I started playing ultimate because my brother played. Back in my sophomore year of high school, I didn’t know what Ultiworld was, or even what compression shorts were. The only reason I knew ultimate existed beyond high school was because my coach mentioned she played on a club team, Bird. I thought that was the strangest name ever. Oh, how little I knew.

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Now after five years of playing ultimate, I’ve watched countless Callahan videos and highlight reels; I dream of the jerseys I wish I had and the millions of discs to buy and never use. As I dive deeper into this community, names like Furious George, Princess Layout, and No Touching don’t surprise me. There are articles talking up the best players in our country – I have found my role models aren’t just the teammates who laid out at practice yesterday, but big names like Claire Chastain. Wouldn’t it be so cool if I could achieve fame like they did? As Ash Ketchum once said, “I want to be the very best.” Maybe it’s the American mentality soaking in from the media – you need to be the smartest, be the prettiest, be the fastest, buy the best things because that is the only way people are going to remember you. Like other talented individuals in their field, many of us aspire to do amazing things that have people singing our praises.

Such media exposure creates channels for comparison, which can be a dangerous thing. What if Ultiworld doesn’t sing my praises? Then I’m obviously not noticeable. What if I’m not laying out like all of my teammates? I guess I’ve hit my ceiling. What if I don’t get called out for the “all-star” line? I’m a weak link. All of these thoughts have passed through my mind during the last two seasons. Slowly, the place where I had so much fun was crowding me with thoughts of “I’m not good enough.” And it hasn’t just been me thinking this. In my five years of ultimate, I have heard that phrase from fellow players more than I ever should in my entire life span.

It all comes from comparison. It’s already a massive issue within our world. Think of mainstream beauty standards: We want that beach bod, we want lips like Kylie Jenner, we want to be “beautiful”. So if we don’t look like the people on the covers of magazines, we must be ugly.  Now let’s extend this, if we can’t huck a flick 50 yards down the field or layout in the end zone, we must be bad at ultimate. But it’s unrealistic to compare yourself to someone who sleeps under the squat rack and throws an hour a day when you’re busy with other facets of life.

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Compare yourself just based on your progress on realistic goals you’ve made. Are you closer to them than yesterday? Last week? Last year? This summer, I made a goal of re-discovering my love for ultimate. I joined a club team that focused more on community and fun than competition. We laughed when we missed throws, we heckled each other from the sideline, but we also passed around compliments and words of support. We won games wearing pajamas, and half the time, I didn’t know the score. I didn’t care – I was having fun. What did it all was that I shifted the focus from solely myself to the team.

I was at a tournament this past summer, and standing on the line, a teammate said, “I am dropping so many throws! I am so bad!” Did they miss that they were wide open for every throw? No. They just focused on where they were failing.

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Recognize your weak spots. Critiquing yourself isn’t a bad thing. To have drive is thrilling, and you have to critique yourself to know what to work on, so you can get better. The problem is that people often only say, “I am so bad at ___!” and don’t take the step further to say, “But wowzers, I am good at these other things!” To evaluate yourself as a player and to come to a decision about your “worth,” you must account for both things. For how much you think about your shortcomings, you also need to think of your accomplishments. You get to decide at what level of ultimate you want to play, and at any level, you should celebrate your growth as a player!

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I want you to watch Seattle Riot’s 2014 Top 10 was produced by Fulcrum Media Group. The first time I saw it, I definitely drooled. These women aren’t real! They seem perfect! Then I want you to watch the 2014 Low Lights Reel that Fulcrum made for them. Those same women dropped discs, turfed throws and pulled a disc all of 20 feet. It didn’t make them any less amazing in my eyes. They are humans, not Frisbee robots, and they won the 2014 World Ultimate Club Championships – all while making mistakes.

You should be proud of where you’ve come from, and don’t think for a second that you aren’t good enough. You’ve put in the time and the work, whether it be at practice, pick-up or league. You can always play ultimate to the best of your ability, and you can always learn and improve. Have fun playing and learning ultimate! There was a time when you couldn’t throw a disc to save your life. Once upon a time, you couldn’t even read. Look at you now, you just read this! It’s only up from here.

 

Carly Siewert is in her third season with Bella Donna at the University of Wisconsin with fearless Robyn Wiseman as her coach. Pickle juice is her number one tournament drink, and she screeches in fear when she has to jump for the disc.

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