Dragon Cup Ultimate Frisbee Hat Tournament

An Ultimate Frisbee Hat Tournament may sound like a thing of legends these days. After a competitive season, most players are most likely getting ready for their slumber off-season party at the gym. The championships seem like the last thing you can dream of before you part your ways with the green turf. But, it’s a lie, because in Poland we have a truly best-kept secret. Everyone who knows about it wants to get their spot on a long, long list of players.

Each season ends with a legendary Dragon Cup tournament. So, if you still haven’t heard about it, you’re doing something wrong with your life! This post’s just a tip of an iceberg of why you should drop everything and go to Cracow in October. Don’t know why it’s the best Ultimate Frisbee Hat tournament in this part of the world? Read on. And do get a cup of coffee, because this post counts as a short story for your book reading challenge. Truly!

via GIPHY

What is a Hat tournament in Ultimate Frisbee?

First things first. If you’ve never paid attention, then you might be wondering what the hell is she writing about? Ultimate Frisbee has a few tournament types you should get acquainted with and one of them is a Hat tournament. The rules are simple – you’re not signing up with your team. You’re going in solo (Yes, introverts are crying internally)!

The tournament organizers take care of creating the teams and they select players based on skills. In short, experience and information provided by the signed-up players’ counts. After that, the teams are evenly matched. The goal is to create teams consisting of both experienced and beginner players. Hat tournaments are all about fun, learning new skills, gaining experience, socializing, partying, and making even more new friends. If you want to know Ultimate Frisbee, then you must go to a Hat tournament! Dragon Cup is a promise of that…and some more!

Ultimate Frisbee team at the hat tournament.
Dragon Cup 2021 Photo Marcin Bulanda

Ultimate Frisbee Hat tournament as rare as the creature of the legends.

Myth, legends, the things of the past..? Ultimate Frisbee Hat tournaments are a rarity these days. At least that’s what I can say that I know about them. Dragon Cup is the only Hat tournament I’ve ever attended. As a result, it makes me a tad bit biased on the topic. Although I was there just 3 times, I can’t recall any other tournament with such a unique vibe. Perhaps the vibe is just the reason why it’s so popular among the players.

In a world, where tournaments took on a serious, competitive vibe, there’s less space for tournaments with the primal, fun vibe. If you think about it, you may wonder where new players can get into the sport. Can they enjoy the basic parts of Ultimate without feeling pressured? Each year the tournaments are raising the competitive bar. As a consequence, it makes it hard for the rookies to gain experience.

Let’s remember that our sport is not only competitive. Here’s a little reminder! It’s also about openness, welcomeness, having fun as well as sharing the joy of playing Ultimate. That’s what first captivated me about Ultimate and then helped me get out of my introverted, comfy zone.

Ultimate Frisbee Dragon Cup 2021 Photo Marcin Bulanda

Waking from the slumber.

Due to the pandemic situation, many tournaments were on hold. Dragon Cup was no exception. After the year-long break, the tournament came back in style! During the Sandslash beach tournament, the team responsible for the Dragon-themed tournament concocted a plan. Krakuf found some time between having fun on a dance floor, matches, and chilling with other teams. They gave their opponent’s little bottles with “Follow the Dragon” and QR codes containing information about the Dragon Cup. Word of mouth marketing is still alive and well! As it usually happens, they’ve come up with yet another idea. Their creativity gifted the world with an invitation video. In fact, it’s here to stay and for you to enjoy till the end of time (or the Internet)!

Meet masterminds behind the best Ultimate Frisbee Hat tournament in this part of the world!

Tournament directors of Dragon Cup 2021

The main organizers of the Dragon Cup are changing each time within the Krakuf team, so the ideas stay fresh. Everyone can bring something new to the table each time. After a year-long break due to the pandemic, Dajmos and Artur took up the mantle. They were kind enough to chat with me after the event about their goals, hopes, and ideas.

Getting the right tournament recipe.

