Discussion: Mind the Gap

hazard
Welcome to the chat! Today we'll be discussing anything to do with women in university Ultimate. The chat will feature myself (our Editor), ali (our Women's Editor), AnnieB (our Scottish Writer), k-j (our Northern Writer), Becky Greenwood (our Western Writer) and gyanhan (our Eastern Writer).

We'll start with the "Elevator Pitch". What is cool about Ultimate? Why should new female students want to join our sport?

AnnieB
I have so many answers to this question! The first one that comes to mind - and one of the most important ones - is that Ultimate is the most amazing community, and it's one you never have to leave. This sport is of course incredible to play - athletic, competitive - but it also has a great community that has been built over the years. This applies to all Ultimate players of any gender, but for woman in particular I think you can find a team and group of people who will always support you and cheer you on as you accomplish your own goals and those of the team.

gyanhan
I think this is a question that anyone who’s looking to recruit new people to the sport wants a clear answer for, but doesn’t really have. Recruitment is a problem for women’s uni teams everywhere, every year there’s always a uni I see register for Mixed but not send a team for Women’s. While I personally joined Ultimate because 1. No need for prior experience compared to other sports, 2. It’s mixed, that’s something interesting, and 3. Heard a lot about how the frisbee community is really welcoming to beginners, I’m not sure what the best pitches are to get women to join nowadays, considering these elements of community and openness to beginners have existed for a long time.

Becky Greenwood
Last weekend when I excitedly and enthusiastically pitched Ultimate Frisbee to millions of freshers at our Sports Bazzar, exactly one year after I was introduced to this sport myself, the main thing I started with was (considering I’m at Loughborough where it’s tough to get onto any other AU sporting team..) that there were no trials and EVERYONE gets to be on the team. It’s already been said but I loved how all the beginners were so massively welcomed and included, no matter how good they were. All that mattered was an eagerness to get better and most of all, have a load of fun! I pitched how I‘d not really played much of netball or football, for example, so I didn’t already have that ‘pitch awareness’ and also how I wasn’t the most athletic or coordinated person… so I could confidently say how much better they would already be compared to me, if they’d played football or netball for example!

I also explained how massively encouraging and friendly the fellow Frisbee community is. I explained how quick it can be to pick up the basics and given enough determination, how quick it is to improve further. I could literally talk about this for hours but the main thing is looking at how much I’ve changed over the year because of Frisbee, I never cared for the gym, and now I do, the improvement I’ve made is massive, I’m massively keen for it and it’s all because of all these things building up to the fact that (obviously very very biased) it’s the best sport to join when arriving at uni!!!

k-j
When I was on the fresher’s fair and trying to interest people, my reel-in sentence was either “Have you heard of Ultimate Frisbee?” or “Want to try an amazing new sport?”, and the latter was definitely more successful at catching people’s interest! My pitch would always start with saying it is a competitive and athletic sport, and then that most people have never played before so there’s no fear of being ‘left behind’ by more experienced players, and that is a Mixed sport with a super-supportive community and a mad social scene.

ali
All of those things, plus Spirit is one of the most amazing things about frisbee. Some school sports like netball have a bad reputation for pushy/bad tempered players, so coming to such a chill sport is a really nice change.

gyanhan
Another big factor in getting more women in joining the sport would be improving the visibility of the sport, which is a long-term process that may take years to accomplish. Making Ultimate more “mainstream”, and in turn making women in Ultimate more mainstream would ultimately result in more people knowing about it and joining it.

AnnieB
My pitch for women generally involves the fact that most people don't play until they get to university. When you first start Ultimate the learning curve is very steep - you can get improve very quickly. Of course becoming a really good player takes time. But you can aim high in Ultimate, and I've found in many teams that if a player is willing to put the work in, they will never be turned away. This pitch is getting outdated in some ways - people start playing earlier, and have some awareness of what the sport is before they come to uni. But as gyanhan said, increasing visibility is key.

hazard
Don't forget Ultimate looks cool, and that they can look cool playing it.

AnnieB
That video made me want to play Ultimate and I already do!

hazard
Ok, let's take the next step then. We've got our next big potential Iceni players to come to a taster session. How do we run that first session, and how do we keep them after that?

Elly White and Charlie Blair did a good article on this a while ago, but I'd like to know your thoughts too.

gyanhan
Given that the number of women in uni Ultimate clubs are usually a minority, one of the best ways to keep the women is to create a really close-knit family sort of feeling. One of my favourite things about playing Women’s Ultimate during my undergrad was that I knew all the other women in the club and felt comfortable chatting with them, whereas there were probably plenty of men I might never have had the chance to speak with one-on-one. Of course, if the number of women in your club increases, then the close-knit family feeling is likely harder to achieve. But some might say that’s a happy problem.

ali
It's a difficult balance to strike, because not all the girls who turn up to your taster sessions are necessarily athletes already, many of them are just there to try out a new sport. But if you go too casual, some of the girls who are used to intense hockey/netball/lacrosse whatever may get the impression that frisbee is a bit of a doss.  

AnnieB
I think a lot of it is good teaching and coaching methods. Personally, I'm not shy about correcting people.  But I also remember clearly what it was like to be a beginner and it was overwhelming. Good female players within in the club, playing well and not taking a backseat to the men on the field and when coaching - these things are essential for keeping woman playing.

k-j
No messing about with drills, just straight in with throwing (I’d just teach backhands) and then explain the most basic rules (no running, no contact, catch in the endzone), ignoring stalling/stacking, explain Spirit and then straight into loooooads of game time. If you have enough women to make an all-women’s taster session that’d be amazing, but I wasn’t put off by playing Mixed. I’d recommend taking the experienced players to one side and reminding them to not poach, to throw to everybody, to high-five and congratulate everybody on the team – you’re not there to win or show-off, you’re there to get other people as hooked on the sport as you are.

gyanhan
Oh and skimming through that article - I’m a huge supporter of Mixed Ultimate, but I have to agree slightly with the author’s points that women shouldn’t be introduced to the sport via Mixed. This is unfortunately due to things like women not getting as many touches as the men, or getting  D-ed by a speedy guy, as those things can be pretty discouraging. But Annie raises a really good point about having good female players within the club playing well. If you have enough of them at Mixed tasters, they can be a boost of confidence to the newbies. A good counter to the disadvantages of getting scared off at a Mixed taster is to have a Women’s taster as well, which I think a lot of unis are doing.

