30 November 2009

Day 3 of TEP Medellín 2009 - the finals

The women's semis were up first. Riot toppled Wayra convincingly. The other game was tighter. Traffic struggled to contain the break throws of Revolution, and were pipped in the end - a North American team was defeated by a Colombian team. These are the milestones in the progress of South American ultimate.

The men's semis followed. Warao (Venezuela) threw everything at Sockeye, but Sockeye prevailed 15-9.

In the Oso - Furious match-up, we jumped to 2-0 lead, prompting an emotional timeout from Furious George. They pegged it back to 6-6, Oso's speed matching Furious' experience and height. But the story of the game soon matched that of many other previous games: a Colombian team unable to maintain composed offence and pressure defence once the legs fatigue slightly. Furious ran out 15-9 winners.

Oso working against the Furious zone

After lunch, the women's final took place before an audience of around 1500. Riot vs Revolution. Team names these days sound like everyone wants to fight the system...

Revolution have so many young players - almost everyone is a teenager. Their skills were so impressive. The score edged from 4-4 to 8-7 Riot, and then the North American dominance prevailed, as Riot pulled out the win 15-10. Awesome match for spectators.

Riot (black) and Revolution (pink) after the final

The men's final was a classic derby between Sockeye and Furious. I believe the first time either team took a two-point lead was Furious at 12-10. Then Sockeye stepped up. They clawed back points to come to 13-13. A Sam Harkness block of a huck to Andrew Brown helped them go to 14-13.

Then on match point, the primary handler for Furious, Mauro Ortiz, stayed on the bench. On the second pass, Skip Sewell read the throw of the replacement Furious handler to perfection, with a layout block. Possession to Sockeye. A pass or two, and the disc is on the endzone line. Is it in? Reminiscent of the final moment of 2005 World Games, the players finally agree it is a goal, and Sockeye are inaugural open champions of the Torneo Eterna Primavera.

 Scobel photographs Hassell getting one over Seth

A great finish by Sockeye, with two athletic defensive plays on the end of a long and hot tournament, to cap a 4-1 comeback and win. An ideal spectacle of elite, spirited ultimate for Colombian players and fans to see at the conclusion of the biggest ever ultimate event in South America.

Big congratulations to Mauro Moore and his colleagues for creating such an impressive event. Can't wait to see it return in the future.

28 November 2009

Day 1 and 2 of TEP Medellín 2009

My team, Oso, has now completed the pool games at TEP Medellín after two days. Most of the results are online now.

We polished off Mamoots, Argentina, Warao (from Venezuela) on day 1, and defeated Caobos (Venezuela) to start day 2.

The Sockeye game was enjoyable. We took an early 3-1 lead, held on til 7-6 down, then faded in the sun, to lose 15-8. Sockeye used their aggressive zone fairly often, with four tall guys up front trying to trap the disc.

Euforia (white) play Sockeye (red).

The final game of Friday for us was with Medellín's strongest team, Kie. The winner would advance to the semis, as we had both lost to Sockeye and defeated other teams in our pool. We pegged out an early 6-2 lead and kept it throughout, winning 15-10. Our team had four spectacular grabs, rivalled today only by Seth Wiggins' layout fading blade catch in a different game. Certainly fires up the team and the crowd.

Oso (white) with Kiê (blue)

Tomorrow we will play our semi-final with Furious. Their points differential per game (+5.5) is worse than Sockeye's (+7.3), so we theoretically have a better shot at a win than Euforia Warao, who emerge from the other pool to play Sockeye.

Furious and Sockeye are heavy favourites to meet in the final of course, but I am keen to see what happens.

Meanwhile in the women's, Riot topped Traffic in pool play. Both were otherwise undefeated. Revolution gave the best showing among the Colombian teams, losing 14-13 to Riot. Tomorrow, Riot will play Wayra and Traffic will meet Revolution.

Tonight is trade night, so I am sure no North American will leave without having traded their much-coveted uniforms from teams past.

27 November 2009

Opening Night of TEP Medellín

The opening ceremony for TEP was equivalent to that of any Worlds: a parade of nations, freestyle demonstrations, dance routines, national anthems, thanks to the volunteers, and an audience hungry for the demonstration game.

The opening game for TEP was Canada vs USA, consisting of players from Riot, Sockeye, Traffic and Furious George.

The stands filled up so the spectators without seats were asked to sit down on the field too.

The match started strongly with barely a break for the first 8-9 points. Then errors crept in. USA proved too strong, and won by a few.

The best part was having a few thousand ultimate players and others getting to watch a high quality match featuring stars of the North American game.

26 November 2009

6 days of coaching

Just finished 6 long days of coaching in the TEP Academic Program.

First was a day coaching the sports teachers from the INDER Escuelas Populares.

Day 2 and 3 was training coaches from all over the country (and Mexico), along side players from Riot and Furious George. Without much background on the coaches or chance to plan together, we started with a session finding out what they wanted to learn. We explained many of the approaches and organisational systems of our teams. The second day was smoother, giving all the attendees opportunities to coach the others (who role-played beginner players) and then evaluate that coaching.

There is an insatiable thirst for ultimate knowledge here in Colombia - folks are keen to learn whatever they can. And when players from some of the strongest clubs in the world turn up, they will ask questions on everything.