Dragon Cup 2021 didn’t go through many changes as there was already the right tournament recipe in place. After all, what you can do is top it with the things that need some tweaks. The previous edition took place at the student campus next to the ultimate frisbee fields. With the limited space there wasn’t much room for creativity or uniqueness for the future editions. The party and the city game were all in one place. That’s why they decided to return to the Kazimierz in the Old City. It was the biggest change in the latest edition. With many winding streets and bars, it was easy to create a unique experience. It was a promise of fewer chances of repetitiveness.

The two of them were making sure the Dragon Cup went in the right direction, but they were supported by the Krakuf team every step of the way. They learned a lot from previous organisers, which was very helpful and supportive with already gained experience from the previous 10 editions. A team effort and engagement are essential while preparing something so huge. Event management is stressful even if you manage them professionally or run tournaments for years.

However, it seems like Dajmos and Artur worked out a way to make things work with constant communication and phone calls. It was almost as if they’d become roommates or got matching tattoos. A never-ending communication and solving escalating issues were taking up most of their time. The tasks were like a hatching hydra. From the smallest task to million things to take care of. You cut off one head only to see another three pop up. Naturally, the most exhausting days were right before the tournament.

via GIPHY

The pandemic roulette.

Like many other tournaments, events, and life, in particular, Dragon Cup took a hit and had to take a break until the pandemic situation clarified itself.

via GIPHY

With 2021 on the horizon, everyone’s favourite scenario – the will they/won’t they – came into play. Days passed with the daily reports of the situation, serious calculations and prognosis of what may happen. They had to take into account scenarios when everything would have to be greenlit last minute or worse – cancelled the last second! Dajmos and Artur took into consideration many scenarios, pretty much becoming like the Doctor Strange of Ultimate Frisbee tournaments. They were checking up on the government restrictions and followed the plans (or the lack of them) for the early autumn days.

Dragon Cup unlike other tournaments takes place on the brink of autumn. They even had a teammate who knew the art of legal topics. He helped them out with GDPR issues and restrictions. After consultations and plotting, they ran an anonymous questionnaire with the players. There was also room for learning if any players were vaccinated. The option was optional. However, the majority of the players checked the option and they were mostly vaccinated. The issue was easier also because the tournament was an outdoor event and the flu season was yet about to unfold.

Another thing to take into consideration was the party. Dragon Cup’s second nature is its legendary party vibe. With so many players in one place, it was hard to find the right spot. Considering that the economic situation during the pandemic got bad, many favourite places got closed down. While picking up a party spot, the things such as choosing the spot where the dance floor isn’t too small and not big enough so that there will be a lot of people from outside of the tournament. Since everyone was spending the time in each other’s company it was better to make the party in a close-knit community, rather than mingling with the outsiders. In this case, everyone knows the risk and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Shouldn’t all the tournament directors get a free one-way ticket to a cool vacation spot after something like this? Such effort certainly called for getting a sick day leave at work, but brought a hell of a lot of satisfaction!

via GIPHY

An Ultimate effort to make the best Hat tournament the Frisbee community has ever seen.

It’s hard to compare the Dragon Cup to other tournaments in Poland. The first reason is that simply there are no other Hat tournaments anymore. Secondly, the whole experience package that you get by attending is undeniably memorable. It’s a fine recipe that’s been in use for years and tinkered to get maximum results and there are a few reasons why it’s such a success.

Toss a coin to your tournament director, oh ultimate player.

