The Ultimate Effect

By Jaime Glader

I remember the exact moment when Ultimate changed the course of my life. I was a scared little freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, about a month into my first semester. I felt lost without my accustomed fall schedule from high school—an endless organized set of swim and soccer practices, extracurricular activities and studying, all presided over by watchful parents.  I missed having a schedule, especially a sport for which to play and practice, to have a goal other than that of education. I had met some lovely friends and spent much of my time studying (yes, truly studying), but my athletic side was suffering. My school/life/sanity balance was off without any athletic exertion for stress relief.

The moment came as I was leaving the cafeteria at Hilltop in Eau Claire, walking down the exit stairs. There is a large corkboard there, full of sign ups for various clubs on campus. The EauZone ultimate Frisbee sign up sheet caught my eye; I had “played” a little with my friends at home, and had always enjoyed it. After pondering the risks and benefits (the few I knew of), I hesitantly signed my name onto the list. Making that decision has forever changed my life, and I am unquestioningly grateful for that.

I met some of my best and lifelong friends at the first practice; for example Pat Niles is currently sitting next to me on my couch while I write this. Last season was the first since that fateful day back in 2004 that I haven’t played on the same team as Jake Henderson, but I was happy to have him still there as the coach for Drag’n. Since then, I have become addicted to the sport of ultimate frisbee, and it has changed my life completely. It kept me sane throughout the rigors of college, although balancing starting and running a team with studying was incredibly hectic (as many of you out there can attest!). I never would have survived graduate school without having frisbee as an outlet, even though I was playing remotely from Chicago for ACS and Drag’n and could only play at tournaments. I missed practices and spent a lot of time traveling by myself (see Jane’s article on sacrifices for the sport!), but it was worth it.

I have had so many amazing experiences and gone to so many different places, all for the love of the game. So many friends and wide reaching connections have been made, all because of it. The city, the house, the people I live with—all because of ultimate. I can barely imagine what my life would have been like, if I hadn’t put my name on that list, if I hadn’t made the decision to go for it, even though I was afraid. Would I have survived college? PA school? Where would I be, who would I have become without ultimate?  I don’t know, and I am glad that I never found out.

Think about your own life, all you ultimate players out there. Whether you’re a nationals level club player, a high school junior or a league player, or any iteration of ultimate athlete that there is, think about how it has affected and changed you. What friends have you made, road trips and adventures that you have taken, games you have played.  Ultimate is a sport that changes you and gives you something in common with so many people, so widespread across the world. It is a community that I feel honored and excited to be a part of, and that I am happy to have as a huge part of my life.

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