Thursday, March 29, 2007

this post has no title

i'm back in uganda after almost two weeks in norway and sweden. it was definitely a worthwhile trip in terms of ski racing photography and maintaining my contact to the nordic ski world. i had more tourist time than last year's trip, too, so i got to see some good sights in oslo and stockholm. and i went for a ski! if i hadn't, this would be the first year completely off snow since my first ski in 1979. and i bet i would have started sooner [than age 5] if we hadn't lived in arizona. i skated the 16.7km loop at holmenkollen, having a hard time imagining racing it 3 times around. but having an easy time wishing that i were in shape so i could do that (race it for real) again.

i'm glad that i found ski racing and that i had enough sense to pursue it for real, because i think it is what i was meant to do. not everyone finds what they were meant to do. sometimes i would think that ultimate was the sport for me and there were times when that was true. i was really good at it, but sporadically. and i never lead a team to a championship. which is a good thing to do if you're a really good player in a team sport. i had a great tournament at nationals my senior year of college and i owned alumni game for three or four years afterwards, but yeah, glory days. once in high school i was banging golf balls around in the field behind the school. walking back to kris's house i pointed at the 8-inch diameter trash can hanging on the chain-link fence around the tennis courts. it was about 50 yards away and i said "trash can." i dropped the ball on the ground, and dropped a 9-iron into the bottom of the trash can. but that doesn't make me a great golfer.

so anyway, skiing. the lifestyle suits me. i'm very good at relaxing and doing nothing, which can be a huge benefit for nordic ski training. and as long as i had a coach telling me what to do, my work ethic was impeccable. there are a lot of stories of type a athletes overdoing it, not resting enough, getting sick and not backing down. there are also stories of lazy athletes who never worked hard enough to get there. but i think most of the top tier xc ski athletes i've met are people that are able to turn it on in training and turn it off at all other times. people who's energy does not make you nervous to be around them.

skiing is solitary and i'm all about self-reliance. no, really, i am. but you need a big support staff to be successful and you need to communicate well with them. and i'm definitely social enough to work well with others. that said, i really like knowing that out on the road or the trails or on the race course, it's all about me. team sports have their pluses. to sacrifice together and succeed together, that's a tough feeling to top. but i don't know, because i never won a championship. i was 6 points and 3 points away in the two games i was involved in. so it kinda felt more like sacrifice than success. not that that's a bad thing. i never won a ski championship either, but there were a number of times that i finished a race with nothing left and knew i had done my best that day. and not once had the long trail runs through the forests in northern MN felt like sacrifice. team sports are so win/lose, and even if you win you can feel like crap because you didn't play well.

but skiing, that's the sport for me. and i'm lucky, because unlike ultimate, i'll get to do it til the day i die. the mimeographed sheet that coach horak passed around on the first day of high school practice in november always said "cross country skiing is a life long sport."

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

ultimate, post-7HC

sunday pickup was fun for me tonight for the first time in a good 1.5 months. following the tournament (see 7HC), maybe i was a little burned out. i'm struggling with the constant restart - this is a forehand, this is a stack, this is a cut - that comes from having new players every week. i would love to coach a core group of 15 players. that core of 15 would be a-mazing; we have some serious athletes with serious skill playing with us and i daydream about the possibilities of ultimate greatness... but, in reality, i have yet to find a suitable method of separating the 15 from the rest while still supporting the remaining players to learn and have fun.

i'm excited that we've built our club up to 45+ players, but i've been discouraged in not feeling like i've made any progress in skills-building, spirit-teaching, strategy-coaching. then, tonight comes along and my motivation is rejuvenated. no different than in the u.s., we're in need of fields. our former home (kampala rugby club) is no longer available (rugby drama stirred up by emma being traded from the rhinos to the pirates; the kampala rugby club pitch is controlled by a high-up member of the rhinos hierarchy, who's now feeling stiffed by emma...drama), so for the past two weeks we've been homeless. tonight we shared a pitch with a volleyball tournament, no room for a full field but enough to play a box game and mini. because we were hard to find, for the first hour of training i was blessed with 10 players and i was actually able to teach something (the buttonhook cut) and run a great drill (flygirl). we then played a series of 4-minute 3 v. 3 games in the box where 7 completed throws in a row counted as one point. everyone loved it. next, as more players trickled in, we played a series of 3-minute 5 v. 5 make-it-take-it games on a 40 x 25 yard field with 15 yard endzones. again, everyone loved it. success for one night.

