Ultimate Frisbee 5 Questions With Kuba Wróbel

I don’t know about your beginning of the year, but apart from some sad news, I’ve managed to take a life-changing decision. The world seems full of possibilities once again. Sometimes changing one thing can literally bring you back to life. These life adjustments lead to better self-confidence. Speaking of which, January interview with Aleksandra Marszałek was about women in ultimate, team support and equality on Mixed teams. Make sure to check out 5 Questions With…Aleksandra Marszałek if you haven’t done so. 🙂

With the end of the Indoor Season in Poland and the end of February, I’d like to introduce you to another interviewee. Kuba Wróbel is the Head Coach of Poland Mixed National Team for European Ultimate Championships 2019 and a part of Flow Wroclaw team.

The next few months will be very interesting for the Polish Mixed National Team. Are you curious about the national teams? Perhaps you’d like to go to tryouts one day? You can learn the “hows” and “whys” right from the source!

Name: Kuba Wróbel
Number: 15
Height: 176cm
Plays Ultimate Since: 2007 (?)
Team:Flow Wroclaw
Cutter/Handler: Handler
Favourite throw: Backhand huck
Favourite type of the tournament: Nationals
Favourite division: Mixed
Favourite thing outside of Ultimate: PS4 🙂

1. How did you first get into Ultimate Frisbee?

I was introduced to this frisbee thing in 2006, I think, when on a tennis camp we had a session with throwing a disc. At the tennis courts where I trained, there was already a group of guys that were throwing the disc and they went to a tournament (beginning of Ultimate in Gdansk).

I joined this group in 2007 with the first tournament in spring. The 10h train trip to Sosnowiec was something totally new, especially that we were joined by another team (that we did not know before) from Bydgoszcz and their “colourfull” players – totally different people than we were.

I enjoyed the tournament and sport very much, as I was able to throw the disc not terribly bad at the beginning. We continued to train and form a team in Gdansk from this point onward. I was finishing high-school at the time, so the timing was great to find an activity to do after studies or instead of. 🙂

Looking back I wish I’ve started earlier but there was no one to start with in my hometown and nobody to learn from. We spent first years learning by just playing and figuring stuff on our own. Not like now where there’s a big community and you have loads of materials to learn from.

5 Questions With Kuba Wróbel

2. What does this sport mean to you?

It changed throughout the years. In the beginning, it was more of a social thing – I was able to finally be a part of some group that bonded really well. With time it become more important as pretty much every other weekend there was a trip to be made to play Ultimate (and living in Gdansk it always meant a long trip).

It came to the point that my life plans were determined by Ultimate activities (happily my parents were supportive – financially as well). I just wanted to play as much as possible. With time it changed to focusing more on treating Ultimate as a sport. It meant that “fun” tournaments were not fun anymore for me.

I wanted to play on tournaments outside Poland, hence I joined the newly forming Open team (GSH) in 2011 (I think it was 2011, can’t remember exactly anymore 🙂 ).  At that point, it was mixed in Gdansk and focusing on Polish tournaments and Open division in EUCS series (for my first EUCR trip from Gdansk to Maribor – it was insane looking now at it).

When I moved to Wroclaw in 2015 it reached another level. The mix of people (their background, age) was (and still is) unique and with time the focus was to train as full-time athletes. It was the hardest thing so far to figure out how to manage studies/work with personal life and training full time (each day).

Now I think the social part of Ultimate and being in a team is becoming back as an important part but with treating Ultimate as a serious sport. Without Ultimate I believe I wouldn’t have learned more about myself, how I want to live my life and met so many interesting people that I was not familiar with in my youth.

3. You’ve played on successful ultimate frisbee teams. How hard is it to organize both competitive open and mixed teams? What are the top challenges?

For me, it was different when I was living in Gdansk and now. In Gdansk, we were a mixed team and our open team (during my time) I think was not existing as a team. I do not believe we played a single tournament. I played in open division in the team that had players from all over Poland. At that point as well the scene in Poland was just forming so the focus for those teams was EUCQ/EUCR (if they managed to reach EUCR), maybe 1 international tournament a year and Nationals.

Now it’s totally different. The community in my town is much, much more bigger and it comes to the point that you have to choose your priority division and commit (ideally 100%) to that division and let the other one go. In my opinion, it’s impossible to be a full-time player for Open/Women and Mixed team, especially that if you are thinking big (EUCF) – you have to choose a division with O/W having EUCQ in May and EUCR being at the same time now for all divisions.

For me, the challenge is to have a group that you can count on – having prioritised mixed last year and this year this includes both genders. I know that Women’s division is tempting in some areas, but a good organised and “mature” mixed team is in my opinion giving the same opportunities for everyone to make a difference. If you look at the history of Mixed  Polish Ultimate – the best teams always had dominant female players (Spirit on Lemon: K-See, Doro ; GMF: so many of them…(matchup nightmare back in the days :)) ; Furious: Kocbi; Elwira and the team she played that year for ;P ; FLOW: Ola Szyrwiel; mJah: Patra, Asia, Kasia – just to name a few) and you still play against the same players as you do in one gender teams.

