I had a busy day this past Saturday. I woke up at 9 a.m., ate breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, performed my morning ablutions, and putzed around until 11:30, when I was picked up by a friend for our Ultimate Frisbee doubleheader at a park thirty minutes east of Seattle. I played two full two-hour games with the Seahucks, fortified myself with a footlong Italian B.M.T. and a water bottle of Nuun (#oneupyourwater #afternuundelight), and hitched a ride back to the city so I could meet my other team, Dry Spell, and head to my third Ultimate game of the day. Afterwards, my fellow Dry Spellers and I descended upon a nearby bar, where we spent more than a few hours chatting and hanging out. I got home at 11, wrote this post, and headed to bed.
Ultimate Frisbee (or just Ultimate, as it is called by those in the know) has not always played such a large role in my life. I discovered the game in high school, when my friends and I, desperate to do anything other than our workout, would play at Jaycee Park during cross country practice. College was the first time I was introduced to organized Ultimate, with plays and strategies and positions, but I only played two and half years in college and didn’t fully commit myself to it.
Strangely enough, it was living in Korea that rekindled my desire in Ultimate. Though Korea itself does not have a strong Ultimate scene, there were a sufficient number of expats to form a reasonably-sized Frisbee community. That community became my primary friend group in Korea and was a significant reason why I so enjoyed my time there. This article is a paean to the virtues of a sport to which I have dedicated countless hours over the past nine plus years, not a single one of which I regret.
First, Ultimate is easy to play. Most people have at least some prior notion of how to throw and catch a disc, and the basic rules of the game—no moving when you have the disc, don’t hold the disc for more than ten seconds, and throw it to someone in the end zone—are quick to learn and simple to remember. A novice Ultimate player can grasp the general concept of the game very quickly.
Second, Ultimate is difficult to play well. As anyone who has played organized Ultimate can tell you, there is a chasm between pickup Ultimate on the quad and true seven-on-seven, competitive Frisbee. Once you begin to learn the game, you are introduced to a whole new variety of throws, strategies, and organization and to levels of competition that challenge you to keep improving and getting better. Additionally, though it is helpful to be a great athlete, you can be a very valuable player simply by working hard and mastering throwing technique, so there is always incentive to keep playing.
Third, Ultimate can be as competitive as you want it to be. One of the best things about the sport is that there are people at every level of competition who love the game and want to play. There is often crossover there as well; I have friends who went to Ultimate Club Nationals, one of the most competitive tournaments in the world, and who also played at Summer Camp 2015, a tournament characterized by ridiculous costumes, points played using a rubber chicken instead of a disc, a sideline bubble machine, and on-field PBR consumption. This is perfect for someone like me, who enjoys competition but is not necessarily wrapped up in the outcome; I can play hard and play to win, but I don’t actually mind if we lose.
(You know, most of the time.)
Finally, and most importantly, Ultimate attracts one of the best set of personalities that I have ever encountered. That’s why I began playing again in Korea; I was looking for friends and I knew that Ultimate people, by and large, are people with whom I like to spend time. They are—we are—a unique blend of nerdy, athletic, and laid-back that I have never seen replicated in another community of people. We are comfortable competing hard on the field, but equally comfortable drinking and playing board games. No matter where I have played or what my ability is relative to others, I have always felt welcomed and accepted by the community, and it is more for that reason than any other that one of the first things I do when moving somewhere is to find the Ultimate scene.
the post calvin covers many topics, but one of its underlying and recurring themes is young college graduates adjusting to the world after undergrad. I think that most of my contemporaries would agree with me when I say that making new friends can be one of the most difficult things to do post-college, especially if you move to a new place. There are undoubtedly many fine ways to go about it, but Ultimate has been mine, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it has turned out so far. So if anyone reading this is looking for a new hobby or to get some good exercise or just to meet some cool people, head out to your local park on a weekend afternoon, find the people tossing around a disc, and ask how to throw a flick. You won’t regret it.
After working in Washington, D.C., for two years, Andrew Orlebeke (’10) is in graduate school in Seattle, Washington, studying public policy. In addition to public service, he has a passion for traveling and an abiding love of sports.