I am writing this a shell of the man I was but 3 days ago for this weekend I partook in my first ever Ultimate Frisbee Tournamant. I cannot express to you fully just how much of a good time I have had learning the rules of the sport, understanding the ethics, the quirks and the calls (a word with 2 meanings here – more on that later), making loads of new friends and finding a new social circle that I feel I’ve been accepted into without question, particularly one that is nowhere near my usual circles of theatre, performance or gig work!
First things first, though, what is Ultimate Frisbee? The name is a lot more grand than it needs to be. It isn’t Ultimate in my opinion, that’s just the name that the Americans that came up with the sport decided to call it (not like the Yanks to try to oversell something, eh?!). It’s basically like a game of netball but with a frisbee and played on a football pitch. It involves skills in throwing the disc, tactical awareness and, probably most importantly, a lung busting capability to run your pants off for 55 minutes. Got it? Good.
A few months back my friend Liam and I were sat at a pub quiz discussing the fact that we should probably try to get fit and partake in more of an active passtime than sitting in a pub answering some questions. He said he’d always wanted to try Ultimate and decided he’d look up a local club online. A week or so later and we’d gone to our first DUFFA session. Didsbury Ultimate Frisbee For Amateurs is a club that you just turn up and play for fun. No fees, no membership worries, no commitment, no pressure, just a few hours in Fogg Lane Park on a Sunday evening exercising and burning off your Sunday roast (followed by a trip to the pub!). Very quickly Liam and I got hooked. Unfortunately the nature of my job means that I can’t regularly commit to anything so before this weekend I had only been to 5 sessions. I had been taught how to throw a disc and some of the rudimentary rules and tactics of the game but I really was going into this weekend without really knowing what to expect.
What is a Hat tournament? Basically all the players names go into a hat and teams are pulled out at random… ish. When you sign up you give an honest rating of your fitness, skill and experience level. This is all then fed into a computer which then pulls out teams of 12 players that have a mixture of these skills, plus a healthy smattering of boys and girls, too. The DUFFA Hat is played at Old Bedians Rugby Club in Manchester and has 24 teams in total meaning there are 288 players there overall. The theme for this year was ‘Out Of This World’ meaning all the teams, pitches, events had a space/sci-fi twist. I was on the Autobots team, other names included Starship Troopers, Klingons, Mysterons (that was Liam’s team), Men in Black, Space Invaders, Jetsons and Cosmonauts. The pitches were called names like Area 51, Endor and Betelguese! Matches are either 55 minutes long or ‘First to 13’ depending on which happens first.
Now, my teammates were all stars (appropriate given the theme). Given that I was the token rubbish person they fully included me in everything, made sure I spent a lot of time on the pitch (it’s a rolling sub system so there are 7 on the pitch with 5 subs on the sidelines) and taught me some more of the intricate tactics and tricks to use whilst playing. They even nominated me as captain which was an honour to do even though it was really quite an intimidating prospect! All the teams were set challenges to complete over the weekend, too, such as have a team photo where everyone is off the ground, race space hoppers around the pitch and cheerlead another team from the sidelines for a while amongst. All of my lot fully invested in it and that just added to my enjoyment!
After a game of Ultimate has ended both teams get together at the side of the pitch and stand in a big circle alternating players from each team (like boy/girl/boy/girl but with teams not sexes). Both captains make a speech (something I didn’t know about until I was told during our first huddle!) and then the teams all partake in a couple of calls (as mentioned before). A call is basically a little silly game like ‘rock, paper, scissors’ or ‘look-up murder’ but with slightly different names. The purpose of the calls is to promote unity between teams, forge more friendships and reinforce the inclusive and friendly nature that Ultimate Frisbee prides itself on. Let me tell you, they work! It’s little touches like that that made the DUFFA Hat so much fun. The added layers to the event made it all the more enjoyable.
So how did we get on in the competition overall? The games played on the Saturday determine which tier you get placed in on Sunday, the Cup being the top 8 teams, the Plate being the middle 8 teams and the Bowl being the lower 8 teams. We played well on the Saturday but overall lost 3 of our 4 games (despite ending up with a points difference of zero!) so were placed in the Bowl competition. On the Sunday we played much better and won all of our games so ending up winning the Bowl! That is despite losing one player to injury all day and 2 more (including myself) for the final. We only had 9 (exhausted) players but were able to beat the plucky Ewoks 8-6 (if memory serves me correctly <<<EDIT: my team mate Pip has pointed out it was actually 9-8 so clearly my memory is rubbish!>>> ) to win the Bowl and come in 17th place overall – a fantastic achievement! To add to it, my team voted me as their MIP (Most Improved Player) so I got presented with a special t-shirt at the end of the event (which I’m still wearing now, I hasten to add!). Seriously, I loved my team!! Congratulations to the overall winners of the tournament, The Daleks, too.
I also to tell you a bit about the Saturday night. The DUFFA lot organised a big party in the marquee and asked me to compère it for them. I was one of their many volunteers anyway so I was happy to help out in any way I could. We ran some games, gave away a lot of prizes and had a big fancy dress competition (all space themed, naturally!). One of the games was completely new to me and a brilliant themed idea! If I said to you how much beer do you think you would be able to pour into an upturned frisbee disc what would you say? Half a pint? A pint? When first asked this I thought it would be just over a pint. It’s actually a whopping three pints! Even looking at it now it’s still quite hard to believe but nevertheless it’s true. The game is called the 3 Pint Challenge (can you guess where this is going?) and involves 2 people getting a straw each and drinking the aforementioned beer as quickly as they can through said straw whilst being timed. We had 28 pairings taking part and the winners were Kayleigh and Thom with a phenomenal 14.46 seconds! Unbelievable! The winner of the fancy dress was Wall-E, narrowly beating A Robot in the final. Other notable mentions go to Luke Skywalker, Gru & his Minions, Stargate, The Klangers, The Earth and Optimus Prime.
So yes, that was the weekend I’ve just had. Throw in putting up tents and setting up the pitches all day on Friday plus taking it all back down again on Sunday night and it’s been a hell of an experience. I literally had painful amounts of fun, my legs don’t work, my face is sunburnt, my left knee is similar to that of a 90 year old arthritic woman and my heels/soles are ripped to shreds… but I wouldn’t change it for the world! Big shout out to all of my DUFFA friends who invited me into their team with open arms (too many to mention!) plus my Autobots gang: Adam, Alex, Beth, James, Irish James, Jenny, Picky, Pip, Rhiannon, Spoons and our MVP (Most Valuable Player) Toby.
WHAT a weekend. Roll on DUFFA Hat 2015…
NB. On Sunday night after we’d finished packing up the site the volunteers were all invited out to what has been dubbed the ‘Victory Curry’. 28 of us went to a curry house in Didsbury for a well deserved meal. The funniest moment was when were were leaving and we all got to the top stairs (the curry house is on the first floor). Suddenly everyone started waddling down the stairs like John Wayne as everyones legs were all seized up having been running around for so long, I’m sure the handrail has never had so much use. From a jovial group of finely tuned athletes all joking around to a bunch of grumbling and moaning whingers in the space of 5 small steps – hilarious!