I find that women who stay either fall into one or both of the following categories: 1. Improved quickly and can play decently or 2. Made lots of good friends within the club. So addressing both of those points would be a good way to start retaining women.

Happy freshers at an Edinburgh Ultimate taster session -
Ro Sham must be doing something right!
Credit:

Ro Sham Bo - Edinburgh University Ultimate Frisbee Club

hazard
A lot of players’ fondest memory is of their first Ultimate tournament. For a lot of people, it's make or break as to whether they join Frisbee or not. How important do we think the tournaments are to Ultimate, and what's the key to making someone's first tournament a good one?

AnnieB
I love the energy at beginners tournaments! Captains and experienced players can really make or break a tournament for beginners. Encouraging sidelining for other teams, getting people to create personal or team goals, and most importantly not getting frustrated with beginner level playing. Quite frankly not every player is good at captaining/teaching/playing with beginners, so it’s important that this is considered when making teams. My first ever tournament was Glasgow One Day, and I do remember the first ever point I scored. Having the sideline cheering and getting a high five off the captains was great. In Scotland (not sure about rest of UK) Sept/October is filled with beginner tournaments, so they start to get to know one another and the other teams. Showing people it's not just about showing up and playing, but about Spirit and running and supporting each other - for me, that’s what the first few tournament experiences should be.

ali
That's adorable <3

gyanhan
I’ve got no answer to the key to making someone’s first tournament a good one, but I do think tournaments are important to Ultimate as it’s a chance to meet others who also enjoy the sport, not to mention a healthy dose of competitiveness will help in building a sense of belonging to a team.

k-j
Aaaaah, my first tournament, 717 days ago :P Women’s Indoor Regionals, playing for Durham 2nds. Although I agree that winning lots is nice (who doesn’t like winning?) and encouraging to newbies, it isn’t necessary, we only won a single match and I wasn’t put off in the slightest – to the contrary, I think watching higher level women encouraged me to improve! I think at the first tournament you’ve got to show how supportive the community is, and how fun tournaments are – the Durham 1sts and the Women’s Captain came to watch us and I was really flattered and eager to impress them in the future, and we all ate together and had a big girly sleepover – I loved every minute. That’s the impression I want freshers to have leaving that first weekend – “I had fun, I learnt loads, I made friends and I want to improve.”

AnnieB
It may sound idealistic - tournaments are obviously not always that great - but there's nothing wrong with aiming high.  And having the expectation it will be awesome will be passed on to others, so go in optimistic.

Becky Greenwood
Like Annie has already said! The captains and coaches make a huge impact. They were such fun and encouraging people to be around that it just made the whole thing ten times more enjoyable! I very vividly remember playing my second Ultimate tournament - it was Uni Indoor Mixed Regionals and I was on Loughborough 3rds. Given that I’d only been going to the beginners sessions for 2 or 3 weeks I was very much out of my comfort zone!! However I remember how incredibly encouraging and helpful the sideline was. I still remember scoring a point and also assisting another and getting a high five from literally everyone and I don’t think I’d been that happy in ages! The sense of achievement was massive and it’s a feeling I’m now hooked to!

Leeds at Nottingham Beginners 2016
Credit:
University of Nottingham Ultimate - UONU

hazard
Ok. What do we think about the structure of competitive uni Ultimate in general? e.g. Women's Regionals/Nationals for Indoors and Outdoors as tournaments, and the Mixed ones too. Do we like it?  

Also, lesson learned. Everyone should high-five the freshers as they score their first points. They'll remember you doing it!

Becky Greenwood
Honestly I couldn’t stop smiling for a good five minutes!!!

AnnieB
I like the current set up. I think league set up is still quite far away from being totally justifiable for Women’s, but then I do come from a small region.

gyanhan
Not sure if I’ve remembered correctly, but I remember a year when there was no Women’s Outdoor Regionals, just straight Nationals due to the lack of teams. And now with the regionals format, almost every uni makes it through to Nationals due to the presence of Div 1 and Div 2, and there aren’t that many unis around who can send an outdoor women’s team, and there are teams who qualify but Ultimately drop out due issues with numbers or finances. While I love having another tournament to play at, and can understand that regionals would be helpful for seeding and splitting into Div 1 and 2, with the number of teams right now it doesn’t seem like regionals is very useful, and it might be worth changing the weekend to a Women’s outdoor warm up tournament instead. I would love to hear others’ opinions about this. Just something I’ve been wondering for a while.

k-j
Oooh I can’t decide! I personally love tournaments, they give the team a focus at trainings (e.g. we’ve got two weeks until Regionals, let’s all be early to training and make it a good one!) and you come away shattered with this incredible camaraderie with your team. I think I’d go for number 3; so you’d still have Women’s Regionals and Nationals, the Men’s teams would have Regionals, and then weekly Mixed matches, which would increase the visibility of Ultimate to universities. I like it.

Becky Greenwood
I haven’t got a huge opinion on indoors, I really enjoyed my first indoor season!
For outdoors though I personally found it more tough to get the hang of, as the girls couldn’t play BUCS games and also the outdoor training was at the same time as BUCS games so that training was hardly ever on, as either the pitch was being used for BUCS games or all the boys were at BUCS games.. this is changing this year I think though ... I just played as much outdoors as I possibly could to make up for it!!!

gyanhan
Yeah the league set up isn’t really suitable with the number of teams right now, and even so, I’ve heard lots of grumbles about BUCS leagues that makes me prefer the weekend tournament format :P

hazard
Ok. Let's move on to a question we had in the Men's chat too, with a slight change. I want you to imagine the number of teams would not be an issue. Which of the following outcomes would you like best for UKU to pursue, from the perspective of women in Ultimate?

