Inside Break: Hard Lessons

GRUT’s Floor Keulartz. Photo: Jolie Lang — UltiPhotos.com

The problem with experience is that it never comes easy. It is our missteps which correct our path, our failures that teach us, and our regrets that inform the people we become. Learning how to carry the weight of disappointment without letting it tie you to the past is the challenge of maturity.

Grut prepared for their quarterfinal rematch with Wild Card by rewatching their first encounter in the opening showcase. They studied the system that held the veteran Bostonians steady as the game appeared to slip away from them, allowing them to dissect the structure around which Wild Card built their comeback. Upon recognizing their routine, Grut felt they had the capabilities to shut it down and earn back the victory they so narrowly let escape on Saturday evening.

Yet theory is a very different thing from practice. Ask anyone who has made the transition from the parking lot to the driver’s test; when the arena changes, so does the emotion. Talking briefly with Grut before the quarterfinal, it was apparent they retained a measure of nerves.

They started the game as they had all the others, with a succession of turnovers. In the early days of the tournament, these mistakes were punished, but as they progressed through the gauntlet of matches on their way to Thursday, they found themselves able to overcome initial mistakes and recuperate their losses in the later stages of each game. But Wild Card was determined to punish the young side. They took an early lead that they never relinquished. There were moments where it felt like Grut were rising as they had so many times before, souls roaring defiantly on the sideline and bodies committing entirely on the pitch. But it wasn’t enough.

To speak bluntly, they looked shook. Wild Card only had a handful of direct blocks. For the most part, their suffocating pressure simply set up Grut to beat themselves. The lines contracted, the throws missed targets, and the frustration mounted. For all their verve and energy, Grut lacked the composure to step away from the moment and take control of their destiny. Instead, they were cast about by the winds of fate and thrown bodily from the competition.

The pain of this loss was all the more visceral due to its finality. Their dream was over, and their carriage had turned into a pumpkin before it could arrive at glory. They lay scattered across the pitch, clumped together in assorted groups of shared misery. You must credit the empathy and class of Wild Card, who recognized the pain apparent in their young opponents. They gathered themselves in a private conversation, allowing Grut time to come to terms with the moment as the family they are, before approaching the Dutch in friendship to start the spirit circle.

Afterwards, Grut went away to resolve their aching muscles and hearts. Frustrations were aired in the same fashion as they had been earlier in the week; the people who didn’t feel they played well enough, or simply didn’t get the chance to perform. By now, Grut have become skilled at this style of resolution. Disappointment is an inherent return for ambition.

Talking with the team before their afternoon consolation game against Mixtape, it was apparent they had learned from the morning. The weight of the game seemed to have evaporated in the midday sun. Of course, getting a medal would have been wonderful, but they had made top eight in the world, and they had done so at such a young age. Four years is a different thing when you’re on the high school side of twenty. A win would be nice, but regardless of the result, experience would be their key reward from this game. The difference between fifth and eighth is nothing compared to the difference between a team that has been taught ultimate first hand by Mixtape and those that haven’t.

In Grut, Mixtape see a memory of the past: the young Dutch outfit provides the Seattle side with a window to who they used to be. The game was slow to start but a spirited affair, with each side happy to take shots on the pitch and crack jokes along the sideline. Mixtape were clearly disappointed themselves, and their lack of energy seemed to influence Grut’s own style.

However, as the game wore on the play ratcheted up and in the middle it was a raucous back and forth affair. Both teams went on runs before Mixtape took control at the end and put the match to bed 15-11.

This time around, Grut had reverted to the style that had stood to them so well over the past few days. Everyone still able to play got their chance to show what they’re made of.1 The collective effort helped to stamp out the negative residue from the morning’s game.

The future is certainly bright for this team. They have conquered all in their immediate vicinity and now have a taste of what awaits them in the deeper waters beyond the horizon. There is clearly still work to be done, for both the players personally and as a collective. Though they’ve walked some hard yards this week, we’ll see them again in four years.


  1. Our hearts go out to the injured Niels Boom 

  1. Lorcan Murray
    Lorcan Murray

    Lorcán Murray is an Ultiworld contributor and freelance journalist. He lives in Limerick, Ireland. He plays ultimate for PELT and with his mustache regularly. You can reach him by email: rev.lmurray@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RevLorcan.

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