Image courtesy of Volume One
After the successful 10 year anniversary of the U.S. National Kubb Championship you mentioned that 128 teams would be the limit of the event. Do you have any thoughts on how you plan to handle the ever increasing amount of teams that are interested in playing?
Last year, we were excited to reach 128 teams, which was an increase of 20 teams and 80 plus players from 2015. This year, we would be very excited to get 100+ teams again. With any event that happens once a year, it is really difficult to predict multi-year trends. If there comes a time when there is consistent demand for more than 128 teams, then we will definitely have to decide if one or more changes are necessary and feasible.
One of our main goals is to do our best so that teams of all skill levels that participate have a great time. We feel like we met that goal in 2016 with 128 teams and our change in the Sunday format. Any changes we would make in the future would need to have all participants in mind.
Where do you hope to see the U.S. National Kubb Championship at its 20th anniversary?
As the event itself, I hope that it is still an event that all skill levels of players and teams want to attend. As an organization, I hope several things. First, I hope we are continuing to work with others in the community like the Eau Claire Kubb League, Chippewa Valley Kubb League, City of Eau Claire, Visit Eau Claire, Eau Claire Area School District, and others to introduce kubb throughout the Eau Claire area. Second, I hope that kubb, and the U.S. National Kubb Championship specifically, is an even more prominent part of the culture here in Eau Claire. We as a community have done amazing things to date, and during the next 10 years, we can do so much more. Third, I hope we have continued to build our outreach program nationally, led by awarding dozens and dozens more kubb sets from our Steve Anderson Kubb Set Program and also have continued being a resource for people looking to start tournaments, leagues, etc.
Do you plan to ever play in the U.S. National Kubb Championship? Why?
I have never played, and at this time I don’t plan on playing in the U.S. National Kubb Championship in the future. I am committed to being the director for the foreseeable future, and for the U.S. National Kubb Championship, it’s not possible or appropriate to both be the director and play.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the U.S. National Kubb Championship over the years? What about in the kubb community in general?
In regard to the U.S. National Kubb Championship, one of the biggest things is the preparation that many of the top teams and players do throughout the year and how much the tournament means to them. Personally, I think it is a good thing. That means that we at the U.S. National Kubb Championship have built something that means a lot to a significant number of players and is looked highly upon across the kubb community. Since 2007, everyone that has thrown a baton wants to knock a kubb down. However, over time, kubb has become a sport for a lot of people and with that, more and more players want to do well here in Eau Claire. Another one is the number of local families that are not only playing together as a team, but competing at a high level.
Other things include:
Our change to have at least three-players on a team after the 2011 U.S. Championship. That was a big change. We felt strongly that it was the correct thing to do for us, but it was a big change.
The skill needed to win the Bronze Bracket has increased quite a bit.
Countless things behind the scenes to make the event run smoothly with the increasing number of participants.
The change from one day to two days with the final eight teams returning in the quarterfinals and then the change last year to the top 16 teams returning to play group on Sunday morning. Those were both huge changes, and we think both turned out really well.
In regard to the kubb community, one of the biggest changes is organized kubb activity outside the Upper Midwest. It is wonderful and inspiring to see clubs form around the nation, and for them to start building kubb in their communities and host leagues and tournaments. It is tough for me to keep up with most of the activity, but when I see new tournaments and leagues start and growth in communities, it puts a big smile on my face.
Kubb On hopes to have tournaments previews/recaps and articles posting 3-4 times a week. What do you hope this can/will bring to the kubb community?
Tournament previews and recaps will fill a significant void in the current U.S. kubb community. Back in the late 2000s, I did some on wisconsinkubb.com from the tournaments I would organize or play in. I have no idea how many people ever read them or not and/or when someone read them last. However, I believe in 2017 there is a sustainable mass of interested persons that will enjoy reading weekly postings about tournaments and other things. Not only that, but it will allow more people to participate within the kubb community and for the kubb community to hear their voices. That is one thing I have tried to do with Kubbnation Magazine, and I am excited that another option will be available for people. It is great for kubb.
What do you hope to see next in kubb e.g. A professionally broadcasted tournament, a Kubb World Cup, another regional tournament like the Midwest championship etc.?
I would obviously like to see more tournaments and leagues, and regional tournaments will play an important role in that, but it is tough to host a tournament and a league. You need to work extremely hard and create a local mass that can sustain it. For sure, I would like to see more organizations like the St. Paul Kubb Society. From an outsider looking in, it appears they have found the perfect balance of innovation, fun, and competition. The U.S. kubb community is very fortunate that Tim Motzko and his group found kubb…or kubb found them. The continued growth of kubb in the Twin Cities will be huge for the sport. We are just a small town here in Eau Claire. The growth potential for kubb in major cities like the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Chicago, etc., is beyond comprehension.