next weekend is centex - the perennial start to the paige/phil coaching season. i'm feeling very nostalgic for syzygy, so it was good timing to have a rewarding coaching experience tonight. sometimes i feel like i'm pushing against the river, but tonight i did no pushing.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

the 1st annual 7HC

we talk all big about posting 100 times in 7 months, then we disappear. sorry 'bout that. no excuses except that i got consumed with planning the 7even hills classic (7HC) ultimate tournament and didn't feel too guilty about not blogging since phil's been holding to his promise of posting 1 picture a day for 31 days (see www.philsgoodphoto.blogspot.com). if you haven't been following phil's photo site, you should. enough said.

i haven't been too public about the 7HC other than my one post way back when talking about the fact that i was planning a tournament. my trend toward the DL was purposeful so that if the tournament was a total disaster i could save face in the fact that no one from home really knew about it so wouldn't ask about it. my fear of doom was fed by my friends lindsey and kristy who recently held their "playing for awareness" sports tournament, which in their words, was a complete disaster. teams recruiting ringer players, showing up 3 hours late, commandeering a pitch and refusing to leave until they got their way, etc. the grand prize was a bull (yep, a bull) that no one won because the tournament ended in near fisticuffs. uganda is a totally different world and this horror story definitely heightened my stress level and potential for meltdown leading up to the 7HC in fear of the disaster that awaited me.

my thought is that linds and kristy took one for the team by using up all the bad tournament karma clearing the way for a successful 7HC. i owe them one big 'cos i got lucky and the 7HC (feb 10-11) was a hit.

if you're not interested in how to host an ultimate tournament in a developing country, stop reading here. if you are, read on.

teams
no teams, no tournament. how to recruit teams? i knew that i could create 3 teams from the players who regularly attend our sunday afternoon pick-up games. 45 players = 3 teams of 15 players. the crucial task was generating other teams to create a tournament worthwhile to run. the nairobi team backed out on me because i chose the only weekend in a 3 month span that they could not attend. bummer, there went the "international" tournament i was hoping for.

like any other ultimate tournament, i set a bid deadline (jan 31). 150,000/= per team before the deadline, 225,000/= per team after the deadline with the idea being if i could get a team to pay, i could get them locked into showing up for the tournament. classic africa is for people to say they'll be there, then not be. the peace corps paid and committed early, so did a team of youngsters from ISU. i had a 6th team all the way up 'til 2 days before the tournament. i had the format all set, games scheduled, everything trusting the captain's word that they'd be there. i should've known better - they hadn't paid. no biggie going from 6 teams to 5 as far as formats, but still. it was the principle of it all.

i highly highly recommend requiring pre-registration and payment. if nothing else, if the team doesn't show up at least you have their money. the headache caused by scrambling last minute is made up for by having more cash to put toward your budget.

in the end we had 5 teams with about 15 players each = 75 players. big ultimate tournament by africa standards. my goal was to have a competitive tournament with spirited teams. the underdogs (team white) were a mish-mash of young'uns who'd never played before and some ringers from the KUFC crowd - they didn't win a game, but increased their points scored throughout the weekend from 4, 5, 6, 7, to 9. it's always fun cheering for the underdogs and the kids were a great addition to the tournament. the three KUFC teams - chapati rollers (blue), kabakas (red), karoli superstars (yellow) - could not have been more even; there was only a 4 point differential in their 3 round-robin games on saturday. i was super happy about that.