The main idea behind the Dragon Cup is to give the players the cheapest ultimate frisbee tournament, while at the same time giving them possibly everything. It may seem like the two things exclude each other, but it’s a sneaky way of squeezing out every penny to bring maximum profit to what your heart may desire. The organizers put a lot of effort into creating different variants of what a player may receive from the player fee. While it was a complicated thing to do, it did pay off with player satisfaction. You truly get what your heart desires! In many cases, players have no idea what they get from the player fee.

via GIPHY

Dragon Cup is the kind of ultimate frisbee tournament where you won’t think twice about the in-tournament payments. Unless you want to enhance your time with some spirits from the local store, that is. The players can count on:

  • tournament shirt,
  • gifts – this year it was a towel with stickers,
  • buffet food all day long,
  • lunch,
  • insurance,
  • physiotherapist,
  • dietetician,
  • fun, spirited games between the matches,
  • an even number of games for each team,
  • hot drinks,
  • hangover zone,
  • lots of healthy, fit cakes – a successful launch of the new feature here to stay and slay,
  • good fun and laid back atmosphere,
  • the city game,
  • the app,
  • pro sports photographer,
  • dragon statues for the winners,
  • an absurd amount of fun and even introverts are there.

In-tournament payment unlocked.

When you consider many tournaments these days, they are all about additional costs, apart from the basic basics. For example, lunch on each day of the tournament. People got used to tournaments with in-tournament payments. At Dragon Cup 2021, people were confused and surprised that they didn’t have to pay for the mouth-watering cakes displayed next to the field. Isn’t it the most torturous moment when you play a game and you see a cake? If you’re wondering about those homemade cakes and how many simoleons you should put away, don’t bother. They’re already in your player fee.

via GIPHY

You are cordially invited to the ultimate Sunday brunch.

One of those delicious cakes!

The next time you think about the Dragon Cup, imagine that you’re invited for a Sunday dinner at your favourite auntie’s place. She makes the most delicious cakes and it’s a real blast to visit her. You’ll laugh, have a nice time, she’ll encourage you to get that another cake and perhaps a steamy cup of coffee or some spirits to brighten up your day. A lazy and yet, fun day.

Buffet breakfast at Dragon Cup Ultimate Frisbee Hat Tournament

On both days you can count on a great breakfast, which is prepared by the organizing and the Krakuf team. Unlike on many other tournaments, the breakfast is in a buffet style. You can help yourself to another snack throughout the event if you feel like it. A tomato paste with sunflower seeds was my favourite. 5 stars to whoever made it. You’re my superhero, mysterious person from Krakuf!

via GIPHY

The most welcoming (hat) tournament in ultimate frisbee community.

The goal of the Dragon Cup is to be the most welcoming tournament in Poland. It’s a real deal! May I say it again? There is no other tournament like that in Poland. After a long party, you can expect the tournament organizers to greet you with a beer or other poison of your choice. In recent years, an initiative called “Kac Zone” (Hangover Zone) popped up to save some lives. Need aspirin? They’ve got you covered. Perhaps you need to recover with another medicine of your choice? Maybe a raspberry liqueur will bring you back to the land of the living before your game starts on a Sunday morning.

Artur’s favourite 2021 Dragon Cup story was about Julian from Germany, who had a different tournament each weekend. Dragon Cup was his 11th tournament in a row. He was stunned by the organizers’ hospitableness. Julian – if you read this, hopefully, the impression lasts till the next edition!

If Ultimate Frisbee’s got too competitive, then look to hat tournaments for the answer.

In today’s tournament landscape in Poland, there is little space for new teams to learn and experiment. As the teams make their progress, the entry-level seems to be rising each year. It’s harder for the new teams to enter the games without seeing the gaping abyss of game disproportion. The exception would be the Warsaw Ultimate League, where many teams blend the competitive and learning goals throughout the winter season. Sadly, the outdoor season due to the pandemic had a limited spectrum of tournaments that could be anything but competitive.

Dragon Cup hat tournament turned out to be a perfect way to help the new players learn that Ultimate Frisbee is also about having fun. This year was a “back to the roots” kind of experience in so many ways. The goal was to find a balance between brand new players and experienced ones. Players get to experience the basics of the old Ultimate while having space for high-level games and spectacular highlights. As a result, the tournament had at least 6 players from a new Arte Indians team consisting of young, beginner players. During the games players are encouraged to try new things, throws, be handlers or cutters.

