There may not be a more dangerous thrower in College than John Norris. After playing for four years at the University of Victoria, he has brought his talents to Vancouver where his presence has been immediately felt. The UBC T-Birds are arguably playing their best Ultimate in a long time. This year, they’ve won two tournaments (Santa Barbra Invite and Presidents Day) and finished in the top 5 at the Stanford Invite, Centex and Cascadia Conference. John quarterbacks this offense with devastating hucks and break throws. Skyd caught up with our Canadian brother to discuss the prospect of getting the T-birds back to the big show in Boulder.
Skyd: Tell us about how you got involved with Ultimate. What is it like to be apart of the T-Birds?
I first started playing Ultimate in grade 9 and started taking it seriously in grade 11. One of the teachers from my high school played Prime (the old Vancouver women’s team) and she showed us the more competitive side of the sport. Playing with the T-Birds has been great especially because a couple of the guys on the team used to play with me in High School. Its nice ending my college career with old friends.
You are currently playing for the UBC Thunderbirds, but used to captain University of Victoria Uvictim. Tell us what it is like to play your old school.
It was awesome to play UVic. When I first arrived to UVic 5 years ago there wasn’t much of a team and we attended Regionals with 2 girls on our roster. The team has grown so much since then and the new leadership has done a lot of great work expanding and strengthening the program. I think they have a serious chance at upsetting somebody at Regionals and advancing to the championship.
What are the T-Birds goals for the season?
Our goals for the season are to win Regionals and then win the Championship. UBC has had difficulty advancing to the Championship in the past, hopefully this season will exorcise those demons.
Describe what type of player you are. What do you do best on and off the field?
I am a handler and I have always been a handler. A couple of teams have experimented with me in the lanes but I always find myself back handling. I think my best skill on the field is driving the pace of the offense with my legs. When I’m off the field I am a talker and work hard to keep my teammates motivated.
Tell us about your season thus far. The lowlights and highlights.
I think our biggest low was this past weekend at the Conference Championships. Because of exams, a lot of players were bagged and we hadn’t been practicing for a little while and came in to the tournament flat. Even though we still came second, which isn’t bad, we felt like we didn’t play to our potential. That, and throwing away a victory over Pitt-I think we were up by 4 or something and just needed to score 4 or 5 points to win.
Winning a tournament is always a major high, so Santa Barbara and Pres Day were great. But our semi against Texas at Centex was a bigger standout for me. We played the whole tournament with a small squad and managed to come from behind for the win.
To you, who is the most dangerous team in the Nation?
Unfortunately we haven’t played the typical front runners like Carleton, Florida, or Colorado. So, judging from our experience I would have to say Pitt simply because they were able to battle back in to the game, which to me is one of the most important qualities of any team.
Who are your heroes in Ultimate?
Growing up in Vancouver and playing ultimate meant that pretty much anyone on Furious George was a hero. But specifically Andrew Lugsdin has taught me a tremendous amount about the sport and leadership.
With four bids to Nationals out of the Northwest region this year, it is nearly a lock for the T-Birds to qualify for Nationals. Who are you looking forward to playing the most at Regionals?
Oregon. We beat them at Stanford, lost to them at the Conference, this is for the best of 3 series.
Most memorable game?
U23 Gold Medal game in Florence against Japan. We won on universe point starting on D. I don’t think I will ever forget that game.
Tell us about your club experience with Furious George. What is it like to play for the angry monkey?
I wanted to play for Furious ever since I saw them play in Flowerbowl several years ago when I was still in High School. I worked pretty hard throughout university and made the team 2 years ago. So far the team has more than lived up to what I imagined. The team just celebrated its 15th year and there is an incredible sense that you are a part of something more than just a sports team. I can’t say enough good things.
What does the Callahan award mean to you?
I think the Callahan award is an embodiment of all the positive things in Ultimate. It represents someone who competes at a high level and with a high level of sportsmanship. For me, an award in any sport that represents these things is of great value and would be an incredible honor.
Who would be your nomination for the Callahan?
Jeremy Norden. He has been a leader on Whitman for a long time and has helped their program grow. He’s a great player, opponent, and teammate (he played with Team Canada in Florence) and is probably one of the best throwers in college.
Who are you most excited to play at College Nationals?
I am really looking forward to playing some of the other top 5 teams. We haven’t seen Carleton, Florida, or Colorado yet and we are looking forward to the challenge that those teams represent.
What did the Conference Championships reveal about your team? What did the T-Birds do well and what can you improve upon?
CC definitely showed that we hadn’t practiced for a couple of weeks. Everyone was going through exams so it has been hard to get full practices, now that exams are over we are all able to fully commit and focus on the final two stages of the season. On the weekend we did a great job using and expanding our depth, all the players on the team played a greater role and gained more experience. Going forward, our biggest focus will be on increasing our focus and work rate.
Any shout outs?
My good friend Aaron Loach has been working hard for the last 4 years. Two years ago he joined Furious with me and since he has been lighting it up. Not many people know about him and I think he is deserving of more recognition.