I love hearing about a player’s origin in Ultimate Frisbee. As opposed to older sports, it’s not common to find players that have been competing in Ultimate their whole lives. Heck, many of them start in high school or college. When I listen to these stories, I find them much easier to relate to than the tales of young prodigies and their rise to fame. They’re often filled with frustrations over simple skills they struggle to acquire. My story is also filled with many irritations that, looking back, seem so rudimentary.
I was introduced to Ultimate my sophomore year at BYU. My cousin was a captain of a city league Ultimate team and I was roped into playing with my older brother and him. I remember my first reaction to the game was something along the lines of, “Wow!…(pant)… there is so much running in this game! (pant)” My heart and lungs were out of shape. I remember after only one game of moderate level Ultimate being winded, red-faced and exhausted. My fitness was only one facet I struggled with; another was throwing. I had never thrown more than 10 consecutive throws with a disc, and believe me I was bad. I remember my cousin and I going out on the street outside my apartment complex again and again to throw with each other. He must have wanted some exercise, or a patience building exercise because he ran after discs all the time. It took this constant work for 4 months until I was able to accurately throw a back-hand to my cousin and throw a forehand far enough to get to him; accuracy was an entirely different story.
About that time I took a 18 month hiatus to serve as a missionary in Texas. While there I had little to no exposure to this wonderful sport.
Upon my return, I found my older brother, now a talented veteran, advanced in his Ultimate career with BYU. However, I didn’t share the passion he did. The only Ultimate I played that fall was on an intramural team with a bunch of BYU players. Man, was this fortunate for me! I remember playing in the championship game against another stacked team and losing on universe point. I felt very responsible for the loss. I hadn’t contributed hardly at all to the team, which meant I contributed to our defeat. I had been out-schooled and embarrassed. Then and there I made a resolve to never be the reason my team had lost; I started going to BYU CHI Ultimate Practices.
At first I was intimidated, majorly. The Ultimate lingo, the elite players, the schedule, the commitment. It all made me wonder what I was getting into. Because of my late entrance I was on the B team that season which had approximately ten guys on it, among which I and two others were the only consistent attendees. Despite this, I knew what my goal was, I knew I wanted to make a name for myself. I committed to anything and everything I could. Track workouts, party planning, practices. Anywhere there a disc and players were, I was as well. I was definitely out of shape though, and needed lots of work. I was always one of the last to finish at the track each week despite Marcus Awakuni staying back with me to make me feel welcome. I remember going to a mini-group practice one winter day and being completely overwhelmed with the concept of a ‘force’. It just didn’t click at all. I wondered if I would ever make any progress.
I continued to work hard, and over a seemingly long time, I saw my work start to pay off. I started to see things on the field that I hadn’t seen before. I started to do things purely on instinct that I hadn’t done before. I knocked 70 seconds off of my mile time and 4 seconds off my 400 M time. One skill I had wanted to own early on was the ability to go up for a disc against a defender and grab it at the peak of my jump. It sounds so fundamental to me now, but I really struggled with it. I could catch a disc when I was on my own, but put a defender on me, and I caved. I found a way to miss time my jump, lose the disc or not close my hand at the right time. After numerous hours of practice, I remember having a glimpse of progress. I made a play on a disc sent to me while the team captain was guarding me, just like I had practiced, at the peak of my jump with one of the best defenders on the team guarding me. That moment was a big one for me. It was the moment when I saw progress in myself and it instilled in me a huge amount of confidence. Those moments have come frequently since, and seemingly at the times when I need them most.
From there I made the A-Team the following year, and continued to find skills to work on. I had, and still have two lists that I keep pretty up to date. One that details what I like about my performance on the field, and one that describes what facets of my game I’m currently working on. I’ve always felt recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses are important to keeping a healthy mentality as an athlete. During my first season on the A-Team, I fought for my time on the field. I wanted to make sure Coach Merrill put me on the field for the big games and the universe points, and at that, I succeeded.
At the conclusion of the season, I was honored to be appointed as one of the captains of the A-Team this season with Bryant Boyer. It’s been a difficult time that exposed some weaknesses I have, but also a rewarding experience that has facilitated needed growth. I continue to work hard, updating my two lists and learning what it means to be a captain of an elite team possessing competition, humility and integrity; CHI!