When you near the end of the book you’re in for an emotional rollercoaster. A video game will have you face off against a final boss with a ridiculous lifespan. Depending on how you spent the game developing your protagonist you’re in for quite a ride! For beach lovers in Ultimate such a final boss is EBUCC. Still, the difference is that this final showdown is welcomed with excitement, vacation-like vibes, and high spirits.
European Beach Ultimate Club Championships are the crowning achievement of the season for every ultimate frisbee team, which feels like a fish in the sea while chasing the disc on the golden, scorching sands! Such a team is AKS Zły, who decided one day that even though the world doesn’t know it yet, they own the beach. They keep on proving that still by refusing to give up Poland’s Beach National Champion spot! EBUCC is on that checklist too.
The European Beach Ultimate Club Championships are a Champions League of ultimate frisbee. If your team can’t keep themselves off the beach and the sand never leaves your shoes, then this event is all that your heart may desire. You may leave the beach, but it never leaves you. Once you try beach ultimate you can hardly stop. And somehow all other tournaments can’t measure up with the vibe.
EBUCC is a go-to place for all top beach ultimate teams in Europe. That’s where the best of the best get an opportunity to compete for the title of European Champion. This is the crown jewel of beach ultimate season and if you love the vibe of vacation mixed with a dash of competitiveness – this is it. In 2022, EBUCC took place on 14-16 October in Portimão, Portugal. The game format was 5-on-5, which is typical for beach ultimate. The venue held more than 10 fields. The event was organized by BULA and UFA.
Following your favorite team at EBUCC 2022 was easier than you think!
The event supplied a live scoreboard, which proved to be a fan favorite for those who crave adrenaline. You don’t know life if you haven’t followed your favorite team throughout the weekend while nervously refreshing the website till it crashed the browser. You can check out the stats of every team, see the progress of the game, and who was the king or queen of the stats. If you’re slightly more careful about the state of your heart palpitations, Ulti.tv also supplied the visuals of some games.
But how did qualify for EBUCC 2022?
To compete at EBUCC 2022 the teams have to get through the first boss in the game. That is – beat everyone at their Beach Ultimate National Championships. Only first, second or third-placed teams can get a spot to compete at the European Championships. It ensures that all teams are crème de la crème of beach ultimate in Europe. The teams participating represent the highest level, mad frisbee and athletic skills, as well as flair.
The event had a cap of 24 teams per division (Men, Women, Mixed). The Mixed division had 23 qualified teams along with the focus team of this article.
To get a better understanding of the importance of this event, let’s take a look at the numbers. That scale!
Meet AKS Zły Ultimate
Meet a team, which in recent years went through a few significant changes. One of them was re-branding from BC Kosmodysk to AKS Zły after joining a multi-sports club. The recent one was joining forces with Zawierucha with a scheme to take over the ultimate frisbee universe. AKS Zły is a Warsaw-based team with a true affinity with the beach.
The moment they decided to show up at Polish Beach Ultimate Championships, they thwarted the plans of other teams, becoming the instant Champion. They kept the title for three years in a row, with a minor setback, but got it back again in 2022. With the bolstered squad, AKS Zły went through a spectacular season. The team had many sports successes, especially at international beach tournaments like SunBeam or SandSlash. Other tournaments and Championships with successes were the Polish Beach National Championships and Outdoor National Championships. But there’s a hunger for more! EBUCC is a vital part of their growing checklist of achievements.
It’s not a lucky strike nor a momentary boost. Success like this doesn’t happen overnight and requires a few ingredients.
This year’s WMVP of Polish Beach Ultimate Championships – Olga Jaksch-Madej – can say more on that and EBUCC!
“I think that these achievements have many ingredients. We fell in love with the beach a few years ago when we first prepared for EBUCC 2018. That’s when for the first time, we solidly worked through the offseason – both physically and mentally, getting to know the secrets behind the psychology of sports. Ever since then, we’ve been building on these foundations. Last year we finished SandSlash in 3rd place, and this year we managed to defeat our nemesis – Jogo Bonito – and stand on the podium. It’s no secret that this year’s key ingredient influencing the sports results was a fusion with Zawierucha and team expansion with many talented and experienced players.”
Playing against teams from your own backyard is one thing, but playing at the international level is a high-stakes game. A situation like that can be overwhelming. There are also many teams, who can’t say they have much experience in tournaments like this. That’s why the topic of mental toughness is getting more recognition among the teams. That way they can get ahead of their competition.
AKS Zły is not new to the topic and they know a bit about the importance of a strong and focused mind during the game.
