Interview with Matt Elmore and Ben Giles (Captain/Vice-Captain of UMON Winners Bath 1)

Interviewer/Editor: Harry Mason

Bath 1 Men's team enthusiastically celebrate their victory.
Photo by Tommy Pengelly

Let's start with introductions. Who are you guys? 

Matt: I'm Elmo, (Matt Elmore), captain this year and in my 4th year with the team.

Ben: I'm Ben Giles, vice-captain and also in my 4th year

How did it feel to win Nationals? Were you aiming to win, or did it come as a surprise?

Matt: I'm still buzzing from the weekend, we were ecstatic when we scored that final point. Going into the tournament we knew we would be strong and our aims were to medal, once we made it to the final we were only going to be happy with a gold after silver last year.

Ben: I've been walking round with a smile on my face ever since the final finished (despite the fact I had a very unfinished dissertation due the week after the tournament). As a uni we've had some incredible players over the past few years with a large GB representation, so to go further than any of those teams have is huge for this current team.

How did you build from last year's silver medal success then? Did you retain a lot of the same people?

Ben: Last year we lost two GB U24s (Michael Guise and Piers Nicholas) and two fifth years which made up pretty much our whole O-line. The rest of the squad was pretty much the same however with everyone a year more experienced and the pickup of George Pickens and Pieter Keenan (GB u20s) as well as Andrew Buglass (Dutch u20s) meant that the loss off those from last year was not felt as much as it could have been

Matt: Last year the training focus was based around principles to drill into the team how to do the simple things most effectively, this year we built on that by improving on more advanced skills which was much easier to coach with the platform set from the year prior.

Can you elaborate on the training/mentality differences from last year?

Matt: I think one good thing we managed to arrange the week before Nationals was a match against Bristol Open which really shocked us into having to play a more intense and careful game over the course of Nats. On the mentality side I feel that the squad was a really close group that was driven to perform their best for everyone else on the team which comes about after playing together with most of the guys for the best part of four years.

Ben: I think our mentality changed as a result of me falling last year. For years Bath has chumped at the quarter finals of these tournaments and that has been a significant barrier for us. Having overcome that hurdle last year we truly believed we could win the tournament this year

Do you think the Bath 2017 side would have won Nationals this year? Or that the Bath 2018 side would have won last year?

Matt: Ooh good question, it's very hard to say as the uni ultimate scene changes so much every year. I think that the Bath 2018 side would have matched the success of last year, but I think we had better preparation for the tournament this year so don't think that the Bath 2017 side would have necessarily secured the gold this time around.

Ben: I'm not convinced we'd have coped with Ashley Yeo that much better than we did last year though!

What were your favourite games this weekend?

Matt: I really enjoyed the quarter final match against Loughborough, as Ben mentioned above that has been our main stumbling point and they are a very good side so was a little nervous going into that match. Everyone on the team stepped it up for that game and secured a very solid win to get us into the semis. Also, enjoyed the final as it was amazing to see everyone perform out of their skins and win Bath's first ever Outdoor Nationals championship.

Ben: Mine would be the Strathclyde game. We knew going into the tournament they would be our biggest test and the fact they're all so nice meant the atmosphere in the game was great! We got our noses ahead early and despite it probably being our messiest game on offence our D line was phenomenal at applying pressure to the Strath offence and we ground out the victory

Who were some key players (or what were some amazing plays) you'd like to give a shout out to?

Matt: My standout players of the tournament would have to be: Ben Giles, Seb Allen, George Pickens, Fraser Roberts and Oli May (for the outrageous footblock in the final). These guys all put up and brought down some amazing throws and got many turns for the team, could not have had nearly as much success as we've had this year without them.

Ben: Compared to other teams we don't have those star names, we don't have a Canada U24 captain or multiple players who have just gone to worlds or are going to worlds this summer. we have a squad of 15 players who we trust to play any of the points and we felt that was the difference between us and any of squad there this weekend

What sort of club/country connections do you have in your team (beyond the junior players already mentioned)?