1. Keep the current structure (lots of tournaments)
2. Move on to separate Men's/Women's BUCS leagues
3. Move on to one big Mixed BUCS league.

ali
3. I mean if we had enough women for a league it would be amazing. But still 3.

gyanhan
Oooo 3.

Becky Greenwood
More outdoor Mixed frisbee would be awesome so I’ll go for 3.

gyanhan
I actually quite like the idea of BUCS, if there weren’t other problems like having trouble cobbling together a team, or having different teams of different standards at different games due to availability etc etc. Having a BUCS league gives a sort of legitimacy to the sport too in the eyes of unis I think. But it definitely should be well-run and suited for the current UK Ultimate climate, rather than something just for the sake of it. Ideally if BUCS leagues were run to the consistency and standard of the Premier League that would be cool, but that’s just a pipe dream for now!
Just to be clear, I’d like a Mixed BUCS league and Men’s and Women’s in tournament format :)

AnnieB
2.

ali
Oooh, Annie, why?

AnnieB
I really like Women’s, and I think it should be given a chance to develop in BUCS at this point, until the future of the sport becomes clearer? I feel like we are currently at a transition point in terms of the bigger picture of the sport.

ali
So Annie do you think that Women's Ultimate would improve more if we had a Women's BUCS League? (and enough women to make it worthwhile)
Because personally I feel like if both the men and women are committed to improving the women in their club, for the sake of the Mixed team, the women will have more opportunities to improve.


AnnieB
I'd like to see Women’s in BUCs league format, hypothetically.  Also agree with Ali, excellent point. Basically I'm torn.

hazard
Last thing, and it actually comes straight of AnnieB's last point. What do we think about Women's vs Mixed at uni level? Which do we prefer? Are there any issues with either?

gyanhan
I love both, but I find that Mixed Outdoor Nats is always at a really inconvenient time… And judging by the number of teams it seems to be a problem too (not to mention funding, teams’ priorities etc). And Women’s Outdoor Nats seem to be a game of who wins the toss or who gets a sudden lull amidst the gusty winds.

ali
Womens: just general lack of players and often a lack of commitment from those players. Women's Nationals last year was a clear example of this, SO many teams dropped out of both divisions.

Mixed: Mixed has issues at every level, but at uni where the throwing and cutting skills are lower by comparison, Mixed can be a really rough deal for women, and that was BEFORE the BUCS changes. This means that clubs put much less emphasis on Mixed trainings, and thus have even less chemistry when it comes to Mixed Regionals. And there's ALWAYS that one guy who never throws to girls. In every club. I'm beginning to think it's kind of like a law of thermodynamics.

Kenjiro Kawase (Japan) makes a questionable bid that injured his own teammate,
Saori Inoue, at the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw, Poland.
Credit: Matthias Hengst/Getty Images

gyanhan
Yeah seconding Ali’s point about a lack of players in Women’s, and I’d like to link back to my earlier point about the rather redundant Regionals if everyone can get to Nationals anyway.

AnnieB
I honestly feel that Ali has summarised the points about Mixed at uni level very well.  Priorities of each team differ, and getting everyone on the same level is very difficult.

k-j
I’m gonna be super indecisive and say that I like both equally! They’re surprisingly different and the role of specific women have to change to adapt to the team (e.g. female handlers in Women’s cut in Mixed). A lot of women I play with at uni find it difficult to play Mixed because they are less confident, they feel the guys are judging them, they don’t want to get in the way, they feel they’re being looked off etc., which are problems that are solved by playing more and gaining confidence, but also massively depends on the attitude of guys in the club. I started only playing Women’s and then joined Mixed when I was confident, which worked for me – so much depends on the priority of your club, whether you have Mixed or split trainings, and what the dynamics of the club are.

hazard
Ali's law of That One Guy™ brings me onto a good final point. Is there anything we think needs to change about men's attitudes towards women in Ultimate? Feel free to be as open as you like.

gyanhan
1. Throw to women
2. Don’t cut off women’s cuts
3. Don’t always think that a male handler > female handler
4. Women can also cut deep and be thrown to in the deep space

To be fair I’ve also met lots of very nice men (hahaha I don’t know how else to change this to sound less promiscuous) who throw to women, and are keen to help women improve their game, and understand some of the differences in the cutting styles of women. But one or two or sometimes even three rotten eggs can really dampen the mood/kill the vibe/rain on the parade/insert dramatic phrase for emphasis.  

AnnieB
What female player doesn't know the feeling of being looked off in favor of a pitch length hammer into the wind? When you run and run on the field, get the disc once, and if you drop it, never getting it again? When having four girls on a field is "playing to our weaknesses"? I have many many things to say about this, and basically it boils down to: a whole lot needs to change. Men need to respect female players both on and off the field, and respect the fact that the Women’s game is not the same as the Men’s, and that Mixed is not just "Men's with some females added in".

ali
A big part of men not throwing to women is them being worried that they’ll drop it/turf it immediately. The attitude should not therefore not be ‘ugh she’s dropped it again’ but ‘how can I help to improve my teammate?’ Sometimes women aren’t comfortable with asking for advice and men don’t think to give it. So from an equity standpoint, I would say men should give more help to the women in their club, both in giving advice and being willing to give advice if asked. But women should perhaps be more vocal in asking for help as well!

AnnieB
Oh yeah, it goes both ways. But it shouldn't be "women should be like the male players"  to have their playing respected, which is what some players seem to think is the case. A woman playing like a guy is not a bad thing, but neither is a woman playing like a woman!

gyanhan
I really dislike it when guys who drop the disc are brushed off, but girls who drop the disc are considered just awful, why can’t they catch a simple disc, I’m never throwing to them again even if they are miles open.

ali
There's even a tactic we used at Mixed Nats last year - the guys played person defence and the women essentially played zone, leaving the other team's women wide open while we clogged the lanes. The amount of teams who didn't throw to their completely open women was breathtaking. 

hazard
I would like to add one specific point for guys to look out for. It's known as "crowding the disc", and it refers to when guys, being very well meaning, all gather round a player on the disc, making the throw very hard. When you realise it's a thing, you spot it more and more. It's a good situation guys can learn to avoid.

