What do you want? How are you going to get it? All of my experiences, good and bad, have taught me to dedicate myself to the things I want most. If you want to play at the highest levels at USA Ultimate’s YCC, College or Club Nationals, then ask yourself if you’re willing to put in the hard work on and off the field. Look at some of the players you admire most – they are constantly in the gym, running track workouts and attending practices. The games and tournaments are where you showcase your skills and have fun. The days in between are where your hard work and dedication shine. We’re just talking about ultimate here but you can apply this to any area of your life. What are you going to dedicate yourself to?
The first time I made a goal and dedicated myself to something was when I was 15 years old. It was the summer prior to my freshman year of high school; I was in love with basketball and told myself I needed to make my freshman basketball team!
Every day that summer, I practiced my basketball skills. I was trying out for the point guard position, partly because of my height and partly because I loved that position being the one who dictated the plays. To train, I went back to the fundamentals and I practiced hard! Every day, I grabbed my basketball and went out to my hoop to work on handling skills, practiced layups and shot free throws. I played around the world with myself, where I had to make a basket at each place around the key before moving to the next spot, and if I missed I had to go back to the beginning.
When tryouts came in the fall, I felt confident in my abilities and knew I had done everything I could to prepare. When I made the team, I was extremely proud of myself for the work I had put in. I felt accomplished!
Team practices were extremely difficult. This was the first time I had been on a team that practiced a lot – every day after school and early Saturday mornings. I didn’t know what it meant to be on a team that dedicated itself like this. I hated doing lines, as I was usually the last one back on the line and it made me feel slow. Additionally, one thing I hadn’t worked on in the summer was conditioning. Why? Because I didn’t know what conditioning was. This was the first team that taught me how to condition. However, as the weeks progressed, I noticed I was becoming faster and stronger as I got more comfortable with the exercises. I had a major turning point in my attitude and found myself welcoming conditioning each and every day.
Being on this team was challenging both physically and mentally, having to balance a full class schedule and practice along with helping my mom who just had my younger brother. She wasn’t able to drive me to practices or be at all of my games, which meant I was late for practice a lot and missed a few games as well. One day when we had an away game, she couldn’t take me to the school to catch the bus and I didn’t live near any of my teammates so I couldn’t call for a ride (we barely had cell phones back in 2000!). It was either miss the game or get there myself. So, I got my bike out and rode the entire four miles to the school. Dedication!
Now you may be asking, where does ultimate come in? After college, I was invited to my first pick-up game in the fall of 2008 and was later recruited to join a women’s beach league in Los Angeles the following spring. Almost immediately, ultimate took over my life and I fell in love with the sport. More importantly, however, I fell in love with the community. I had found my people and I felt comfortable being myself in this new and exciting environment!
Although I played in competitive leagues for many years, I initially struggled to improve my game. I wasn’t working on my fitness or skills outside of league, but I soon began to crave more ultimate, more structure and more dedication.
In 2014, a new developmental women’s club team formed and I joined without hesitation! We had an amazing coach and great leadership, and they fostered a very welcoming environment for all! We had a buddy system during tournaments where we’d get our buddy a little gift to show support and encouragement!
Playing on that team taught me a lot about conditioning. We practiced once a week and were encouraged to do additional conditioning workouts on our own time. I worked hard and dedicated myself to the team, telling myself, “This time, I’m going to put in the work and stay with the team!” It was one of the best ultimate summers I’ve ever had as we made it all the way to regionals! Although we didn’t perform well, we played hard and kept our spirits high. We competed against our favorite team, Fury, one which we were all completely infatuated with all the players on, and we got bageled. It was one of the best games of my life!
That summer I learned a lot about athletics, specifically about being on a team and how to condition and treat my body so it could perform at a high level! I took all that in and continued to train in the off season! I went to the park with friends or sometimes by myself, and I practiced footwork, sprints, throws and cone drills. I dedicated myself to becoming a better player, a better athlete and, in turn, a more confident person.
The next five seasons, I played club with a few mixed teams. In 2019, our club team made it to regionals – my second time in my six years of playing club! This time, I was pretty happy with our performance and I was extremely proud of myself! I’m now retiring from club ultimate but continuing to play league, as I’ve found a new love in mountain biking and am now dedicating myself to that sport!
Although I wasn’t on the starting seven, I put in hours of work at practice and have made huge personal gains, growing both as an athlete and as a person. Oftentimes we don’t recognize our own accomplishments because we’re too busy comparing ourselves with others. Be proud of the work you’ve done, be proud of your gains. Take a moment to acknowledge your dedication and vocalize that you’re proud of yourself! I’ve put in the hours, I’ve learned, I’ve grown. I’m proud of who I am and will continue to stay dedicated to everything I do.