Rarely there are teams so focused on winning that they cringe at the things you want to experiment with. It’s rare if they refuse to make a pass to you because you made that one fatal mistake. It’s all about learning and sharing. However, I don’t say that there aren’t players who forget what the Dragon Cup is about!

Ultimate Frisbee players at the hat tournament. Dragon Cup 2021
Dragon Cup 2021 Photo Marcin Bulanda

Ultimate Frisbee’s still got some fun in it.

Another useful skill is playing with random people. We’re too focused on the team play. If we’re missing the people we’re used to be playing with, it turns out we’re more focused on our telepathic-field skills and we’re not adapting to how the game unfolds. Here you learn the malleable skills of playing with anyone, under any conditions. It doesn’t take a lot of time to play good Ultimate with total strangers.

Just think about it! Do you remember the times in your far, far away youth when you went out to play with other kids and randomly picked the teams? This is what a Hat tournament’s about and this is how you get to know Ultimate Frisbee!

If you miss the outrageous amount of fun that you had the first time you started playing Ultimate, look no more. Do you aim to meet new people? You won’t avoid it even if you try hard. Are you aiming to be competitive? Become the leader of your newfound team and lead them to all the glory that awaits you by the end of the weekend. Give it your maximum effort and go loose! For all the seekers of the Golden mean – this is it.

via GIPHY

It’s how you grow as a player and prove to yourself that you’ve got the skills. That’s how you learn new things and ways of approaching the sport. Amid the competitive side of the sport, many players often forget that it’s not only the grit, pain and constant chase for the medals. Ultimate Frisbee is also about fun and a Hat tournament is a reminder of the carefree times when that experienced player was just starting out.

And the Spirit of the game goes to…

Spirit of the game is an essential part of Ultimate Frisbee, so it should be guaranteed that a Hat tournament would strongly feature it. It’s what makes this sport different and grabs the attention of people who hear about it for the first time. However, you won’t find the spirit sheets or trophies on Dragon Cup.

via GIPHY

Even though it’s not officially established, the spirit of the game is still at the heart of the tournament. While you won’t see it displayed traditionally, it’s one of the best examples of spirit rules in use. The players act like in any other game. However, due to the chilled atmosphere, the outcome of the calls is resolved fast.

Dancing by the sidelines at the Ultimate Frisbee Hat Tournament

Throughout the games, the music was playing in the background and you’d find people dancing on the sidelines. This year there were some fan favourites and I still can’t get some of those songs out of my head. Please send help.

Ultimate Frisbee line-up before the pull at Dragon Cup.

People were joining in spontaneous things. My favourite was during a Sunday game when one player decided to restore her team with some refreshments before a pull. Suddenly, people from the sidelines joined in. It was a formidable line-up! 😉

In case you lose something, your wallet, dignity, phone, yourself, you can count that everything will find its way to the lost’n’found case. Hope you’re ready for the walk of shame to restoring your belongings. You’re pretty much safe and sound and don’t have to worry about anything. The Dragon Cup team has got your back! Some souls go as far as bringing the party to the fields and they are true rock stars. There’s even an award for those who dare to dance the night away! The atmosphere is so great that even a pro photographer loves to come over!

The bar crawl and the night you may not remember.

If you’ve ever heard about Dragon Cup, then you’d probably heard about the legendary city game. Each year the theme is different and the demand for it is only growing. It’s not a surprise if you have a game developer behind the live experience. You have to act fast if you want to make the team. The line for sign-ups is always huge!

via GIPHY

Once the game launches, the teams have to solve riddles to get to the next spot. During each station, the team obtains some spirits, which enhance creativity. It’s a bar crawl you won’t forget. The Dragon Cup team describes the game as an experience, not a race. Many people treat it as a race, while in reality, it’s all about having fun. Some teams certainly know it! The only drawback is that it’s logistically impossible to make the game for everyone.

This year the Dragon Cup game master prepared the Witcher-themed experience. It means cosplay and related riddles. A real treat for the fans of the books and the games! I was thrilled.

via GIPHY

The in-game deception that postponed the hunt.

