Nick Cash Ultimate interview
When we start talking about longevity in Ultimate this is someone who takes the biscuit, eats it, and then tosses it long for the score, metaphorically speaking at least. Back in ’91, sitting on a bar stool, after a tiring Saturday running round the pitch I had a pint and started chatting with Nick. Even then I was already blown away that he had already been playing for 15 years at that point, with several national titles already under his belt. I was lucky enough to play with him for a few more years while our paths crossed. Since then we’ve both moved on, had kids, grown even older, and yet, fantastically, he will be going to World Beach in Dubai in March 2015.
Here is (some) of his story!
When did you start playing ultimate, sometime in the 70’s?
I started in 1976 at school, a schoolmate’s brother ran the UK Frisbee Association then, which was an offshoot of the company that imported discs, and his little brother set up a club at school. First tournament was the UK championship, which was held at Chelsea FC’s stadium – one day to do all the individual events and ultimate.
Were there many people playing then?
There weren’t many ultimate teams, and everyone tended to do individual events and ultimate – but around the late 70s teams started at a few universities (Warwick – still going strong, was one of the first; others included Cambridge, Oxford (briefly), Southampton and Wolverhampton Poly. Probably 10-20 teams by the early 80s.
What was it like?
Dead exciting! Initially, individual events were more of a focus, and there was a good smattering of old hippies and freaks playing. We were the only school team in the country, so always playing against bigger, stronger teams – but did pretty well. In 1978 played my first international – a one-off game against a visiting Italy team, with a return fixture in Italy, when a team of just seven Interrailed it down for one fixture. We won!
Who did you play for before I met you, Bristol, Samurai, Boleros (they won nationals too?)
First team: Purley High School (UK runners up in 1977 & 1979 – some of who became the nucleus of the Lurkers), then APT — aka Ally Pally Tossers (runners up European Championships, 1980), Samurai, Hombres/Shotgun (11 times consecutive UK champs etc etc), and the odd Euro tournament with Boleros & Tennants. And GB Open , Masters – and next March, Grandmasters!
Rizla Redskins, did you play for them too, they came out of Eastbourne I think, and were chilled, took it easy, and then gradually got better.
They started as the Redskins (out of Eastbourne), and later morphed into the Horizonatal Hombres, when half of them moved to London. I got to know them at a couple of tournaments, and Oz in the UK team – kindred spirits etc etc – and when I moved to London, joined them. Then they got better! The nucleus of the team included me, Oz, Jon, Toyboy, Rafi and all the guys you remember – eventually Myles joined us when Boleros got too fat, and various Americans moving to London tended to gravitate to us – we used to do a lot of fun Euro tours, and, as you say, be quite chilled.
If I remember right, you lost your first national final to Stan, and then won 5 in a row? Beating them several times in a row, what changed?
Can’t remember losing to them? In all there were 11 UK titles, a few indoors – before we gave up on that – and a couple of Euro titles. In later years (93ish?) the Hombres morphed into Shotgun Wedding – the youngsters from Bad Company were getting close to beating us, and with various Hombres playing less for various reasons, we joined forces, to add legs to our old heads.
I was delighted to be involved, briefly from 91 – 93 with the team. To me it seemed like a great atmosphere, chilled, no one giving out, just getting on with it, and playing great. Do you think that vibe was created by you, Oz, Nolan (though he was a bit more intense) etc?
It was in the days before ultimate signed up to WADA – maybe that was something to do with it?
I remember one game going 5 nil down against Stan, and, in my youthful naivety saying ‘come on, come on’, and everyone else telling me to relax, and sure enough we came back and won.
After Hombres came Shotgun, more but different?
Shotgun continued the Hombres vibe (but with some younger legs) and we continued until 96-97 (hazy memory)… and then Shotgun evolved into Doughboy then Clapham.
Did you play for Clapham too – it’s turned out to be a 20 year dynasty more or less – with significant battles with Fire / Chevy and others – but with the south london team winning more than a few. Is it good for UK ultimate, just healthy competition?
Might have played once with them, but I had kids by then and consequently less time for road trips. If you count the dynasty from Hombres thru to Clapham must have got to about 20 UK titles…. Was 11 when I left. I think it has been good for the overall quality – just look at how GB ranks in international tournaments now
GB in the 80’s and 90’s didn’t do so great, losing to the Germans, Swedes et al. Why were they not so good, and how did they get better? Was it through hosting worlds in ’94, & world clubs in 99, gradually getting more experience?
Clearly GB’s improvement all dated from me stopping playing internationally.
France 2003 – GB masters, you broke your leg I think, but came onto the pitch for the final to pull… and then collected the medal. How did you break it?
It was an ACL rupture – my studs caught and I tried to bend my knee the wrong way. Very frustrating as it was only the 2nd day’s play of the week. And yes, I did get to come on for the final point, all strapped up – we were some way ahead and that wouldn’t have happened had it been a close game.
And tell us about playing for masters in general?
I think my first Masters tournament was at the Europeans in Colchester in 89 (?) where we lost in the final (Germans or Dutch – I can’t recall). And also played in 94 (?) I think – otherwise just played club tournaments. Then not until 2003.
Haven’t played since that tournament, but in March I will be playing in the Grand Masters at the Beach Worlds in Dubai – where I think I’ll be the oldest in the GB team. Not in too bad shape physically, but woefully underprepared for the ultimate.
Europe. In ’93, we went to Rotterdamn, with a Hombres / Bizarre Gardening Accident / Paul Salmon team. We played well for 2 days, but then ran out of steam and players, finishing 5th. The next year Hombres returned with a stronger team and won, possibly the first big tournament win in Europe by a UK team.
Did we win Rotterdam? It’s all so hazy!! I remember winning an indoors in Versailles, and an outdoors in Geneva. And we always enjoyed the Amsterdam tournament in particular. I remember being the first European team to beat a US side (I think) – Zoo Disc at a tournament in Amsterdam in 89. Check out Horizontal Hombres on Youtube and there’s some rather dodgy footage of that. That will really illustrate how the game has come on.
Prior to that I think it was you, or one of the team, that said to me that you had been surprised it had taken so long to crack winning in Europe. After that it seemed to herald the rise of UK ultimate across Europe. What were you thoughts on that?
Perhaps the party aspects of a road trip to Europe limited the athletic endeavour to some degree?
You’ve been playing since the 70’s, and insane length of perspective. What’s your overview of the sport, and how it’s changed and progressed over that time?
Obviously it’s a lot bigger in terms of players, more organised and much higher quality, with elite players a lot fitter. In the early days – especially for us kids competing against the assorted freaks who played originally – it was very exciting, and there was a bit more of an ‘outlaw’ spirit.
You’re in the middle east now. How’s that? No ultimate? What does a less active ultimate player do to stay active? (looking for tips).
Not nearly enough! I do yoga regularly, swim and used to run a lot before I came here (but the heat, and the rules about keeping covered up limit that in Saudi). Otherwise occasional gym, tennis – and drunken dancing.
What should I have asked you?
What I’d like to drink.
Anything else to add?
I’m now thinking I was a bit foolhardy to sign up for the Dubai tournament!