Thoughts on an Ultimate Season

Ultimate frisbee is a unique sport. It’s co-ed. It’s played outdoors in any and all conditions. And it’s played without referees. Instead of refs, gameplay is governed by something called the spirit of the game: a code of honour that obligates athletes to respect opponents and play within the rules. No other team sport is quite like it.

It’s also worth noting that ultimate frisbee is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. Few other games require as much all-out running up and down a large field for as many sustained minutes as ultimate. Sports like basketball and soccer are comparable, but there the physical demands of running are mitigated by a smaller playing surface or anchored positional play. Ultimate frisbee demands a lot, and our players pay a high price.

The weekend of March 27-28 marked the end of our senior ultimate frisbee season, as the Carver Phoenix battled teams across the province in intense heat. Although the results came short of our hopes, we finished the tournament 16th out of 32 teams in Tier 2. Not bad for a small high school with a still-young ultimate program.

Coaching is always a mix of sacrifice and reward. When I reflect personally on the last two months of practices and games, here are some of the special highlights that I take away:

  • Girl power. Due to our smaller school and smaller ultimate program, we weren’t bringing a dozen girls to each game. Instead, our girls often numbered 3-5. Since three girls must be on the field at all times, this meant that our girls were often forced to play entire games (and sometimes two games in a row) with only two, one or no substitutes available. That’s very tough, but it goes further. Since none of our female regulars were in Grade 12, our girls were usually competing against girls who were older and more experienced. Our girls should be commended for showing up week after week this season and making big sacrifices with incredibly positive attitudes.
  • Crazy conditions. I remember Monday practices where the rain was so chilling that our players’ fingers were numb and teeth were chattering. I remember the games in New Westminster when the wind was so laughably wild that it was hard for either team to complete a pass, never mind score points. And of course I recall the intense heat of the provincial tournament, as our athletes played six games in two days in close to 30 degree weather. Our players met every weather challenge this season head on.
  • Player progress. Few things make a coach more pleased than seeing players develop and improve. Although I saw growth across the whole team this year, one player stood out as a particular highlight. We cheered her on as she developed from an uncertain rookie to scoring multiple points at key moments of our final playoff games. So fun.
  • Sibling synergy. Another cool storyline this season was the presence of our two older-brother-and-younger-sister combinations (Joey and Joy Joy Federico, Ian and Kaylan Mah). To see these two sibling pairs connect for passes and points brought a smile to my face every time.
  • Great Grade 12s. I was so impressed by the leadership skills I saw in the group of Grade 12 boys that led this team. I watched as they confidently directed teammates during on-field play, pulled aside younger players to patiently explain strategy, or challenged teammates to represent the spirit of the game during moments of low morale. Others quietly led on the field through consistently positive attitudes and terrific play. Numerous times throughout the season I was struck by the fact that these boys – some of whom I’ve known since Grade 7 – have become men.

Another ultimate season is in the books. I’m thankful for the memories of battles lost and won together, the development of our players, the feeling of team that grew stronger and stronger by season’s end. I wish all of our players well and look forward to seasons to come.

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