The first tournament of the year is this weekend in Minneapolis, MN. With 3.5 million people, the Twin Cities area is currently the largest city on the U.S. Kubb Tournament Circuit, and this year the tournament is the Captain Ken’s Kubb Tournament, as part of the City of Lakes Loppet. A whole lot of top players are playing at the Captain Ken’s Tournament, but many of the top teams are playing on hybrid teams or with different players. However, one complete top team that is attending is the defending 2013 Champion, Team Knockerheads from Des Moines, IA and now also Roscoe, IL. They won the tournament last year and added Evan Fitzgerald to their team this past fall. With that, we wanted to get in contact with the new four-person Team Knockerheads. We wanted to see how things are going in the winter, a little look ahead to 2014 for them, what their mindset is for themselves and their team for the 2014 season, and what we might expect from them this Saturday in the big city.

In typical Team Knockerheads fashion, after we asked them, they immediately got back to us and said yes, and they got us the responses in less than 24 hours. Also in typical Team Knockerheads fashion, there is the swagger and ready to rumble tone of a prize fighter in some of the answers. Enjoy the read. We did. From us here at Kubbnation Magazine to Team Knockerheads, if this is any sort of farewell tour (mentioned below), enjoy your ride. We have and will enjoy watching you in 2014. Kubb on.


First, how is the weather down in Des Moines, IA and Roscoe, IL? We saw some pictures and there was only a little snow.

Grant: The 515 is too cold for snow and officially too cold for kubb. Last winter ranked and friendly matches were being played every week. This winter I’ve played probably 5-7 times, at most. Come Saturday, the Loppet demands stamina, endurance, ability to brave the elements, game/style adjustments, and killing kings, no matter what is on the ground.

Evan:  When I cleared a spot to practice in my backyard there was about 2 feet of snow that had accumulated.  Cold and snowy in Roscoe like the rest of the Midwest.

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What have the players and team been up to since the North American 1 vs. 1 Championship in Chaska, MN? Did the team take some time away from kubb? Did some of the players or the team work on anything special? If you were working on things, can you let us know what you were doing?

Grant: I fell short on my goal at the 1V1 but that failure was a success. It gave me time to watch the other matches, reflect, and realize a few things. Sometimes the best thing is to simply reevaluate. I’m excited for this year. 

Evan:  Curling, curling and more curling. Curling is my cold weather hobby and kubb is my good weather hobby and I put every effort into both during their seasons. With curling several times a week and several curling bonspiels taking up my weekends, I haven’t been practicing kubb outside (much) due to getting home pretty late.  Plus, I don’t like playing kubb in cold weather! I have primarily just been practicing kubb in my basement focusing on baton throwing techniques (a lot).  May not be the best training for the Loppet, but I believe it will payoff when tournament season starts up in June for me.


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After your year last year, it is safe to say that Team Knockerheads solidified itself as a team that teams are trying to knock off. You are the hunted, if you will. Does that put more pressure on you? Has that made you look at anything differently?

Grant: I love the pressure. I want that challenge. But that target is nothing compared to our expectations. People have to remember, kubb doesn’t really put you in position to compete against an opponent. You compete against yourself. Nobody is trying to tackle you or block your baton. It is you and you alone. Teams have played great against us. I’ve seen teams play near perfect. That is exciting to watch. As a team, I still haven’t seen us play perfect as a whole. Eventually, it will happen, and when it does…


Evan:  As a former competitor to the Knockerheads, I measured my game play to theirs. I think if a serious player is not trying to figure out a way to surpass the Knockerheads, then they are foolish as those guys set the bar last year.  I have more pressure on me to make sure I can earn throwing batons with these guys when Nationals start.  Like Chris Hodges says, winning kubb is all about percentages.  My perspective is to focus on improving my kubb hitting percentages consistently at 4m and 8m.

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Do you have a specific order or rotation that players will be throwing Saturday, or will it depend on types of throws?

Dobbie: That is currently the question, now isn’t it? We have an adaptive and egoless throwing order that gets the batons into the hands of the person hitting stuff. Like last year, I don’t expect to throw anything at 8 meter. We will be testing our adaptive rotation at Loppet, Chris will do some analysis afterwards on its effectiveness, and see if it’s something we can roll with at Nationals. There may be some iterations made between Feb. 2nd and July 12th.

Grant: How many options do we have, how many options do we need. And every option is covered. It is going to be interesting to see how many of the scenarios get put into play on the ice.

Evan: I think we will have to work it out early in the tourney and go with hot hands.  I am pretty sure I will be behind them in winter play due to lack of practicing outside on my part. 


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Last year you won the Minneapolis tournament after making a player change from 2012, and quite honestly, it looked like you gelled really well in your first tournament together. This year, as we all know, you added a fourth player to the team. What is your overall goal for the Captain Ken’s Kubb Tournament?

