Monday, February 25, 2008

The First Ultimate Frisbee Nationals

Ahmedabad 23rd, 24th Feb, 2008. Was a blast! Chennai, Ahmedabad and Delhi took part. Delhi landed there with a crew of 14. Ahmedabad had their crew of 12. Chennai with our own 10. Thanks to Roopal from Indicorps for organizing this. We had a blast!

Day 1:
5 of us from the Chennai team landed at around 12 noon at the airport to be promptly picked up by Karthik from Indicorps. We headed straight to the Sabarmathi Gandhi Ashram. We dumped our bags in the dorm right near the Ashram, where we met the Delhi team and Abhi (who'd landed there from Bombay earlier in the morning). The Delhi team was entirely a group of expats at this point (the only Indian in the Delhi team turned up later at that night). After a set of intros, we walked over to the Ashram. There we were greeted by a superb surprise! Boy what a surprise it was!! We turned a corner and suddenly we were greeted by the sound of heavy drums, clapping and tonnes of cheerful faces. Kids galore! We were all given the traditional indian farewell with Tilaks on our foreheads, a few grains of rice on it. Apart from this, we were also given smiley face neck hangingss, cute rag-doll clippings and newspaper hats which the kids had made for us! We were all overwhelmed.

Right after, we met Viren Bhai one of the founders of Manav Sadhna, the NGO based out of the Gandhi Ashram which works with 7800+ underprivileged kids. Viren Bhai lives 6 months in the US and 6 months in Ahmedabad and has been doing this for the last 15+ years! We were introduced to the Ahmedabad team. The Ahmedabad team consisted primarily of 21-22 year old boys. These boys had been taught Ultimate Frisbee 4-5 years back by Roopal and her brother Anand. Most importantly, they had been taught to be coaches themselves, and thats how they've kept the whole Ultimate initiative continuing! These first set of boys were now all grown up. Some of them taught in the Ashram, some of them ran the seva restaurant, some of them ran the dorms, etc. After saying a few prayers, we all sat down in 2 rows to eat. Boy oh boy.. what a lunch it was! I hogged the most delicious rotis I've had in a LONG time! There is a saying that if you eat Gujju food, you'll give up on meat! I totally agree! Why look beyond when every aspect of your taste bud can be satisfied by such amazing cooking!

After a sumptuous lunch, we headed back to the dorm and claimed our beds in the common hall. We relaxed for a bit, after which we were taken to the nearby ground where we saw Roopal talking to a bunch of kids. We could all play / teach the kids. Over then next 1 hour I watched with amazement at kids not even the height of my hips chucking the meanest forehands I've seen! For some reason, the kids from this part of the country seem to take naturally to forehands as compared to backhands! These guys were all comfortably chucking 40 yard forehands! And boy did they run all over the place with only chappals. Nothing deterred them! There were about 30-40 kids overall.

After running a few drills for the kids, then we proceeded to do a mixed game, with the Delhi/Chennai guys along with the kids. It was great fun, and we let the kids do most of the handling / passing, helping with defense and offence every now and then.
Finally, Roopal wanted us to show them how we'd play. So, we played a mixed Delhi/Chennai game. It was good fun. According to Roopal, the kids' main observation was that we could get a much better game/faster game without even screaming on the field. We were all very "silent" :-). Roopal explained to us that when the kids played, it was chaos, and there was a lot of screaming and yelling for the frisbee during the game.
After the game, we headed back to the dorms, had a nice shower, and then headed out to a restaurant which is run by Manav Sadhna. This restaurant allows people to pay how much ever they want after having a dinner. When we walked in, once again we were pleasantly surprised by the drums and clapping and smiling faces that greeted us here! The restaurant had a beautiful ambience, and the table was set up for all the players to have a superb dinner. The entire Ahmedabad team played host for us.. they either cooked, or served us. It was the most amazing experience ever. Finally after a 40 hour train journey, the rest of the Chennai team reached Ahmedabad and joined us at the restaurant. The sev-puri was the super-duper hit of the night! Andrew and I hogged most of it. All the while, we were complaining to Roopal and Shilpa from Indicorps that we finally understood their tactics. They were going to feed us with such good food that we wouldn't be able to wake up early next morning for the tourney!

After dinner, we headed back to the dorm, and Andrew tried to psyche out a couple of our players by planting carrots in their bags when they were out having their showers! :-). Needless to say, he need not succeed. Rajesh and Kaka were braver than that! After having a good laugh about "Squigly Psycho Sid" jabbing away hysterically at his Playstation DS (ask Subbu for this video), we all settled down to get a good-nights sleep!

Day 2 - The tourney!
All of us were woken up to different kinds of alarms all the way from 5.45am to 6.20am.. starting from suprabatham (from Subbu's phone) to random noises on someone elses phone! We woke up, wore the CUF blue tees and got ready for to leave by 7.00am. We went by the name Bessie Beach Boys. The Delhi team wore their red jerseys. They went by the name "Stray dogs in sweaters". Nick, the Delhi team captain, gave us an explanation of how there were many stray dogs in Delhi, but come winter, they would all suddenly be clad in sweaters! (no.. really!)
When we reached the field on the Indicorps bus, the Ahmedabad team was already there all warmed-up in their White tees, and black tracks. After Nick went over the rules with all the team captains, the games were underway.

