Thursday, June 6, 2013

Faith and Ultimate Frisbee

Yesterday, on a rainy afternoon after a gloomy and stressful day at work I sat on the wet grass, put on my Nike cleats, and began to throw with my teammates. Practice continued, and as the drills, games and conditioning progressed, my focus on the task at hand increased and the concern for the rest of my mental worries decreased. I soon got lost in the catching and throwing of the disc, and slowly stopped focusing on myself as an individual and rather as myself as a teammate. How could I contribute? What could I do to make us collectively succeed? Practice ended and I walked off the field with sweat, rainwater and mud plastered to my skin and unfurrowed eyebrows. Practice left me fulfilled, physically tired- and easily was the best part of my day.
Lately it seems so much of what I am doing in my life that is worthwhile has something to do with my favorite sport and hobby: Ultimate Frisbee. This stereotypically hippy, not commonly known sport may leave people wondering, so what’s the big deal? It is played with something similar to football receiving, Soccer field awareness and Basketball defense. Here is a basic summary of the game and how it works:
To all appearances Ultimate is just another team field sport. And sure, all sports have the ability to teach people good values and practices. Yet in my experience as an athlete- I maintain that Ultimate is something very special in comparison, and is unlike any other sport I have encountered.
What makes this sport stand out from the rest I believe are two things- 1) the culture and community around the sport and 2) the spirit in which the game is played.
On the latter point- Ultimate is a self-officiated sport, requiring players to be responsible for referring the game. The rules have a check and balances system built into it that requires players to call and reconcile illegal plays on the field. This rule system ties into a bigger value set dubbed “Spirit of the game” – and teammates are either “spirited” or “not-spirited” depending on how much respect, integrity and humility they demonstrate on and off the field. Ultimate therefore takes “sportsmanship” to a whole new level in through the structure of how it is played.
This “spirit” I believe creates the compelling culture of Ultimate Frisbee. Tournaments include highly competitive play and athleticism during the game, but also incorporate cheers and social events that have all the teams naturally mingling and hanging out with one another. It is natural to arrive at a tournament and have more friends on other teams you are playing than on the team you are affiliated with. Therefore, players have a strong love and loyalty for the sport, along with a strong sense of camaraderie for everyone who is involved with the game. Ultimate to many represents not only a sport, but a culture, a community and a lifestyle in which people play fair, have fun, respect each other and work together. Ultimate at its core is a value set, and a big metaphor for how to live your life.
So given the above explanation, I hope it is becoming obvious why I see Ultimate not only as a great sport to play and coach, but also as an expression of my faith. The sport provides an arena for me to express and fulfill on what I believe God is directing me to do: treat others with love and respect, bring people together in community and fellowship, be generous, inspire others… the list goes on. That is why it is such a perfect fit for me you see to go to Israel to coach Ultimate, because I see the service I am doing over there as a direct correlate to serving God and living out my faith. What more could I ask for, an opportunity to go abroad and teach people something I love as a conduit for teaching values I believe in wholeheartedly.
And the upcoming event this Saturday a group of us have been planning for the last couple months- Bid for Peace- was such a natural and fun event to create for our community inside and outside the sport. I see the event as celebrating the core of what the sport is about, and is allowing those in the Ultimate community to celebrate all that the sport stands for; by contributing to a cause that uses Ultimate Frisbee to teach people how to treat each other well in struggling communities. And the great thing is, really the event would have never happened if I didn’t have 7 good friends jump on board with me to make it happen. So all the work continues to be highly collaborative, just like how Ultimate is played at its finest.
For you reader, it may be something else. It may be your church, your work, some volunteer organization or hobby- that you hold with the reverence I hold Ultimate Frisbee. If you have something like that in your life, you believe that if there was just more of it, that whatever “it” was is the secret sauce to life, is the thing that can and will change the world for the better. I hope whatever it is for you, you are able to fully participate in it, to spread it, to share its values with others inside and outside the community. And if you do not have something in your life like this, I suggest you go join a pick-up game of ultimate Frisbee.

1 comment:

  1. It is very cool how much you love this sport and from how you describe it I can see why you love it so! These things that we are passionate about are such pointers for us along life's path! What a blessing to pursue this in Israel! Enjoy the benefit this weekend.