History in the Making

Chevron's Matthew Beavan on how his team finally turned their silvers into a well-earned gold

Chevron celebrates winning the 2023 UK national title. Photo by Sam Mouat.

When most people talk about defining moments in the history of European ultimate, they might point to the hotly contested open final of EUC in 2011, Ranelagh’s more recent upset EUCF win over Clapham on universe point or even Deep Space beating GRUT to end the Dutch team’s final hurrah in mixed last season. For one team, their most recent success was a culmination of many years of dreaming, training and falling just short.

Chevron Action Flash played last weekend at Tom’s Tourney, finishing in sixth after a final loss to the German national team, and is currently playing at the Elite Invite in Leuven. This season they are playing with a mantle they haven’t had before in a history going all the way back to 1996; reigning UK national champions.

I interviewed Matthew Beavan, a long-time Chevron player and leader, to ask him what it was like to finally win a UK title over rivals Clapham after years of defeat in the final. We also discuss Chevron’s run up to its historic win, Chevron as a club and its culture and players.

FS: What did this win mean to you and to Chevron?

MB: Obviously, it’s a huge achievement and winning Nationals should just be the pinnacle for most of the club teams in the UK and for Chev, it’s no different. We loved it, it meant so much to a lot of the players and I guess it’s more special because of the type of club Chevron is. It’s definitely a club built on the shoulders of people before it, so the number of ex-players that got in contact was pretty important. One of the first things I did afterwards was contact Rob Mitchell and Stu Mitchell, who helped set up the team, and was like “we’ve done it” and they were over the moon. And I believe it makes us the first club team to win mixed and open as well, which is nice.

And I guess for me, personally, having lost 15 finals against Clapham, to then get over the line it means that when I do retire, it’s been achieved. It just meant a lot winning with Chevron as opposed to any other team.

FS: Did the win over Clapham make it more special?

MB: There’s nothing but respect for what Clapham has done. You’ve got to look at the longevity of that result and realise that they’ve been a top team for a long time. So, to win Nationals over them makes it special because they’re the best team and because of the history of the finals we’ve got against them, I’m glad it was us that have broken that streak. I feel it’s only going to reignite the friendly rivalry between us because there will be a reaction from them, no doubt. It’s good for UK ultimate to have more competitive teams and we said that in the speech afterwards. It’s better when teams are duking it out at the highest level because we’re pushing each other further as well.

FS: After years of falling short in the final, what motivated you to keep going and building the club?

MB: Other than stubbornness…I guess it comes down to the ethos and character of the team. I remember when I first started playing ultimate at around the age of 16, I remember watching Chevron at a tour event and going “I want to play for that team”. I don’t know what it was, I just liked their attitude and how they did things. And then, when I was able to join the team at 19, I just understood that it’s about the character and personal responsibility of the players over the ‘win at all costs’ mentality.

And that is how I see life as well as being a teacher and a coach, that helps. I like to see players develop; I like to see things grow and I feel the reason I kept going is because I was happier to lose in a Chevron shirt than win in other shirts. And I guess I always knew it was there, I knew we could do it and I wanted to achieve it. And while I could still add to the team, I kept going for that reason. I think the club itself deserves that.

The Chevron team that won the championship. Photo by Sam Mouat.

FS: Did you do anything different last season in terms of training or tournament preparation?

MB: I guess, yes, we’ve done lots of things differently but I don’t know if I can pinpoint one thing that made it different. When I was thinking about this, it was basically just the buy- in. We lost a couple of players but we obviously recruited as we always do, but the difference this year is we’ve had buy-in to everything we’ve done. That goes from just using the wealth of experience we’ve got and getting the most out of the coaches and the experience on the team to reinforce goals and attitudes.

The final thing is that we’ve made it enjoyable. It was a good year and as I see it, everybody’s enjoyed the progression and we’re all on board with where the club is now heading. And that was after the last season, which wasn’t our best in terms of our performance. Our performance at World Clubs was poor, we obviously came third at Nationals as well and I don’t believe, as a club, we wanted those standards to dip again. So, we wanted to keep going, so that’s what we did. We wanted to fall forward as a team and hopefully we’ve done that as a team, a little bit.

FS: There seems to have been this narrative that Clapham were always the best team in the UK and Chevron would settle for second. What was the mentality like going into the final? Was it any different from any other year?

MB: This one I really enjoy because people from the outside always go, “oh you’re the second-best team and you’re always going to lose to Clapham”. First of all, there’s been a good decade where nobody else in Europe could beat Clapham, so it wasn’t just us and at the time we were still coming third or fourth at Euros. The other side of that is that people underestimate how hard it is to be second. Chevron’s the longest running elite club in the UK and Europe that’s consistently been at the top level. Definitely since I’ve played, we’ve gone to all of the European Championships except for the first one in 2006. We always qualify, we’re always competing and that’s really difficult to do as a non-geo team.

