It’s 15 days to Worlds. Our undying thirst for the inside scoop continues. It has been nothing short of an exhilarating adventure sharing the stories of our Singapore Opens, Womens, Masters team. And now it’s time to unveil the team whose inspirational story we all might be familiar with, from their Road to Worlds Series that have been published on Ultiworld and SKYD Magazine. We left the best for the final blast.
As the teams prepare to march off to London, we reach out to an inspiring individual from the Singapore Mixed Team to share with us his story and his team. You’ve
probably definitely noticed him on the fields. Well, it’s hard not to with his frame towering over opponents, huge hucks, leaps and massive grabs, excellent spirit… and also a striking resemblance to Gerard Butler from 300. His expression often exudes a cool demeanour, but beneath it lies a fiery passion for Ultimate both on and off the field. Yup, you probably know who we are talking about by now.
We catch up with Jake Bell to find out more about what it takes to be champions of Mixed Nationals for two years running and his thoughts on Worlds coming up in 3 weeks time. Read on to find out more…
But before we start, if you have yet to watch their Road to Worlds series, here it is. Edited by Jake himself, trust us, you wouldn’t want to miss it.
Also, before we really start. Here’s a picture of Gerard Butler from 300 (just in case you don’t know who we’re talking about).
1. Hi Jake, thank you so much for speaking with us for the interview! First up, huge congratulations on winning champions for Mixed Nationals 2016! Could you share with us how the finals against Shiok (Defend) went?
Thank you so much for this interview! At the Mixed Nationals Finals, our defense was extremely fired up, and got us several breaks in the first half. Thanks to that cushion provided by our strong defensive start, our offense were more relaxed. We managed to convert our points well, which allowed for a comfortable lead. Shiok started to mount a comeback in the second half, but we managed to maintain the margin and held out for time cap to seal the deal. We successfully defended our title as Mixed Nationals Champion!
2. Every team knows that winning a tournament is plenty of hard work as it is. Yet you guys defended your title and won Mixed Nationals two years running*. That is an amazing achievement. How did your team make it happen?
2015 was an interesting year for Singapore Ultimate. The previous defending champions, Shiok, with a shift in focus on single gender teams to qualify for two teams (Opens and Womens for WUGC 2016), had decided to spilt their mixed teams. This opened the door for other clubs like Rascals and Freakshow to make a big run at the Mixed Nationals title to earn the bid for worlds.
Knowing that we would get to represent Singapore at WUGC 2016 if we won the Mixed Nationals in 2015, that gave us the carrot we needed. The desire and motivation soon followed. We were extremely focused on that goal and we had our players all commit to working hard towards it. It propelled both commitment and our trainings to a higher level. In short, we wanted it very badly.
Our coaches identified effective strategies for our offensive and defensive lines, and we worked on them for weeks and months until we could execute them efficiently. We had confidence that if we stuck to them diligently and executed them well, we had a chance to bid for the championship title.
*Freakshow won Rascals in the Finals of Mixed Nationals 2015, final score 15-13.
3. In every tournament, there are always ups and downs. We heard about the loss to Shiok (Deny) on Day 1. How did you come back up from it and how do you feel your team fared for the entire tournament? Any key takeaways from that game?
Shiok wanted it more than us in that game. They are a very good team, with many seasoned handlers and it was tough to generate turnovers. We made a couple of mistakes with the disc, resulting in turnovers that they were able to capitalize on and pull slightly ahead. We had a chance to tie the game on offense to push it to universe point, but unfortuntely, we did not execute it well enough. As a result, Shiok snatched the win.
Our biggest takeaway from that game was our offense needed to be more conservative and patient. We needed to swing and move the disc more from one sideline to the other, especially as we were reaching the goal line. After that game’s defeat, we knew that we had to step it up mentally for the rest of the tournament. We had to get stronger and maintain our performance even under pressure.
4. Are you guys prepared for Worlds coming up in 2-3 weeks’ time? Did Mixed Nationals help in terms of the preparation? If so, how?
To be honest, this has been the longest season of our lives. By the time WUGC is underway, we would have been training for 17 months. That includes 2 field trainings and one gym training session each week. In addition, many of us have layered on our own individual training 2-3 times a week. With so much time and hard work dedicated to improving the team and ourselves as players, I personally feel that we are prepared for Worlds.
Defending our championship title at Mixed Nationals further added to our confidence. We were able to dominate in many of our games, proving that our efforts from the past 17 months were indeed paying off. We dealt with the adversity (losing to Shiok Deny on day 1) and bounced right back in our pre-quarter, quarterfinal and semifinal games on day 2. By the time we reached the finals, we knew that all we needed to do was remain confident in our structures and each other. If we executed them well, we would have a very good chance at winning the title once again. And we did. We wanted Mixed Nationals to be a platform to boost our team further, so that we will be at our peak at Worlds. I think we are right on schedule.
5. You have been a big presence in the Singapore Ultimate scene in recent years, could you share with us about your Ultimate career and how you came to be playing with Freakshow?
