When I went to Colombia to play ultimate in 2009, there were two women’s teams in Cali. (You may have heard of Cali – since then it has hosted the World Games, where the Colombians were a whisker away from claiming the bronze medal.) When I went back in 2012, there were eight women’s clubs in the area, including a couple in small satellite towns. I’m not sure there is growth in ultimate like that anywhere else in the world; the Colombians have some kind of secret.
Part of that secret is that women there don’t accept widely-accepted restrictions about playing. They just play. (Players also tend not to accept widely-accepted restrictions about gravity; in Colombia the word for laying out is the same word for flying, for good reason.) If you look back at grainy team photos from the early 2000s, of rag-tag groups of young Colombians in mostly-matching jerseys, there are inevitably one or two girls on the team. As soon as those girls could find enough other girls – and it didn’t take long – women’s teams started forming too. Now, those girls who stood with the boys in the grainy photos have formed another team – the first ever Latino women masters team.
Bringing their own version of the passionate Colombian playing style, the Guacamayas (which is Spanish for macaws) are proud to be making history at WUCC 2014. The team formed in 2013, more or less immediately after the announcement that Colombia had a bid in the division. The formation of the team is credited to Angélica María Seba Gómez, who had previously been living in the UK, and played with the British women masters team in Sakai. Since then, the Guacamayas have trained together as much as possible and attended a number of tournaments. Most recently, they placed third at Fortaleza de Piedra, a major Colombian tournament, where they lost to the junior national team in the semis. “We helped inspire those girls to play,” reflects Captain Ana Builes, who was really pleased with their play and their result in the tournament.
The median age on Guacamayas is around 32 – there are 3 players hovering around the 40 mark, with the rest not much over the minimum masters age. Most live in Medellin, all but 4 are Colombian, and the team is pleased to welcome a Venezuelan, a Mexican, and two from North America. 10 of the 17 players identify as handlers, a challenge that Builes says is mostly overcome by a fluid, rotating positions system. The team is focused on a system of play that moves the disc quickly – in the first 3 counts if possible – and values possession on O.
While Ana says her team is not coming to WUCC to win gold, they are coming to win spirit and to pave the way for future Colombian teams in this division. She says that while juniors’ success has put Colombia on the map in international ultimate, Guacamayas will show that it’s not just the up-and-comers who can play, and not just the juniors who take home the spirit award. She’s proud that her team can show the world a bit about Colombia’s proud history in ultimate, and that those girls from the photos have come this far.
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