This past weekend, I attended my fourth Six on the Beach, or Sixes for short. Sixes is arguably the most well-known Ultimate hat tournament in Korea, and has had a large turnout whenever I’ve been lucky enough to make it. In both 2015 and 2017, I reflected on the six main lessons that those respective Sixes tournaments taught me. This year is no different!
Don’t make me a hat team captain – there will be a typhoon
I was captain for the 2016 tournament, and on the second day of that tournament we were treated to the worst weather that I’ve experienced in my time in Korea. The heavens loosed their liquid contents on the beach from early in the morning, which led to most of the players leaving before their games were done. It was a miserable day.
This year, I was made captain again, and two days before this year’s Sixes was set to start, Korea was hit by another typhoon. Luckily for the attendees of Sixes, there were only small showers during the tournament itself, and play largely went on unaffected by the weather. The fact remains – apparently the forces in charge of inclement weather don’t like me being a hat team captain.
Music on the sideline makes Ultimate even better
This is a fact that I’d known was true for league play for several seasons, as it helps to cut the tension that competitiveness can bring. It was in this Sixes that I truly noticed the difference in a hat tournament setting. For most of our games, there was no music on the sidelines, mostly due to the risk of rain. However, for a couple of our games, we had spectators bring their own portable speaker to watch us. I’m not sure if it is just my own personal background being intertwined with music, but I instantly gained extra energy and happiness, regardless of what was playing. If music be the food of fun, play on!
Hat tournaments are perfect for forming new bonds, or strengthening old ones
A large part of the appeal of hat tournaments comes from playing with and against players that you otherwise would not in a league or club setting. Whether these are new players looking to get into the sport, players from other regions that you’d never get put on a team with, or long-running teammates that you can finally style on from across the field, this mix-up of the established order is refreshing.
This change can change the way that you had previously perceived or interacted with a player that you didn’t know too well. Looking at them from a new angle could change your view of them completely. Playing with new players to the scene helps give them a way into the community. It wasn’t too long ago (okay, maybe it was) that Kris and I were new to the scene, and the 2015 Sixes was where we first got a taste of the Korean Ultimate scene as a whole.
Communication is key, both on and off of the field
Due in part to this change in the rosters, hat teams tend to be chaotic. There is often very little structure to start off with, with everyone running around trying to get open. The easiest way to fix this is through communication. Talking to the team before the game, designating a simple formation and reinforcing that lead to everyone having a greater understanding of what was going on and enjoying it more as a result.
Communication is also important off of the field. The organisers of Sixes were once again excellent with their communication to players. Before the tournament, there were constant updates about the schedule, format, start and end times, weather, and party theme. This information helped us all plan our weekends, book transportation, and come to the party suitably prepared for the madness.
Promoting women’s Ultimate is vitally important to the sport
One of the most remarkable aspects of Ultimate is that it is a sport where both men and women can play on the same team. Despite this, women still have to work harder to be seen as athletes and valuable members of competitive teams than men do. Kris and I are both strong proponents of women’s Ultimate and women in the Ultimate community in general. So when Ollie, one of the organisers of Sixes (and bearer of one of the most majestic beards in Korean Ultimate) suggested that we play an all-women’s point in the game that we were playing, I leapt at the chance.
The reaction from all of the players was heart-warming. Even though each side only had just enough women to play the point, they were all more than happy to participate. The point was one of the most competitive of the entire game, and all of the players had beaming smiles on their faces for the whole point. My team managed to score the point, with every single lady on the line touching the disc.
I could (and will) write entire posts more about promoting women’s Ultimate, but even that small moment clearly meant a great deal to all of the players, highlighting the importance of doing everything possible to bring women’s Ultimate into the spotlight more.
Six on the Beach is a world-class beach hat tournament, worthy of travelling to Korea for
Previously I’ve said that Sixes is a must for any Ultimate player in Korea. After playing this year’s iteration, I expand that to the worldwide Ultimate community. It may be hosted in a small town in Korea, but there is no tournament I’ve yet been to with a bigger heart than Sixes. The community is welcoming. There is the perfect balance of fun and competition (with perfect balance, of course, leaning far towards the fun end). There is always a party. If you want to see what Korean Ultimate is all about, look no further than Six on the Beach.
All images courtesy of Cartographic Productions, except the Jackson 5 team photo.