The Price to Play

By David Shirley

Per your usual form, it is April 15th and you are just sitting down to open those dreaded tax documents that all your employers sent you. Your heart is elevated and you start to get nervous, not only because you only have 8 hours to complete and mail your taxes, but also due to the anticipation of calculating what is bound to be the largest tax refund you have ever received. The first taxable income figure you see confirms how large of an impact that job promotion had on your financial well being. You start to think about how fortunate you are to now be able to save money and put a little away for retirement. You start adding up all your W-2’s and the result brings a giggly feeling to your stomach. With what has been the largest amount of money you have ever made in a year, you can’t help but to start dreaming of being able to finally afford that down payment to the house you have been eyeing on Craigslist. Adrenaline rushes through your body and with gitty excitement you finish your taxes with 5 min to spare.  You lick that envelope and slip in the mail as the mail man’s van just turns onto your street. Ahhh… finally done!

Out of curiosity, you check your bank accounts and add your tax return to the total… you are $6k short… what? That figure cant be right…. recalculate… math error!… unfortunately due to your poor math abilities, it’s in the wrong direction :(. How can this be? You are not even close to making that downpayment. You start to think about your credit card statements and realize that some of them were quite elevated…someone MUST have stolen your credit card and made some crazy purchases that slipped under your radar (you knew you should have checked those statements monthly). You frantically file through your statements and after 30 min finally identify the culprit. Your investigation is not as expected: Ultimate?! Now… take “you” and replace that with “me” and this is what I experienced this past year.


  • Accelerations – gotta love those treadmill and turf sessions
  • Light Weight Cleats – because speed matters and every inch counts
  • Uniform With Accessories – Who doesn’t like looking good on ESPN?!
  • Flights To NC, CA – can’t take off work to drive, only have so much VACAY!
  • MRI To The Knee – thank the almighty for health insurance
  • Hotels In NC, CA, TX – gotta sleep somewhere when you are on the road
  • Acceleration Tune Up – still love it!
  • Car Ride To TX And Back – what fun it was to drive through the night
  • Food Expenses During Tournaments And Team Events – when you are constantly playing ultimate you tend to eat a lot.
  • Team Retreat – team building is very important to success
  • Tournament Fees


  • New Lightweight Cleats – because light weight = durable^-1
  • Personal Training – wanted to learn how to lift for my sport, this also kept me motivated through the winter
  • Accelerations Round III – count me in
  • Flight To Europe And Back – Italy ain’t cheap
  • Room And Board At The Tournament – staying in a shipping container turned into a dorm! Don’t worry there are only eight of us per crate.

Ultimate has always had the demeanor of requiring a very low investment to play at any level. Since my first day touching a disc in college, the captains at Saint Louis University used to state, “Fun for the dollar, this game is better than… insert common phrase here!”. All you need is a disc and maybe some cones right? If this was the case, how could ultimate have had such an effect on my savings? As I looked at the expenses that piled up over the past year and I forecasted the cost of going to Worlds, it was very clear that ultimate at the highest level has drifted away from the minimalist appeal of being a great bang for the buck sport and started to transform into a mainstream franchise with sponsors and multimillion dollar companies revolving around it.

Now, I admit this exact scenario did not happen to me when I did my taxes this year nor did it totally break the bank. But, when I look at the expenses that have added up over the year I am amazed at how much each player has to spend to play at the highest level mixed ultimate at this time.

It is important to note that everyone on the team has a varying set of expenses that add up to drastically different amounts. These expenses are all based on the choices each individual has made throughout the year and how much they think they need to spend to fulfill the teams commitment to each other to be at their best for the upcoming season.

It is also important to note that Drag’n Thrust is the first team that I have played for that has offered scholarship money to those that may not be able to play due to financial reasons. As a team we never want someone to be limited by these financial restrictions. Not every player on the team receives these funds, but I think that this is a great way to support the ultimate community and allow everybody to have an equal opportunity to play on the national stage.

When I read over each expense on my list, a smile incrementally grows across my face. As I take a second to identify the emotion behind this facial expression, the reaction is not to mask feelings of no longer being able to afford my dream house right now, nor is it due to dollar signs adding up but an expression of all the priceless memories and accomplishments obtained along the way.

The captains of my college team may have been skewed in judgment by the minimal expenses obtained through playing college ultimate. Nevertheless, I will argue that no matter what the cost, ultimate is one of the best sports to play for more reasons than can fit in this blog. Sure playing ultimate for DnT has gone against the norm of being a cheap sport… but to me, it has been worth every penny!

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