Throughout the year, we get phone calls and email from community organizations around the Chippewa Valley asking us to play kubb. Early in the year we were asked by the Sons of Norway Loven Lodge to join them at their summer Youth Day in Carson Park. The whole Ringers team from the 2012 US National Championship made it to the park and we ended up playing plenty of kubb in the 4 hours we were there.
Wow. I have had the great privilege of interviewing a few guys from Sweden – today we interviewed Lode from Signalgaton. Read about their team in KubbNation magazine here. We talked about Kubb and that’s pretty much it. I’m going to jot down a few reflections on our interview today. These videos are livestreamed using UStream by the US National Kubb Championship and are broadcast and recorded on Championship Hill in Eau Claire. We are open to suggestions on how to make these videos more useful, higher quality or whatever – feedback welcome.
On pieces: He didn’t even know where the kubbs came from that they play on at VM. Couldn’t mention a brand, but said he liked them. He can tolerate a variance of weights in batons, but prefers kubbs to be more uniform. LIkes more of a rout on the edges of kubbs to make it harder to drill. Will play on anything around the island.
On culture: He lives kubb, talks kubb around the island all the time, and has many connections through kubb. He looks forward to the world championship as one of the best times of the year, one of the only times all of his friends and family are together at once enjoying company. Since he lives on an island of 65,000 people, 95% of which know of Kubb, it is part of the culture. And I can only assume that VM is the yearly culmination of this. In order for fun and competition to occur in an atmosphere that embraces hundreds of six person teams, a single geographical unit needs to provide the groundwork, provide the masses. Gotland does this for VM. If we want to grow kubb in the US, it will take place with tournaments and widespread community builders working hand in hand in a concentrated geographical area to create the base support.
On strategy: With six person teams there are a lot of things to learn, and a lot they have learned that we can gain from. Some tidbits – don’t throw kubbs long, it’s for losers – the ONLY way their team could beat the champs (Ekeby) was they had to knock down all five and the king right away – there is a half-blaster position that can work multiples from different angles than the main blaster (first baton thrower) – the future is back in the accuracy of baselines now that so many teams have mastered the drill to a competitive level – Kubb is a six player team SPORT, but can be played for FUN with any number of players.
My mind is still full of thoughts and reflections from talking with Johan, Eric and Scott today.
After the interview, we broke for lunch. Then Eric and Savage and some boys from Team Kubboom came over to the Oasis to take a sneak peek at a few different Kubb sets from manufacturers around the world. You’ll see a full set of pictures and data coming out of Wisconsin Kubb in the future. It was really fun seeing and touching the variety of sets out there, and being able to play some games and make dents in the new pieces.
In 2012 the Ringers took a leap of faith in the future of kubb. In the transition to three person teams, Aaron and Dave had a list of folks who wanted to join up with us, the 2010 National Champions, to make another run to the top.
But as a father/son team we felt an obligation to look inward to our family. Dave comes from a large farm family in southern Minnesota, and having introduced nearly all of them to the game, we had a natural list of Ellringer family members that had the same natural talent and fitting last name. But the first person we asked to join us lived in the same house as Aaron – his 7 year old son Sy.
Sy is named after his great grandfather (Aaron’s grandpa, Dave’s dad). The name means “forest” in a loose translation, and Sy has been watching and playing kubb as long as the rest of us. It was not an easy decision to add Sy to the roster, though. Being an all-day tournament, the US Championship is no picnic (or pizza farm as we say here). And some would say its no place for a kid if you are really serious about making it to the end in a respectable position.
The first task was for the adults of the team to get over their egos and ageism and admit that given the opportunity, young humans are capable of amazing things. The next task was to patiently but consistently “talk up” the young teammate. You see, when this young mans only regular exposure to kubb is scrimmaging against the nation’s top players, it can get quite frustrating and intimidating.
It turns out the key to our practice regimen was to never play against our teammates, ever. Or to put it another way, we only ever play as a team. Aaron never plays against Sy, only with him. Same goes for Dave and Aaron. We only team up together, never across, always side by side. This put Sy in the winning position, and allowed him to feel good every time anyone knocks on wood. This is crucial, because small ones can be fragile, and too much competition and a sense of loss can quickly spiral downward.
The next big team decision for 2012 came quick and easy. We had an opportunity to invite Sy’s older cousin Colton onto the team. While Colton lives halfway across the country, he was scheduled to be visiting grandpa Dave during tournament time. It was a no-brainer for us to add Colton to the lineup, even though we were questioned and criticized for adding a fourth player in a three person tournament. Adding Colton rounded out our team, evened up the ages, and took just enough pressure off of Sy to allow us a more relaxed and focused team.
Colton arrived on Friday night, just hours before the tournament would start. We immediately threw the switch on the outdoor pitch and played kubb in our skivvies. So there we had it. The 2012 Ringers team was together. Just a few hours later, I would rise well before dawn, fire up the John Deere and start the Berserker invasion…
So I was playing in a mixer tournament with a local kubb club recently. They were using a mix of sets, some of which people brought from home. I was in a heated match, checking a grouping, when I noticed the king had “our name” on it. Sometimes I forget that “ringer” has a meaning outside of my family nickname… I tried not to take it personally, but I did end up “owning” this king…