Becky Greenwood
Although I’ve never come across that many guys who are like that against/mean about female players. In pretty much all the tournaments I’ve played there have been loads of guys who are massively encourage to use girls as their big advantage in Mixed!

k-j
There are two aspects to this question – there’s the “how guys play” and there’s the “how guys think”. I’ve never had the “one guy who doesn’t throw to girls” (maybe I’m lucky, maybe Durham is just a beacon of gender equality, who knows?!) but I’ve been looked off as a viable option for a sketchy alternative, and it is deeply frustrating and really undercuts your self-confidence. This might get shouted down, but I’ve always found that fresher guys pick up throwing a lot faster, and therefore fresher girls feel like they’re not learning and unable to contribute, so don’t make the cuts, and therefore get into a vicous cycle of not playing and not improving! So in playing, every player has got to take the viable option – no matter what gender, simple as anything. Almost more importantly is the attitude of guys, rather than how they play – the little comments about how “you only got in cos you’re a girl” or “he would have got that” or “ouch dude, you just got beaten by a girl, how does that feel?” – they really hurt, and they’re what I’ve remembered.

hazard
Alright, time to close. I would like you all to finish by naming one person who has been inspirational to you, and/or helped encourage you in your Ultimate lives.

Becky Greenwood
Rupal Ghelani!!!! What an absolute legend she is!!! I want to be her!! She’s Loughborough Women’s Captain this year and again she’s hugely wonderful both to be around and massively helpful and encouraging on the pitch and can always pick people back up after a bad game!! Also despite being smaller than me she is also awesomely incredz on pitch.
Also shoutout to Ruth Nicholson, who is incredibly encouraging, welcoming and friendly, not to mention how absolutely SICK ASS she is at playing! Such a shame about her leg though :(

AnnieB
Simone Noriko Whale.  She really showed me/ continues to show me how badass a female player can and should be. Actually, I've been very lucky to have a great line of captains whilst playing at uni - all of them great players who taught me different things.

ali
Probably Rachel Turton – her athleticism and pitch awareness made her far and away the best player at my first Mixed Regionals, so amazing to watch. All the guys on my team were saying how they wouldn’t be confident marking her. Such an inspiration, and such a lovely person too!

gyanhan
I’m going to go with Katariina Rantanen. We weren’t particularly close, she was the Women’s Captain when I first joined, and someone whom a young starry eyed fresher was really impressed by. She’s gone on to great things, GB U23 last cycle, and most recently she played with tournament winners Atletico at EUCF (and she was even highlighted on Ultiworld as an unstoppable deep threat against Iceni - that is The Dream). I never actually got to play with her at uni, but played with her at Burla (an Italian beach tournament) and Tour last season and she is such a great person to have on your team both as an athlete and as a teammate. She’s probably the first player I looked up to and said ‘Whoa, I wanna be as good as she is.’

hazard
I'm going to add my own here actually. I'd like to shout out Chrissy Hunter. She was the first woman to ever just completely boss me at a training session. It sucks I needed it - I like to always think I was fairly good about this sort of thing. But having someone that awesome just destroy me and make me realise how good female athletes could be was a better insight than anything else I can think of. Also, shoutout to Leila Denniston for refusing to stop improving at a quite frankly ridiculous rate.

gyanhan

Oooo Chrissy, played against her at women’s tour (Hydra VS Reading) and she and this other Reading girl (Bex Palmer? I think) just whizzed through our zone, it was so cooooool.  

k-j
There are so many! To starry-eyed fresher Kat, my first captain, Hannah Rogers, seemed to be the model of what an epic frisbee girl should be, with a pitch-length flick huck. Tessa Hunt (SMOG) is definitely on the list, she’s speedy and confident and pretty inspiring. Jenna Thompson (the Iceni Women’s Captain and GB Women’s coach) is probably my top role model; she always knows exactly what to do, she gives great advice, she’s fantastically spirited, she’s unafraid to lay-out, and she’s also number 11, which is my number!

Discussion: What do we think of Men's BUCS League?

Welcome to what is going to be an open discussion between some Uni writers about the BUCS league! We have myself, h.christou (our Men's editor), rush (our Scottish writer), slender (our Northern writer), alun p (our Midlands writer), andrew (our returning Western writer), jonnyarthur95 (our returning South-East writer) and clackers (our lower leagues writer). ali (our Women's editor) and dp (ShowGame co-founder) may also jump in for a bit.

Let me start off this discussion by getting something straight. We are all tremendously impressed with the effort and time that has gone in by UKU into organising the BUCS league. While this debate is bound to contain some criticism and opinions, we have nothing but love for those behind it, and what they were trying to achieve. The aim of this debate is not to tear people down, but to challenge the existing structure and give some feedback from different students about how we feel playing in the league.


Right, with that out of the way, let’s start quickly by seeing which side we’re all on. On the following scale, where are we all?


1. I’m really not a fan of BUCS, and want to go back to Regionals/something else

2. I’m not a fan. I don’t necessarily think we should go back, but something big needs to change.
3. Kind of neutral or undecided.
4. I like BUCS. It’s better than the old system. But some things could improve.
5. I 💜 BUCS league. It’s great.

h.christou

I'm a 2 I think

alun p

I'd say I'm a 3. There's a lot of positives, but there are some things that I think definitely need fixing

clackers

Like a 2, possibly a little lower.

andrew

Can I hedge and say 1.5? I think there are some major problems that need addressing. Could be teething issues!

rush

I’m gonna hedge a 3.5

slender

2.5, not really a fan but I think it's good for the sport and we shouldn't go back. There doesn't need to be a huge change and think it's getting better each year. Perhaps it was implemented a few years too soon?

jonnyarthur95

3 I think for the big clubs it's a positive and makes the way to Nationals a lot easier. But I think it makes things difficult for less established clubs and second teams to play

hazard

We actually asked this question on our twitter earlier today, and the popular masses (all 3 of them) seemed in favour.


