I had the honour to be play Ultimate this last weekend in the Russian Open in St Petersburg with the top Moscow team (“Dolgorukiye”).
There was a bunch of good stuff going on. The play was pretty high level (the New Zealand men’s team in Australia would have had a real run against the team from St Petersburg that eventually won it) for most teams. But as we often see in New Zealand, there was a bit of a performance gap between the top teams and the next tier down.
They played with excellent intensity, and very good spirit. A few dodgy calls from the sideline. Nothing too henious. Off the sideline they had coffee and music (gotta love those Bon Jovi classics).
So why did I not enjoy myself that much?
Partly it was because I was reprising a role on the field I have not played for quite a while. My long receiver skills haven’t been something I have needed, but it was good to test myself out and find myself wanting.
Partly I think it was my team. We had really poor communication (no one really said anything much – half times were a time for silent contemplation as much as anything), and a system where the captain called the line (which maybe Russians like, but I don’t go for that much).
We lost two crucial games by one point (one after we struggled back from many points down – the other after we let the other team come back from many points down), and that dented our confidence, lowered our morale and led to the bad attitude that eventually saw us losing the 3/4 playoff (a game we should positively have one).
But mostly I think it was just that Russian Ultimate needs more of the raw energy that characterises New Zealand Ultimate. Where were the cheers (instead we had the ‘gather round in a huddle and say nice things’)? Where were the physios ?Where was the trash talk from the sideline, the fantasy games, the flutter-guts, the stubbie-guts, the games of cower, the dancing, and even the motivational cheers (“the heat, fire and hot desire” was a new one for them – I hate to think what they might have thought of the “eat the babies” chant). There was not even a competition to see who could win the party (my 5 o’clock shocker was not a bad effort, but I have no idea how others performed, since everyone went off to different places).
They had much better trophies than us though. And people were so excited to win. Like you would not believe.
What they really need, I suspect, is a trip to the New Zealand Open.