The ultimate learning curve 

I’ve been playing ultimate1 since 1997. I was 26, and I had never played any team sport for more than about ten minutes, and suddenly I was enthusiastically diving in for hours every week, and I never stopped. Here’s a timeline of my amusingly slow development as an athlete, from complete bumbling fool to mediocre and inconsistent veteran!

1997 — The guy no one wants on their team. But ultimate players are very nice, so I was tolerated. (Probably because it was a small town and there were no teams, just very casual pick-up.)

1999 — Stopped hurting myself almost every game, and achieved semi-reliable 10-yard “flicks” (the all-important forehand throw).

2000 — Moved to Vancouver and started playing in a real ultimate league. Was not kicked off team!

2002 — Played a game where I didn’t really embarrass myself. Much.

2003 — First glimmerings of tactical thinking. The beginnings of annoyance with common mistakes. (“C’mon, hold the force! Geez!”)

2005 — Kinda-sorta coached a team and won our (low) division. Giddy with self-respect for weeks!

2007 — Flick not too shabby out to 20 whole yards! As long as nothing too exciting is going on.

2010 — Started to show signs of understanding the game.

2011 — Turned 40: too old to play all that well even if I understand the game.

2012 — Maybe I’m a bit of a handler? (Handlers do a lot of passing.)

2013 — Yes, I am a handler! Sort of!

2015 — I learn how handling actually works from training videos at, the first thing like this I’ve ever seen. Cool! Many things I’ve been doing in a half-arsed way for a decade are finally given names. And clear reasons for doing them. Plus many other things I never thought of once in 18 years of playing the game!

  1. Ultimate is a Frisbee team sport, co-ed and self-refereed, with soccer-like intensity and usually the mood of a good party. Players tend to be jock-nerd hybrids: lots of engineers and scientists. Hippies invented the sport, but have mostly been displaced. ↩︎