My time in Helsinki Ultimate started in October 2014. I came to Helsinki as part of my studies to finish the second and last year of my Master’s. I had previous experiences in ultimate from a university team in Bonn where I have been playing for about two years. This is also where I got to know another player from Helsinki Ultimate who played for the team in Bonn during her student exchange. It was also her who eventually introduced me to Helsinki Ultimate by taking me to one of the Friday Pelivuoro-sessions in Kamppi.
It pretty quickly became clear to me that the level of playing was a lot higher than what I was used to in Germany.
This was partly because in Germany ultimate is often played in gender mixed teams, making it less physical, but to a large extent also because in Helsinki players had a lot more experience and were more ambitious. Despite the need to catch up quickly and to fill the skill gap, I was quickly and easily integrated into the team owing to diverse and well-organized practices. In fact, I believe the steep learning curve has helped me to make some quick improvements needed to keep up and play in tournaments.
From a sportive point of view, I didn’t participate in as many tournaments as I could have or wanted to but enjoyed every minute on the field that I was playing. This might be a bit difficult to believe, as I’m probably among the persons with the worst statistics on Pelikone, but playing ultimate for me was not merely about winning games. The games that I remember most were the ones where our team stood up against a stronger team and gave them a hard time, even if we lost the game eventually.
At the end of the day, having a good spirit and growing together as a team was what I cherished the most.
What impressed me most about the ultimate community in Finland is that despite its rather small size, the experience and skill is impressive. I have never played “professionally” in Germany before so my experience is rather limited, but I was impressed with the level on which ultimate is played in Finland and by the experience that some players have. I also liked the practice games of Team against Otso, which was a great way for both teams to prepare for an upcoming season, practice tactics, or to fill some gaps in the calendar without tournaments. Being a rather small community, it was also a rather familiar atmosphere where players from other teams know each other.
I think it is important for the Finnish ultimate community to use these relationships to make improvements together on a national level and for the sport itself.
The biggest difference that I noticed between Finland and Germany is probably the amount and frequency of tournaments that are played. In Germany, during the summer it is basically possible to participate in a tournament every weekend, while in Finland there didn’t seem to be such an abundance of tournaments (or at least I wasn’t aware of it). However, those tournaments in Germany are often fun tournaments including drinking games and little games after the actual ultimate game. Ultimate in Finland has a more professional character, which I actually liked better, but which can be somewhat disappointing for visitors and exchange students, who expect to play more fun tournaments. Additionally, indoor ultimate has a more important status in Finland, most likely because the climate conditions force the players to have a longer indoor season. That has the advantage though, that indoor tournaments are quite competitive and some teams show very good skills especially for the indoor games.
I believe that joining a sports team in a foreign country is one of the best ways to make contact with locals and to get to know their culture.
To me, playing for the Helsinki Ultimate Team was one of the highlights of my stay in Finland. It was also a great way to practice my Finnish and talk to natives. If I get the chance to come to Finland again, I would gladly come back to play with Helsinki Ultimate in some more tournaments or even just to join the practices.
For now, I can only thank the team for the nice time and wish everyone success for the upcoming outdoor season.
– Matthias Stamm