The legend says that in a den under the Wawel Hill lived a dragon so terrible that everyone feared him. No one in Cracow knew when or how the dragon came to be. They knew only one thing – there was no way to defeat the scary beast. The days passed and the dragon made himself feel more and more like at home. The King promised the hand of his only daughter to the hero who would put an end to the reign of the beast. Knights from all over Europe would come to fight with the dragon. Still, the beast laid waste to the lands and there was no hope of defeating it. One day a poor shoemaker came up with a plan… He tricked the dragon into eating a sheep stuffed with sulfur. It instantly ignited. The dragon felt an unquenchable thirst and drank half of the river before his belly exploded. The town and its people were forever freed from the wrath of the beast and the cobbler went on to marry the princess.
What does a dragon have to do with an ultimate frisbee tournament? Meet the Dragon Cup.
Dragon Cup was founded in 2009 when the local team decided to make a tournament to conclude the outdoor season in Poland. So far there were eight editions. The tournament gathers around 200 players from Poland and abroad. It’s played in a “Hat” formula. The players are divided into several teams based on how they rate their skills and experience. Both experienced and rookie players are welcome here. You can learn some new things from players you usually play against at other tournaments. Why is it so special? You may end up with complete strangers on the team. Like it or not, but that’s how it works.
What was it like at Dragon Cup 2017?
This year’s edition took place on 14th – 15th October. It was my first real hat tournament and I’ve had no idea what to expect. Everyone said I’d love it. They say you should try some things at least once in your lifetime. After a month without training due to a long-lasting injury, I was willing to go. I guess that’s what they call an ultimate frisbee withdrawal.
Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I’ve realized I’m probably not going to be on a team with any of my friends. What’s the probability if there’re 16 teams? But that’s exactly what hat tournaments are about! I’ve never been to a tournament in Cracov. Whenever you ask people about the Dragon Cup you hear “party“. The city is known for its legendary nightlife. We couldn’t miss that. While heading to the party we’ve learned the names of our teams and who would be on our teams. I was really glad that I landed on the team with one of my teammates. Seriously. I was so happy! All the questions went away at once and the universe was whole again. Each team had a name after a location in Cracov and a specific colour of a shirt.
After splitting up all of us headed to find our teams. There were two locations for the games, each with two fields. There was everything you could possibly need at a tournament: water, medical care, gifts, dinner, space to chill out between the games and a laid-back atmosphere. They even had a dragon!
We’ve met our team and it seemed like we were short on handlers. There were more cutters. It was a great opportunity to practice handler and communication skills for my friend and I. I’ve quickly learned that on a hat tournament you can never be sure that everyone from your team shows up.
To my horror, it seemed I’d be playing savage. Before the games even started one of our female players had an injury and the other didn’t make it. The first tournament after an injury and I feared I’d overdo it… I wasn’t sure that the injury was gone for good. I’m always up for a challenge. Luckily, I got some support from a player from another team. Goodbye dehydration.
The first game was interesting as all of us had to learn how to play with each other. Training with the same people may make the game a bit predictable. Playing with someone new brings the element of surprise. That’s why it was refreshing and fun. During the day, the team was slowly gaining confidence. The games were actually pretty good. I liked the light atmosphere and pure joy of playing ultimate. We’ve played 4 games that day, winning two out of four.
By the end of the day, I swear my legs were refusing to cooperate. My biggest dream was to reach the hostel and never leave it again. Party? That was the last thought on my mind. Walking was out of the question. When I looked at my Mi Band I was surprised…
After the games, we had about 2-3 hours to get ready for the fun part of the tournament. We’ve signed up for the city game, which was such a blast! You either go all in or not at all. It involved a bit of Sherlock skills, drinking, pirate songs, more drinking and a bit of clever deception. Everyone was in high spirits! They know how to make good tournaments and parties in Cracov! Even after a long day full of ultimate you can dance the night away.
The second day of the Dragon Cup had a slow start, but the spirits were high that morning! The most beautiful news that you can hear on a day like this is that your first game starts at 12 pm. We went to the fields around 9 or 10 am. There was still some time to catch a power nap! We’ve also had a +1 female player. Again the games were entertaining and despite the tiredness, it was great to play your best. The first game might have been a bit slow, but everyone was just getting started. The sun seemed to shine brighter that day. I wonder why…
Dragon brought some really funny moments. At some point, we’ve discovered there were timeouts! Such good news when you’re short on people on your team. We’ve had some injuries or people were leaving early. Despite that everyone was still having fun. That has to be the most important aspect of a hat tournament.
The last game of the tournament was against a team with two of our teammates. It’s hard to keep a smile off your face when they score. Everyone was exhausted, but the game was tough. The players on both sides gave their best. We’ve lost that game and ended up on 10th place. It was hard to spot someone who was not smiling. We might not have won the Dragon Cup, but we’ve had a blast! As for my Mi Band data…? It claims I’ve run 44 km within two days. I’m not sure how much of that was dancing.
A hat tournament turned into a weekend of letting go, meeting new people, and enjoying the last days of summer. Or perhaps the first days of autumn. In the sun. It was a weekend of trying new things, the things you’d normally not do during a match and gaining confidence in your skills. The tournament was well-planned. This has to be one of my favorite moments of the tournament. Last point on the last game that Saturday.
Wondering if you should attend a hat tournament?
You may like this kind of tournaments or not, but there’re always a few things that you can gain from attending them. It’s a good idea to go at least once and see what’s the whole buzz about.
- Meeting new people
It’s inevitable! Hat tournaments are famous for parties, so make sure to store up some extra energy for later. You’re going to meet new people on your hat team. You may have the time of your life at a tournament like that. Who knows..? It’s up to you.
- Improving your skills
Did you want to try something risky or impossible, but didn’t want to do that during a tournament? Try it at a hat tournament. If you’ve practiced some skills during the season, then here’s the perfect moment. You can use them in action. Were you holding back in throwing trick throws? Hucks? The spotlight’s yours to take.
- Trying new tactics
Often your team may stick to the same tactics. When you’re playing at the hat tournament you have the chance to experiment with the new set plays. You’re going to learn some new things and perhaps improve your team’s plays. You may learn new drills and see how people from other teams approach warm-ups and being a team.
- Playing with experienced players from other teams
If there was a player on another team that you’ve always admired then here’s your chance. If you’re lucky enough you might be on the same team and learn something new. Rookies can learn a great deal from their more experienced teammates. You get to see how others play and their throwing style. Perhaps they’ll give you a tip or two.
- Responsibility and new roles
Have you ever dreamt of becoming a handler? Perhaps you’re aspiring to be the fastest cutter alive, but your skills led you to a handler position. Maybe you’ve always wanted to lead a team? Do you want to know how is it to be a captain of an Ultimate Frisbee team? On a Hat tournament, it’s likely that you get the chance to try a few of these things.
- Adapting to new situations
On a Hat tournament, you get to play with people other than on your team. It means that you need to adapt to different scenarios. You don’t know how other players may go about strategy if you don’t set up one first. It means you may also improvise and see what works. If you don’t know what other players are capable of then you’re going to learn fast. Game after game it will be easier. The atmosphere at the Hat tournament is stress-free, which is often different from your team games.