What’s the Borneo Headhunters Hat? Come on in and I’ll tell you all about it.
The date for Sabah’s biggest Ultimate Frisbee Tournament – Borneo Headhunters Hat in 2017 is not yet confirmed, but that’s ok, because this year’s edition has just finished.
Meanwhile, backt to you question. Now, before we can talk about the Headhunters Hat, you have to know about Ultimate in general. It’s a game played with a disc, a 175g piece of plastic material called polyethylene, commonly called a Frisbee.
But Ultimate players don’t use Frisbees, because that’s the trademarked name of a toy… and Ultimate players don’t play with toys *meanface*.
The Game of Ultimate
The field on which one would play Ultimate is roughly the size of a football field, occupied by 2 teams with 7 players per side on the field. Off the field, teams can have as many as 30 reserve players (tournament organisers who charge per player love teams like this).
The field is divided into 3 areas. There’s the playing field proper, which is the central playing area and ideally 64m-long, and on each side of this are 18m end zones where opposing teams score points. Field sizes can vary depending on available space.
To score a point, a player of one team has to catch the disc in the other team’s end zone.
And that’s the basics.
Read more about Ultimate over at the official governing body of Ultimate, the WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation).
Borneo Headhunters Hat
But now back to the Headhunters Hat.
Back in the day when the Borneo Headhunters Hat was new and unknown, it was an Ultimate tournament that welcomed all entries, especially Borneo-based players.
The logic was that as Ultimate in Borneo was in its infancy and not everybody were able to travel internationally, it would be good to stage a local tournament and let the mountain come to Mohammed, as it was.
At the 1st Borneo Headhunters Hat, that was in 2010, there were only 38 players and even that was a miracle. It’s hard to start a new tournament, especially when you have to convince participants to take a flight (or 2) to reach your tournament.
A Hat Tournament? So, You Must Wear a Hat?
No, you don’t have to wear a hat, but nobody will stop you either.
The tradition of calling it a hat tournament, probably came from the early days when a group of friends could put their names on paper in an actual hat, draw it back out at random to form teams, and still end up with fairly balanced competition.
Voila! Hat Tournament.
The modern hat is a little more complicated. The sport is growing at different rates in different places, which could lead to big gaps between experienced and novice players when they all get together in one place. Organisers want to balance the tournament teams’ average skill, height and speed, because if one team dominates from start to finish (or completely falls flat), it’s not very enjoyable for the rest.
Getting the balance right requires knowledge, experience, some magic and a great deal of luck as the entire process, especially players rating themselves, is almost entirely subjective.
At the end of the day you have to work with the hand you’re dealt and part of the hat tournament is the chance to learn – be it learning to motivate your unskilled teammate, learning how to play in 32ºC heat, or learning how to open your gullet during boat races so as to not let your team down, learning there will be.
And all of this learning is awesome to watch, especially if you have a basic understanding of what you’re seeing.
Even if you know nothing about Ultimate, just watching the sheer athleticism of the participants as they jump, go horizontal or stretch impossibly to get the disc, is an awesome sight.
Spirit games, usually immediately following actual games, and other fun things happen because or in spite of the organisers and are always entertaining.
So, if a player or not, you happen to be in in Kota Kinabalu around March 2017, do drop by Sukma Fields (sort of part of Likas Stadium, but not really – behind Wisma Wanita / Green Connection) where the Borneo Headhunters Hat takes place.