Current results at time of publishing are that two people love it, nine people like it, two dislike it, two dislove it.
Follow us on twitter!
rush
I would say that the issue with BUCS is that Men’s Nationals is slap bang in the middle of some uni's exam periods. That means some people can’t field a team for Nationals which means they could face a fine which is problematic for uni clubs on tight budgets

clackers

I think returning to Regionals would be the easy choice, but BUCS is the way forward.

slender

@Clackers I strongly agree with that.

andrew

I think funding and timing to get to Nats has always been tough for clubs and BUCS hasn't changed that too much.

hazard

Lets focus on that point. Funding.

A lot of clubs have seen their funding improve, as a result of the increase in number of BUCS points. Have we noticed much in our teams?


andrew

Weekly Wednesday matches are obviously more strain than a single weekend. Honestly I think they balanced out in the end

alun p

As Leicester treasurer at the point the BUCS league started, I managed to roughly quadruple our annual grant just on the potential BUCS points we might earn, and the increased travel costs

clackers

Funding at Lancaster seems pretty good, even though we are a Div 2 team and don't get many BUCS points from the League

hazard

Oxford only get transport for BUCS games, so not a big increase. Although we still don’t get transport for weekend tournaments, so it’s something at least.

slender

That's one of the reason's I think BUCS is the way forward for the sport. While personally our club haven't received that much extra cash we've gotten help with funding for transport. I've heard some clubs have been given a significant amount and have heard whispers that Northumbria have had serious money thrown at them.

hazard

I’ve chatted to that Northumbria team. I can confirm it’s basically helped them restart the club. They’d tried back in 2011/12, and got little help from their SU. Now it’s very different.

rush

Our revenue has arguably increased for Edinburgh for sure since the introduction of the BUCS league so I think funding has been increasing. However our SU are now arguing that we should put in a second Men's team for BUCS since our funding has improved but we simply can't do that as we aren't big enough yet.

clackers

When I was at Reading they had no funding for transport, and no transport available.

jonnyarthur95

At Sussex we probably had more funding as expenses for weekly fixtures were covered but we also lost all money towards Men's Indoors and Men's Nationals. So despite scoring about 1/5 of all of Sussex BUCS points last year we saw little difference

hazard

Wait, Jonny, did you win a trophy or something with that many BUCS points?

jonnyarthur95

One trophy and one silver medal but who's counting?

h.christou

I have not seen any real change in terms of funding at Dundee. It has ended up with St. Andrews pumping an obscene amount into their recruitment drive. Their coach is now full time and they flew him out to college Nationals to recruit. That's a hell of a lot more money than most other clubs.

They've accumulated a lot of BUCS points recently and their AU are investing in that.


rush

St Andrews have cash going spare. All their GB U24 lads are getting everything paid for....

hazard

Let’s not do St Andrews’s recruitment for them, they’re doing fine on that front.


St. Andrews: doing fine on the recruitment front.
andrew
This is news to me! Our funding went up but about in equal proportion to the increase in spending

hazard

Alright. So in that case, this does seem like a real plus of BUCS league. No one has seen funding decrease overall, and some places have seen a big increase.

However, Oscar touched on an interesting point. Second teams. How do we feel the BUCS league has altered the way clubs approach development?


clackers

The introduction of BUCS did hurt Cambridge's development, since they have had enough men to enter 3 teams in Regionals.

alun p

A lot of clubs have Wednesday afternoon training slots, so it does create a bit of a brain drain at those sessions if you aren't entering your beginners. That was part of why we (Leicester) threw all our beginners into a 2nd team with one experienced player. To have a competitive first team, there just weren't enough people left to run any meaningful training. Our schedule made it much worse, we played every week from late October in first term and none after Christmas, but the issue remains even if you have a couple of weeks off.

rush

@Alun P would you argue that the drain at those sessions could affect the development of beginners?

alun p

Definitely. Two years back, there were basically no trainings through November, what with indoor season and BUCS games, so people's development stood still for a month and a couple started to drift away from the sport. On the other hand, the four freshers we took on the 1st team last year, based entirely on a snap judgement after three sessions, developed really well, faster than anyone else I can remember us having. The guys we took as 2nds did better than if they'd stayed home with no training, but they might have been better off if we had been able to get them weekly sessions, rather than being bagelled every week.

clackers

Lancaster also have Wednesday afternoon training sessions, and primarily being an Indoors team there isn't much to develop Outdoors. Also, our term starts 2 weeks after most universities (our taster sessions are the second weekend of October), so it can involve chucking beginners into the deep end.

hazard

Oxford were similar to Cambridge. However, there is an argument that it’s allowed more people to play with the first team (especially since in the lower leagues we didn’t need to be that picky about selection for most games - sorry Leicester). I’ll be interested to see how that changes this year. But I think we’ve seen those few freshers really improve, possibly at the expense of a broader, less experienced fresher year.

andrew

I think it could have a slight negative impact on development down the line. Because there's a financial incentive to accrue as many BUCS points as possible you may see more third years who don't quite make the 1sts taking fresher development spots on 2nd teams because they're more reliable.

slender

We still found that even with two BUCS teams entered some players fell through the cracks. They'd end up being the only 2/3 guys at our Wednesday training sessions when both teams were playing. However I feel like entering a 2nd team with a few experienced players who don't want to play 1s has benefited us significantly in the long term and more teams are realising this. Hallam have entered a 2nd team this year for that exact reason.

clackers

@Slender Sheffield's second team is really promising, they beat us quite considerably.

h.christou

This is where I think the BUCS system helps bigger clubs more than small clubs.

Big clubs can sustain 2 teams and the regular ultimate really helps them along and creates a BUCS League culture within the whole club, this really pushes the sport forward.


