speedy, but they time their cuts perfectly. It wasn't even that we were going up in the air against each other; SYC were in the space where the disc was going and we weren't there in time to bid. The cross-pitch throws were lovely and so accurate. I want to say the play was "visionary", and I mean this as a huge compliment - SYC have worked out what their strengths are and play to those strengths. In the first game, Iceni spent too long marking out the under cuts, we didn't have a D look that pressured the deep shots or helped us make switches effectively. We also didn't put in the scores when we got the turn. I think one of the differences on Sunday when we played a second time was that we pressured the deeps more and (especially in the second half), and were able to convert on the D line. It still felt like we were fighting for every single point - I don't think people were aware of the score!

doug
Moving forwards, what will the next year look like for the London Warriors?

mara
Looking forwards, the focus is very much on Europeans and then Worlds. We want to finish in Cincinnati as the top European team, so performing well at Euros this autumn is the first step. We are challenged both domestically and in Europe - Nationals and Windmill 2017 (which we won, but made more difficult for ourselves by losing pool games to Yaka and CUSB on the first day) - and we want to use what we have learned from these games.

You have to be willing to go hard to take on Iceni.
Photo by Sam Mouat.
doug
Off the field, it seems that Iceni are also putting a strong emphasis on progressing the discussion on gender and diversity in ultimate (for more info, join the FB group here), and were the facilitators of two sessions over the weekend to share ideas on this topic. Many of the team have just returned from the US Open where they attended gender and diversity discussions, and of course there was some Iceni representation on the Eurostars tour as well.  What has been the driving force behind this new focus?

mara
As a club, Iceni have always promoted women in sports and encouraged new and Junior players. Individually, many of the players on Iceni are very involved and passionate as well. Before the discussions at the US Open, I think we didn't know how to start framing these questions and putting them out to the wider community. The forum at the US Open helped us see a way that some of the questions could start being addressed. We wanted the forums at Nationals to be a safe space where people could raise their thoughts - or just listen. The organisation did take place a bit last minute, and it was difficult to find a time that would have worked for all players there. We want to help facilitate more of these sessions in the future.

saz
I thought it was great, the sessions were really well run and it's great to see these kinds of discussions starting. Just a shame that scheduling of the tournament limited who could attend, but that can't really be helped.It's also nice to see UKU involved/planning to be involved.

mairi_mcclean
I find the concept really exciting, and was gutted to not have been able to make the sessions.I'd be interested in the demographic that did manage to make it - the gender split/which teams?

hazard
Half of the open teams had back-to-back games over the two time slots (the 5-12 bracket). So I’m very much looking forward to reading your opinions here and hopefully a writeup from @theshowgame.

mara
We're also grateful to everyone who was able to come and share their thoughts! There were so many perspectives that it was great to have (as an example, we heard some great feedback from Junior players about the challenges of pairing Juniors to club teams). It gives us a new perspective to think about.

hazard
(Also, those of you that aren’t following all the cool #womeninsport updates from the Iceni Facebook Page are really missing out)

saz
I'm a big fan of Iceni's social media presence ^^

doug
It seemed like although there wasn't a huge mix of teams in the session I went to (difficult to get lots of people there mid-tournament), some interesting ideas were coming out of the discussions and the facilitators were taking notes, so I am curious to see what will come from that. I think it's great that these conversations are happening and that it's on the agenda.

So, moving on to SYC.

hazard
SYC took second place after a win over key rivals Bristols, who looked to be the stronger side at T3. What made the difference? Also beating Iceni on the Saturday then losing focus against Rebel – does SYC have the consistency that will be needed to do better at EUCF this year than previous years?

doug
This was a huge weekend for SYC, not just for the final result but what it actually meant for us as a team. I think for years (I'm taking liberties here since this was my first season) the team has had huge potential but often failed to back it up with mental game and often fell short of their potential. What we managed to achieve at Nats was the first step in that mental game evolution, in that we finally figured out how to show up and play how we wanted to play from point 1, regardless of who our opposition was and our history against them.

saz
I have seen countless examples in the past at both club and uni level where it has been the mental game that won or lost a team the game, so huge well done to SYC for conquering this.

hazard
I think consistency is a two-step process. The first is in-game consistency against high level opposition. The victory against Iceni shows they’re starting to develop that. The second is tournament-long consistency. A late win vs Bristols is good, but I think that could be SYC’s undoing at EUCF, against so many good teams. Any ideas how you’ll keep the energy up doug?

