In the aftermath of Beach Worlds, I chatted with a few of the United States’ female players and asked them about their experiences. Here’s what Kristin Franke and Claire Chastain from the Women’s Division, Natasha Won from Mixed, Remy Schor from Mixed Masters, and Tracy Woo from Women’s Masters had to say.
What did playing at WCBU mean to you?
Kristin Franke: Being a part of a team like Team USA was an amazing opportunity to meet and get to know other women who I compete against in the club season. When I was invited to be on the team, I looked at the roster and could recognize the names of the other women, often from seeing their backs as I tried to defend them! Having the chance to call these amazing athletes my teammates instead was such an honor. It also makes me look forward to the club season when I’ll get to see everyone again!
Claire Chastain: There’s so much anticipation going into these long international tournaments, you prepare for months on top of everything else happening around you. The entire experience is surreal: you spend almost no time with the team beforehand and then every waking moment together for an entire week completely immersed in an ultimate utopia. It almost starts to feel like your job: wake up, drink coffee, get dressed, go to work, come home, drink a beer, eat dinner, sleep, do it again the next day. The only difference, at least for me in my real world, is you’re doing what you love everyday. I’m not sure it’s sustainable in the long-term, but for a week I feel like I’m living the dream, waking up excited for “work” everyday with the best co-workers you could ask for.
Natasha Won: Playing on the world stage puts you in a different position than if you were playing for your regular club team year after year. I needed to play my best game ever because this was it. This was what I’ve been working for, and this was what I wanted. This was also the only tournament that really mattered between me and my teammates who I’ll probably never play with again as a whole. I’m not even sure if I’ll ever get the opportunity like this again – representing the USA in Dubai, playing alongside 14 other amazing and talented athletes, and making a lot of new international friends along the way.
Remy Schor: This entire experience was amazing. Representing the United States, playing with both male and female titans of our sport, being led by Trey Katzenbach and Kimberly Beach, winning a gold medal, and getting to share it with people I love and respect, from old friends to new friends…The words “I love this team,” or “this was a spectacular experience” simply aren’t enough. What I can say is that I really felt like I belonged to this group of Mixed Masters players, and to this group of ultimate players representing the US.
Tracy Woo: I played at Beach Worlds in 2011 not knowing what to expect. I thought the experience would be a more serious version of Paganello. But VY Chow (who’s had the opportunity to represent Canada more than most) told me to not underestimate the chance to represent your country because few ever get it. She couldn’t have been more right. I walked away from it loving that feeling of chanting “U-S-A”, hearing the national anthem and bringing together a national team. It was an amazing feeling. I wanted to repeat that again. My time in Dubai did not disappoint and was in fact better than the last. I think partly because I got to choose and captain this team with Kate “KK” Kingery and Trudy Philip and partly because the team put together was a talented group of players with fun and great personalities.
Do you have a funny memory or favorite part of WCBU you’d like to share?
KF: Playing at WCBU was a chance for me to see old friends from around the world. I played ultimate in Asia for 5 years, learning how to play in Hong Kong with Junk, the mixed team. At WCBU, I got to see old friends who still live in Asia, or who now live in other countries. I knew people playing for French Grand Masters, Canada Mixed Masters, UK Masters, Japan Mixed, UK Women, Singapore Open, Canada Open, and all of the Philippines teams. I’ve lived in the U.S. for almost three years now, and I get to renew those friendships when I see people at an event like WCBU.
CC: If you haven’t played Pandemic, it’s a cooperative board game with the goal of curing four diseases that have broken out in different regions of the world. The board traveled the 4,000+ miles from Boston and took up the majority of our downtime off the field and outside of team dinners. Then came Friday morning. Finals weren’t until early afternoon and waking up at 6:30 was the new norm, so we went for coffee on the beach and decided that we had to save the world before we attempted to win it. We talked a little strategy beforehand about aggressively curing vs. containing outbreaks, so we went with the former and cured all four diseases in record time. The confidence gained from our two Pandemic wins were vital going into Finals. I would like to thank the creators of Pandemic and our teammates for putting up with us all week. I couldn’t have done it without you.
NW: My favorite memory was getting to explore this unreal place (which I find rare when going to tournaments since most of the time we’re just playing). We went on a tour, a dinner cruise, traveled up the Burj Khalifa, and went on a desert safari. We visited Burj Khalifa right before sunset and it was so beautiful. We were smashing some dunes on our desert safari! I insisted on sitting in the front so I didn’t get car sickness but it felt like a roller coaster. We also got to ride on camels and watch traditional dances! On a side note: I brought a selfie stick with me and it was the best decision ever. They are so fun and can capture everything. I recommend that everyone buy a selfie stick.