We are seeing the beginning of it right now, but I think it would be good for kubb if we had an infusion of some additional top players and teams in the Upper Midwest. In that group, it would be great to see more players outside the 30-50 age range and more women. It is just natural that if you are playing competitively and you do well, you are going to get even more excited about it. That excitement is contagious and it would grow kubb even more.
I feel strongly that kubb would be amazing as a spectator sport on TV. A bunch of years ago, I saw a video of people playing kubb on a TV show in Germany. There were slow-motion replays of throws and it was amazing. There seems to be a lot of similarities to kubb and curling for a TV audience. Perhaps it will take someone from a TV station or TV show to fall in love with kubb and want to do it, but I think it would be a lot more interesting than watching a lot of the sports that are on TV now.
What are you most proud of in regards to kubb?
Locally speaking, it has to be the growth of people learning the game and the fact that it is part of our culture in Eau Claire. It is impossible to describe how many conversations I have with people about kubb every week. What so many people in Eau Claire have done is absolutely amazing. We still have a lot more to do, but we should celebrate that in 2007 one kubb set came to our community of 65,000 people and the game was unknown. I personally get most of the credit for doing work to build it, but it is so much more than just me. Yes, Erin and I brought it to town and have continued to work really hard, but what happened after that is a huge effort from so many people, and it is an amazing story. Also, our Board has played an enormous and vital role in the growth of the U.S. National Kubb Championship and kubb in Eau Claire over the years.
What would you like to change about kubb? Why?
Playing at the World Championship in 2011 and 2014 were great experiences. I know there is nothing like the environment at the World Championship, so I would never compare anything to it, but if I could change anything, it would be two things. First, more team/club identity here in the U.S. I know for the most part we are a few years younger than Europe, but I loved that over there and love seeing it online. It adds to the tournament atmosphere and culture of kubb. It is growing, but I would like to see more. I love looking out at the U.S. National Kubb Championship and seeing all the flags and banners. It would be great to double it. This year, if a player brings a team or club flag to the U.S. National Kubb Championship, they get a free 2017 t-shirt.
Second, I would like to hear more emotion and energy during matches from spectators. Maybe since most of us are from the Upper Midwest, we are a little more reserved? I am not sure. Chris Hodges from Des Moines, Iowa is the first to come to mind for me. He is always cheering on teams that he is watching. We need more of that. That adds a lot to the atmosphere for players and other spectators. We also need team or club chants during matches, like from Chaska Kubb or Pitch Perfect …any matches, even if they are not playing in it.
What has kubb meant to you on a personal level?
As a player, on a personal level, it has been a great experience. I have had the opportunity to travel to places that I would have never gone with people I probably would have never traveled with. Times like when Pat Klages, Scott Graham, and me shared a small hotel room in Des Moines, IA the night before the 2012 Des Moines Fall Klassic still make me laugh. Kubb has allowed me to set personal and team goals and work tremendously hard to try and reach those goals. I value and enjoy the personal and team journey before a competition just as much as playing and the outcome of a competition. If I had not had that over the past 10 years, I wonder who I would be. I have learned a lot about myself and life through kubb. Three of my best kubb memories are playing in three tournaments with my father. Those will be with me forever. I truly cherish those three days. Kubb has allowed me to have great relationships with teammates and so many others. I have played a lot recently with Cory Shay. I didn’t really know Cory just two years ago. Now, I cannot imagine not knowing Cory and the relationship we have as teammates and now close friends.
As an organizer, on a personal level, it has given me the wonderful opportunity to work with an amazing group of individuals/friends on our Board. I value our team as much as anything. Kubb has allowed me to become a part of the Eau Claire community and contribute to building something very special in our community. I look at the people building and promoting kubb in Eau Claire as community builders and advocates for culture. Growing up in Rockford, IL there were not many success stories or good things in the news, but kubb allowed me to be part of a team that started a kubb tournament there; something new and positive in Rockford and give something back to my hometown. Kubb has reinforced to me how unlikely and amazing things can happen in unlikely places and help make those places amazing. I think Eau Claire is an example of that, but so is the Dallas, WI Oktoberfest Tournament, and obviously Rone, Gotland.
Kubb has allowed me to meet what seems like hundreds of people that I would have not met. Sometimes I make myself think about what it would be like without kubb and the people that would not be in my life without kubb and the experiences I have had with them through kubb. That makes me appreciate this whole thing even more. As my friend Drew Brandenburg here in Eau Claire says, “Kubb is not a game, it is a lifestyle here in Eau Claire.”