A medium or small club can sustain a team, but there a lot of leftover members not involved in fixtures (freshers and girls). This is a scenario Dundee are in. It affects general club training attendance, experienced guys are away, and leaves a gap in attendance which has affected numbers and quality of training for the rest. Some freshers don't enjoy this dynamic and much prefer the attendance of those at fixtures.


clackers

Lancaster were begging men to come and play BUCS games so that we didn't have to iron man.

hazard

I’m fairly sure we played against at least one team who had six players. And by fairly sure, I mean I know them, but they were still keen to play and I don’t want to rat them out to BUCS.

slender

There were multiple times last season we played a team who was iron manning or had complete beginners on their team to make up numbers.

h.christou

I know beforehand, our club sessions were better attended and fresher retention was much better by not having fixtures and super serious trainings so early on. Everyone was keen to develop and then compete later in the season.

jonnyarthur95

I'd say look at the number of second teams that were around when we had Regionals and the number around now and it's a huge difference. Simply it's incredibly difficult trying to organise a second team, from experience, when most of them will be first years who may have played a couple of weeks when they are first asked to go on an away game. It gets difficult to organise.

I would add as advice to teams, have a small first team for BUCS season to make a second team more viable. You really don't need a large squad when it's a single game a day.


h.christou

But @jonnyarthur95 that's so tough when you can be missing at least half a dozen guys to class or placement.

andrew

Some players known instantly that they love the sport and relish being thrown in the deep end. But others who take longer to warm up to it resent it, I think. Maybe it's creates smaller, but more dedicated teams

rush

See now this is where we get the added bonus, we have an extra training on the Saturday for all the boys so we get to develop the beginners then. However the problem arises when we have tournaments at weekend so development loses out. I think that throwing freshers in at the deep end is a good way to get them to learn fast. But then they may not hang around after a difficult game.

clackers

@Rush We lost every single game we played last season, completely agree with them not hanging around when you lose.

h.christou

@Rush that surely creates a gendered divide within the club. It sure has at Dundee. Better to get a Women's league on the go or isn't there the numbers for that across the UK?

hazard

Alright, @h.christou/@Rush, let’s jump on that point.

How do we feel the BUCS league has affected Women’s/Mixed Ultimate. Does it divide clubs? Is it the way forward in general? I know Warwick were trying to line up friendlies for their girls alongside the Men's games.



Oxford and Warwick women after a friendly. Oxford scored more points, but spirit was the real winner.
Photo by Serena de Nahlik.
jonnyarthur95
And I agree it makes development very difficult. Most people are simply not ready to play Outdoors when a second team starts playing. I noticed we had much less first years coming to training once league games started, either because people didn't feel ready to play (and lose) or because trainings became more separated by which team you were in with first team players needing to focus on our own games

rush

@hazard the problem with lining up friendlies is surely that the funding for that isn't gonna come. Therefore if we put the Women's BUCS into play then they're more likely to be funded. More BUCS points, more funding and empowered Women's ultimate 😉

andrew

I think it's absolutely horrible for mixed, like, might kill it off at the uni level bad. BUCS doesn't recognise mixed sports and elevating Men's and Women's above it denies that variation some legitimacy. And when it's already suffering from that, there is a hugely extended Regionals format (in terms of overall time) that means teams are inclined to train all one gender squads to perform better. Then it's just a cycle as it's slowly led out

clackers

Lancaster didn't have enough women to enter Women's Regionals last year. We certainly won't have enough to enter a BUCS league

hazard

A little known side-effect of BUCS is it stops amalgamations. Women’s Nationals used to have many joint-uni teams. Now, you either have enough, or can’t go.

andrew

For the women it's the same story as the men, I think. It's great for big teams and a struggle for smaller ones. But since Women's teams are so much smaller..... bit of a mixed bag for the girls

alun p

Leicester had a fairly bad (in pure number terms) recruitment year for women, partly because we'd committed to entering a second Men's team and felt like we had to push to get enough guys to fill it. The amount we emphasised how great the BUCS league was might well have felt rather excluding to women at fresher's fair

hazard

From a personal point, it makes me sad how much they’re pushing out Mixed. It’s still the highest level of our sport (World Games), and it makes me sad that some top University players are unlikely to play it. Being clear, it gets little coverage by us as writers, simply because of how little it seems to be valued (e.g. one outdoor tournament).

clackers

I don't think the Mixed competitions have changed that much since the BUCS League was introduced, I just hope it doesn't get sidelined.

rush

@Alun P I feel we would have the same problem next year if we said we would put in a bid for a second Men's team.

jonnyarthur95

I think it's pretty bad for mixed. I know previously before Christmas most of Sussex training would be mostly mixed. Now because we needed to practise for BUCS it got split by gender pretty quickly.

hazard

Despite the BUCS league, Oxford still have mixed trainings as our highest level, as we feel it’s the best way for all our players to develop, regardless of gender.

clackers

Perhaps going to a small uni where we can't afford to split numbers still puts the onus on Mixed. But I don't like that we're training to play mixed, but can't really put any of it in practise.

rush

Mixed ultimate is still a huge sport, just look at the indoor season, I watch the most competitive university ultimate at our UMIR and I arguably have the best time at mixed tournaments.

jonnyarthur95

Maybe we'll see more of a split between which unis win mixed and which ones win Men's/Women's

hazard

Given that SUs don’t reward Mixed as much, I don’t think we’ll see an even split.

andrew

Our approach to Mixed Outdoor Nationals was far too casual. Not on purpose but we just fell into it. Like, all the 'serious' tournaments were already over so why have the same intensity? Not saying I or everyone felt that way, but the mood was there

clackers

Even we were too casual for UXON, even though it could have been ideal practise for our Varsity matches

rush

To counter that @andrew we made it our most serious tournament and took it seriously which we went on to win. As you said, the mood is probably a big contributor.

clackers

But that could come back to the funding, as our Uni doesn't fund Mixed competitions.

andrew

@Rush That's fair. It's in how you approach it for sure. But since there's money attached to the other two, if you HAVE to cut one a lot of clubs will choose mixed.