doug
I certainly agree about the two-step process - we have made huge strides in our ability to come out firing against high level opposition and had proven that we can do that for a whole game which is great, but it's hard to keep that up over a tournament. I think we have developed mental strength, but can’t consider the job done. We need to continue to build on that and with the additional focus on mental stamina.

saz
It's also nice to see that Iceni are 'beatable' - I think this is really important for growing the depth of women's ultimate, mentally and physically.

doug
After the Iceni game I think it was really hard for us to get our focus back in time for the Rebel game, which was vital because they are an amazing team with a distinct style that we failed to adapt to in time. After using all our mental beans in the Iceni game I think we had a case of mental fatigue. All really useful lessons to learn and we will certainly be bearing them in mind as we get ready for Euros.

But yes, it’s great for us (and UK women more broadly) to see that it’s possible to beat the full (or very nearly) Iceni squad and we can hopefully utilise the confidence that comes with that when matching up against Iceni or other high level teams in the future.

brew85
I second Saz, seeing that it might be mind over matter when it comes to either competing with Iceni or some of the other top teams is huge for the Women's Division.

hazard
Any players you’d like to shout out who really made that step up to take on the high level opposition?

doug
As a rookie on the team, I don't think I can comment on that. But my feeling is that this was a 24 person effort - it's not something that can be done by individuals alone. During the first Iceni game and against Bristols we could really feel the whole team atmosphere and concentration both on and off the pitch. Then it was a striking difference when it wasn't there later. We just have to figure out how to get that on tap.

saz
Doug - any tips for other teams looking to work on their mental game?

doug
I don't know if there's any one solution but I think the important thing is recognising that it doesn't just happen, it takes conscious effort. This season SYC have put a lot of time and energy into trying to build our mental game - a lot of that is individuals taking ownership of the things they struggle with and being able to talk about it with the team so that we can be a strong and supportive unit, rather than isolated individuals. We also have done exercises to build each other up, recognizing and valuing the strengths of each person on the team both on and off the field and then communicating that to them.

All that seemed to work well for us! It's not over though, I think it's something that needs constant care, attention and conscious effort.Oh, and I personally think it’s ride-or-die on the sideline. A strong, loud, supportive sideline is a magical thing that can turn a game around. It’s another thing that doesn’t just happen - it takes a lot of effort and energy but it’s so important.

doug
Nice Bristols came into the weekend strong and had comfortable victories against everyone until the SYC game. Did they feel disadvantaged by a lack of competitive games in the tournament or perhaps in the season as a whole (with many key players not attending T1 and T2)?

deano
To say we had comfortable victories in the pools would be a big exaggeration. We came into the tournament knowing that there were no easy games and that we had to fight hard for every point. We had some excellent games in pool play against exciting teams who we hadn’t properly met this year, and none of them felt easy by any stretch!

However I think the talk about mental strength is so valid and even when the points are hard fought, it’s obviously easier to pull it together if you’ve got a bit of a buffer. The SYC game was the first where we went down early and were chasing from behind the whole game to try and get a break back. That definitely affected our mental game and by extension, our offence, which we couldn’t quite get right. We knew we had to tidy things up after tour 3 and have been working on our consistency and efficiency on O - but couldn’t quite piece it together at the weekend.

Although we might not like to admit it, knowing that SYC had beaten Iceni in their pool game probably had quite a big effect on us mentally, as well as that crazy three way tie which left Iceni still as the top seeds.

Overall it definitely felt like a much more exciting Nationals than previous years with early upsets and three way ties all over the place! I think it’s so important for the division and development of newer clubs and younger players to see that there is space in the top tier and that really it’s all to play for. There are a lot more names in the conversation for the semi-finals with Rebel and Brighton doing big things with only small squads and Chaos making a name for themselves after only one season!

Rebel put in some great performances this weekend, and really shook up the UK scene.
Photo by Sam Mouat for the ShowGame

doug
The tournament wildcards Rebel beat both SYC and Brighton to claim a top 4 spot. I know SYC struggled to adjust to the spicier, less conventional style of play – how did Rebel feel matching up against the UK teams? How do the Irish women find competing in the UK championships and should more teams be making the journey? How will they be deciding on which team will get the worlds spot?