Here’s a confession. My team consisted of spirited people. 3 introverts and 2 extroverts. One left the game early. The other had nothing to do with Ultimate. Our extroverted friend was into chatting up people in the bars, so we went along with it. During the search for the Doppler, we didn’t see anyone from the Dragon Cup team in the bar. As a result, we involved total strangers in the game. We were asking random people if they were the Doppler. It could be anyone! At some point, a random guy decided that he was the one. And we started convincing him to give us another clue! However, all too soon we were told about a backdoor to the bar patio. The real Doppler was waiting for us very, very impatiently. It turns out we’d be such hopeless, penniless Witchers.

via GIPHY

One app to inform them all.

In the digital age, communication and tournament engagement partly move to the online world. Some tournaments acknowledge the change and use already developed tech, but some make their own. An idea of the tournament app has been brewing in the Dragon camp for a while. The first mention can be traced back to 2018. But as it is with many tournament preparations, there was simply not enough time to do that. The idea was being pushed back up until 2021 when it was reborn just like a phoenix in the fires of creative madness.

Guys responsible for this area of the tournament decided to finally bring the concept to life. Consequently, they had just enough time to see what they could do before the tournament started.

dragon capp
Meet the Dragon Capp!
Source: Facebook

Dragon Capp consisted of:

  • tournament game timetable for the whole tournament,
  • game history,
  • stats,
  • player profiles,
  • tournament badges,
  • tournament information and rules,
  • partner and sponsor information.

Dragon web app turned out to be a nice surprise for the players and got positive feedback. Even though not everyone got to discover all the goods within, it was an improvement on so many levels. For example, the whole game timetable process got automated. Information that the players needed was just one click away without unnecessary scrolling, e-mails, or social media hopping.

A list of the teams was posted on the app and the schedule of the games for the whole weekend. Game scores were updated up to 1 minute after the end of the matches. Moreover, the players were able to check the results while chilling by the game fields. Some even took their time to file out their player profiles.

The result is that many tournament questions could be fixed by the app. In the end, the tournament process sped up and the Dragon Capp even got thumbs up from planet earth. There was certainly so much less stuff to print out before it all pointlessly landed in the trash bin!

Wrapping up the Dragon Cup.

There is no better way to know if your tournament was a success without the players giving you feedback. After the tournament, all 192 players received a short questionnaire. While no one loves to answer them, the team got 110 answers, which showed a good amount of engagement. There were a lot of positive opinions and constructive criticism. So, here’s a little secret, dear players! You do have a huge impact on what the next Dragon Cup looks like. Players co-create this Hat tournament with their feedback and I’m sure they can see that each year.

As a result, the Dragon Cup team knows what they should focus on to the experience more memorable. They know what they should change, include as well as forget about. Here’s a summary of the most important points.

The things to be proud of:

  • The game schedule – The goal was to give everyone an even number of 6 games. . Three passes at the end of the game saved the schedule from shifting around because of the prolonged points.
  • Giving up on box catering – Instead the players got hot lunch from an indian foodtruck. There were both meat and vegetarian options.
  • Buffet breakfast – The breakfasts are available for an extended time. Consequently, the players don’t have to rush in the morning to grab anything to eat before the game. Many tournaments have a problem with getting the food proportions or the right breakfast for the players in the morning. Here the problem is solved by an individual approach, so the players prepare their own breakfast from different food options. All you can eat vibes!
  • Fit cakes – A successful tournament debut. The players loved the in-between fit cakes and snacks.
  • The city game – Everyone loves the bar crawl with riddles and the demand is always high! Every year the game is different.
Ultimate Frisbee player at Dragon Cup hat tournament.
Ultimate Frisbee Dragon Cup 2021 Photo Marcin Bulanda

Room for improvement:

