Bay Area Sweep

by | December 13, 2010, 10:00am 0

Inside Bay Area Ultimate – The Start of an Era

The Polar Bears celebrate gold

Three champions, three different paths. With 19 club titles in the area’s history, the means for success, as the three champions demonstrated, are multifaceted –  requiring not only incubated talent within a harboring community, but also a sophisticated understanding of team.

Success does require talent, and as exemplified by the Polar Bears, Revolver and Fury’s rosters, most of it is home grown. It comes then, as no surprise that these teams have put time back into the community. Each of the three rosters have many college and youth coaches in their ranks. In fact, in 2008, every major open college team in the greater Bay Area (Stanford, UCSC, UC Davis, Cal) was coached by a Revolver player.

In the last 33 years, the Bay Area colleges have seen 11 national titles, contributing some of the best players to the top clubs squads in the Bay and around the country. Fury’s Nancy Sun and Alex Snyder were quick to point out that this sheer volume of talent provides a lot of opportunity for strong teams to compete and practice with each other.

Revolver battles Atlanta's Chain Lightning in the semi's - Photo by Cory Barlow (

To further this homegrown talent, Fury has hosted several clinics for Bay Area women of all levels. That sense of giving back to the community and finding ways to push women’s Ultimate is part of what makes Fury so strong. “One of our goals is to also to push the sport in how we play,” explain Fury’s Nancy Sun and Alex Snyder. “[We] always strive to showcase the talent in women’s Ultimate by respecting our opponents and challenging everyone to play at their best.”

What’s more, at the start of every season there is a Bay Area women’s Ultimate mixer that captains from the various Women’s teams in the area put together with the purpose of building the community.  “The leaders of each team organize one drill station and everyone takes turns rotating through the stations,” detail Sun and Snyder.  “Then we randomly split up into a bunch of teams and scrimmage each other. It’s a great opportunity for everyone in the area to find out a little bit about the different teams.”

Revolver too is making efforts to develop community. This year, they held their tryouts in conjunction with a new Bay Area team called Wolf, formed in part from the disbanding of JAM. As Revolver’s Martin Cochran explains, Revolver is in it for the community. “I think we’d personally like to see the area grow as one movement, not just as a collection of teams who happen to be located next to one another,” says Cochran. “That’s why we held a shared tryout with Wolf, and will do what we can to continue to foster ultimate development at all levels: club, college, and youth.”

Photo by Kevin Leclaire (

Revolver’s Mike Payne (who was recently elected to the USAU Board of Directors) expands, noting the Bay has often has a tumultuous history when it comes to community. “Bay Area men’s Ultimate has long been an enigma, because in the last 20 years there hasn’t been a good relationship between the good teams in the area,” Payne explains. “This tends to limit the competitiveness of the top Bay Area team. Many people thought Double Happiness underperformed given their talent, and people felt the same way about Jam for 10 years, until the breakout year of 2008. One of our goals with Revolver, starting in 2010, is to try to better integrate men’s Ultimate in the Bay Area so that our metro area is a dynasty for years to come – and not just Revolver. We’d like to see 2 men’s teams from the Bay Area at Nationals every year for the next 10 years.”

Bears like to bid - Photo by Kevin Leclaire (

Payne also notes that the elite level teams also have relationships through personal friendships, a pretty strong SF party scene, and the occasional relationship (Ryo Karaoka of Revolver and girlfriend Dara Clancy of Fury, pulled off the possibly unprecedented double-double – both winning the Club and World Championships in the same year).

The Bay is also home to several recreational leagues as well, which has helped to provide opportunities to local college, club and youth players. These leagues include San Francisco Ultimate Club (SFUC), Bay Area Youth Ultimate, and an East Bay Winter League that sees a lot of Revolver, Fury and Polar Bears players.

With so many elite level players coaching young teams, both An-Chi Tsou and Greg Marliave of the Polar Bears believe that youth is on the rise in the Bay with many Junior World Championship teams on the horizon. Though there is no official youth organization yet in the Bay, with so much attention now focused on harboring youth development, it seems it is only a matter of time before youth Ultimate in the Bay Area becomes a factory for excellence as well.

Fury captain Alex Snyder readies a flick - Photo by Kevin Leclaire (

Weather-wise the Bay is close to Ultimate paradise. Temperate enough to play all year round, the weather perhaps gives the Bay an extra edge when it comes to training and development time. Of course there are some downfalls to playing Ultimate in the Bay, notably geographic spread, traffic, and fields, but as Revolver’s Martin Cochran notes, the this may allow for better focus. “The only challenge, as every team has, is reserving fields,” says Cochran. “The team itself is spread out over a large geographic area, which means we can only expect our full team to meet during the weekends, so much more emphasis has to be placed on localized sub-groups to workout and push each other to get better during the week.”

But while talent is part of the equation, it is certainly not the the only factor contributing to success. It is evident that a strong team identity is a necessity. While the three current champions are in different figurative places and have taken different paths to win, each has its own structure based on chemistry, core philosophy and, perhaps more importantly, a willingness to see team over individuals.

Revolver against Vancouver's Furious George - Photo by Cory Barlow (

Revolver’s Mike Payne concurs, suggesting that while talent is a major part of Bay Area success it is not the tipping point. “I think that most people on the outside would say that we’ve done great recruiting, especially on Fury and Revolver,” says Payne. “However, I think the thing that has set the Bay Area apart lately (6 trophies across 3 divisions in 3 years) is buy-in to the team concept, and all the hard work that goes with that. Fury and especially Revolver especially are stacked with stars, but if you look at how those teams win, it’s by having everyone play their role (and each player has a significant role). Players on Fury, Revolver and Polar Bears are not selfish – they do their job (at the track, at the gym, in strategy sessions, and finally on the field) and then get out of the way so that others can step up. Especially between Fury and Revolver leadership, there has been a lot of discussion about these concepts in the last 5 years – we share the concepts that lead to good team play, and then we’re pretty rigorous in applying them to our teams. I think that ‘culture of the team’ has pervaded those teams for a few years, and it’s really paying off.”

This new, heightened sense of community seems to have a name as well. A coalition of all the Bay Area leagues, Bay Area Disc Association (BADASS), was created and is led by Revolver alumnus Jason Seidler. The Seidler-led BADASS has become very active in promoting sports development in the Bay and may provide to be a major force in the future.

Bay Area Ultimate is moving quickly. With a huge pool of players and abundant talent to draw from and educate, leaders in the Bay are coaching more, learning more and playing more. If Fury has set the standard for what a truly established program looks like, then Revolver is on track to follow in the open division. The Polar Bears too have shown that with a solid team dynamic, anything is possible. For Bay Area Ultimate, everything is starting to fall into place and the rest of the country and, for that matter, the world, is going to have to evolve to keep up.

Fury wins their fifth championship in a row - Photo by Kevin Leclaire (


Photos by:

Kevin Lecliare –

Cory Barlow –

Nancy Kerns –

Christine Laszlo –

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