rosieomahony2012
Rebel love playing against UK teams. To be honest in Ireland women's ultimate is practically non-existent with just two proper women's clubs, so we loved the opportunity to come play against UK teams. Gravity Ultimate, the other Irish women's team, won Irish nationals two weekends ago so they have the spot for EUCR-W (aka UK Nats) for next year, and also the Worlds spot. If the opportunity arose and Ireland had two spots in the Women's Division at UK Nats next year then Rebel would definitely be interested in returning.  I love how all of the top UK women's teams appear to have very different styles, it made it a very challenging and interesting weekend for us. We definitely struggled towards the latter half of the tournament with fitness and small numbers. In the last number of years at Tours, we have noticed a considerable gap between the top 3 UK teams and everyone else. It's nice to see that gap appears to be closing with Chaos on  the scene and Brighton, who seem to have reinvented themselves into an extremely competitive (and super spirited) side, however I think that gap is still fairly evident when you look at the various results.

doug
It's interesting that you found the varying styles of the UK teams to be a challenge, when for us it was a sharp learning curve (and for SYC a little too slow it seems) matching up against you with your completely unpredictable and exciting style of offense. Some of the things your team put up were basically unthinkable to me, and then you had these insane grabs to bring them down. It was really incredible to see (horrendous to play against 😉).

doug
Speaking of closing the gap, Chaos had a stormer of a first season. Losing the first game against Brighton was seemingly just teething issues as they looked strong from there on, achieving the closest result against Bristols in the pool stage and only missing out on the top 4 bracket by 3-way tie. They took the win in their second game against Brighton and claimed 5th. How are the team feeling after their first (v.impressive) season?

mairi_mcclean
This weekend really was one of the best endings to the season that Chaos could have hoped for. I think the results are testament to the commitment of both our players and coaches, who have prioritised and invested in this team from the off. We relished the opportunity to run against the best competition in UK women’s ultimate, and we’re all incredibly excited about getting our name on the board and getting people talking about the expansion of the competitive women’s scene in London.

Going into this weekend, we were unsure of what to expect. First game nerves (and adjustments to the few pick-ups that were involved) definitely came into play in the first game, but gelling was rapid and thankfully in time for our battle against LLLeeds, who were, as always, reliably tough to play. Following on from LLLeeds, we anticipated that Bristol would be our greatest competition, and boy did they deliver. However, we took this opportunity to run our hardest, throw what we had against them and make sure that we gave a good fight, which I think was reflective of the team’s attitude towards all of our competition throughout the weekend.



Chaos are a welcome addition to the elite UK Women's Ultimate scene.
Photo by Tristan Millington.

saz
Leeds have had some insane battles with Chaos all season (30 minute universe point at Tour 1 anyone?) so I'm already excited for what both teams can bring next season. I like to think that we could have beaten them, but Chaos definitely deserved their win on Saturday.

mairi_mcclean
I have absolutely loved playing LLLeeds this season; maybe some of my favourite games?! (30-minute universe point not included)

hazard
The Bristol vs Chaos game was very interesting, worth rewatching. The depth of the Bristols team was just insane, but, particularly downwind, they had to respect Chaos and couldn’t find a way to stop the offence once Chaos got into it. Chaos were scoring with long passes, short passes, and everything in between. Very nice to see.

doug
Have we finally found a third high-level London Women's Ultimate team?

mairi_mcclean
Going forward, the key word here is definitely sustainability. There have been a number of teams in this position in the past who have started strong, but failed to maintain a stage presence or ensure player retention, both which are key issues at the top of the agenda for Chaos.

Following the 2017 Iceni/SYC roster announcements, the London Women’s Frisbee community sought to quantify the demand for a larger competitive women’s scene. A huge 120 women identified themselves as being without a competitive team; this is the space in which Chaos was formed. With this in mind, I truly believe that there are the resources to keep the momentum. With more plans for the off-season, including regular open sessions-similar to those of Iceni/SYC-and a comprehensive trial process, we’re hoping that yes; the horizons of women’s ultimate in London is expanding for good.

doug
My goodness we really are spoiled in London! Really exciting to see another positive and proactive entity providing opportunities for women to develop. Good on ya.

hazard
One extra thing. The three London teams were (I believe, not sure about Rebel) the only ones with coaches. Would love to see that happen more, across all divisions in Ultimate. But I think the Women’s Division is really where we see the position the most developed.

