Every now and then—I hesitate to assent to an exact writing schedule—I’ll be posting tips for newcomers to this wonderful game of ours. My claim to expertise is the fact that because I’m naturally terrible at virtually everything ultimate Frisbee-related, I’ve had to learn all my ultimate skills one embarrassing miffed pull, failed D, and badly shanked forehand at a time. Thus, I can explain how to learn each skill to newbies in exquisite detail. Look for more entries in the coming weeks with tips, hints, and ideas on how new ultimate players can help their teams win as they’re learning the ropes and developing throws.
Ultimate Frisbee is a unique game in that almost all of its players, devotees, and apologists started playing it as adults. This puts it at an odd juxtaposition with more readily recognizable (American) team sports such as baseball, basketball, softball, volleyball, football, and soccer.
How many of us played most or all of those sports as children? Most of us? Yet almost no one plays ultimate as a youth. Sure, occasionally you might encounter ultimate in gym class in school, but it only lasts for one or two periods. Then—poof, you don’t hear of it for another decade or so.
Thus, ultimate can be an intimidating sport to take on. As adults, most of us are relieved to be past the point where we look foolish and clueless all the time (Read: 6th through 10th grades. Can I get an amen on that?). But suddenly we find ourselves on a field with a group of other adults and teens, holding a plastic disc and feeling that same awkward what-am-I-doing-here-I-look-like-an-idiot terror we last experienced at our first junior high dance.
Let’s be frank: Ultimate is as much a social endeavor as it is a sport, (what isn’t?) and it can be downright terrifying to go through the awkward process of learning a new sport.
Take heart! You may think you’re making a fool of yourself, but I can guarantee you that even the saltiest old veteran sees your bobbled catches and laughable flicks and thinks, “I remember when that was me.” Because guess what? Those players most likely started playing seriously as adults, too.
All that being said, you won’t be floundering for long. I know it can seem impossible to develop a firm understanding of the game or become proficient at throwing, but it’s not. Anyone can learn these things, and with some practice, you will too. And it won’t take as long as you might think.
When you’re at LUDA (or any field full of ultimate players, for that matter), look around and try to guess how long each person has been playing. You’d be shocked at the brevity of the experience of some of the best players out there. Sure, a few of the gang have been playing for 10-20 years, but the majority have been playing for a few years or less.
One returning LUDA leaguer I was chatting with recently told me that he considered not coming back at all after his first game, that it was intimidating and frustrating at first. Now he has a few months of organized ultimate under his belt and is developing into a fine player.
What’s my point? Hang in there. You’ll develop some serious ultimate skills very, very soon. In the meantime, rely on your captains and other more experienced players on your team for pointers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem dumb. Other than the fact that ultimate is the greatest sport devised by anyone this side of Valhalla, it’s also the most open and welcoming sporting community you’re likely to find.
Jump in with both feet, and you’ll be swimming like a champ in no time.