TW: Randomly at yet another team meeting (there were lots between updates and spirit rating), we were missing folks and started counting off for fun. It became a “thing” as things are with teams. We started using it everywhere: huddles, walking around, just for fun. At the same time, when we were randomly deciding which number we were, Dom started clapping for each number, one clap per number. It got into us clapping 16 times each time. We practiced a ton in the beginning to see if we could synchronize it but counting up to 16 was messing people up. So Slap told us to start counting in fours (duh!) and we became this succinct 16 clap machine!
RS: I think that both of the Mixed teams (Masters and non-Masters) had a really special opportunity because we were able to play as nearly complete units at Lei-Out in January, and that went really well, of course. We actually played against each other in the finals. Because of that January cohesion, Worlds didn’t feel quite as isolated of an experience. On the contrary, I feel like I got to know these amazing athletes over the course of a couple of months and we definitely got better with each game. It also meant that by the time Worlds rolled around, we had a really good team dynamic, in part due to time spent together. The number one topic of conversation when we weren’t discussing ultimate? Well, to say that my team was full of Game of Thrones fans would be an understatement. Hours were spent discussing the books, the show, and of course, which of our players is most like which character. Oh, and apparently the men on our team really like fruit juice. I’ve rarely seen anyone so excited about juice. I think at one point, between Trey and Keegan, they had 6+ beverages in front of them.
What does ultimate mean to you?
KF: Ultimate is always about the people. When it comes down to it, what keeps us all playing ultimate is the community. Like any sport or any commitment, there are moments when ultimate is downright exhausting. When you’re on the track for the umpteenth time, when you’ve hit that plateau that is frustrating you, or when your nagging injuries are threatening to beat your mental endurance, it’s the people that remind you why you play this sport. Whether your community is your college team, your local league, your club team, or your friends around the world, it is the people that make ultimate worthwhile.
NW: I played a lot of sports in the past but this was the one that really stuck. It’s like love – you can’t explain it, you just know that it’s right. I have laughed and cried because of this sport. I have met so many great people through ultimate, some who I now consider my closest friends. I started playing senior year of high school at 17, and I have already traveled to so many places that I’ve never thought I’d ever go. I learned so much more about myself than I have ever imagined and I cherish every opportunity that this sport has given me. I am so grateful for all my friends and teammates who have ever picked me up when I was down and to tell me to keep working hard at something that I love!
RS: Getting to play at Beach Worlds in Dubai was the result of, for me, a lot of personal effort and hard work both on and off the field. However, I think that Lei-Out, Potlatch, CalStates, all of the TCT tournaments – any tournament really – are all awesome. We all get to play. That is the real gift of ultimate. We all know what it feels like to hit the field when tired, to fly or drive home, sometimes thousands of miles, after playing all weekend, or to wake up too early on a Saturday morning to cleat up. There’s no question though, that this particular experience was especially unique and amazing. While I’m back in “real life” now (although admittedly, still affected by jet lag), I wish every day that I was back on that beach with my team.
Any final thoughts?
CC: This was absolutely the most spirited tournament I’ve played in, and not in the sense that it was fun and the atmosphere was exceptionally positive; we were playing at the highest level without any third-party officials and decided our desire to win a World Championship would not come at the expense of the foundation of our sport, as did Russia. I’m proud of our gold, and proud of our Spirit Award. It makes the former that much better.
NW: Overall, WCBU was unbelievable. Sure, we fell short of our goal of winning the tournament, but we won in so many other ways. We bonded, fought hard, and pushed each other to perform our best. Going into the tournament, we knew that this was not going to be some cake walk and that week proved it. I’m still very proud of our team for how we performed. If you are a player who dreams of competing for Team USA, keep pushing. I never thought I’d be able to play on a national team until I started believing in myself. It all starts off with hard work and dedication. #nevergiveup
RS: The scale of WCBU 2015 was different, to be sure. It felt like we were playing on a larger stage, and our Mixed Masters team was truly stacked with incredible players. I like to think that all ultimate should and can be like this though: spirited, fun, exciting, sometimes thrilling, exhausting, and worth it. I also want to mention how inspiring it is that the Women’s and Open teams brought home Spirit Awards in addition to their gold medals. What an accomplishment. It made me realize that we can always strive for more, even when we’re winning.
TW: WCBU feels special to me because it brings USA ultimate closer together. We supported each other. The Open Masters team in particular was amazing for us. Telling us they wanted to play together, saying that they would be our biggest fans. My experience has been that it’s rare for an Open team to want that, so it was really special for us.