Matt: We have 4 Ka-Pow! players - myself, Ben Giles, Kiran Patel and Oli May, David "Mexican Dave" Canepa Talamas who plays for Reading/Mexico, and Seb Allen who plays Chevron and GB U24. The rest of the guys play no club/pick-up for teams over the summer.

Ben: Although Oli and Kiran have only just joined Ka-Pow!, so have yet to play A-Tour

I feel at this point I have to give a mention to Bath 2, who have had a phenomenal year. What is your approach to development as a club?

Ben: I see our roles as captains not just at a first team level but as the development of the club as a whole. Much of our 2s has been made up of 2nd and 3rd years and it wasn't until the last few matches that freshers were involved in squads. We didn't want to rush them in so that they felt out of their depth.

Matt: Yeah, Bath 2 have had a fantastic season qualifying for Div. 3 Nationals and coming 3rd in their league. We built a development squad at the start of the year for players that were on the fringes of the 1st team squad last year and all trained together so that they could play high level ultimate to improve their skills. As the year went on we added more and more people to it who we saw were improving steadily until we had a training squad of nearly 40 players! We also took it upon ourselves to provide individual feedback to the players throughout the season to give them targets to improve their overall game which will hopefully help them going into next season.

Ben: As long as we felt we didn't have to teach the basics to players we wanted to get them involved. Often freshers can get disengaged if they aren't being tested and made to improve so ensuring that wasn't the case was crucial for us

Do you have a coach? How much training do you do with your Women's team (or do you tend to focus on Men's)?

Matt: We have a committee member who is our dedicated coach to run the majority of sessions and to plan them (Liam Wade). As captains we have helped Liam run the sessions for the club and suggested drills to teach specific skills for beginners. The women's team this year was helped in a big way by David Canepa as he coached them once a week to help prepare them for Nationals. All of our open trainings are mixed and the only split we have guys/girls are for the development squad trainings which are only once a week. In that sense I think we focus primarily on development of beginners not necessarily on men's/women's or mixed specifically.

Ben: The men's first/second team squad is simply coached by Elmo and I.

What are your thoughts on the BUCS league?

Ben: I personally like the BUCS league. For us as a first team we often have to travel to teams that we will beat very comfortably and seems like a bit of a pointless journey as our region isn't the most competitive. For the second team I think its great, they get 10 games a year to improve and we can therefore add freshers to this throughout the year when we feel they are ready. It's definitely easier for a club our size, especially when it comes to the second team

Matt: I think the BUCS league is great for our second team as it gives them a lot of match experience against a wide range of teams which helps them develop. For the premier division, it would be nice if there were a couple more teams in the league just so the first team could have more practise. However, it does make it difficult for beginners to play with first and second team players to improve their skills as we are away for a lot of Wednesday training afternoons (which are our main session) so finding a good balance is critical.

Ben: It has impacted our main training sessions on a Wednesday afternoon with often none of the best 30 male players at training which reduces the quality and makes it difficult for the guys not in the first 2 teams. We also find the cost difficult at £50 BUCS fee. For the first team this is fine but to ask freshers to pay when they may not get much of a game is fairly pricey

How do you think Bath 1 will do next year?

Matt: From the squad of 15 at Nationals this year we lose 6 players to graduation and a few of the second team players as well. It will be hard to say exactly how well we will do but I know the aim for the club will be to do the double and retain the trophy for another year.

What advice would you have to anyone taking up a captaincy role at university in the coming year?

Ben: I'm actually going to be captain next year which helps in terms of continuity. Matt, anything I should know?

Matt: My advice to Ben would be keep providing each player with a set goal as it much easier to improve with a target in mind other than just 'get better'. As well as that, keep the positive mindset and the friendly atmosphere that has been apparent this year as I think that was one of the keys to our success this year.

Any final thoughts?

Matt: Just a quick shout out to the guys leaving us this year who have brought so much to the club over the time they've been here - Ed Kiddle, Jonathan Poffley, Fraser Roberts, David Canepa, Sebastian Bzk and Luke von Sicard!

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