Romance: The Key to Mixed Ultimate Success?

By Andrea Crumrine

There’s a good amount of speculation as to what led to Drag’n Thrust achieving the National Championship title.  Was it a dedicated focus on offensive strategy? Partially. Could it have been the chemistry many of the men developed playing in the AUDL on Wind Chill? That’s possible. What about the dissolution of Stud Muffin that allowed for three new pick-ups? Potentially. And the five consecutive seasons of playing together as a team? That’s persuasive, but not quite. Could it be the number of couples on the team and the subsequent flourishing romance? Yes and yes.

Martha and AustinAlright, so maybe romance isn’t THE reason Drag’n earned that National Mixed Champions title in October but it’s worth evaluating the potential benefits and subsequent consequences to dating (or marrying) a fellow teammate on any ultimate team. In my mixed ultimate experience (on very different  teams, mind you), as far as couples go, I’ve seen the gamut of fully-supportive to the burning and destructive. I’ll throw in a few pros & cons and leave you with some predictions for the future.

Maybe it’s not appropriate to place couples into neat little buckets or speculate on the objectively functional couple, but this is a blog and (probably) none of the opinions expressed here are held by anybody else on Drag’n Thrust except for me.

For starters, what makes a good teammate? Someone who pumps you up? Capable of empathizing? Able to relate? Someone who knows how to talk you out of your own head? Leads by example? Other characteristics that contribute to accomplishing your IPS? See The New Toughness Training for Sports by James E. Loehr.

Next, what factors might reflect a bad teammate? Someone who passes blame? Is short tempered? Hogs the disc? Gossips? Makes excuses? Skips practice? Pushes you out of your ideal performance state?

Now, how much more complicated is the picture of either the good teammate or the bad teammate if that teammate is your significant other, your partner, your spouse? Does that change the situation? I’d say so.

Pete and AliciaWhat are the benefits to dating a teammate? In some cases, the person you’re dating might be your best friend. Ultimate Frisbee could be the activity that really brings the two of you together. You share an intense, season long (in some cases year long) experience of highs, lows, frustration, excitement, satisfaction, and disappointment. These moments throughout a season, such as picking each other up after a devastating loss or celebrating a huge victory, have the potential to build any relationship. The next benefit is time. When you’re dedicating 2, 3, or 4 nights a week to your team for practice, a teammate’s birthday, tournament weekends, that’s time well spent and time well spent together. Not to mention the fun trips, sight-seeing, and outings that accompany traveling on tournament weekends. I’d also like to note accountability. A parter can be the best person to keep you accountable to your workout schedule, whether that be a series of sprint workouts or the Ultimate Athlete Project created by Melissa Witmer with Ultimate Results. Finally, having someone on your team that you care about enough to push yourself beyond your own limits in order to actualize a shared goal may prove to be the strongest form of motivation for some players. Ultimately, the benefits vary from couple to couple and what may be important to you may vary drastically for the next individual.

And are there consequences to dating a teammate? Of course. A mid-season breakup would potentially be awkward for not only you and your ex, but your team as a whole. That kind of drama can have grave consequences and provide a season-ending distraction. Uncomfortable situations naturally arise when your significant other is the bad teammate described above. Is that something that you’re prepared to deal with? Additionally, not all relationships are mutually beneficial in a competitive setting. Perhaps your significant other attempted to give you constructive criticism, that either hurt your feelings, made he/she come off as a know-it-all, or both. And what about when your significant other totally looks you off when you were 100% open? Infuriating. There’s a flip side to each benefit listed above but I’d like to note that dating a teammate could mean spending too much time together. Finally, there’s always a risk that you or your partner could get cut from the team. Talk about awkward.

Drag’n Thrust had 7 (seven) official couples on the 2013 team. And let’s be honest, they’re all pretty great. I’d be willing to bet that many, if not all, of those relationships are strengthened by and have contributed to the success of Drag’n Thrust. That isn’t to say that the single individuals, or those who are in relationships with partners entirely nonaffiliated with ultimate, don’t develop relationships on the team with comparable, equal, or even better support mechanisms than those who are in relationships. I’m just saying that there might be some link between the number of couples on a given ultimate team and the success of their team.

What would have been different in 2013 had there been more couples on Drag’n Thrust, if anything at all? Would the win over Polar Bears have been a margin of three? Would Drag’n have defeated Mischief in the semi-finals of the U.S. Open?  Looking onwards, will there be more couples in the future that might tip the scales in favor of Drag’n Thrust at Worlds this August? Only time will tell.

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