The Yukon Ultimate Frisbee Team will travel over 2,000 km next week to join with colleagues from the NWT, dress in costumes, and represent the North at one of Western Canada’s most notorious tournaments.
The Pumpkin Pull is an annual ultimate frisbee tournament that takes place over the Hallowe’en weekend in Victoria, BC.
Teams from across Western Canada converge on Vancouver Island for an intense two days of competitions, interspersed with costume parties and jack-o-lantern carving competitions.
The 20 teams that take part choose themes that determine the costumes they compete in and the cheers they perform at the end of each game. Past teams have chosen themes as diverse as Caddyshack (all dressed in golf outfits), the Geniuses (all dressed as Einstein), and Cows (in full body costumes complete with udders).
Despite its laidback atmosphere, the Pumpkin Pull proves gruelling for many teams. A schedule that includes upwards of eight games a day with as little as 15 minutes in between has led many past teams to quip, “We should have called ourselves ‘The Walking Wounded.'”
The level of intensity makes spots in the tournament highly coveted. Some of the best teams from across Western Canada chose to make the trip to attempt to secure bragging rights as Pumpkin Pull champions.
In 2007 the Yukon Ultimate Frisbee Team joined forces with friends from Victoria and Vancouver, stepped onto the field in their pajamas (that way their end-of-game “cheer” could involve a massive pillow fight with the other team), and showed off their skills.
This year they’re set to do it again, allied with players from Yellowknife and a set of Yukon expats.
For several of the team members, the trip will herald their first real tournament.
“I’m excited about going to Pumpkin Pull because I’ve never played ultimate outside of Yukon,” says Carrie McClelland. “I really got in to ultimate when I came to Yukon, but have lived here ever since, so I’ve never played more than pick-up.”
McClelland looks forward to meeting some new faces on the field.
“I mean, I love playing with the folks up here, but it’s often the same people every week,” she says.
“We’ve invited the Yellowknife players to join our team, and I’m looking forward to learning some new tricks from them, and seeing what it’s like to play a different style.”
Jamie McAllister is another first-time tournament competitor.
“I’ve been playing organized ultimate for about four months, half of that time up here twice a week,” she says.
“My approach to frisbee has always been either leisurely throwing a disc back and forth on a beach, or generally running around like a chicken with its head cut off. So it’s been fun learning a bit more about the strategy, technique, and the ‘choreography’ of ultimate.”
Along with the current of excitement running through the team as the calendar ticks closer to the end of October is a tiny dose of nerves.
“I’m a little nervous about playing an official game,” explains McClelland.
“There are quite a few rules that we don’t enforce in our pick-up games, because we’re not too serious and want to encourage new people to join.
Ultimate Frisbee is a self-regulated sport, with no referees, McClelland explains.
“So you have a responsibility to call out your own fouls and mistakes. I’m a little nervous about looking really silly just running around on the field, not even knowing what’s going on.”
To combat those concerns the team has been training hard.
“For this tournament we’ve actually been practising, learning plays, memorizing the strengths and weaknesses of our teammates,” McClelland says.
“We’ve been going to pick-up games half an hour early so we can work on drills, different throws and practise technique,” she adds.
“It’s hard to practise good plays, learn all the rules, and get a feel for the game, because we don’t have enough people to play a real game. Ultimate is played seven-on-seven, but we’ve only had enough for five-on-five.”
As a result, she admits, there may be a lot of “on-the-job” learning during the Victoria tournament. And she expects the experience to mean more to her than the ultimate result.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what I can personally achieve when the pressure is on. I’ve been practising some new techniques, but actually applying them to a game is different,” she says.
“I’d like to keep up to my mark, perhaps get some good interceptions, and make solid catches.”
And she expects the tournament experience to mean more to her than the ultimate result.
“When it comes down to it, I don’t really care about winning or losing so long as it’s a good game. I’m looking forward to playing well and learning a lot.”
Anyone interested in getting involved with the Yukon Ultimate Frisbee Team can join them at drop-in practices at the Canada Games Centre Fieldhouse on Saturdays at 8:45 pm or Sundays at 5:15 pm.
Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.