The Ultimate Scene in Russia.

May 12, 2012

It’s been a while since I last wrote in this, and I’m nearly coming up to the 3 month mark of my time in Russia. Over the last 3 months, I have been busy with school, projects, and most of all, Frisbee. I haven’t really had a chance to write about it, and for me, it’s a massive part of my life. Since I joined in Sheffield in 2009 I haven’t stopped playing, so this year I was determined to get even better. Before I set off for Russia, I didn’t really know much about the Russian aspect of Ultimate. I knew of two teams in Saint Petersburg, Cosmic Girls, known for doing well at Russian and International tournaments, and Jupiter, known for their friendliness. Before I left, I had to make a decision. Did I want to be the best, or did I want to make friends? As much as I love Frisbee, I couldn’t bear the thought of not making any friends whilst I was in Russia. And boy am I glad I chose Jupiter.

It has nearly been 3 months since I first went to a Jupiter training. I went alone, frightened and nervous. Although no-one really spoke English at that session, I still wanted to know more about the club. At the second session, I met Kostya, who I can safely say has done his best to get me settled into Russian life. He told me of all about Russian Ultimate, and which tournaments were coming up in the next few months. Within a week of arriving, I had already been invited to my first tournament, an indoor beach tournament called Oasis.

I know what you’re thinking. Indoor. Beach. How does that work? The venue was located behind a warehouse in a massive tent (at first when we arrived I thought Kostya was leading me down a back alley to murder me, luckily this wasn’t the case), designed for beach football and volleyball. 2/3rds of the pitch was separated for us, and it was insane. 5 on 5, intense 30 minute games. The Russian Frisbee community is as close as the English one, 3 of the people I played with in Oasis were on my team this week at Sockeye, and faces become very familiar very quickly. One interesting aspect of Russian Ultimate is the format of the tournament. Hat Tournaments are divided into divisions. If you haven’t been playing for very long, or you don’t want to play serious Ultimate, you go into Division 2. If you are on the National team or don’t fancy losing, you go to Division 1. This prevents the best being put with the worst, and I kind of like it. I’m always in Division 2, because you have to work your way up the Russian frisbee scale to put yourself in Div 1, but it makes tournaments a lot fairer. Plus it makes the final of Div 1 a brilliant watch. At Oasis, my team came 2nd of Div 2. My legs were knackered after running on sand, but it was nice not to have to think too much about your throws, because you were indoors! Perfect.

The next tournament I went to was in Novgorod, a simple one day tournament. At the time, Sparkles was in Russia, and the team, even though they had never seen him play, invited him to join them. I was playing with the girls, and Sparkles was placed with the Men’s first team. Because Jupiter have so many male players, the teams are divided into little mini groups. Jupiter have a small break off team called Юнцы – translated as Young,  Young Ones, who tend to be their best players. Then they had the rest of the first team (the team Sparkles joined) and their second team. Although it was outdoors, the format was also 5v5, with games lasting around 25-30 minutes. Unfortunately the girls couldn’t pull it together, finishing 4th out of 5. Sparkles’ team was a lot more successful, finishing 3rd out of 7, and Юнцы finished 2nd. Another large difference from English frisbee is the closing ceremony. In England, we read out a list, award a spoon, plate and trophy for random places, (normally 17th/20th, 9th and 1st place), have a spirit prize, a small clap and all go home. Russia however take it a lot more seriously. Firstly, no-one leaves. Secondly, there are rewards for Spirit, MVP Womens, MVP Mens, and prizes for 3rd, 2nd and 1st place. Each team or person that wins comes out of the crowd, does a little wave, then the crowd form a big square. The winner runs around the square and high fives everyone in it, like so.

Image

Not going to lie, it gives your ego a real boost! Normally, medals are awarded to each team member. At this tournament, they won trophies. Sparkles’ team was nice enough to give him the trophy, as a nice little souvenir of Russia. If any Russians are reading this then I’ll thank you again on behalf of him, he really appreciated it!

And finally, we come to what I was doing this week. Soon after I arrived in Saint Petersburg, Kostya informed me of a massive event that was happening in May. Sockeye, one of the best teams in the USA, were coming to Moscow to train players for a few days, followed by a 3 day hat tournament. I knew it was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss, so I immediately signed up. We set off from SPB last Thursday, and hung around Moscow on the Friday. On the Saturday the training began. Several Americans had made a very large hop across the pond to train us, and it was incredibly useful. We were put in 6 different stations that concentrated on different aspects of the game, Offense, Defence, Zone, Throwing etc. Each session lasted 3 hours, which was incredibly knackering after 3 days straight. But the Americans were very friendly, and we drank with them each night, sharing our experiences of the game. It was incredible to learn such valuable advice from experts, and I feel that I have so much more to give to the game. Plus the turnout was incredible. About 150-200 people attended, ranging from complete beginners to international players. We then had a hat tournament, divided once again into Divisions. Unfortunately my team didn’t do very well, but I managed to get some much needed practice as a handler, plus it was soooo sunny that I got a suntan! 😀 Overall, 6 days of Ultimate was my perfect way to spend my holiday.

So, that’s been my experience so far of tournaments coming up. I have two more, another beach tournament and an outdoor tournament. But I’ve really noticed the development of Ultimate in Russia. For Russia it’s fairly new. Some teams are inexperienced, and lack structure. The Russian National Team don’t normally do well at Open, but do at Mixed, which is ironic, as there are barely any set Russian Mixed teams. On an International scale, Russia isn’t there yet. But give it a few years and it will be. Jupiter beat Mighty Hucks (a mash of Sheffield and other UK players) at Paganello, so they can’t be all that bad. The 1st team of Jupiter are brilliant. There are standout players who could easily play for the National team, but have not been approached. Apparently the National team mainly pick people out of Moscow, as they are based there, which is a shame, as I feel that having some players on the National team would do wonders for Jupiter. Jupiter are a very strong Open team, finishing 2nd nationally in Russia. But do they compare to Chevy, who normally comes 2nd at GB Nationals? Probably not. But the determination is clear to see. It’s not just the actual game, it’s Spirit too. Russians are apparently known for “bad spirit”, so teams are also trying to focus on being more spirited on the pitch. Jupiter train incredibly hard, because they want it win Nationals so badly. Weaker teams in England could learn so much from them.

So my experience of Russian Ultimate? I’m a bit sad that I don’t play Mixed, but this has helped me develop as a handler for the Women’s team. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the tournaments I have attended here, and I feel that I have made some friends for life here. So I am happy I joined? Yes! Of course I am. Hopefully in ten years time I can return here and see how the team has developed. But I can safely say that I have integrated well into the International Frisbee scene.

Sorry if you read all this and you know nothing about Frisbee, but this blog was long overdue. Hopefully I’ll write in this a bit sooner.

Lots of Russkii loving.

Sarah xxx

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