Also, for those who want to see more of Chaos, they've produced a highlights reel (already) from Nationals.

mairi_mcclean
Oh 100%, such a key point. And I think a point raised in the gender discussions was the gender ratio of coaches?

doug
It makes such an enormous difference, having a calm, objective voice who can think about the strategy and leave the players (crucially the captains) to play.

rosieomahony2012
Rebel didn't have a coach at all this year. We have in previous years and it makes a massive difference.

hazard
I mentioned this on the livestream actually. I think I only noticed two female coaches at WCBU, compared to many male ones. I actually think one of both can work really well. Seeing Megan Hurst and Felix Shardlow bounce off each other as my coaches in GB U23 Mixed last cycle was a joy, and helped us so much.

saz
LLLeeds certainly has some players who are also skilled/experienced coaches, but it would be great to work towards having a large enough player base that warrants a non-playing coach.

hazard
You’ve actually got some people in LLLeeds with practice too. Shoutout to my former-boss Gemma Taylor, GB U20s coach for a few years.

saz
Gemma Taylor, KJ Boardman-Hims, Flea Perry, Jools Murray (this weekend) ...the list goes on.

doug
There's a huge amount of experience and knowledge on LLLeeds which is awesome but I think it still makes a huge difference having someone focused on strategy who isn't playing... SYC are super lucky that we have both James Burbridge and Marie-So Nguyen-yu who are incredible coaches as individuals and a formidable team together, and certainly were a significant factor in the success SYC saw at the weekend.

saz
Yes I agree, it's definitely something to aim for long term.

doug
Moving on to Brighton! Brighton looked very promising from the tour season, and were predicted by many to finish solidly in the top 4. How do they feel after the weekend? Do they feel that the good weather disadvantaged them (or rather they would have had an advantage in worse conditions)?

brew85
I think it would be easy to look at our results and feel disappointed, we won one game this weekend and failed to beat that team twice (Chaos). However, I actually think we played some of the best ultimate that I've ever seen those players play. Our entire aim this season is to #bethebestbrighton and we were the best that we'd ever been. We certainly are very good at playing in the wind, we have a larger number of handlers on our squad, and that's what we are known for. We're super chuffed with our performance in the semis  against Iceni, it's the most points we've ever taken off their full squad, we forced turns off them, and had 3 drops/near misses in the endzone so we are more than happy with that. We failed to prepare properly for the game against Rebel, we'd beaten pretty much the same outfit at tour in sudden death but we struggled to manage tired players and Rebel managed to hit the shots against our zone that we missed by inches against theirs.

doug
Do you think the small squad was influential, particularly against Rebel, LLLeeds and Bristols?

brew85
Small squad?! 14 is pretty huge for us! Jokes aside, we told the women at the beginning of the season that attendance and involvement at training would be the number one factor when picking a team for nationals, so the 14 players that were on that squad were able to be the most committed.LLLeeds was a tiring game for us and they pretty much matched us with deep discs, we hadn't had to chase down as many deep shots against other teams as we did against them so I think we felt it in our legs towards the end of that game.

hazard
So….you’re saying huck and D is a legitimate tactic at Nationals?

doug
Isn't it everywhere??

saz
From a LLLeeds perspective, I think we managed to gel well in time for the Brighton game. We got some breaks early on, then managed to maintain that as we traded. Credit to Brighton, they worked it back to an even scoreline towards the end of the second half, but in the end LLLeeds managed to maintain momentum and take it.

brew85
Well it is a valid tactic... But yes LLLeeds were a little more trigger happy than the other teams, so consistently chasing down their long puts very quickly tired out our players.

saz
Can I also just give a huge shout out to whoever designed Brighton's kit. I ❤ it. Also while I'm at it...Chaos' kit ❤

doug
Those Brighton tanks are pretty awesome, that's for sure.

brew85
That'll be James Allen of Brighton City fame. We'll be doing a fan order soon....

doug
So LLLeeds weren't afraid to play some long game at the weekend - was that a decided tactic coming into the weekend? With the classic LLLeeds mix of veterans and new young talent, how did they seek to maximize their game?

saz
So I can't really speak from a tactical perspective as I've actually been an injured sideline all season (I have watched a LOT of fris) but this weekend our main aims were to gel as a team of veterans, younguns AND some necessary pick ups, all of whom had links to existing members of the team/were former players, so there were some existing connections deep down. Secondly we wanted to have fun whilst doing so, which I think was achieved whilst also giving some top teams a decent game at least.