The challenge in the mixed team is to still be attractive to both genders and be competitive at the same time. Another challenge, in general, is the players’ private goals and ambitions. Plus any other national teams that are forming for upcoming tournaments, but this is a separate story. 🙂

5 Questions With Kuba Wróbel

4.  National teams usually are made up of people who don’t train together too often. What are the biggest challenges of putting together a national team and how do you approach the challenge to get ready before important events such as European Ultimate Championships?

I was part of the first time when Polish Ultimate was forming a national team for u-23 world champs (2010) and EUC (2011). And since then, I think the point is valid – it was usually the case that the team was forming kinda late and the time that they had to become a TEAM was short. Besides the difficulties of having a schedule that fits everyone, trying to be sensible with costs etc. – being a person in charge of that is extremely difficult.

I don’t want to fire shots, but Open Team in EUC 2015 (Copenhagen) showed that the best players might not be able to form the best team. So for the EUC 2019, PSGU acted very pro-actively and started the “process” in 2018. The TWG project showed the benefits of that. Having more than a year to try to make sure that you can depend on people, you understand their approach and goals, you get to know them as a person, has a big chance of succeeding with the creation of a team that “gels”. The ideal solution would be for the National Champions to be the representatives of the country at EUC (like USA does for WUCC), but the community is far too little for that just yet.

What I’m trying to do is to have groups of people that know each other and individuals that are very adaptable to the others game play. Another challenge is to have enough players on the national-team level to choose from. Sadly, the reality of Ultimate being a sport that has very limited sponsorship makes it very difficult for players that are high-level athletes but do not have the financial abilities to participate in such projects and develop themselves even more.

Those are the highest level tournaments both competitive and financial wise and it’s a sad reality that it is a limitation. For me, the challenge also is dependability on people that want to participate. It would be much easier for the coaches to be 100% sure that the commitments and statements made a year in advance will be kept after few months, but as we know it, it’s very hard to make your life adjusted to Ultimate player realities.

5 Questions With Kuba Wróbel

5. Is there anything you’d like to change about the system and preparation of the national teams for european and world championships?

Maybe I would but I don’t think it’s possible.

If it would be up to me, a potential player would make the decision late in the season before the European/World Championships and to fully commit to the national team (that means full off-season training and participation on every national team activity whether it’s camp or tournament).

The reality is that in general the best players from local teams make the decision to participate in national team and such decision would have a risk of weakening their local team – maybe not so much if the tournament is early in the season, but EUC is usually mid-season and WJUC depending on the location…An argument for that idea would be that those experience can benefit the local team’s weaker players, having said that I know what is the reality of our world.

Another idea I’ve already mentioned – National champs to represent the county + pick-ups from other teams. As I said, we are still too small of a community to make it work, players can be national champs in both divisions and I think that the stability of the teams is still too little as it’s still something that we do besides professional (it’s not our carrier – yet…) and personal life.

If even more Ultimate developed countries as Germany do not have such a model, it would be very very hard for Polish Ultimate to apply such one.
The best solution that I can think of is to have at some point in the season (September) a plan for the national team’s schedule and communicating it to the whole community so local leagues and tournament organizers can schedule their activities. In order for that we need to talk, communicate and be willing to compromise as our goal might contradict with the goal of the whole community and what would make Polish Ultimate grow.

Another idea I’ve already mentioned – National champs to represent the county + pick-ups from other teams. Like I said before though, we are still too small of a community to make it work, players can be national champs in both divisions and I think that the stability of the teams is still too little as it’s still something that we do besides professional (it’s not our carrier – yet…) and personal life. If even more Ultimate developed countries as Germany do not have such a model, it would be very very hard for Polish Ultimate to apply such one.

The best solution that I can think of is to have at some point in the season (September) a plan for the national team’s schedule and communicating it to whole community so local leagues and tournament organizers can schedule their activities. In order for that, we need to talk, communicate and be willing to compromise as our goal might contradict with the goal of the whole community and what would make Polish Ultimate grow.

5 Questions With Kuba Wróbel

It looks like there’s still a long way for Ultimate to grow, but as a player you can contribute a lot to the growth of the sport. Go for it. Chase your dreams! In a few months, Poland Mixed, Women and Open teams will go to EUC 2019 Győr, Hungary to compete with the best players in Europe. The Championships start on June 29th and end on July 6th 2019. Make sure to follow the teams and support them! 💪

What’s your Ultimate Frisbee story? Would you like to share it? Feel free to message me on Introverted Ultimate or via email. I’ll get back to you with 5 Questions. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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