The run down on what type of ultimate tournaments every player needs to play
Tournaments are a key component of competitive and social ultimate. While many play and train regularly with friends and teammates, the way to test your tactics and skills against new opponents is a weekend tournament. Here, I’ll talk you through the type of tournaments you will encounter as an ultimate player, and what you stand to gain from each one.
Most competitive ultimate play is through tournaments rather than leagues. I haven’t got the stats to back this up, but as a regular player in a top 16 UK club side, this is my impression. The exceptions to this seem to be leagues in cities big enough to support them (but not between the top-level club sides), the two budding pro leagues in the US and college/university leagues. For most though, rather than weekly matches, ever more feasible as the sport expands, the model continues to be infrequent, large tournaments. Teams here can expect to play a handful games over a weekend and then limp into work on Monday morning to show off their battle scars. Competitive players who want to progress fastest should want to play at the highest level possible.
Qualifying Ultimate Tournaments
The culmination of many players’ seasons is a weekend in a field grinding it out with the rest of their area’s teams to get a shot at the next stage up. This means regional, national or even broader club competitions, like the European Championships. The beauty of these formats is in participation – the granularity of the region can be as great as required to give everyone a shot at playing better teams, with the best rising through the ranks of the region, nation or continent.
Tiered Tour and Invite Tournaments
While fighting your way out of a regional pool is great experience, the top sides will be looking to tiered events, like the UK’s Tour, to really test themselves. Tour is a series of three weekends, in Mixed, Open and Women’s divisions, that showcase the highest levels of ultimate. Seedings usually mean that every team will play competitive, tight matches. The highlight of the Tour season is London Calling, with Open and Women’s divisions, where top European teams are invited to join the best British clubs. The titles at stake and the opportunity to gauge yourself against elite talent make these tournaments an ideal showcase for a shot at national team rosters. Similarly, tournaments like the US’s Boston Invite and Japan’s Dream Cup pit the highest calibre club sides against foreign attendees keen to come up against new styles of play.
Nothing will introduce players to more varied styles of play than matching up against teams from around the world. Whether it’s the World Ultimate Club Championships, the World Ultimate and Guts Championships (for national sides and featuring ‘guts’ – ultimate’s little-known cousin) or the World Games (where ultimate is included alongside a raft of other sports snubbed by the Olympics), representing your country is among the highest honours in ultimate. If you’re not quite up to your national side’s standards, look out for clubs from smaller countries who might want players!
Party and Hat Tournaments
I couldn’t leave out the raucous occasions with which so many players fill their off-seasons. While many of the above will have parties, they are nevertheless about playing first – these tournaments are the reverse. Team bonding is done in two places – on the pitch and in the bar. The emphasis of these is firmly on the latter location. Hat tournaments – where teams are randomised as if drawn out of a hat – are perfect for meeting new people, and will never be without a party either. While they can be competitive, socialising is at the heart of hat events, and you won’t be letting down hours of team scrimmages by having a few too many beers. From a playing perspective, fun tournaments are great ‘sandboxes’, where you can try out new throws you’ve honed on your own that aren’t quite ready for the regular season.
That’s it. All the types of tournaments you should play. Go out and play them.
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Currently living the dream combining his twin passions of writing and ultimate. Association football, bowling, korfball and spikeball are interests as well, not to mention food, drink and zombies…