organization
i was smart enough to know from the beginning that i wasn't going to be able to make a tournament happen on my own. i know what an ultimate tournament should look like and how it should be run, but i don't know how to do that in uganda. ugandans do. we put together a planning committee that included veteran ultimate players, resourceful mzungus, and committed, locally knowledgable ugandans. it was a good combination of talents and seemed to work out. i did my best to not micromanage - some people will say i did well, others will surely disagree.

budget
having never organized a tournament before, specifically never having organized a tournament in uganda, i didn't know what to expect as far as expenses. queenie, the past organizer, gave me everything he had, but (me having a propensity toward detailed budgets) it didn't give me enough of a picture of anything. that's always how it happens though - you never truly know until you've been thru it yourself.

the total tournament cost was 1.5M/= ($850), which included fields, jerseys, championship shirts, discs, lunch, fruit, water, transport to/from fields, tournament party, and maintenance staff. teams paid 150,000/= ($85) to play and individuals paid 10,000/= ($6). late fees jumped to 225,000/= and 15,000/= respectively. seems like a pretty good deal to pay $6 and get a jersey, lunch 2 days, fruit, water, a ride to/from the tournament, a party, and a chance at a championship polo shirt. even so, $6 is still a big deal to the average ugandan. many of the players struggled with the tournament fee and were graciously assisted by teammates who could afford it. we purposely set the entry fee low so that everyone could play. ultimate is a welcoming sport, everyone should be welcome. problem with that strategy was that expenses equaled $850 and income equaled $590, which included donations and some merchandise sales. ouch.

sponsorship
sponsorship is always tricky for ultimate since ultimate isn't a "mainstream" sport. add in the africa factor and ultimate becomes even more obscure and sponsorship even trickier. we had no luck with out-of-the-blue contacts, but had enough success thru personal connections. one player is the parent of an ISU student so got free fields at the ISU campus; another player sweet talked rwenzori water into donating 20 cases of water; another player got his friend to donate complimentary passes for his club as the party venue; i was able to get donated discs from my fellow UPA board members.

what you really need though is money. it's the same thing in development work. people want to donate money to your organization to do HIV/AIDS work, but what your organization really needs is unrestricted funds to hire staff, pay rent, buy health insurance...operating funds. thank goodness there were several KUFC players willing to contribute cash to the tournament to help me get it off the ground.

schedule
uganda, like all of africa, is notorious for tardiness. nothing starts on time. the classic ugandan phrase in response to being late: "it is okay, i am on my way coming." on my way coming could mean anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours, you never know. for example, saturday lunch was scheduled to arrive at 11:30, actual arrival time was closer to 2:00. combine this affinity for tardiness with "frisbee time" and you have yourself a disaster in the making.

there were a few strategies i used to offset this malady. first, we provided transport to/from the fields. ISU (international school uganda) is outside the city, so is a difficult place to get to for most ugandans anyway because it's expensive transport. yes, i was concerned about people being able to afford the transport, but more importantly i was concerned about people getting there on time. transport left the meeting point at 8am sharp on saturday morning. if you weren't there, you didn't get a ride. players had the incentive to be there because they had already paid to play and if they missed the ride, they missed the tournament. this strategy worked okay - phil still had to make a run back to town to pick up stragglers. second, the first 4 teams to show up played in the first round, the 5th team got a first round bye. third, i padded the schedule with lunchtime full well knowing that we'd get started late. smart move. 'cos lunch arrived late, we ended up switching lunch with the 3rd round, but it all worked itself out in the end. i was really proud of the fact that we ended saturday's round-robin (5 rounds) only 45 minutes later than scheduled.

format
i used the UPA's formats manual to make the 6 team format. when the 6th team bailed, i handed the formats task off to phil. creating as many games as possible for 5 teams in 2 days requires more creativity than the formats manual gave me and formats have never really been my thing (power pools, what?), so i was happy to delegate to phil. he decided on saturday round-robin and a sunday championship bracket that included a pre-semis. imo, good format for 5 teams.