Grant: Win the whole f------ thang!

Evan: My goal is to learn from my teammates and enjoy meeting other competitors and have fun at the festival. I have no doubt that Minnesota Kubb will put on a great tournament and the festival will be worth the drive.  The fact that they can get 64 teams to play on a frozen lake in Minneapolis, MN shows how great of a job the club and the festival do in promoting this event. Winter kubb is drastically different from the tournaments we will be playing starting in May, so I’m not going to be as self-critical at this tourney.  But, on that note I will give every effort that day to help win the tournament.

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Let’s not forget about the other team coming up from Des Moines, Kubb’d. How are they looking right now?

Dobbie: Kubb’d is a new team; you will see a change at Inkastare I expect, and you will see some highlight reel 8 meter game. Steve is feeling very well and has recovered from his knee replacement. I would expect you will see him shed down to a t-shirt on the lake Saturday at some point. It will be interesting to see how Nate is plugged into the rotation, but I expect it will be a seamless transition. 

Evan: Love the new Kubb’d team as I have had chances to play with Steve and Nate quite a bit last year.  They will be fun to watch especially with Dana’s progress at inkasting.  My advice on playing with those guys is focus on clearing the field kubbs this year.  If Nate and Steve improve at that phase of the game, then they can beat anybody


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Will you take a break from kubb after the tournament?

Dobbie: Nope, I think some of the team is keeping their skills sharp by participating in indoor tournaments in Wisconsin and Iowa. Des Moines Kubb will have their Winter Indoor Mixer on Feb. 15th, so we will be right back to tossing. Additionally, you cannot take a break when you are involved in the Des Moines ladder tournament; you are generally playing a competitive game at least twice a month, which means you have to practice for that game as well.

 
Evan: No more than I am now.  After first of March when my committed bonspiels are complete and snow is off the ground (hopefully), then my serious kubb training will begin.

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How many times have you been able to get together as a whole team?

Dobbie: Once. We kicked our own asses in Grant’s backyard, then moved on to indoor jenga. I was sure something was going to break.
 

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We heard a rumor that Chris, Grant, and Josh will be playing in Rockford (Evan is directing it). So, in addition to Minneapolis, Rockford, and the U.S. Championship, can you tell us the 2014 Team Knockerheads schedule? 

Grant: That is it, no more and no less. You will see various versions at a lot of tournaments, but under different flags. It’s all or nothing this year. Call it the farewell tour. We are going to have some fun this year. We know OUR goal.

Evan: Grant and I are on slate to play Kasson, Ames and Kettle Moraine tourneys.  I believe we are going to play as Grant, Chris and I at DMK with Dobbie directing.  I’m sure we can discuss more this weekend. Hopefully we can get the full team at Decorah.

 

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We hope you have read the 2014 Kubbnation Magazine. We highlighted the top U.S. teams in the Game On. article. You four are students of the sport, what did you think of the article? What was your favorite article in the magazine?

Grant: I enjoyed the magazine. However, the blog on Mr. Ellringer stole the magazine’s prom date. It was a great story with factual insight.

Evan: Honestly loved the whole magazine and thought Game On was spot-on.  My favorite article was Garrick’s article about how kubb saved his life. Touching and a great reminder of how important it is to make human connections and the role that kubb tournaments and the community plays a big part in that.  It’s a must read.


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April 11, 2014 is International Take Kubb To Work Day. Do any of you have anything planned for that?

Dobbie: I will be setting kubb in downtown Des Moines and invite co-workers for a game during lunch.

Grant: I’ll be taking part in the first dual continent kubb match with Robert H. from the Kubb’Ings. We are going to have a match using Skype. Still trying to see if we can arrange a Kubb’Ings vs. Knockerheads match also.

Evan: Nothing official yet, but I plan on using it as a tool to recruit for Rockford tourney where I work.  Last year, we had 1 team besides Goofy Kubbers there and hope to add a few more.

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If we fast forward to December 31st, 2014. We give you two options. 1) You have the same tournament finishes as 2013, or 2) You win the 2014 U.S. Championship and finish third (we will give you one second as well) in your other tournaments as a team together. Which one are you picking?

Dobbie: For me, it’s to raise the Stapp.

Grant: I know the team takes option 2, but in all honesty, I’d take option 1. I don’t think what we accomplished last year will be done again. Every year a team will win Nationals. When will another team stake claim at winning Loppet, Rockford, Kasson, Decorah, and Des Moines all in a year?

Evan:  My opinion is win the 2014 US Championship.  That and the 1v1 tournament in Chaska are the two that I have as goals for 2014.  Everything else takes care of itself due to preparation for those two.