St Andrews’ Ultimate Frisbee Club, Flatball, was a participant in the ‘Stirling Tune-Up’, a tournament for both experienced players and beginners in sixteen teams from Scottish universities. I was fortunate enough to be in our 28-player squad heading out to the two-day tournament.
Stirling University’s sports facilities had taken a battering from the rain that had swept across the UK but the pitches were playable and warm-ups were soon underway.
The St Andrews’ teams, Flatball 1 and Flatball 2, had a sprinkling of experienced players to complement the beginners in each. I was placed in the latter of the two; our first game came against Blaze 1, from hosts Stirling. We soon found ourselves several points behind, as Blaze’s movement, technique and tactical nous proved too much. We salvaged a few scores towards the end of the game, but Blaze comfortably triumphed.
We did perform better in the ‘spirit games’ that followed the match – Ultimate places a lot of emphasis on sportsmanship and good relationships between teams. Hence the teams always form a circle after each contest and, having praised each other’s game-play, call for a couple of games to be played. These bizarre but enjoyable games, such as ‘Kibati’ and ‘Ninjas’, are part of what makes Ultimate unique as a sport.
Saturday afternoon continued in the same vein, with defeats in the highly changeable weather to Shooting Stars (Dundee) 2 and Ro Sham (Edinburgh) 2. But we knew that we were improving with each match, scoring more points and tightening our defence. As a beginner myself, I was seeing some progression in my own game: I saw I always had to make myself an option for my teammates and also began to understand the concepts of solid defence, tracking the movement of the player I was marking and ensuring a strong force was maintained.
Saturday evening was a chance to take on board a hearty meal, perform the Flatball re-working of Bohemian Rhapsody and attend the Ultimate party in Stirling nightclub Dusk.
We woke up to a Sunday of more heavy rain, so much so that we had to move to the nearby Astroturf. The pitches were much smaller, so could only take five-a-side (rather than seven). After Saturday’s defeats, we knew we would not make it into the top eight teams. But we had pride to play for, and our first game that day was against the Bell Baxter School. Initially it seemed age and physique would give us a straightforward victory. However, our opponents stepped up their game and demonstrated their future potential with some excellent play. We finally edged the tight contest, gaining our first win of the weekend 9-8.
Having moved up to 12th in the seedings with our win, we faced Farflung (Glasgow) 1 for a place in the Plate Final (the prize for 9th place, or best of the bottom half). Our tactics had adapted to the smaller pitches, setting up as if for an Indoors game. It was a style that suited all of us and our flow in passing and movement was much improved from the prior games. We broke clear to record a 10-4 victory.
Flatball 1 had had a very mixed weekend, beating Blaze 2 but just falling short in their other matches. Their final game was a 13-6 win over Bell Baxter School, as everything that had threatened to fall into place over the weekend finally did. Flatball 2 followed that up with a 10-6 success over Farflung 2 to win the Plate and vindicate the change in strategic approach.
Flatball picked up the Spirit Prize for their now well-established enthusiasm and good humour. The tournament thus ended on a high note. Furthermore, it proved an invaluable learning experience and test of fitness for everyone, as Flatball gears up for an intense season – but, as always, an entertaining one too.