The 2022 Joint Junior Ultimate Championships
This post was written by VC partner Lookfly's Jon Pugh and originally published on Lookfly's site.
Attending JJUC 2022 was good for the soul.
It was heart-warming to see so many players and nations competing after the last few years that they, we, the world, have endured (and are still enduring). It was a daily reminder that it would have been easier for all these people to just not attend; but they decided to jump through the extraordinary hoops of international travel, intra-national trials, and training in order to get to Poland and experience something that young ultimate players haven’t since 2019.
Wrocław, Poland is a pretty perfect location if you accept that nowhere is perfect (some teams will have to cross the Atlantic, Australia and NZ will always to travel a long way unless they’re hosting), but the venue is in the leafy suburbs of Poland’s 4th largest city. There are the airports nearby, car rental is cheap and many nations choose to forgo the faff of flying one hundred 15-19 year olds and simply drive. I say “simply” but Great Britain’s buses take around 30 hours each way!
The venue is on the campus of Stadion Olimpijski and there are enough grass pitches for this event, along with all the boring things you need for a tournament: parking, power, nearby restaurants, camping and accommodation on site, a skimboarding pool(!).
In terms of the event, WFDF’s U20 World Junior Ultimate Championship (WJUC) was merged with EUF’s U17 European Youth Ultimate Championship (EYUC). And when those powers combine, they create... JJUC - The Joint Junior Ultimate Championship.
All that makes sense, but it also makes for a difficult merchandise plan! Do you mention both events? Just one? Should there be different designs for EYUC and WJUC? Just how big are Juniors these days? A lot of this is solved by VC’s recent move towards trying to sell out at an event but then host the designs in their Virtual Merch Tent so anyone can pick up an item that they missed out on. Yes, it means that if you arrive in the tent on Day 6 we may not have your size, but the alternative is: make a lot of items that may never get bought and there’s a really large environmental (not to mention financial) impact in choosing to do that. I was really proud of the designs that our team put together that went down so well with the players! They looked great and some of them carried an important nod to the Progress Pride flag.
We had a new team member join us in Wrocław: Hari Tidswell. Fresh off the plane back from WUCC with SMOG, he fit in beautifully and was a very willing model for our range of merch on our Instagram Story. He said he’s going to bring his camera next time and have a face off with Andraž Kramberger, who managed to spend most of the day getting a deep tan taking the breathtaking shots that you’re currently seeing on our social media. Rounding off the team were Alja and Stotty, powerhouses fuelled by iced coffees, and Kartofdzhyn from the local Georgian restaurant.
The U20 Open and Women’s Division were accompanied once again by the Mixed division, which was started in 2019; but there was also a Mixed division for the U17s this time, which was new. It makes sense that countries without the North American player base to field Open and Women’s teams are able to join forces and play in the Mixed division. Hungary won both Mixed divisions this time, it’ll be interesting to see if other nations direct more attention to Mixed in future.
Notable absences who were dearly missed: Australia and Japan don’t seem to have been able to overcome Covid restrictions (i don't think there were any Japanese teams at WMUCC either) - I hope we get to see them again at WJUC 2024!
The rest of the tournament played out with some familiar storylines. The USA are good at ultimate and both of their teams made it to their respective finals with relative comfort. The French women staged a comeback but USA always had the upper hand. France and Italy are the teams to beat in Europe, apart from the aforementioned Hungary. The New Zealand teams have taken a big step forward in the last 5 years, which is great to see. Their coaches gathered them together near the merch tent to play them a video of the past NZ Junior captains wishing the 2022 teams the best of luck and sharing tips for getting the most out of the week. Canada might look back on the week and think about “what might have been”, but these events are about giving players experiences that will help them grow and improve, and sometimes that includes bouncing back. Austria took home more than their fair share of Spirit Prizes, so massive congrats to them!
WFDF, EUF and the Tournament Directors did a great job throughout the week of dealing with the inevitable hiccoughs with running a large event. They even brought games forward on the Friday and Saturday due to a forecast for lightning storms that would have interfered with the U20 Women’s final. It certainly meant that some US supporters back home had to set an alarm but it was better to ensure the game could actually happen. My only observation is that it seems harsh to ask all these teams to arrive in time to watch an opening show game without having any play for the wider tournament. These events are expensive, especially for juniors, and to get them all to have to pay for an extra day of accommodation and food to watch one game feels like there could have been a better solution. It works out at a 7-8 day tournament when some of the divisions had fewer than 8 teams.
For us, this was the last large European tournament of our summer and it was a blast. If you’ve not been, Wrocław would be great for a city break. If you’ve not watched them yet, the quality of some of the games are superb. The future’s bright!
Finally, we want to give a big shout out to the teams in VC Lookfly: Canada, Austria, Great Britain and the Netherlands! Thank you for your support!
Pugh & the VC Lookfly Team