Andrew Potter Interview (Birmingham)

The following is an interview with Andrew Potter. He was captain of the Birmingham team (also known as uBu) of 2015/16, who managed to win University Men’s Indoor Nationals this year, as well as helping lead the Mixed team that won both Indoors and Outdoors for the third year running.

What’s your name?
Andrew Potter.

Any nicknames?

And what’s your number?

How long have you been playing Ultimate?
3 ½.

Did you start at University?
Competitively, yes. I had learnt how to throw the basics at sixth form.

What did you study?

What’s your favourite throw?
Any that comes off.

How often do you make your team train a week?
That’s up to the coach. We usually train twice a week with the club and then have 1-2 extra as a team including early morning and weekends.

Outdoors or Indoors?

Horizontal or Vertical Stack?

Zone or man D?

What (if any) club team/s do you play for?

Have you ever represented your country?

How did you start playing Ultimate? What convinced you to stay?
Standard story. I had learnt the basics at school and when I went to university I decided to play Ultimate (alongside football at the time- mistake!). When I went into second year I dropped the football and decided to dedicate my time to Ultimate, I stayed because even though I knew the basics I had no idea there were so many structures, plays, defences, extra throws that I had no idea about. The club in general were also very welcoming and continue to accept beginners throughout the year to trainings. This environment was comfortable and enjoyable to play the sport.

Why did you decide to go for captain? What advice would you have for any new captains starting this year?
I didn't. I was approached by the coach in my final year who asked if i would like the responsibility. I had previously spent a successful year with some immensely talented players and had learnt a tremendous amount and was under an extremely good captain (Hodgett) who was also sticking around so I had extra presence.

My advice to new captains would be not to force yourself upon the team. Everyone knows why they are there and want to do well at the job in hand. There is not one captain on the pitch, but a team of captains, but at times your teammates may look for guidance. However the main thing is encouragement, keep your team playing til’ the very end and never give up, leave it all on the pitch heart and soul!

Was your coach playing or non-playing? What do you think are the differences between the role of a coach, and the role of a captain?
This year he was non-playing. The coach’s name was Alex Black, and he delegated drills out to other members to run in prep for next year. The coach is more to decide how the team are going to play and to put that across to the team but also to assess the team’s strength and weaknesses and work out how to play to that. The role of the captain is to be the voice to the coach and convey what the team think and then be the voice on the pitch

What was your hardest game/tensest moment qualifying for a national tournament?
Hardest Game: uBu vs Warwick (final BUCS league game 2016). Diagonal driving rain across the pitch made for horrendous conditions for both sides. We trailed for most of the game and made uncharacteristic mistakes throughout the team (costly drops, wrong options). It was a tough game to play and keep motivated for but we still had to win, especially in what was pretty much a derby. We never gave up, even though time was not on our side and we managed to edge into the lead and eventually take the game. It was a mentally tough game and afterwards as a team we were not happy with our performance and knew we needed to give a lot more when it came to nationals.  

What was your hardest game/tensest moment during a national tournament?
Universe Point vs Manchester- Indoor Men’s Nationals, Glasgow 2015. Never has there been an easy game between these two sides and it was fitting that, what could have easily been the final the year before, was this time. From what I can remember I think we traded down and possibly even lost a break but immediately hit back with a huge snatch from one of our younger players (Waldon) who showed great tenacity throughout the weekend, and leveled the score to bring on the Universe Point. Everyone wanted to be on the line fighting for the gold and the team and somehow the final 5 just ended up ready. We had the advantage being on O and we looked at our match ups to see if we could exploit any. We had one, and it was me! The point started and with our two experienced handlers (Hodgett and Burak) we worked up a third. I let the first cut go and then darted under, getting looked off before going deep to receive a hammer against two defenders. With that the game was won, it was such a tense point and the throw seemed to hang in the air, but we had kept calm and come through a tense Universe point in the final.

Describe how it felt to win nationals
Pure joy. All the months of training comes down to one weekend of Ultimate, and it pays off as you have beaten all the competition. In the moment you just feel so proud of your team and you are almost speechless. Throughout the game there are butterflies in your stomach and watching the time slip away, you eventually think “we are going to do this”. When it happens you just feel over the moon! Your body aches after the weekend of almost non-stop frisbee and it is all worth it when you take the journey home with the team and the trophy!

What have you done with your medals/trophies?
My medals are hung on the back of my door! It's better than coats.

What were your opinions on the BUCS league?
I enjoyed the new format of the BUCS league and enjoyed having the opportunity to be a weekly sport rather than the weekend tournaments continually as this stretched the season out and there were competitive games to improve upon all the time. It also provided another challenge in getting a squad together as some weeks a lot of players were unavailable, this broadened the depth of the squad. The BUCS league also allowed us to play in front of other people across the university as a way to promote Ultimate and increase recruitment. As a club, we were also able to field a 2nd team which also helped the club's quality improve with more game time and more people being available to assist and coach the sidelines. I believe the BUCS league was a big step for University Ultimate and had a rather successful first year, but as expected there were some teething issues and there is still a long way to go to establish the leagues.

How was it balancing all the different divisions and trainings (indoors, outdoors, mixed, etc.)?
Obviously there are a lot of divisions and therefore training needed to reflect that. The coach devised a plan throughout the year of what to work on, and when and also who would have the morning training session dependant upon need. It was down to the team to organise more training if they felt they required more than they were allocated.

What’s your relationship with your University Sports Office?
As a club, the committee dealt with the University Sports Office.

How do you balance being a captain and a teammate?
For me, they are one and the same. Whilst you have the role of captain, you are still a teammate, you are no more superior to the next player. If anyone wants to approach you about anything then I guess that's when you have to be the ears and decide what's best. However, being at a club like uBu, you are continually supported by everyone and it's the team effect that proves successful.

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