games were 1 hour 10 minutes to 13 points. players here are used to 20 minute games, so 1:10 was plenty o' time. i decided on a simple cap since learning the rules has been a struggle enough and any sort of complicated cap would have been a nightmare. at one hour 10 minutes finish the point in play. game is over at the end of that point unless the score is tied. if the score is tied, play one more point to determine winner. even so, we had a cap issue. the karoli superstars (team yellow) were up 10-9 against the chapati rollers (blue team) when the cap horn went. yellow doesn't know why game isn't over at horn. blue scores point making it 10-10. blue scores double game point to win 11-10. yellow accuses me of cheating by not stopping the game at the horn so that my husband's team (blue) can win. yeah, we had a discussion about cap after that.

SOTG
the only disappointing part of the tournament for me was the overall level of spirt and maturity on the field. ultimate is a self-refereed sport governed by the spirt of the game (SOTG). yet, game one on saturday between karoli superstars and the kabakas nearly imploded due to overly aggressive fouls, yelling, pouting, whining, threats, players walking off the field. it was ugly. i was disheartened especially since on the adjoining field i had just been watching a really spirited game between the chapati rollers and the peace corps (team grey). i put myself in the thick of it laying down the law about what is and is not allowed in ultimate, but that's not what you do in ultimate. disagreements are arbitrated among players, not by an outsider even if that outsider is the coach, TD, whoever. that's what's so special about ultimate.

i had a rude awakening really. i had talked about spirit of the game and personal responsibility and all that, but obviously not enough. i don't know if it's because there are a few "problem" players or because it's hard to switch to ultimate from sports like rugby and soccer or because it's impossible to envision a sport with no refs when you've never seen it in action or that being able to self-referee requires a certain maturity that many of the players don't have yet. that last argument doesn't really hold water, though, since the youngest players at the tournament - the underdogs - had some of the best spirit. whatever it was, i had failed to teach spirit of the game. of course, most of the games this weekend were super spirited - i'd even venture to say a majority of them. but, the one bad apple definitely ruined the bunch for me and reminded me that i have a lot of work to do on teaching the "culture" of ultimate in uganda.

in the end, the kabakas won in the finals 10-7 over the chapati rollers in an exciting, spirited game. they got their championship polo shirts, i got doused in water, and smiles all around. everyone's asking for another tournament of this magnitude soon, but that's why i made it an "annual" tournament because there's no way i could do this more than once a year...maybe in 6 months we'll have a hat tournament.

if you find your way to east africa next february time, come to kampala and play in the 2nd annual 7HC - it's guaranteed to be bigger and just as good as the 1st annual 7HC.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

tourney in february

the group i coach on sundays forms the kampala ultimate frisbee club (KUFC). last wednesday a small organizing committee met to begin planning a tournament in kampala. goal is to have 5-6 teams from uganda plus the nairobi team. any others willing to make the trip?

i have a lot of experience in ultimate, but this is my first time in the tournament director role, so i'm learning as i go. i'm big into delegation because (1) i don't know the standards for african ultimate tournaments as well as my ugandan counterparts, and (2) there's no way i could do all the organizing myself. i'm hoping that delegation is the first right step of many i take as a tournament director. so far, the tasks i've delegated: sponsorship, liaison officer (a.k.a. visiting team host), advertisement, tourney set-up (including fields mgmt), jerseys, format, registration, treasurer, medical, food, saturday night party, team recruitment, score/timekeepers, prizes. did i miss anything?

if you have any lessons learned, suggestions, advice, please share via comments. i've been using the upa's ultimate organizer's resource manual, but it's targeted toward leagues not tournaments. question: how do you set a reasonable tourney team entry fee? what do you do with players who show up day-of without a team?

details of the tournament...
dates: feb 10-11, 2006
location: international school uganda (entebbe road, kampala)
contact: kampala (dot) ultimate (at) gmail

we're looking for a good name for the tournament. any suggestions?

