Today is the first day of the Word Ultimate Club Championships in Lecco, Italy. My team is seeded 12th in the Open Division. I’m not there and that’s proving stubbornly difficult to deal with.
For many ultimate players, World Clubs is the pinnacle of the sport. It’s possible that the standard of play is higher at the US National Championships each year, but that’s not genuinely accessible to players from the rest of the world. The inclusion of several teams from each of the top countries makes World Clubs the most testing, the most fiercely contested and, I would say, the most dramatic tournament there is. Here you compete alongside your club team-mates, at the conclusion of a 4-year campaign, clashing with players from different countries and sometimes vastly differing ultimate cultures. One way or another, it always seems to go down to the wire.
In 2010 my club, the club I started with my best friends, set a target of reaching the top eight and missed out on that goal in a sudden-death point by, it has to be said, a couple of yards. That was the extra distance on a throw that went too long that otherwise would have won the game and got us there. We stood around after the game, looked each other in the eyes and tried to accept that four years of planning and preparation was over. Weeks later, we started again.
When that happened, in Prague, I was certain that would be my last World Clubs. I was pretty sure it would be my last season. I was already ten years older than almost everyone else in the team, and almost every year since 1997 I had given a fair chunk of my time to preparing for international Ultimate, either for club or country. There had to come a time to hang up my cleats.
The next year, I showed up for training, and it felt good. So I played and really enjoyed it. The team was rebuilding and I was just playing because it felt like fun. I did the same the next year. And then the next. And then we were at the end of 2013, we’d qualified for Worlds the next year, and suddenly I was on the brink once more.
Right now, nothing would give me more of a thrill, more delicious anticipation, than being in that team hotel with the rest of the squad, preparing for the first game tomorrow. And over the next week, it’s not possible that anything could satisfy me more than being there and taking the opportunity to reverse the result from four years ago. Four years ago, after we lost, if someone had told me I could be there to do it all over again in 2014, I would have signed on the dotted line. And yet I quit in February, after the last trials session. I’d made it through for selection and nothing stood between me and the championships other than staying in shape.
I did that because to train and prepare properly would have taken me away from my family for yet another run of weekends, for yet another Summer. It would have drained my finances, at the expense of the others things we could be doing together. I don’t regret the choice, and having long, long days together has been important, meaningful and just plain good.
But goddamn I regret it right now. Because right now, they are in Italy, hours away from beginning. I could be there with them, the mistake of my poor, immature choice would be behind me by now. the weekends away would have been endured. My family’s understanding would probably have been extended one more time, and I would be ready to play, alongside my team-mates, for one last time.
If you ask me whether I would swap 6 months of weekends with my wife and daughter for 6 days of competition with my team-mates, I would say no, mean it, and that would be right. But my god, I wish I was there, and not to be hurts like hell.