  • The party – It’s great to have your own party space, but it’s hard to make sure it stays that way. The dance floor proved to be too small and there was not enough space to chill.
  • Party vs the city game – While everyone loves the city game it brings about a conflict with the party. Not everyone get to play. As a result, they have to wait for the rest of the players to get back to the party. The wait between the game and the party for some players seemed too long.
  • Better communication – The Dragon Cup team wants to work on the communication with the players. It includes the communication between the events on social media and during the tournament. The app is supposed to enhance the experience.
  • On site communication – In the future team wants to involve someone to comment the games and engage in the fun. It would also improve the communication between the fields and make the whole experience inclusive.
  • Volunteers – A nightmare for each tournament organizer. There is a never ending demand for volunteers to improve the small and big things around the tournament.

Ultimate Frisbee player perspective on the Dragon Cup Hat Tournament.

Since feedback is very important, I’ve asked a few players about their opinion about the Dragon Cup. I could write for another month about the tournament and try to give it justice. But I don’t really want to be like George R. R. Martin still writing the last book of Game of Thrones. Here’s some player perspective!

Gracjan at Dragon Cup 2021

“I play Ultimate Frisbee since February 2020 and this was my first Dragon Cup. What I liked the most, was integrating with all the people from the Ultimate community that I didn’t know before. For me, this is the strongest part of the tournament. The most difficult part of playing at the Hat tournament for a new player was finding oneself on the field. There was some stress caused by the short time of playing the sport. The beginner players put on themselves a lot of pressure while trying to play like experienced players.”

Gracjan, Atre Indians Czarnków

Alex at Dragon Cup Ultimate Frisbee Hat Tournament

“2021 was my 4th time. There was a lot of things for the first time – vaccination, crossing a border in my own car, In total, I made 2200+ km in a short term (the weekend), playing all day after 1 hour of sleep and 1100+ km of driving. I like Dragon Cup as it has the most fun, with a lot of attractions aside standard “play and party one-night” tournament! One might find out that attractions are actually team-building or having fun with anyone from the Cup.

City quests, twister, beer race (AWESOME!), master classes on different topics (disc-golf), merch, etc. The organization makes everything possible for visitors to have as much fun as it can be imagined!

This year impressed me with new things. I was surprised by the convenient app they’ve provided recently! That is super useful! Colder weather than all previous years. A lot of rookies! I was visiting for the 4th time in a row and made a lot of friends as well as I’ve found a lot of new and promising sporty people! That fact remains regardless of a lot of polish team players having trouble practicing due to Covid. For newbies, this is a great and affordable place to practice, have fun and participate at the level they are willing to commit to (fun, chill, compete for a medal). Totally recommended!”

Alex

Ruslan at playing Ultimate Frisbee at Dragon Cup

“It was my first, but I hope not last Dragon Cup tournament. I like the organization and atmosphere of the tournament, like that you have quest games after ultimate games. I had other hat tournaments, but they were indoor. So, it was my first outdoor hat, and I really liked it. I recommend this tournament for people who want to get fun from playing ultimate, learn something new and meet new people, especially if they are already familiar with a game, but don’t have too much experience. So, if somebody asks me about hat tournament, I will say go to Dragon Cup.”

Ruslan

Daria at Dragon Cup

“I find Dragon Cup to be a wonderful tournament with an awesome atmosphere. I think that everyone felt it and had a great time. There was lots of pastime between the games, so everyone could relax and get some rest before the next match. I also think that everyone found something for themselves, so if someone came to play and see good games, there was an occasion for it. If someone came just to have good fun, they definitely found the right entertainment. I think that the pastime in the evening was a strong point, but I was looking forward to more integration in the club. That’s why I have only one observation, to organize one big party for just the tournament attendees. 😉 “

Daria

I think that Ultimate Frisbee Hat tournaments are a rarity that should be preserved and encouraged. Hopefully the next time you’ll be searching for a fun tournament, you’ll pick the legendary Dragon Cup in Cracow, Poland. Be rest assured that it will be one of the best times of your life. Enjoy this small photo gallery of photos taken by pro photographer Marcin Bulanda and see you there!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: