Wednesday, April 21, 2010

BUOC this way

BUOC is the Belgian national ultimate championships. We had not planned to play (rather, we hadn't joined the team for the roster), but were asked to join the 3rd division Leuven team (called Zeppelins) because they were short on players.

The tournament was last weekend, the second round of two. It was a 2-day tournament in Gent, about an hour north of us by train. What a fun time! The weather was amazing; cloudless days, 70s, sunburning everyone.

The Zeppelins were quite short on players; only one male sub and two female subs, so I was playing most of the time all weekend. We had some really close games and some blowouts (not in our favor). The last game was definitely winnable, but we were really fatigued from playing short all weekend and just couldn't pull it off. We ended up 2/5, to finish in 20th/22 place. To put that in perspective, this was the second round, so some teams had already been removed, and this was, after all, the national championships :)

The tournament was really well organized. There was a tent serving subsidized (or suds-idized) beer and food all weekend. Our coach Eric (great guy) motivated the team by making us owe him a beer for every frisbee drop we were responsible for (though if the game was won, he would buy us all a beer instead). We were on a huge sports complex with fields and courts from every sport, a big beach on a lake (or was it a canal/bay?), and we stayed on the campgrounds overnight. There was a party organized in the club house, and BUOC customarily has an award for the person who parties hardest (i.e., is the last to leave). We have no interest playing ultimate all day on a lack of sleep and hydration, so we left the party at 1am for good.

It was fun to see Leuven's 1st-division team make and play the finals against Gent's 1st-division. They played a great game but Gent was really a solid team and won it. Nice to see the hometown guys who organized everything pull off the victory, even if I was rooting for Leuven.

I was really worried about my play since it has been a long time since I've played a tournament, but I was happy with how it turned out. The ultimate scene here has some nice advantages over the US's scene. For one, you can join a team at any level. Consider Leuven, which has 3 affiliated teams at 3 divisions, the lowest you can walk on to. In the US, in the triangle alone we had 10 teams, but only one (the 3rd division women's team) did not have competitive tryouts. Most of the players played in college. It was really tough to get on a team as a pickup player, and then, if you don't make it, it's really hard to catch up, since, without a team, you have no place to work on skills, drills, conditioning, and strategy (which are primarily what are evaluated at tryouts). In other words, you're really unlikely to ever get on a team unless you're just an especially talented athlete or work really hard.

Here, you can join the team, and go to trainings multiple times a week. I've already gained a lot, if not from the drills, then from scrimmages where you play against people who are playing really hard (as opposed to pickup in Carrboro). Since it matters how you play, you're less likely to be casual or nonchalant, and that's where you really pick up a lot.

I also thought the competitive spirit was better here. In the triangle, people are really aggressive on the field, and aren't usually that nice. Here, guys were very friendly on the field, congratulating players on the other team for good plays (I have never seen that in a US tournament), making conversation, and calling fouls on themselves. The Belgian championship game, a Leuven player called a foul on himself that ended up being significant and leading to a point for the other team. You wouldn't see that in a US league game, let alone national tournament.

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