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

i respect you coach

moving to uganda i expected to take some time off from ultimate - both as a player and as a coach. as it turns out i've done neither, and happily so.

coaching in uganda and coaching in the states are the two extremes. there i coached one of the best college women's teams in the country. each year we have a small incoming class of rookies (4-5) who learn the game fast because they're surrounded by returners (15), who are a core group of really smart, really experienced players. in nothing flat, we have a team of 20+ women who play the game like savvy veterans. here, the number of returners is 3-4 and the number of rookies is 30+. with such a skewed ratio of returners:rookies, there isn't anything flat about the learning curve here. add into the mix that each week we have at least 2-3 players who have never seen the game or thrown a frisbee, and you start to see the challenges of coaching ultimate in uganda.

i have to admit though, it's really fun. there's something about teaching people a game you love, especially when they're eager to learn. i love to teach, i love ultimate...i guess it's a natural fit to really enjoy coaching here. a new twist to the coaching scene that i'm not used to from home is being called "coach." it's my name on the field, off the field. the best part about it is they call phil coach, too. so when they ask me about how phil's doing and how his season is going (they're all rooting for sub zero at nationals this coming weekend), they say "hey coach, how's coach doing?" ha! always makes me laugh. my favorite coach story is emma yelling "i respect you coach!" over and over an entire night's worth of a party. i call this my i-respect-you-coach picture; it's of me and emma at said party.

the team's come a long way in the last 1-2 months. i'm really proud of them. just to name a few accomplishments over the last few weeks:

- we now play on a regulation size field. no more skinny fields with 10 yard endzones.

- people actually stand on the line or behind it for the pull. big difference from the 15 yards into the field standard that everyone used to be perfectly comfortable with. plus, the need for yelling cross field has been virtually eliminated now that most players accept the concept of raising an arm to indicate readiness to pull/receive the pull.

- players are learning a stack offense and the corresponding defensive strategies including a force and downfield defensive positioning. okay, we're still working on this one, but at least the concept is starting to catch on. in sunday's scrimmage, there were multiple people yelling "get into the stack!" whenever there was someone clogging a cutting lane. wow. that's a pretty big accomplishment for a team whose idea of cutting was to hang out in space, stationary, yelling for the disc.

- i've introduced weekly hour-long rules tutorials that everyone is really gung-ho about. i thought they'd be bored but au contraire. i suggested a week off to let the rules sink in, but nope. no break for them, they wanted to keep learning! the first week we discussed the field, pull, traveling, and stalling; the second week was fouls and picks (considering 50% of the players are current/former rugby players the fouls discussion was in high-demand by the non-ruggers). the rules tutorials come right on the heals of the upa's release of the proposed 11th edition rules, but i'm teaching the 10th edition here. first, it was easier to get 10th edition rulebooks for everyone. second, only a draft of the 11th edition is out so far so who knows what'll make it thru membership scrutiny and what won't. third, the final 11th edition rules aren't slated to come out for a while yet and we really needed to cover the rules here asap; for example, even though most of these guys have been playing ultimate for 5+ years not a one of them could answer the question: what's the pull?
(two weeks ago we talked about strips. a "strip" is no longer a call in the draft 11th edition rules - strips are now treated like fouls. i guess no harm done though since they all got a kick out of yelling at someone to strip.)
101paige 101africa 101ultimate
- we are now meeting 1/2 - 1 hour earlier than when i first arrived so everyone can get in quality throwing (30 min) before we drill (45-60 min), which still leaves us a full hour to play a real scrimmage. everyone's really getting into the drills...so far we've done santa cruz, box drill (aka cornell), 3-person marking drill, a stack throwing/cutting drill (with/without d), flygirl (syzygys, you know what i'm talking about), straight-on drill, straight-on drill with angled modification. a lot of drills in a short amount of time, but they want more...yesterday a group of us went to a beach on lake victoria for the eid holiday. throwing, running around, flutterguts, then it wasn't long before emma asked, "coach, can we do a drill?"