alun p

I really hope it doesn't kill Mixed. When I started, Mixed was the top team, because, even if you were good enough to make the Men's team, only the top half of that was good enough for the Mixed team. It was the gold standard, the sign that you'd made it as a player. Apparently it isn't like that at some places, which is a little sad to me. I think the league hit us badly for Mixed Outdoors, because all the top guys had been away for so many Wednesdays, we'd barely played with the women, other than indoors. I think it won't change indoors too much, but UXON could start to see lower standards and more "bad Mixed" as the guys on the line who play with each other every Wednesday just throw to each other, and not the women they don't get to train with.

ali

I'd honestly prefer no Mixed to bad Mixed. Bad mixed nearly put me off ultimate.

hazard

Can anyone think of any solutions to this. Is there anything UKU can do to help Mixed, or is it just down to club mentality?

rush

Mixed BUCS division anyone?

h.christou

Mixed BUCS League. Scrap Men's.

andrew

Get BUCS to recognise mixed.

ali

Seconded.

clackers

If there's space on the calendar for Mixed Regionals.

hazard

I mean, they got rid of Men’s/Open Regionals, so technically there’s a weekend free…

jonnyarthur95

I like the Mixed league idea and go back to Regionals for Men's.

rush

Sounds like Mixed BUCS league replacing Men's BUCS is the query here. Would be interested to get a UKU opinion on this.

ali

UKU tend to be quite pro mixed no?

slender

I was under the impression BUCS were pretty inflexible about mixed gender sports?

jonnyarthur95

I think its BUCS that makes mixed difficult.

hazard

I believe we would be very unlikely to get Men's/Women's and also a mixed league. So it would have to be one or the other.

andrew

Mixed league works better in some ways because it mirrors the proportion of male/female players on a team

alun p

I think BUCS would require Men's and Women's to become non BUCS in order to make mixed viable. They don't like players playing in two divisions.

clackers

Mixed has the added bonus of making players work harder to get picked

alun p

Or you'd have to designate a mixed squad at the start of the year who wouldn't play single gender, and I don't think many places have big enough clubs to support that

h.christou

A Mixed league would fix Swiss Draw, I hate that system too.

hazard

A quick poll, then we move on. If you had to pick between either
1. A Men’s league and a Women’s league
2. A Mixed league
Which would you pick?

rush

2

hazard

2

clackers

2

ali

2

andrew

2.

jonnyarthur95

2, and back to Regionals for Men's

slender

1.5. I just cannot choose between them. Both attitudes and atmospheres are so different between single gendered and mixed Ultimate. I feel single gendered makes us seem more legitimate to other sports however mixed is Ultimate's relatively unique draw.

jonnyarthur95

I mean BUCS league worked great for us last year (National champs if you didn't hear) but for most unis and growing the sport option 2 is a great shout.

h.christou

The Men's league is bad for Nationals qualification for a few reasons I believe, I'll be using Scotland as examples since this is my own perspective. If your region is different please correct me.

1) Nationals bids. 3 per region and a couple of 4th best is not fair. Scotland is one of the deepest regions and each year, easily have 4 or 5 teams capable of Div 1 (see UMIN results 2017)


2) Results by and large rely on availability and even who's at home. This is not a fair opportunity to get accurate results.


3) Fixture lists favour some teams over others. Playing a good team early (exploit their lack of chemistry or development) or late (use your months of trainings) can help you out a lot. A tournament is a level field in this regard.


4) The sport across the world is in a tournament format (someone correct me if there is an exception), why force our sport into a different format? Go back to Regionals. In Scotland the SSS Outdoor Regionals is still very competitive despite only bragging rights up for grabs. I know funding is a big part of the BUCS system but that is so annoying.


rush

Number 1 is so true, competition up here is hot

alun p

To add to that, everywhere outside Scotland, the top two divisions are a closed shop based on last year's performance. See 2016, where Loughborough won almost everything by 6 or more, including Div 3 Nationals, but never got the chance to play any higher, and then jumped up to Div 1 with more or less the same team the year after.

hazard

I would cement a lot of those points with the following: Since Nationals is still a tournament, a league system does not accurately reflect how strong teams will perform there.

andrew

That's an excellent point.

hazard

Oxford getting relegated while winning Div 2 is probably the best example of this, although if anyone has another one I’d love to be less self-centred.

jonnyarthur95

1) The number of bids is always complained about. You need similar regional bids to make the competition fair. You give one region more opportunity to play at a higher level then they will separate themselves. Also with uni turnovers you can have a very good team one year and a bad one the next don't base bids solely off previous results. Point 2), 3), and 4) I mostly agree with.

Outside of Scotland the way 2a and 2b divisions work is pretty crap. In the South East one division was significantly stronger than the other, but only gets one promotion spot when I would have said any of the top four could have won the other second division.


h.christou

@jonnyarthur95 correct me if I'm wrong, are you against indoors using the model of previous results too?

jonnyarthur95

Yes give the bonus bid spot but if you take away the chance of other regions competing you will get the same teams at Nationals every year. Hertfordshire took the final spot from SE IN an incredible regional performance and was a big boost to the club. There probably were better teams in the country but I'm all about equal opportunity. Nationals is an opportunity for huge improvement. You can't just give all the spots to one region and be done with it.

andrew

Still it's hard for those smaller regions to develop if they never get a chance to go to Nats

alun p

Another issue, as a League 2 guy, is how relegated teams are assigned a league. In the midlands, over the last two years, there's been (to my eyes) a clear weakest team in the top league, and one that's a tad unlucky to go down, while there's been a team already down who are good enough to be premier (and both times backed that up by winning Div 3). Every time, the strongest team has gone into 2A. Teams like Leicester and UEA and others have been stuck behind Oxford and Loughborough, while (no offence meant) Warwick 2 won 2B. 2A has sent three of four teams to Div 3 via the cup, and provided both winners. It gets a little frustrating.

hazard

Leicester's league has, in consecutive years, led to the eventual Div 3 Nationals winner. They literally had to be better than the best team in the lower leagues.

clackers

In the Northern Division, the Eastern (North) League 2 has almost twice as many teams as the Western (North) League 2

hazard

I would like to add one extra point, and it actually goes back to @h.christou’s point 4).