Game 1: Chennai Vs. Ahmedabad
Chennai won the toss, and chose the upwind side (though there wasn't too much wind). We went on to score the first point.. and we were all pumped up. The Ahmedabad team had never played anyone else except themselves, and so they came into the tourney as the guys with least tournament experience. The Chennai team came into the tourney with the youngest side (in terms of having the most number of newbies). We quickly figured out that the Ahmedabad team were incredibly strong on their forehand side (just as we had observed the 7th-8th grade kids the previous evening). We put in force backhand strategy into play, and clearly pushed them out of their comfort zone! We were scoring with good confidence. We matched them well, and soon by half time, we had them down 6-0. We were comfortably able to get our long hucks to Abhi/KK/Mama/Kaka/Rajesh. AJ/Mama/Sid/Subbu played mid. Sukrit and I played back most of the time. In the second half of the game, we continued to force their backhands, and continued to score. The game ended 11-1.

Game 2: Chennai Vs. Delhi
This game was the big one for us. We knew that they had several players who'd played some serious Ultimate before. Delhi came into the tourney as clear favourites. They had the most experience, had been playing primarily on hard ground, and ofcourse had fresh legs every alternate point (14 people). The game started off, and Delhi went on to score the first point. This was the first time Chennai was playing against a stack formation. Quickly Delhi went up to 3-0. Finally we figured out how to handle their stack offense. We forced forehand, and covered the forehand cuts. In the next few min, Chennai fought back and evened the score out to 3-3. Then we scored one more to go up 4-3. From then on, Delhi started regularly switching their substitutes. They were clearly a much more disciplined team.. and somehow we made a number of unforced errors. Personally, I couldn't get my throws flat enough to our runners in front. The Delhi defense was top class. They had great vertical jumps and were able to comfortably defend all my passes. I also dropped one near our own endzone, and that proved to be an extra point. Finally, Delhi beat us 11-7.

Game 3: Delhi Vs. Ahmedabad
Chennai needed Ahmedabad to beat Delhi to stand a chance at the title which would be decided by points spread if all 3 teams won 1 game each. We gave Ahmedabad good feedback. We asked them to take backhand throws a little more so that the Delhi team could not easily decide if they had to force backhand or force forehand. We also provided input on how to play the stacked defense. Ahmedabad quickly raised their game to an amazing level. At this point, I was kind of glad that we played Ahmedabad first and not now! :-). They were able to get amazing flow on the field in the 2nd game. Forehands and backhands flowed beautifully. They runners were making amaaazing cuts and Delhi was on their toes. However, Delhi had the height advantage, and also the speed advantage. They finally beat Ahmedabad 11-6.

Overall, throughout the tourney, the Delhi team helped infuse the amazing spirit of the game. They insisted that instead of a toss to decide sides, we should play "pokey". Pokey is when one representative from each team steps forward with a pointed finger. The two then shake hands (while still sticking out their index finger) and then they attempt to do a sort-of arm wrestling manoever where they should attempt to poke (touch) the opponents body with their outstretched fingers. The best of 3 such 'pokey' fights decided winner of the toss :-). It was hillarious to watch fully grown men trying to poke at each others body with clasped outstreched arms.

The delhi team always played with atleast 2 women on the field. Delhi team also set the trend of creating a limerick that woudl be rendered to the opposing team at the end of each game. I think AJ or Mama probably remember the ones they made for us. Here's the one we made for them..

Who let the dogs out?? Delhi.. Delhi
What did the dogs have?? Sweaters.. Sweaters..
What did the dogs bring?? Speed.. Speeed..
What did Chennai forget to bring?? Leashes.. leashes.. (we let them get away from their mark all the time!)

Sukrit also came up with one for the Ahmedabad which was equally hillarious! :-). The Ahmedabad guys who mostly didn't speak English rendered a heart-felt Raghupathy Raghava Rajaram holding hands with both the teams.

Finally after the tournament, we played hat games for about half an hour with all 3 teams mixed. That was good fun too!

We headed back to the dorm once again for a well awaited shower, and then back to the Ashram for the super lunch of Pav Bhaaji!

After lunch, we sat around discussing the tournament. The Ahmedabad team guys spend a few min talking about their experiences (translated by Roopal). They were talking about how they were scared of the other two teams initially. They were expecting us to trip them/punch them/be stuck-up/etc. They were very happy that we mingled well with them. Both Delhi and Chennai players couldn't stop raving about the hospitality that Indicorps and Manav Sadhna had showed us over the past 2 days.. and we hoped to repay that some day. Anand from Indicorps brought up the point that we need to do this often, and should also look for sponsorship to subsidize travel the next time. In the next 6 months, we will be looking to spawn off more teams. We told them about the teams that can be made in IIT-Kanpur (Rajesh's bro & co.), Bangalore (Arunesh & co.) and Coimbatore (KK's brother and co.).

Overall, a great learning experience for all of us. Chennai.. we need to really work on our discipline. We were the guys with the weakest throws, weakest cuts, weakest defense, weakest strategies. Next time around.. we have a lot of work to do!

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Blogger Abhinav Vinayakh Shankar said...

'Ultimate' Weekend! Awesome fun!

2:55 PM  
Blogger Siddhi said...

Amazing trip

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great trip. Couple of eye openers.
Soo bholay "Jignesh".
Good Day. Very Good Day.
Good Day. Very Good Day.
We are also lyrically accomplished.

7:43 AM  
Blogger NK said...

Great effort Manu!! I think what is the most impressive part is the commitment you guys have for the game with obviously busy work schedules like the rest of us. May be you should get one of the ISB guys to start a Mumbai team here ...... I might join that then!! ;)

BTW, dont want to be picky but just a very small thing about your post ........ Ahmedabad is spelt with an 'e' not a 'a' :)

10:33 AM  
Blogger Rhapsoder said...

Thanks all. :-)

Nik.. ha! you in the mumbai team? I'll start working towards that right away just to see you out on the field!

Btw.. fixed the spelling.

6:42 PM  

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