Ultimate is not a sport. Ultimate is not a sport because to say it is simply a sport is to downplay what it really is. Ultimate is a passion subscribed to not just by athletes, but by some of the most kind and inspirational people I have ever met. We do not receive commands from a mere coach, but rather valuable help and guidance from a truly amazing mentor. When playing ultimate, you are surrounded by girls who are both your teammates and friends, as well as competitors who would rather see you succeed than fail. To say ultimate is a sport is incorrect because ultimate is so much more than that. It is a way for people to connect with one another and make new friends while having fun.

I say all of this as if I am a long-standing member of the ultimate community when, in reality, I have only been playing for a couple weeks. I am no ultimate professional, and honestly, my skills need some improvement. My throws and catches could definitely use some work, and I still have a lot to learn, which is why I was nervous going into Neuqua Knockout, my team’s first tournament. We had only had a couple of practices and were just getting to know each other’s names. I knew the two days we would spend at Neuqua would be a great opportunity to learn how to play better overall and more about the game, but I was scared.

When the first day of the tournament came around, I was anxious. I didn’t want to play poorly and let my team down, but I was also worried about being in a competitive environment. I didn’t want to go out and face other teams for fear that the other girls would be mean. The moment our first game began, and throughout the entire day, I was blown away. Not only did the other teams encourage my teammates and me during the games, they also congratulated us after each point we scored. On the sidelines, we made conversation with girls on the other teams and got to know them pretty well. At the end of each game, the two teams made a circle and bestowed compliments upon each other. In ultimate, this is known as a spirit circle. Then, each team gave out a spirit award to the other team to congratulate them on anything they deemed worthy of recognition. Ultimate’s sense of community is what I believe sets it apart from all other competitive activities.

RDP_5108-Edit-(ZF-6295-73494-1-013)

As my team continued to play our games throughout the day, we learned a lot. We figured out the basics of playing defensive and offensive, and we began to further understand an important ultimate play called a vertical stack. We were throwing and catching well in a game environment and were understanding the smaller ins and outs of playing in a real game. When the day was over, we had won one out of three games we played and were very happy. We were proud to be able to say we not only tried our hardest but also succeeded in winning a game.

The next day was hard. We were all sore and tired from the day before, and it became increasingly hotter as the day progressed. We ended up playing a total of four games rather than three and began earlier in the morning. When the day is described in this way, it sounds as if the second day of the tournament was dreadful when in reality, it was amazing. I would not love ultimate as much as I do if it were not for my team. Every single girl on my team is warm-hearted, kind, generous, funny and an all-around good person. Throughout the entire tournament, every one of my teammates remained positive and chose to only look at the bright side. Where one might have seen a team struggling to win a game, we saw ourselves as a team gaining valuable experience. Where one might have said it was too hot, we said the weather was gorgeous with its blue skies and warm temperatures. No one was in a bad mood, and we all were able to bond over the weekend. From playing side by side to jamming to good music, we all got to know each other on a different level and become great friends.

If I had to look back at Neuqua Knockout and describe in one word how I feel about it, I would say grateful. I am grateful for the amazing experience and for the new friends I made. It is the place in which I fell in love with ultimate. It was one of the most fun weekends of my life, and I am beyond excited for our next tournament. While I wait for that, I’ve been enjoying practices after school and staying in touch with my teammates over social media when we’re not together. I am not someone who has ever been amazing at sports or interested in trying to become better. When it comes to ultimate, I feel motivated to improve my skills and don’t feel as if ultimate will be a short-lived passion.