Recently, some friends and I took a trip to Spain to visit one of our old college teammates in Granada, Spain. While we were there, we had the fortune of playing with his team, Penultimanos (it might now be Franco and Beans). We also ended our trip by playing in the beach tournament “Costa Brava.” located just north of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast. At the beach tournament we were able to compete against teams from all over Europe. While there, I began to notice some variations in the game. Obviously, playing in a mixed beach tournament is starkly different from an open club tournament, but I feel that the differences aren’t necessarily unique to level of play, but rather to the culture.
One of the more interesting observations was the language difference, which is bound to happen in an international tournament. I had the fortune of being picked up by a British team who called themselves Gert Lush, so the language from the sidelines was not a problem. We played a French team that would stall count in French. Since I can only count to 3 in French, after “trios” I had no idea how long I held the disc. And while playing with my friend’s Spanish team, they would use different terms. The only I remember is “limpio,” which means to clear out. The force was also a problem; I couldn’t remember what words they used. I would usually end up going straight up until I figured it out.
In the game itself, I noticed that almost everybody threw their forehand with a split finger grip and arm close to their body. When somebody set up a flick, you could see the disc parallel to the ground and arm close to the body to keep it straight. That being said, nobody seemed to be any worse at throwing because of the split finger, it was just interesting to see every forehand set up the same way. Also, there was no body contact, incidental or otherwise. In club we are used to bodying up against others to keep our opponents from cutting to open spaces, in this type of Ultimate any type of contact is immediately called a foul.
One of my funnier observations was how each team seemingly played into their national stereotypes. The German team we played against was incredibly efficient, making every smart throw. I don’t think they ever hucked the disc. One of my friends was actually picked up by an Italian team, and according to him they were constantly blathering on in Italian. And I can’t make this up; during a bye they all went to get espressos. The British players that I played with were very, very friendly and uplifting towards each other, but more than anything it was just enjoyable to listen to the way they spoke. Everything seemed to be right out of TV; some of the vocabulary was just enjoyable to listen to. It all seemed more proper than any American accent. As some of you may know, in America it is common for us to drink pickle juice for dehydration; the Brits like to eat candy (or sweets as they call them). We each thought the other was weird for using pickle juice and candy.
By far the best part of the entire experience was just how cordial and respectful everybody was towards each other. As soon you as you started guarding someone off the pull, you would shake your opponents hand and wish them good luck with a smile. Every call was talked about with a calm head, and no yelling ever occurred. If there was a foul, both players apologized to each other, and started the play over. What was incredible to me was after every game you got together with the other team in a big huddle, doled out accolades to each other, and then, more often than not, played a game with them. For those of you that have played open college or club, you can attest to just how weird this sounds. In America, this would be a near impossibility.
You can see some major differences between American and European Ultimate. Europeans seem to have a greater respect for the spirit, whereas Americans think winning is paramount. Again, I have never played mixed or even a beach tournament before; this is just the difference I noticed. But the biggest takeaway I had from it was that no matter if you spoke the language, you had a common bond with other Ultimate players. If you couldn’t understand what exactly they were saying, you could still garner an understanding for what they wanted to do. It was incredible to see all these different countries come together and enjoy the simple pleasure of playing Ultimate.