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

no running water an hour in any direction, and i'm thinking about ultimate

hands down one of the hardest things to leave behind when moving to africa was coaching syzygy. here's a team that models everything i ever wanted in a team, a team that included me in its successes and its failures as one of its own. so, why did i choose to walk away from them? i guess i don't look at it as a choice, but as something i had to do. leaving syzygy had nothing to do with them and everything to do with my need to contribute to the “greater good,” to be involved with global public health, living and working abroad, and my need to have a worthy cause to finally get me to stop playing ultimate, if not for good, at least for a little while.

over the years, ultimate has come to define who i am. i play ultimate, i coach ultimate, i live ultimate. i am a part of the community and i love the community. but, i have not completed a fall club season in 4 years. each year i come back from a knee injury (read: surgery) to work my ass off, only to be met with another knee injury (read: surgery) before the season is over. this cycle of love & injury took its toll on me – i lay awake at night agonizing over the things i have yet to accomplish as a player wondering if i’ll be strong & confident & healthy enough to try again.

earlier i wrote about my first sunday pick-up game in kampala and talked about the pseudo-celebrity that comes with playing elite-level ultimate. i was excited to play ultimate in uganda because i could play exclusively for the fun of playing…no ego, no reputation, no nothing…just playing ultimate. but, suddenly here i was ½-way around the world being awarded some kind of credibility and authority that i hadn’t earned. initially, my ego was inflated, of course. then, i paused to react internally. wait a second, what happened to me just playing ultimate for the fun of it?

i wanted to play ultimate like syzygy plays ultimate. when the current syzygy kids talk about syzygy, they don’t talk about how good they are (which they are) or how much they know about the game (which they do) or how much they win (which they do a lot). they talk about how proud and lucky and happy they are to be a part of this team. a team that is more than a team…it’s a family. they play to be a part of that family.

so much of playing has become wrapped up in the ego of it for me. my need to play with the best, to be the best, to be a part of the elite-elite. but when i look back over my 10 years of playing, the most personally gratifying experiences have been those when i was intimately involved in the growth of a team, when i could contribute (physically, emotionally, strategically…however…) and be valued for those contributions. that’s why coaching was so rewarding – i was never judged on my ability to perform on the field; my ego had no place in the dynamic. ahhh, ego-free ultimate…how liberating!

when i first started playing pick-up here i thought that the games were organized by ex-pats. i was wrong and happily so. in fact, 6 years ago a couple of ugandan rugby players got together and started playing ultimate. maybe they learned about it from ex-pats? maybe there were other ultimate games/clubs going on in the city? i don’t know. i haven’t learned all of the history and dynamics, yet. what i do know is that this core group feels ownership of their game and their club. the core is a group of very, very cool guys. athletes. they understand what it means to be teammates, friends. to work hard to accomplish goals. jordan, a rwandan who lives in kampala, said he was originally skeptical of the game. he’d watched from the sidelines and didn’t really understand the whole allure. then he played…and he’s played every sunday for the last 5 years. he said it was addictive and he never wanted to stop playing. he talked about how his friends are all ultimate players. i think it’s a story that you’ll hear anywhere – the unifying effects of ultimate. there’s just something special about the game…maybe that’s why i’ve never been able to walk away…

since graduating from college i’ve lived in 3 different american cities and the source of my friendships in each have been the same – ultimate & work. moving to africa has been no different. i thought it would be, but as it turns out it’s exactly the same. i know a handful of people through work and 3x that many through ultimate. in my earlier post, i also mentioned wishing that an anthropologist would conduct an academic study of the ultimate community – the social structure, hierarchies, etc. i’m no anthropologist, but i’ve taken a stab at the study anyway. among my ultimate friends, 75% (not scientifically supported, but i’d bet i’m not too far off) are married/long-term committed to other ultimate players. i admit my sample’s probably skewed since most of my ultimate friends play seriously, which is to say during season we spend on average 12-15 hours a week practicing, strategizing, and thinking about ultimate. up that number if it’s a tournament weekend, or if you’re a coach/captain. it’s pretty hard to sustain a serious relationship with that much time away from home, family, kids (on top of work, of course), if your partner doesn’t also play. okay, so maybe this huge time and emotional commitment causes ultimate players to be drawn to ultimate players. but, i think it’s more than that. the common culture, competitiveness, camaraderie? what it is i don’t know, but i’m seeing its effects in africa as i listen to these ugandan guys talk about the game and the friends they’ve made playing and how they wouldn’t miss a sunday pick-up game in 5 years. 101paige 101ultimate 101africa