“Personally, playing against international teams is mentally easier than playing against players I know well. There’s no pressure of a better or worse match-up, I don’t know what to expect from the opposing team, so there is no risk of neglect or overestimating the opponent. But, this is my opinion. As for mental toughness, I’d mention two aspects: knowing your strong and weak points and pre-match routine – over and over again!”
EBUCC is a high-rank sports event with the best European teams headlining the tournament. It’s a Champions League for ultimate of sorts. However, it requires much effort from the players. Especially, if we emphasize that the players have additional responsibilities and the sport is semi-professional. Preparations for tournaments of this rank (or pretty much any tournament) can get tricky. Many teams create goals and follow them through during the season of hard work. But AKS Zły had a busy time and things to figure out, because of the team merger with Zawierucha.
“This year, preparation for EBUCC took a back seat. A lot was going on within the team after the fusion. The tournament was very late in the season. Many players take time off to recharge before the offseason. However, during the outdoor season, we managed to have beach training once a week, even at the end of September when the day was getting shorter, and we had to show up at the training right after work. Here I’d like to take the chance and thank the whole team and a few players who showed up to train with us, and help us prepare, even though they weren’t going to EBUCC.”
European Beach Ultimate Club Championships were taking place in the middle of October. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, then you probably had the chance to feel the first Autumn chills. By following the footage and the live streams, you might have felt a bit envious of the perfect weather.
How can this year’s championships atmosphere be described as? What did a typical day look like for the player?
“Sounds so obvious, but only at the Beach Championships, you may jump into the Ocean for a cool down! The vibe is a bit more vacation-like, so the defeats are less painful.
This year’s tournament was very intensive. On the first day, we played four games, starting at 8:45 am. We set out to the beach before sunrise, which we could watch later during our first warmup. The games were in 3-hour intervals, so we spent the whole day at the beach, only running off to the nearby beach bars to grab a cold coke between the games.”
“The second day was similar, but thanks to winning the group, we evaded the playoffs, and as a result, we played only three games. On the last day, we played only one game for the place and spent the rest watching the finals.
The tournament’s advantage was the spot – Portimao’s beach is the perfect place for an event of this kind. I loved the organization – from communication to field preparation.
The drawback was many games were planned out within one day. It’s good to remember that at a tournament of this rank, there’re no weak teams. Each game requires hard work, and on top of that, we’re playing in full sun and 25C. I think that four games in one day are too much.”
During EBUCC, AKS Zły climbed high on the tournament ladder. Following their games was like getting on a rollercoaster, which never stops. Day 1 brought a few surprises! One of them was the first spot in the group. Before the last game, the odds were not exactly in the team’s favor and second place was a guaranteed outcome. AKS Zły secured a quarterfinal with spectacular and challenging matches. Most of them could give you a heart attack as there was mostly live scoring available! But in the end, they finished their journey at the Championships in 6th place.
What halted them on their road to the finals and what conclusions did they draw from it?
“I don’t want to speak on behalf of everyone. We still need to do our homework on that and prepare a thorough analysis of our game at EBUCC. I think that the 6th place this year was our place. I watched the finals and thought, ‘Ok, we still don’t play at this level. It is not our time.’. I also believe we’re really close – we need to take a look at our resources, skills, and predispositions and smartly put it together. We need to rebuild our offense and come up with a new style for our game. As for our defense, we need to find a better solution for teams who know how to huck well. That’s our biggest problem right now.”
Every tournament has that match when nothing goes according to plan. That kind of game shows the strength of the team, and how they overcome difficulties. Of course, AKS Zły had also a game like that during EBUCC 2022. Which one of the matches was the most difficult and why? What caused the difficulties?
“Well, the most difficult game was the one with theoretically the weakest opponent. It was the last game of Day 1, and we were already tired, so we decided to reduce the pre-game routine to a minimum. We were aware it was probably our weakest opponent that we were likely to meet at this tournament. So, what had to happen – happened. We started the game poorly and made many unforced mistakes. We also let our opponents make our blood boil with too many calls. We won, but not in the style we wanted to.”
EBUCC 2022 was certainly a great end for this season’s AKS Zły tournament history. While it was the second time the team went to the European Championships, it was a whole different experience! The team has a whole off-season to plot their comeback to the beach and grass fields. (Spoiler alert if you don’t follow them on social media: AKS Zły had over 50 players in their 20s attending open training sessions!)
What are the plans and ambitions for AKS Zły?
“This year we were in a higher league – in the end, we got a taste of the Top 4 of European Ultimate! As for the plans, the date for EBUCC 2023 is already known, and we want to attend it. We plan on conquering the European scene on grass and the whole world in the next four years!”