I first picked up a disc at Salisbury University in Maryland in 2003. I met Tim Morrill and Alex Jacoski there and after my first tournament I was hooked on to Ultimate for life. I was really lucky to have veteran guys like Keven Moldenhauer (DC Current/Truckstop) and Danny Clark (Boston Ironside) to look up to. They would come to our practices and tournaments from time to time to help out and I got to learn how the game should be played at the highest level from the very beginning.
In 2009, I moved to Romania for a few years and started a mixed team there. Following which in 2012, I moved to Singapore and went to a Saturday beach pick up. I met Joanne Soh and Vijay Ranganathan from Freakshow and they invited me to Freakshow’s Open House to try out. The rest they say is history.
6. When did you start playing with Freakshow, and how is the squad now compared to the one you initially joined?
When I first joined in 2012, I was only able to train together with Freakshow for a few weeks before having to stop due to a back injury. Thankfully I was able to return in 2013 to play an entire season with them. I had an amazing time. Most of the players heading up to WUGC this June were on that team, so it was a really great opportunity for me to get to know them and train hard alongside them. I’m privileged to be able to play alongside such skilled teammates and grateful that we can enjoy the entire journey together. The biggest difference in our club from then to now is that we are much more disciplined and structured in both our offensive and defensive strategies.
7. We love the Road to Worlds series that you created to share the journey of Freakshow with the community. It’s amazing that it got picked up by Ultiworld & SKYD magazine. Where did your inspiration come from and when can we look forward to Episode 3?
My girlfriend Kat Grigsby gave me a GoPro for Christmas in 2014, which led me to start filming our vacations and making amateur movies using Final Cut. Through those little projects, I learned a lot about editing and I really enjoyed it. Once we got our bid for WUGC, I had a chat with Mark Ho, who’s our Freakshow marketing expert, and together we hatched an idea of a video series to share our journey.
Once the first video was done, I reached out to Ultiworld and SKYD Magazine to see if they were keen to publish it. They were keen and Ultiworld posted it right away, but Elliot Trotter (Founder of Skyd Magazine) gave me tons of suggestions on how to improve my work. That helped me to take our Road to Worlds videos to the next level. I think their support has provided amazing exposure for our Singapore Ultimate community.
My main motivation behind this video is to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime WUGC experience and to have it all recorded down. Years from now, we can all get on YouTube, re-watch them and have a laugh about it. Episode 3 was just released earlier today and Episode 4 is already in the works!
Watch Episode 3 now!
*We are also building our YouTube channel, check it out! Freakshow Ultimate.
8. Give us an insight on how trainings go. With 2-3 more weeks to go, what last minute preparation are you guys working on?
Our practice sessions are on Saturdays from 8AM to 1PM. Once a month we do double sessions to work on new concepts and strategies. Additionally in our programme we have a Sunday scrimmage against our developmental players.
We focus on making our Saturday trainings both mentally and physically tough, as that is what is required to succeed at Worlds. The session comprises of a full warm up, throwing/disc/skill-based drills, running through offensive and defensive scenarios before ending off with an intense scrimmage.
Now that Mixed Nationals are over, we have identified some key weaknesses that came up, which we will be focusing on fixing them with the short amount of time we have left to Worlds.
9. The squad that will be going to WUGC has a mix of older, experienced veterans as well as several younger, upcoming youngsters. How do you all strike a balance between the two to ensure that things run smoothly on the field?
Our coaches, Taz and Howie both have done an amazing job in placing players within our structure to best utilize their strengths. We have tried out many different combinations over the last 2 years and now all the pieces are ready and in place. I rarely think about the age of our players because we have all identified our key roles and that’s really want counts that the end of the day.
10. Tell us about the key strengths and weaknesses of this Freakshow squad, and how you look to amplify and overcome them respectively.
Our biggest strength – our whole is greater than the sum of our parts. We have players that can make amazing “superstar” plays but we do not rely on them solely to succeed. We ensure to gel everyone together in a cohesive structure such that our entire flow works.
Weakness wise, my coaches might kill me if I give anything away as we are so close to Worlds. If you want to find out, you will have to watch out for us at WUGC.
11. The ladies of Freakshow have stepped it up several notches, having recently won the championship title at GenderMah! 2016. How did they accomplish this and how do you think the other clubs can encourage their ladies to step up?
The ladies at Freakshow are very strong and determined players. The performance they displayed at GenderMah! was incredible. It really boosted our confidence leading up to Mixed Nationals and WUGC. One key contributor to their success was that we implemented gender-focused training on Saturdays, which gave everyone time and space to work on their fundamentals. Strengthening their fundamentals built their overall confidence and trust between them.
I don’t have any special or secret tips to offer, but I strongly believe that if you work hard consistently, over time it will inevitably make you a better player.
12. Many top players around the world are competing in the Opens and Women’s division at WUGC this year. Was it a straightforward decision for you to play in the mixed division? Was there anything that prompted you to do so?