I believe the league system makes things less friendly. In tournaments, you socialise and chat with other teams. You play them twice, you hang around after games, etc.. I haven’t seen any evidence of this in leagues. Given Ultimate is about the community, should we be doing more to protect this (making sure teams go for food after games or something like this)?


andrew

@jonnyarthur95 Agreed. Many many teams play their best at Nats and that experience helps them all the way down the line as they pass it on to their freshers.

clackers

In my very first BUCS match, we did go get a drink with Brighton, but we had to get home soon. I don't recall anything social happening in a BUCS game since.

rush

For sure Ultimate is such a community and tournaments are the best place to make friends on other teams and that never happens post BUCS games, the other teams pack up and go home.

alun p

As a counterpoint to that, I've been to the pub after a couple of away games with the guys we've played and had a great time, but then other times we've been invited, but our coach/minibus has arrived and we've had to go. We did usually manage to have a couple of calls afterwards, and sometimes photos.

slender

@hazard It's a pretty big ask to get a team to go for food with you when they've travelled three hours to get there, been thumped by you, and got three hours back. Especially if they have a club social that night like most teams. While I think it's a nice thing to do to get a drink afterwards etc. sometimes it's just not practical.

andrew

I like that you bring up the social aspect because I think with mentioning mixed too those are the unusual, compelling aspects of ultimate. The things that really make it stand out from other sports. And our semi-negative to neutral response to BUCS is partially a desire to preserve the things that make Ultimate special. BUCS might negatively impact those unique qualities

clackers

We had 6 away games last year, 5 self driving - every time we were "can we get home now".

hazard

Excellent. There’s one last thing I’d like to raise, and it’s actually a suggestion for how to improve. Currently, promotion/relegation is very harsh. Good teams can be trapped, and some poor teams can get lucky.

I would actually like to see the top two teams of each lower BUCS league (and the bottom four of the top league) face each other in a mini-tournament. At stake, there is one Div 1 spot, three Div two spots, and two Div three spots. This means every team technically has a chance at Div 1, and also means we don’t need a cup in the lower leagues (since the top two league teams get to go forward).


What do people think? Do we just like the system as it is? Do you like mine? Or something different?


andrew

Being continually on the cusp of relegation, Swansea have felt immense pressure to win at least two games and stay in Div 1. This prevented us from taking a much needed rebuilding year last season and is making our team weaker in the long run. We had third year Frisbee beginners on the first team. I dunno about your method @hazard. With any alternate method you kind of have to see how it works out, unfortunately 😖. Seems good in concept, though.

jonnyarthur95

The promotion system is awful for a number of reasons. The apparently equal 2a and 2b leagues, lack of home and away games, freak walkovers ending a season. So many problems.

clackers

Even coming top 2 in our league is a pipe dream, but I do like the suggestion.

jonnyarthur95

Having an old-style playoff for the final division 1 places would solve some of these and give teams a reason to keep playing all season.

hazard

This hopefully balance the lower leagues, and then (aside from top two in the top league, who are probably strong), it means an actual tournament victory decides your place at Nationals.

clackers

Sussex 2 managed to overcome their not so stellar league performance to become a cup finalist, so this system will stop that.

jonnyarthur95

My Sussex boys

alun p

I quite like it, although it does have the potential to end up with the same six teams going every year, while the current system does give teams a chance to play at a level they wouldn't otherwise get a shot at.

jonnyarthur95

Top two in 2a and 2b face off, winners play the bottom Div 1 teams to go up.

slender

I think that would have been a great idea a year or two ago. The northern league has levelled out, while Manchester and Durham are the obvious candidates for a Div 1 spot I think this is the first year all the other four teams have a shot at getting that last Div 1 spot. I'm all for having a system allowing the top teams in the lower leagues a chance at Div 2 though. It's unfortunate that the top teams in those leagues don't often find themselves challenged and trapped due to the often fluctuating nature of university ultimate.

jonnyarthur95

But everyone loves a giant-killing cup run.

alun p

@jonnyarthur95 the playoffs make top league a more closed shop, which I really don't see as the way forward.

clackers

@hazard will your scenario also influence who gets promoted into the League's Division 1, and relegation into 2A/B?

hazard

Undecided. I would say yes initially, although I can see the counter argument (you get good by playing against good teams, so promotion/relegation helps level that).

alun p

I'd like to see the playoff @jonnyarthur95 mentions, but to decide the last Div 2 slot. Promotion/relegation goes ahead as normal, but the Nationals slot is available.

clackers

I see a counter argument as an unlucky bid allocation tournament will get you placed in a possibly unfair division next season

slender

I don't think you'd need to add relegation/promotion to the mix. While it's selfish, because a lot of the best players on a university team are often nearing the end of their three/four year course they don't really care about promotion/relegation. Just playing at a good level of Nationals at the end of the year.

hazard

Alright. I’m wrapping this up now. Well done to anyone who made it to the end! If you have any final points, summaries, or things you think you’re going to take away from this chat, say them now and we’ll close.

rush

Mixed BUCS league, Men's Regionals.

andrew

It feels like we came to the conclusion that BUCS is imperfect, but not broken. Mixed League is very popular with ShowGame writers, not sure about the rest of the community.

slender

BUCS has problems, in the long term we're better off. We've made the leap and shouldn't go back.

alun p

Whatever happens next, the whole Ultimate ethos of being competitive in the right way, and promoting all the divisions has to be front and centre.

clackers

BUCS has been a step in the right direction for the sport.

h.christou

Personally I appreciate the effort to making Ultimate a "proper" BUCS sport, I think we were all hopeful and excited about the improvement it would make. But I think the issues with it, it needs revising; a mixed league would be a drastic, but good outcome (without a proper discussion on it's issues itself).

dp

I only played BUCS league when it started (oldie I know) but could see it's benefits in bringing in cash. However it has definitely affected mixed negatively. Which I personally know the IOC sees as one of the sports great selling points. For me that should be the selling point to BUCS too as a potential avenue for Olympic competing athletes.

Discussion: Mind the Gap

hazard Welcome to the chat! Today we'll be discussing anything to do with women in university Ultimate. The chat will feature myself ...