My personal reflection of the weekend...was that we would have been happy with a 7th place finish at tour, and all of the teams above us are often found in the top 8 of tour...so really we had a successful weekend, despite coming in the bottom half of Nationals. It was also nice to have our open team present too, going back to the gender equity discussions, some of our team struggled with having to choose between sidelining their women's team, and attending the GE discussion.

doug
It seems like getting a women's teams to Nationals might be a success in itself (unfortunately)... LLLeeds were the only northern team in the Women’s Division – how do you think the development of the women’s side is going in the north? Many teams seem to prioritise Mixed or just not enter.

saz
So I think this is a tricky one. Across the whole season, on one side, you see teams like Manchester Women and Punt absent from both tour and nationals, but at the same time you see newer women's teams emerging, I've seen great things happening in Merseyside and murmurs of a women's team from The Brown (Newcastle). However overall, I think in the North we have some more work to do, both in developing higher levels of beginner intake, and in fostering the elite level. I see no reason why the North can't develop a powerhouse team capable of genuinely challenging our southern counterparts. And for LLLeeds...returning to the glory days of 2010.

However across the North we will need women stepping up and committing to this development, I've heard on the grapevine this was a reason behind Manchester's demise, and some of LLLeeds' veterans are not going to be sticking around forever.It is certainly not an impossible task though.

Just a final point on LLLeeds… I feel that often in previews/reviews/social media, there is a lot of mention of LLL's 'veterans'. As undeniably talented, experienced, amazing, committed as they are, the younger players don't get enough credit. Molly Burd, Charlie Still (GB Mixed at WUGC 2016), Hannah Radford (Korea at WUGC 2016), Rachel Sanig and Jessie Davidson, are all stalwart, key LLLeeds players, plus many more. Sometimes they are overshadowed by our 'old ladies' (as they call themselves) but play equally as big roles on and off pitch.

doug
That's definitely an excellent point about LLLeeds, there are some amazing veteran players but there's an increasing number of 'middle aged ladies' who have been with the club for 2/3/4 years and are an integral part of the team. LLLeeds are great at developing new talent but often suffered as the uni crowd would get trained up and then move on for pastures new (the South). It's great that there are an increasing number of talented northern players who have remained with the club and continue to keep LLLeeds the women's ultimate team of the North.

saz
My point exactly. However on the flipside it's also great that so many women who originated in Leeds have gone on to be key players in many southern teams. A testament to our old ladies’ coaching skills and perhaps also the strong Leeds uni side.

doug
A club which seems to gain and retain talent incredibly well is Reading Ultimate, which was the only club to have teams in all three divisions at Nationals. Reading women were coming off the back of a strong tour season with a split squad which consistently reached around 9th and 10th, which means it’s no surprise they had a strong squad to enter to Nats despite the loss of some women to their mixed team. While not achieving the on-pitch success they may have hoped, it remains a testament to the Reading club that they had teams in each division and clearly have a lot of talent and potential.  

hazard
We (Reading) were the only club this year to enter teams in all divisions, although I believe Brighton have managed it in the past (very much with different teams under one club, as I believe they like to phrase it). We also had two open teams at regionals!

And yeah, some of our training sessions open to the whole club can get a little ridiculous. Shout out to those like Serena de Nahlik, Andy Lewis and Matt Bolton (and more) who end up running drills for 40+ people. It really shows that we were still able to field a strong squad and get some points off some big names, despite all the women playing mixed.

nyssa
Our difficulty is that we lose most of our top ladies to mixed. So while our team had a somewhat reduced experience level I think this weekend was really helpful for some of our developing ladies in giving them a chance to play at higher level against teams they don't normally play against.  Despite losing every game our ladies remained incredibly positive, tried to learn something from each opponent we went up against and just enjoyed every moment of the weekend.

Going forward we are going to focus on developing a stronger team which means better fitness, more tactics and a better knowledge of plays.

hazard
For the actual women’s team this weekend though, they should be very proud. They had a really positive attitude for the whole weekend, and played some good ultimate, both through our experienced and less experienced players. Lots of love for the whole side.

saz
Reading Women looked like a strong team in their own right with huge potential...regardless of who your mixed players are! (and not just this weekend, throughout the whole season)

doug
Awesome guys, thanks to you all for all your contributions! That’s the end of the Women’s Nationals chat. If you are keen to relive some of the weekend’s excitement, there are highlight videos on Youtube from FOCUS Ultimate and full games on Fanseat. Looking forward to seeing you all on the field soon!

saz
Good luck to all the ladies representing at Euros!

What Went Down At: EUCR-W Women's (UKU Nationals)

Main Editor/Chair: doug (SYC) Additional Editing: ali, hazard Main Contributors: mara (Iceni), saz (LLLeeds), mairi_mcclean (Chaos), hazard ...