So, I don’t agree that the narrative is that we’re the second-best, but rather that we consistently get the best out of our players. And through good coaching and the kind of character of the team, we’re able to keep competing at that level. And that’s really difficult to do. We’ve seen so many teams, such as Leeds, Fusion, EMO, Fire of London, who have disappeared altogether or dropped off because it’s really hard to maintain. And definitely the way that we do things makes it even more special because the ethos of the club is pretty much when you trial for Chevron, you’ve [laughs] almost got to pass the character test as well. We don’t just take good players, we take people we want to play with because it is a non-geo team. So, we always strive to be the best and it’s nice that we can actually say that we are the best now.

In terms of the mentality, the only thing was I think the goal was never to win Nationals. What we kept reinforcing was that we wanted to do better than the last year. We didn’t want to come third again, so we didn’t put the onus on winning it, we put the onus on being better than last year. So, actually beating Alba was a bigger game for us because that was achieving our goal and everything that we’ve been working to. So, the final itself was kind of a game where we could just play and I feel that may’ve helped a little bit.

FS: You were up 8-6 on Clapham in the first half. How were you feeling on taking half on them? What was the mentality going into the second half of the game?

MB: As I mentioned before, it was to focus on ourselves. We executed our game plan pretty well, we pretty much scored to go 8-5 up as well, it should have been 8-5. And then if you look back, you can see that as a team, we just kept coming together. We were taking deep breaths and bringing it back down to what we can focus on, on what we can control. And some of that comes from some work we’ve been doing with Ali Tincknell, a lecturer at Bath on sports psychology and a performance director at UKU. She’s done a few online sessions with us and we’ve just taken our time to realise what we can control and take away other things. And that’s another point where the team’s kind of bought in and realised if we just do what we want to do, we should be okay. There’s always going to be momentum shifts in games. If we can roll on them and come out on top, then that would be good.

I guess the mentality coming out of half was more of the same, so stick to our non-negotiable this year, which has always been to compete for everything and to do it shoulder to shoulder. And that’s been our mantra for this year and we’ll take it on.

FS: You took a lot of young new talent last year. How did those younger players step up during the season?

MB: I love this one because Chevron has always taken on young talent. Me, when I was 19, would be an example and even before that, people like Peter Wright who went to Hawaii. Lots of young talent that people are talking about, like Ethan Morrell, have actually played for like six or seven years on Chevron. The same is true for lots of them, like Seb Allen as a captain and former GB open player who has risen through the junior system, is almost coming up to 10 or 11 years playing on the team; because they start when they’re young, and the trust is there when they’re young, they now seem a little bit like old hands.

Yes, they did kind of step up, but for us, it’s not necessarily a step up, we’ve always known that they were there. I guess what we did this year was we put them together more as a line. Because Morrell played on the O-line with fellow Chevron teammates Andrew Sweetnam, Sam Criddle and Rhodri Williams on U24s, they got a lot of training time together, so they could build up that connection a little bit more. So, it allowed them to use the connections and use the trust they have in each other and we showed trust in them and it all helped. A lot of that young talent was supported by a lot of old heads as well. For example, Cam Weir, another U24 player but for the mixed team, was 19 at the start of the year and then a couple of us are pushing, well, 40, so I think that’s pretty huge as an elite team to have that spread of ages and definitely makes some of the language and the jokes interesting, but it’s good.

FS: What are the plans for Chevron’s future? Will you look at taking in more young players and developing them or will you be focusing more on the squad you’ve had this year?

MB: I guess it’s always more of the same for Chevron. We don’t tend to have a huge turnover of players, so we will keep our squad and keep developing them. We’ve got people like Ben Hall and Issa Dualeh coming back from injury already. We want to use our wider squad and we’re always going to look at whether we can take on young talent. But it’s more about developing the club and making sure we don’t fall behind in anything. We’ve always tried to do things that will push us forwards. So we’ve got our own clubhouse now; we’re based just outside of Birmingham and it makes our trainings a bit more professional. And if we can help to grow that even more and keep the buy-in, keep the attendance high, keep training going, it will keep the club going. It’s not going to be a one time thing, hopefully.

As mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to keep a non-geo team going and while it’s good for UK ultimate if you can get teams in local areas playing together, Chevron’s always been a team that develops players in which those players go back to areas and help out. And I believe that’s still really important. If that didn’t exist then I think UK ultimate would be in a worse place because I know a lot of the players that migrate or come to Chevron training then go back to their communities. They’ll go and help out, coach or give support or advice to players. It’ll also bring the kind of mentality and the personal responsibility that we try and instil at Chevron as well.

  1. Felix Soedira
    Felix Soedira

    Felix Soedira is based in Manchester, UK. He started playing in Dubai in 2014 at secondary school and at 15, began playing with DUBS, an adult mixed team. After completing sixth form, he moved over to the UK to attend university. He currently plays for SMOG Ultimate. You can follow him on Instagram (@felixsoedira) or Twitter (felix_soedira).

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