Co-Captain Michael Hlavaty ’23 Uses “Tiki Taka” Mindset to Outplay Opponents

Ultimate Co-Captain Michael Hlavaty ’23 approaches Ultimate with the “Tiki Taka” strategy and passion for the sport. His athleticism and creative play-making asserts him as an asset to the team and a leader to look up to. Additionally, his background playing soccer has inspired a new approach to ultimate, which the team has used in practices and games.

Hlavaty first played at an ultimate summer camp in the summer of ninth grade. He then joined the varsity team at Andover as a new Lower and has since contributed to the team’s success. In spite of challenges over the years, Hlavaty’s optimism toward the team has built camaraderie.

Hlavaty said, “The program is super inclusive and supportive of one another and I think that comes from the players themselves. So, I think as Captain, it’s just been trying to uphold that and making sure that even when we’re in the sort of toughest, most stressful situations, we just keep on smiling, just keep on supporting one another… I [have] just been trying to funnel that passion, that energy, that enthusiasm.” 

Although Hlavaty specialized as a cutter, this year he switched to being one of the handlers of the team. His spatial awareness and experience have helped him lead the team and provide effective feedback, according to Sakina Cotton ’24.

“He brings a lot of strategy and passion to the game. I think that like one, he’s a great handler, but also a great cutter. So he knows all the positions and has a good awareness of what people should be doing on the field. I think that plays a lot into how we do in our games. And he just gives us motivation to do better because he always gives 110 percent in every practice and game and that just shows us that we need to be doing the same thing as a team to be the best that we can be,” said Cotton.

Similarly, Everett Woo ’25 commended Hlavaty on uplifting the team’s spirit and helping players progress on the field. His ability to navigate space contributes to making successful offensive plays.  

Woo said, “He’s very good if we’re kind of stuck in a position on the field, going back and forth, passing back and forth, but not really making forward progress. He’ll come up with something creative. So he’s a very creative player. So in terms of skills, he has the throw and he has the athleticism, but he’s also very good at motivating the people on the field.” 

Cotton highlighted Hlavaty’s positive attitude despite facing other schools that have more developed ultimate programs. She admired Hlavaty’s outlook on growth more so than the results.

“At the beginning of the season, [Head] Coach [Scott Hoenig] purposely planned really hard games for us. Our first three were ones we lost because they were just really good teams… We had really stressful, tense games and big losses, but I think [Hlavaty] definitely led us to one, see the progress that we’re making as a team, but also push us to try and meet the challenges that we were facing,” said Cotton.

As part of strategic play-making, Hlavaty embraces the “Tiki Taka” technique, most commonly used in soccer. “Tiki Taka” consists of quick short passes to move the ball up the field. Hlavaty hopes to continue implementing that strategy, which has helped the team in tournaments. 

“This past weekend at the Four Rivers Tournament where we played with even stronger teams and actually performed even better than we did the next weekend. So we’re really proud of everyone for that. We’re really happy that we’re able to achieve that ‘Tiki Taka’ play style. I think if we were to keep on doing this or I think that’s one thing they’re going to try to do more next year is continue to work on that play style. And I think the future of the program is looking pretty bright,” said Hlavaty.

With the Alumni Game approaching next week, Hlavaty reflects on his ultimate journey beyond Andover and looks to enjoy the day with the program alumni. 

Hlavaty said, “I really look forward to playing more ultimate. Next week, we have an Alumni Game. We’re going to play some of the alums from the Ultimate program. And I think a lot of them continue to play in college… It’s just a really exciting sport and I think my Andover experience would have been a lot less exciting without it.”