I also discovered there are three accredited ultimate coaches in Colombia. They did a course in Bogotá through a state department. I'll find out more.

On Day 4 and 5, Alyson and I coached a high school team from Colegio de San José de Las Vegas. They were boys from 13-16 years old. We worked with them on their offensive cutting system (they have a fairly sophisticated set-up) and their marking of the thrower (they are lacking a lot of fundamentals). I think there will be more instances of this in the near future - Colombians implementing whatever new info they discover, when they haven't been presented with fundamentals first.

The lads had excellent patience to train for seven hours a day for two days. By the end, they had a dynamic zone offence, improved marking and guarding, stronger pulls and impressive O flow, due to the effort they put in. So impressive. And this was a team that was already one of the strongest high schools in all of Latin America.

In some ways, the Colombians have better development pathways than Australia. Three of the Las Vegas high school players train and compete with the senior men's clubs, and many clubs (men and women) here have junior teams (16-20 year olds). There are many instances of talented teenagers moving into the senior competitions with lots of tutelage.

Day 6 was a visit to an Escuela Popular. Picture 30 kids from 6 to 19 years old on a hot, dry, sand soccer pitch, plonked in the middle of a sea of three-storey housing. An occasional dog wanders through, and frisbees worn down to 3/4 of their original weight fly everywhere. Every kid has a solid forehand, but most have shoes that have seen much better days. The two teachers organised the introductions, then we spent two hours coaching and having fun. The level of chaos slowly increased, and we left to catch our bus at the end, with swarms of kids wanting autographs on shirts and shorts.

There are somewhere between 600 and 1200 kids in the region, learning ulti through these Escuelas Populares. Creating social change and teaching life-skills to overcome disadvantaged backgrounds are the main aims. The teachers are doing awesome work.

19 November 2009

The INDER program in Medellín

INDER is the sports department in the Colombian city of Medellín.

They manage lots of public sports facilities and programs, including Las Escuelas Populares, devoted solely to teaching sport to youth. There are about 50 escuelas here, and about 14 run ultimate. I am told that INDER love ultimate (well, they are certainly funding and supporting TEP).

They also offer scholarships to a selected 30 of the hundreds of students learning ultimate in the escuelas, many who are from disadvantaged backgrounds. The scholarships give them some funding for uniforms, travel, food and an invitation to play with the elite ultimate clubs in Medellín.

Basically its awesome. Four of the girls came along to today's coaching workshop for teachers from the escuelas populares today, and had fun. Ultimate seems to be a pretty fantastic aspect of their lives now.

The workshop itself was an chance for teachers to problem-solve their issues related to constructively resolving calls on the fields, gender inequalities, building comradery with other teams and teaching self-refereeing. Maddy and Loriana (from Riot), Eva (Traffic) and I were the organisers.

Also, 30 more people now know how to play schtick. They were possibly the best group of beginners I've ever seen playing schtick.

Today's workshop was one of the dozens of coaching sessions that 13 players from Riot, Traffic and Furious George (plus Nicky and I) are running during the 7-day academic program. Medellín ultimate is being bombarded with coaching. This is the epicentre of ultimate coaching anywhere in the world this week (maybe this year?), and the major cultural differences ensures everyone is learning something (have you ever coached with a translator?). 

Tomorrow, and Friday, I am working with 30 university and club coaches of ultimate from around the country. Saturday and Sunday I help coach a university team, while Monday and Tuesday will be the big forum “Convivencia y desarrollo en el Ultimate: Respiraprofundo”. Monday will also see our North American coaches visit the 14 different Escualas Populares to run a session with the kids.

8 November 2009

Torneo Eterna Primavera: TEP Medellín 2009

TEP Medellín 2009 will be an impressive tournament. TEP is the biggest thing Colombian Ultimate has ever organised. It is effectively a Pan-American championships with teams coming from Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Canada and the US. It will be one of the best tournaments of the year, anywhere.

The Institute of Sport and Recreation, Medellín, is investing some serious funds into the tournament. These funds are supporting the travel and accommodation costs of Furious George, Traffic, Sockeye and Riot.

I stayed at the apartment of Mauro Moore, the TD, for a few days last month, and he has been working on this tournament since about March. There are mountains of discs, rulebooks, jerseys, cones and more, filling one of his rooms.

TEP is more of a gala event than just a tournament. Along side the main three-day ultimate tournament are a one-day mini-hat tournament, a three-day guts clinic, a three-day guts tournament, and the first Pan-American WFDF congress. A lot of things are on the scale of a Worlds or World Clubs tournament.

The venue for the ultimate is Unidad Deportiva Atanasio Girardot, the premier sporting complex in Medellín. Selected ultimate games will be broadcast live on TeleMedellín, a local TV station.

Additionally, in the week prior to the tournament, there is an academic program. This will involve seminars, forums and training sessions for new and experienced ultimate players and teams. There is even a workshop on ultimate photography, presented by the experienced Scobel Wiggins. I have been invited to contribute to some of these academic events, including a forum on international experiences of ultimate and community transformation through ultimate. That last topic may not mean much in a Western country, but in a country like Colombia it has relevance.

The ultimate starts on November 26th; the academic program on November 17th.