Having co-captained the team for the last four years, Bristol Open’s Tom Summerbee has decided to step down. He was kind enough to grant us a rare interview covering everything from team selection to his hair.
First of all, thanks for speaking to us Tom
It’s a pleasure.
You’ve been co-captain for 4 years, why stop now?
Good question. There are several reasons, the main one being that, after four years, I think the Open teams could use a new “voice” (or two) to inspire and push it forwards at trainings and tournaments. People should only have to listen to me for so long…
Wait, surely no one could get fed up with you Tom?
I know it may seem that way to a lot of people, but it can happen!
Hard to believe, but anyway, Bristol Open have had ups and downs over the last four years but, on the whole, it’s been a very successful period, what’s been the key to that success?
It all comes done to enthusiasm. We have made it a goal from day one to generate that “buzz” and get people excited to play for Bristol Open. This means not only running good varied training sessions and putting together an exciting playbook, but publicising sessions, coaching students, posting workouts, speaking to university captains, reaching out to older players, being active on social media, entering a wide range of tournaments and encouraging individuals to get involved.
So raw enthusiasm is the key?
Absolutely. Oh, and a good hashtag or two!
We’ve had lots of blogs on here before, but nothing from a captain yet. Can you give us some insight into how the Men’s team is run?
I’ll do my best, what do you want to know?
How many desserts does Romaric Pascal actually order at a Braintrust meeting?
I’d say the average was around two, but it’s been as high as four.
Every time you announce the teams, you say it was a hard decision, is that genuinely true?
Absolutely. We wouldn’t say it otherwise. We always have a meeting with the captains where we separate the available players into three rough groups. There is usually a group of players in the first team and a group of players in the second team that there isn’t too much debate about because we are all in agreement. We then have a third group that can produce some really heated discussion as we decide who goes in either team. How large this group is and how difficult it is depends on the personnel available.
It must be fun to have that kind of power?
It’s great, it’s the main reason I wanted to be a captain.
In all seriousness, they’re not easy decisions and our choices really mean a lot to people so we try to be as thorough as possible to send the best teams we can to tournaments. We do try our best to let people know far in advance if they need to work on things or if they are on the borderline for first team selection so everyone knows where they stand.
One of the things that makes you a good captain is obviously your hair. How does it always look so great?
It does, doesn’t it?! I’m afraid this is one secret I won’t be sharing any time soon though. Sorry.
OK, let’s talk about on-field captaining. With multiple captains, and big personalities in the squad, there must be situations where you can’t agree, how do you deal with that?
Yeah, one of the best things about the other co-captains Bristol Open has had is that we all disagree A LOT. I think this leads to some of the best decisions, but it does need to be used in the right way. We’ve found that having that discussion/argument separate to the team (even if players can hear us) before reaching a conclusion and presenting that as a joint decision, in a pre-match huddle/timeout/on the line, is pretty effective. That way, the team gets the one or two important points without having to listen to all the arguments for doing exactly the opposite as well…
So keep the information short and to the point?
Exactly. Frisbee players are pretty smart on the whole, but if you give a team more than two things to focus on (outside the norm), they will focus on exactly none of those things.
What is your biggest regret from your time as co-captain?
I think we put Max Allars in the first team too often. I’ll always look back on that and kick myself.
What has been your highlight of captaining
There have been many highlights, some contenders are the promotion to A-tour in 2015 or the 11th place at Nationals in 2016, but the highlight for me has been seeing so many players improve through training and playing with us. It’s great to see players come through from representing our second team to being big players on our first team. In Ultimate people are generally young and move around a lot – we’ve lost some players, and gained others, because of this but it’s great to see the vast majority still playing elsewhere and often at a really high level, even winning medals and playing internationally.
And the worst moment?
Thankfully these have been fewer. Probably coming fourth in B-Tour at Tour 1 in 2016. I felt we had a team with the ability to do really well in A-Tour and we steamrollered everyone we played until running out of steam in the semi-final and 3/4 play-off. That was hard to take.
It has been said that you are the worst spirited player in the world, how would you react to that?
You’ve been co-captain of the Open team, but Bristol Ultimate also boasts a strong Mixed and Women’s team, what are your thoughts on them?
Some of my favourite moments playing Ultimate have come representing Bristol Mixed, I even co-captained once or twice (no one ever seems to want to let me captain on my own…). There have been fewer players available over the last couple of years but hopefully that will change, especially with the amount of young talent coming through in the city.
And the women?
Nice Bristols don’t need much introduction really do they? Bristol must be the only city in the country (maybe the world?) where the women’s team overshadow the men’s in terms of performance and participation, and that’s not a negative for Bristol Open, just testament to the incredible job the Nice Bristols girls are doing.
In terms of participation, women’s Ultimate in the UK is a long way behind the men’s game at the moment and it’s great to see Nice Bristols doing their bit to change this by running skills clinics and sending development squads to tournaments. I hope the Open guys will continue to help out wherever they can as well!
Is it true you get commission every time a Bristol Ultimate player uses the physio you keep recommending?
Yup, 50% each time. But it’s OK, I told him to charge everyone double so he doesn’t lose out…
What about your frisbee plans for next season and beyond?
Oh, I still want to keep playing for Bristol, it’s only captaining I’m leaving. I’m sure I’ll get myself involved in another role of some kind as well…
What advice would you give to future captains?
Apart from recommending it as a really great thing to do, especially with the huge potential in the city at the moment, I think the best piece of starting advice would be:
It’s a privilege to have people want to learn from and follow you. Whether you are leading a team or running a session for just one person or for fifty people, recognise that those people have trusted you with their free time and often travelled a long way to be there. Put the proper planning and energy into it to make it worth their while. Don’t take that privilege for granted.
Oh, and have fun!
Tom, thanks for speaking to us.
Thanks for having me Tom.
Interviewer: Tom Summerbee
Interviewee: Tom Summerbee