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Monday, July 03, 2006

ultimate Uganda

When Phil & I told people we were moving to Africa, invariably their first reaction was: there isn’t much Ultimate in Uganda, huh? A reaction only topped in frequency by people saying to Phil: not too much snow for skiing in Uganda, huh? Well, yesterday I played Ultimate in Uganda. So, still no snow, but there is Ultimate.

For those who are interested, there’s a pick-up game every Sunday night 5-7pm on the rugby pitch behind the Game at Lugogo Mall. The pitch is tucked back behind all of the soccer fields. People show up around 5 to start throwing and the game usually gets started around 5:45 or 6 with people trickling in all the way until 7. Don’t worry about footwear – cleats, running shoes, and barefoot all qualify. Even though we had the space to set up a regulation size field, we played on a field that was probably 50 yards x 30 yards with 10 yard endzones. I guess it’s a Ugandan Ultimate tradition to play with 10 yard endzones regardless of field size or space.

Last night we had 21 people playing. Can you believe it? 21 people…we don’t even get that many players to organized summer practices for some club teams in the States. I went expecting all ex-pats, but was happy to see that more than half of those playing were actually Ugandans: 1 teenage girl (so cool!), 1 player from the Ugandan national rugby team, 2 12-year-old boys, 3 former basketball players, plus a couple of obvious athletes who’ve found their way to the game some way or another. Throws were good, field organization somewhat chaotic, and athletic ability pretty high. The dump and the force aren’t really known strategies, but it isn’t an amoeba offense. By the end of the game I’d felt like I’d played Ultimate and felt good about it.

I went to the game somewhat sheepishly because when I spoke to Queenie (the guy who organizes the games) on the phone he mentioned that I shouldn’t worry about skill level or how much I’d played because the game was welcome to all levels of experience. I was afraid of showing up to the game as that all-too-well-known pompous college/club player that acts as the know-it-all at Tuesday pick-up and tries to show everyone “how it’s really done.” So, I tried to find something non-Ultimate-y to wear…do I not own any athletic clothes that don’t shout Ultimate? In the end I settled on my Flo (Edmonton/Calgary…Kier help me out here…women’s team) jersey – it doesn’t actually say Ultimate or frisbee or team or anything on it, so I thought it was a safe bet. Not totally safe, as it turned out.

There were 2 ex-pat college players at the game, one plays at Davidson and the other at University College London. They were entertaining and obviously in the beginning stages of their Ultimate obsessions talking about the most competitive games they’d ever watched – Columbus college nationals and Paganello finals, respectively – and all the cool tournaments they’d played in. You know that habit of 1-upping each other that newly introduced Ultimate players have? Yep, it was like that.

Anyway, I was standing on the sidelines with the Davidson kid and he said it looked like I’d been playing for a while. Following is our conversation, as best I can remember it…

Your husband plays, too?
Yes, but he’s at home tonight recuperating from the last couple of days.
Who does he play for?
Sub-Zero.
That’s…a…­nationals team. (mouth agape)
Yes.
Do you play for a club team too?
I played for Riot last season.
Seattle Riot? (mouth even further agape)
Yes.
Have I seen you on UltiVillage? (uttered in a whisper of amazement)
Maybe, I don’t know.
Where’d your husband go to college?
Carleton.
(speechless) Where’d you go to college?
Carleton.
(eyes wide) Wow.

The psuedo-celebrity that happens in the ultimate community has always been funny to me. We play in this really small community and your "status" is based on what team you play for, where you went to college, the tournaments you've won. I'd love for some anthropology scholar to do research on the ultimate community...investigate the social structure, hierarchies, status levels, mating circles... 101paige 101ultimate

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