My Dirty Little Secret and All Consuming Hobby

I play ultimate.

I shan’t clarify that with the appending of a genericised Wham-O trademark, won’t make it a pretentious proper noun by capitalising it, and refuse to even discuss whether or not it’s a sport. If you really don’t know what it is, simple, just google it!

I should apologise. This post’s title is totally misleading because I’m actually proud of the fact:

I play ultimate.

Ultimate has a bad rep, to the uninitiated it’s the sporting equivalent of the Mathletes – social suicide. Telling people you play ultimate is a constant struggle against ignorance, scorn and adjective substitution – relatives, ironically trying and failing to ‘relate’, will ask me all about it and then tell they next person we see I play ‘extreme frisbee’.

Yet this is a fast-growing sport, with an extremely dedicated player base, making waves in the wider world. I’m one of those ‘extremely dedicated’ types. I regularly train with and play for my local club side , have started weekly sessions at work to teach new people the sport and keep in touch with my uni friends by meeting up for tournaments across the country. Even then, I find myself longingly tossing a disc around on my days off.

My situation is far from unique – ultimate fever grips plenty of my teammates as well. But why? That would be an essay in itself but a few key points:

I’m really good at it!
Partly because other people aren’t – very few have played ultimate before uni, let alone as long as most kids have played football, hockey, netball – and so a few years of playing gives you a good level of experience on almost any scale. An athletic kid who throws themselves into ultimate at school has a real chance of making the GB team in no time at all. And it is fun being really good.

I look really good at it!
Its steady assault on ESPN’s weekly highlights in the US confirm that it’s not just ultimate players who find plays where people sprint, jump and dive to keep a bit of plastic carving up beautiful aerodynamics at high speed around a pitch pretty damn exciting. These aren’t advanced, unobtainable techniques either. Sure, the level of athleticism and skill is higher for the guys on TV, but anyone can run, jump and catch, and so anyone playing has the potential to pull off a highlight play at any moment.

Everyone’s nice!
Unbelievably, this is almost true. I’d say 96% nice people at the absolute minimum. While mainstream sports hoover up the necessary thugs to keep lad culture alive and well, ultimate in the UK attracts those disenchanted with bigger sports or even trying competitive sport for the first time. Add in mixed gender teams and a rule-enshrined commitment to fair play that goes as far as demanding positive attitude and often incorporates post-match mini-games between opponents, purely for social purposes, and it’s no wonder the ultimate community are a close-knit and friendly bunch. They’ll welcome you in, train you up and ensure you’ll always have a sofa to crash on for tournaments wherever you are.

This is just the tip of the iceberg really, but hopefully now you’ll understand if ultimate features on this blog again at some point, and you won’t need to ask what it is!

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