I first learned Ultimate playing Opens in college, and continued playing on with an Open club team till 2008, which was when I had to take time off for my back surgery. The moment I moved overseas, it was tough to find single gender teams and I had to adapt to either playing Mixed or risk not playing at all. Most of the tournaments in South East Asia have a bigger emphasis on the Mixed category, so I guess you could say it was quite a straightfoward decision.
In addition to Freakshow, I also play with Hardcore, an Opens team led by Erick Artavia. After WUGC, I plan on training with those guys again for Opens tournaments like Singapore Open, Manila Spirits, Grizzly and GenderMah!.
13. Having said that, do you think Freakshow will be shifting their focus to single-gender tournaments in the future?
As far as I know, there are currently no concrete plans for Freakshow to transit to single gender. We have worked really hard perfecting structures for the mixed game and it looks like we will be sticking with it, at least for now.
14) Which player(s) do you predict will shine for Freakshow at WUGC?
Fabian Ho is our current MVP and Joanne Soh (Jo) is an extremely well rounded player. Fabian is always making some of the most insane plays you will ever see and Jo has a lot of Worlds experience. Not forgetting Lesley Sim, who won the MVP award at Mixed Nationals 2016 and also has Worlds experience.They will definitely have a great tournament in London.
15) Being a non-Asian player, what are your thoughts on the progression and development of Asians in the sport?
Japan has always been the powerhouse of Asia. Now, the Philippines is catching up and has recently emerged as Mixed champions at the Asia-Oceanic Ultimate Championship (AOUC) 2015. Many of them play 5-7 days per week and they do intense strength training during the off-season.They have also done a great job to promote the scene and have attracted sponsors through social media.
I think the competition between Singapore and the Philippines will continue to make both communities grow and produce players of a higher caliber as the programs progress. Other countries like Korea, China, Malaysia and Taiwan are also stepping it up and hosting big international tournaments. It’s visible that the growth in Asia is rapid and mighty contagious.
16) Ultimate in Singapore has changed over the years, from a sport that was played mainly by foreign expats now boast a pool of players that are mostly local bred. How evident is the change from your view?
I’ve only been in Singapore for 4 years but I had the chance to interview Lance Dubos, one of the founders of Singapore Ultimate, for my first Road to Worlds video. We spoke for a long time about the history of Singapore Ultimate and how Freakshow as the pioneer club led the way. It is remarkable how fast the sport has been adopted by the local community. Singapore Ultimate was mostly founded by American expats in the mid 1990’s but now there are only a handful of American players in the entire competitive scene. Singapore Ultimate Open is a huge international tournament that attracts a large crowd every year and Shiok had a top 10 finish at Worlds Ultimate Club Championship (WUCC) 2014, so I guess the results speak for themselves.
17) How do you envision the ultimate scene will be like in a few years? Do you think there is enough being done to bring the sport to the forefront?
If Singapore really wants to advance and leave their mark on the world ultimate scene, I feel that the focus needs to shift from mixed to single gender. It is a known fact that the best men and women players in the world are playing in the Open and Womens divisions. The game dynamics in Open and Womens are very different compared to Mixed. When I was playing in US, the top players played single gender. The players who did not make the team or wanted a lower committment played in Mixed.
Another key is to have a shorter season and allow players to take a break to build up their speed, strength and agility during off season. Many young players are on multiple teams and play competitively almost all year round. No matter the sport, a 2 to 3 month off-season is extremely important for any high-level athlete. Having said that, Singapore Ultimate is definitely on the rise and with the coaching programs and National Youth Program that is in place, it will only improve further from here on.
18) Share with us your favourite inspirational quote?
“Hold onto your butts!” -Samuel L. Jackson, Jurassic Park
19) Lastly, any tips for players looking to head up to Worlds in the near future?
This is my first and more than likely my only Worlds tournament so I can’t really contribute much from experience. However, if you ever get the chance to go, make the most of it. Train harder than you have ever trained before. Eat healthy food. Identify your weaknesses and work on them. Be a good teammate. Make a video series, haha. Do everything you can do to make the experience amazing.
We wish all the best to our Singapore Mixed Team for WUGC 2016! #teamsingapore #singaporepride
Stay tuned to the next interview of our WUGC 2016 Series. Read more interviews here.
Watch the highlights of Freakshow at Mixed Nationals 2016 below.
Also, check out the spirit rankings and photo coverage of Mixed Nationals 2016:
- Spirit Score Rankings of Mixed Nationals 2016 by UPA Singapore
- Singapore Mixed Nationals 2016 by Eric Lim
- Singapore Mixed Nationals 2015 by Eric Lim
- Mixed Nationals 2016 by ZH Photography
- Mixed Nationals 2016 by Goh Siwei
- Mixed Nationals 2016 by Faizal Basir
- Mixed Nationals 2016 by Leung Liwen
PS: Thirsty Camels would like to thank and give all photo credits to the dedicated Ultimate photographers of the local scene. Also, big thanks to UPA(S) for their efforts in organizing and pulling off Mixed Nationals for us. Cheers!