WUGC comes to the UK – A volunteer’s perspective

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WUGC 2016 logo

Bristol Open’s Second Team Captain Dan Moss gives his view on volunteering at Worlds

So the great phenomenon of WUGC or the World Ultimate and Guts Championship, to give it its full name, was brought to London this summer and fortunately I get to do a blog on the build-up, content and the impact it has had on, not only me, but the Frisbee community in general.

If you don’t already know, the world championships happen every four years; the last being held in Japan in 2012. The UKU won the bid to host the 14th world championships here in the UK between 18th-25th June. The UCL sports ground near St. Albans (Watford FC’s training ground), would be the venue for most games, as it was for the U23 world championships in 2015, with finals day being held at Allianz Park, home to Saracens RFC.

In the run up to the championships, as international teams descended upon the UK, Bristol had the privilege of playing New Zealand in a series of friendlies. The Open team faced the New Zealand Masters while Nice Bristols took on the New Zealand Women’s team on the 14th June at Netham Park. The games finished 15-8 to Bristol Open with Nice Bristols going down 15-9. On the 16th June the men had a rematch. This game was a lot closer and the final score line reflecting this with Bristol Open finishing up 13-11 winners.


Bristol Open and the New Zealand Masters Team

There was much anticipation for WUGC, so much hype and excitement. I had signed up as a volunteer and by the time I turned up to Watford to help set up there were about 12 volunteers already there (we could basically all sit around one table) and about ten staff. While we were carrying out our general behind the scenes tasks such as; filling sandbags, putting up fences, making signs and food tokens, the volunteer crew was slowly growing. The staff, under immense time pressures, managed to ensure everything was ready for the opening day.

Pitches set and cameras positioned, the teams arrived and the opening ceremony kicked off! The stands filled with spectators cheering for their countries as they were called to do a parade of the show pitches. The atmosphere was buzzing and live steams were being eagerly watched as the first games began. With the volunteers scoring the games and continuously supplying pitches with water and ice (the best two jobs possible) the first day was almost over and had gone pretty smoothly; all the preparation seemed to have paid off and the sun had even decided to come out to watch some Frisbee too.

By Wednesday the 200+ volunteers were in full swing helping players and spectators and doing all the jobs the staff didn’t want to do. Up until now there were no real hiccups and everyone had enjoyed themselves so much… Then the thunder, lightning and rain descended upon the Watford ground. Hotels were put to the ready for volunteers whose tents were waterlogged from the downpour. After being evacuated from the tents and shelters, the pavilion was filled with wet and sweaty people. After seeking shelter for what felt like hours the rain had passed, for now, but some damage had been done to the pitches.

wet pitches
The pitches after heavy rain

The following day, only two pitches were opened to begin with allowing limited games and no spectators. Luckily, as the drainage showed how impressively it could cope with the British weather, further pitches were opened. Bare foot was the best mode of transport. Somehow Tournament Director Benji and the competition office had pulled together some kind of a schedule. I managed to score the USA men vs Colombia Open, and the USA women vs Canada women in the madness. Radio communications filled with questions and constant evaluations of opening more pitches meaning that as much as could be done was carried out. More rain followed that night.

On top of the Frisbee excitement, Guts got to show everyone what they are made of. The origins of ultimate got quite a lot of attention and spectators stopped to watch a thrilling game or two as they passed. As well as being semi-final day for Ultimate, Friday was the day of the guts finals. USA 1 vs Japan was thrilling entertainment with USA 1 winning gold 21-8, 21-11. The Bronze playoff between Great Britain and USA 2 was such a close game, finishing 21-19 to Great Britain. After winning 50% of their games Great Britain got a very well deserved Bronze. At the same time as all this guts excitement we found out that, on the Ultimate field, USA men would be against Japan, USA women would face Colombia and USA mixed would face Australia at the Allianz Arena on finals day. A sub-team of volunteers had headed to Allianz to setup, led by the head of finals day operations SWeeks. That night was also the PARTY! Hair let down and alcohol consumed in celebration of the fantastic week everyone had been a part of.

guts gb

GB’s Bronze Medal-winning Guts Team

Finals day! Teams were getting on their coaches, spectators filling the stands and volunteers were at the ready. So much Frisbee concentrated in one location. For the gold medal matches first up was the mixed final USA vs Australia. The USA managed to take the win 15-6, scoring 105 in the tournament and only conceding 22. Lunch break and the traders came out in force, covering parts of the running track surrounding the pitch with shirts to swap. Eyes lit up as the kits gathered from worldwide clubs and sort after national kits were laid out. The women were up next, USA vs Colombia. Again the USA grabbed the win 15-7, scoring 105 and conceding 20. The men’s final between USA and Japan was a great way to end the tournament. A very close game meant Japan had a great chance to stop the USA bulldozer. The heavens opened briefly to add even more spice to the final. With replays shown on the three massive screens and some unique heckling being shouted from the stands the atmosphere was never dampened but eventually USA managed to gather some momentum and put some very impressive points together to end the tournament with a 15-11 win. And that was it, the awards ceremony ended the day on a high and the stands began to empty. Everyone unfortunately had to get out of the Frisbee dream and back to the real world.

crowdusa v japan

The crowd enjoying finals day at Allianz Park/USA v Japan Mens Final

You never realise how much time and effort goes into such a big event until it engrosses you for two weeks, or months if you’re one of the stuff ‘lucky’ enough to head the tournament. I would like to give some honourable mentions to the likes of (in no particular order) Si, Pugh, SWeeks, Hayley, transport Dave, Katie, Harriett, Bamford, Serena, Gabi, Benji and Wayne for looking out for all us volunteers, making the time so fun and creating forever lasting memories! It was also great to see so much Bristol influence weather it was volunteers or players; it’s always good to see a familiar face.

If I had the opportunity to volunteer again I would happily say yes. From doing U23’s last year I didn’t believe how much bigger the event could get and with lessons learnt and improved upon everyone had such a fantastic experience of the best ultimate the world has to offer.

So after all this success and people asking me ‘where have you been for the past two weeks?’ I can proudly say I was at the Ultimate Frisbee World Championships, showing them the pictures and sharing the great stories. Hopefully, from this, the sport can expand even further and after seeing some schools come and watch there are high hopes for a young generation to experience the greatness of ultimate. Spreading the spirit of the game and showing other sports that self-refereeing and fairness is one of the best ways to enjoy sport. Ultimate has shown what it is really capable of.

D Moss.
d moss