GB Juniors achieve unprecedented results at WJUC 2010

At the 2010 World Junior Ultimate Championships in Heilbronn, Germany, Great Britain won their first ever medal in a World Championship. The under-20 Open team managed to overcome the home team 16-10 to win bronze. The under-17 boys managed a European silver, losing in sudden death to Germany, while the under-17 girls won bronze as well.

GB Junior squadsGB Junior squads

Gemma Taylor, the GB Junior Program Manager, was pleased with the overall results:

'All of the teams played really well, and the results were fantastic. This year we had our strongest Open team ever, and the results we had in Heilbronn could help the Junior scene really take off.'

In terms of the tournament itself, the standard of play was very high. There were several 'greatest' plays in the championships, including one by Canada against GB U20 boys.

'We had some issues with pitch sizes initially,' commented Gemma, 'but the organisers were responsive and the problem was sorted out quickly. The Germans did a good job overall.'


Open team make strong impression

The under-20 Open team managed some excellent results at WJUC. In their opening game against Colombia, the team came from behind to triumph in sudden death 13-12. They ran Canada close, losing 14-9, and defeated Germany comfortably.

'The team played really well, and we did better in the Canada game than the score showed,' said Hamish Rankine, one of the players on the Open team. 'We had a lot of GB players in all the squads and it really helped having everyone on the sideline supporting each other.'

While GB had some impressive results, the story of the Championship at under-20 Open level was how dominant the USA were.

'They didn't really play better Ultimate than everyone else,' Hamish explained, 'they were just amazing athletes and had a lot of experience.'

GB U20 boysGB U20 boys

USA defeated GB 17-4 in the semi-final of the tournament and then beat Canada 17-7 in the final. Their closest game of the tournament was a 17-9 victory over Finland. The sheer number of players in the USA and the length of time that they have been playing the game makes it difficult for anyone to catch up to them. There are more registered juniors in the state of Seattle than there are in the UK, for example.

'Other countries, like the USA, have had a head start on our Junior programs', commented Gemma. 'The boys have been running just over 10 years now, while the girls started in 2003.'

The under-17 Open team topped the pool after winning all of their games, defeating Germany 10-8 in the pool decider. They defeated Belgium 15-5 in the semi-final, but fell in the final to Germany 11-10. Despite that disappointment, it was still an excellent result for the team who had lost several key players to the under-20s.


Some disappointment for the girls

The under-20 girls could not replicate the success of the boys. They lost their first game heavily to Colombia 17-4 and seemed to lose confidence and momentum afterwards, losing to Germany, Canada, Italy and Japan before defeating Austria for their first win.

They lost to Latvia in their 9-12 bracket semi-final, but finished 11th after defeating Israel 14-13 in their final game having come from behind.

'There were some games where we didn't seem driven enough. Against Canada and Japan we played well because we knew we were underdogs, but against teams like Germany and Italy we didn't come out strong enough,' said Hayley Nicklin, a member of the team. 'The first game was a bit of a shock, we didn't expect Colombia to come out so strong. It was disheartening to lose the first game so strongly and it shook our confidence a lot.'

GB U17 girlsGB U17 girls

The under-17 girls were defeated in contentious circumstances in their semi-final by Sweden, losing in sudden death 12-11. They did manage to overcome that disappointment and win the bronze medal, though.

'It was tough, a lot of the girls were crying after the semi-final so it was tough to pick them back up for their last game,' said Philippa Sturt, one of the under-17s girls' coaches. 'We weren't able to train much before the tournament because a lot of the team were so young - our youngest was 13 - so they played really well when you consider that.'


What the results mean for GB in future

The results show that the GB junior program is going from strength to strength.

'A lot of the boys in the under-20 team already play in A tour, at a really high level. When they join up with GB they already have that team mentality and they know what it takes to win and to perform as high level athletes. Not as many of the girls play at that high level, so the struggled with some of those same aspects,' commented Gemma. 'This was one of the youngest teams we've ever had though, so they can get a lot better really quickly. The amount of turnover at Junior level is difficult to manage, so a young team that can grow together will really help their chances.'

The team spirit and sense of community among the GB players was another pleasing factor for Gemma.

'We try to teach the juniors how to be good team players, so that when they leave and join up with their club teams they're an example of what a team player is - they have that standard already instilled in them. It's important that we try to teach them how to be players as well as how to win as players,' she went on.

The junior program is clearly improving, and those who went to Germany are confident that the USA will not always be so untouchable. One of the reasons for that confidence is the frequency with which the under-20 teams train. They meet in Loughborough once a month for a weekend of training, with one session lasting three days.

'We trained more than anyone else there,' Hamish pointed out. 'As soon as we can get some more good athletes, we can train to beat the Americans. They struggle to get everyone together because it's such a big country, so eventually we'll be able to train enough to beat them.'

Philippa sees a need for the Junior program to interact with schools more in order to ensure that top players are taught the proper basics needed for International competition.

'We taught them an arrowhead zone, which is a pretty complicated defensive tactic. They executed perfectly after some training, which was really good. However, not all of them knew the proper way to make cuts, how to structure a stack and how to play in the dump position. There needs to be a minimum standard really, we need to help the schools with this basic stuff so when they join up with GB they know what to do,' she remarked.

While there are still improvements to be made, the constant growth of the sport and the fantastic effort of everyone involved with the GB Junior program this year and the results achieved in Germany offers great optimism for the future.

Photos courtesy of WJUC 2010