The Freshman 15
By Eric Meyer
The end of summer means only two things: the end of Breaking Bad’s season (seriously, if you haven’t seen it, this show is dope) and the beginning of a new college ultimate season. It is a very interesting time, where (depending on where you go) hordes of freshman show up, with their curiosity piqued about what ultimate really is. The first time I showed up to a practice, I was in awe of the older students throwing the disc flawlessly from over 50 yards. I came to first practice with sneakers and glasses, eager to show that I could throw a forehand almost five yards. Thus began my career as an ultimate player. As always, there are so many things I wish I knew when starting up. Below are 15 simple rules that every callow ultimate player should follow.
1. Know your place
Trust me when I say, no older player will relish in getting advice from a whippersnapper. Treat the older players like they are dignitaries to the game, and in time, when you get to the know them; you’ll fit in much better. Act like you are better or cooler than anybody and you will be ostracized like a leper with a Nickelback shirt on.
2. Don’t give yourself a nickname/ don’t ask for a nickname:
This is a disaster waiting to happen if you say “call me”… It almost never works. Or if you want to feel cool and ask the captain for a nickname, it may be the most dire consequence you make. One time a freshman asked the captain for a nickname, and without pause the new kid’s name was Sh*t D*ck.
3. Don’t fight your nickname
If you hate your nickname, just smile and nod politely when it’s given to you. Some names stick, some don’t, but one way to make sure they stick is to openly say you hate the nickname. Often this will endear your teammates to the name, making them want to say it even more. If you are lucky, you will get a new nickname in time, or none at all.
4. Don’t try to out drink your teammates
Back at high school parties you may have been able to chug the most Arbor Mist or throw back 2-3 Mike’s Hard Lemonades, but trying to prove your worth against your more seasoned teammates is a good way to land in the hospital. Nobody will think you are cooler because you had four more beers than the next guy, especially if you are vomiting on their floors.
5. Ultimate is fun, school is more important
This is simple. Ultimate is a great time and can be very integral part of your life, but you are not at school to play ultimate. You will easily be able to find time for both, but remember that you are paying a lot of money to go to school. It may seem overwhelming at first, but you can get through it.
6. Ask questions now if you don’t get it
You will be going over a lot right away. Especially if you have never played competitive ultimate before, there are lot of essentials you will need to learn and if you don’t get it, just simply ask until you do. Don’t pretend you understand everything and then screw up royally on the field.
7. Throw, throw, and throw
Since this is such a foreign sport for most new players, the best you can do is throw with a friend/teammate as much as possible. Go from blading your flick to hucking 80 yard bombs in a matter of weeks. Work on just your backhand and forehand initially, then slowly work on the variances and other throws.
8. Respect the alumni
If you are going to a college with a somewhat established program, then you will know the alumni of the program are your most important fans. They provide a lot of financial and other kinds of support you need for your program to survive. They can also be a great tool outside of ultimate for a place to stay, joining a club team or even a line on a job. Don’t burn any bridges; you may need it them the future.
9. Get used to sleeping on floors
When you are going to your first tournaments, don’t expect to be heralded on high even if you are rather skillful with a disc. It’s best to remember that you are at the bottom of the totem pole, meaning you are sleeping in any open space you can find. Besides, a hard floor is better for your back.
10. Eat healthy now
The cafeteria is a wonderful place for a young adult. It is a veritable cornucopia of greasy food and high caloric drinks. Even though your metabolism still burns through calories like a furnace, eating healthy now will make all the difference. A little self control will go a long way to help you become an effective player on the field right away.
11. Don’t complain
Sometimes you will come into a program where there is an A team and a B team. Freshman always have a harder time making the A team, and if they do play for the A team, they will often see less playing time than they want. Don’t complain about your playing time or not making the A team. Figure out what you need to work on and do everything you can to make yourself better. Come back next year or even later in the season and become an effective player.
12. Buy cleats, but don’t break the bank
If you are a normal first year, it usually means you have either a menial minimum wage job or are completely unemployed. You still need cleats, but take it from me, don’t be as frugal as to buy a knock off pair from Wal-Mart. They are usually poorly made, and can cause blisters or other problems. Buy a name brand, but it is not necessary to dole out over $100 for ones with molded cleats. Check online and you will be just fine.
13. If you have a car, expect to drive
If you are one of the lucky ones to actually bring a car to college, you might as well get an oil change now. Teeming hordes of players need rides to tournaments and you will be expected to drive. Make sure your car is ready for a road trip. Just make sure to keep tabs on your gas so you don’t get stuck with the entire bill.
14. Play within your ability
I can still remember my very first point of my very first tournament. I caught the disc under, turned and bladed a forehand 20 yards out of bounds. I learned the lesson very quickly, try to do only what you are very certain of. Maybe hucking isn’t your forte yet. I believe it was Confucius who once said, “there’s nothing wrong with a dump/ swing.”
15. Be yourself
This is probably the most important piece of advice on here. You will learn that everybody has their own eccentricities and quarks that make them who they are. Don’t try to mask yourself, your teammates will see through it very quickly. Ultimate players are weird, but a lot of fun. Be who you are, and you will fit in just fine.
Obviously these are just preliminary rules, but ones I wish I knew when I first started playing for a college team. I would love to hear some more rules that every young player should follow. But for now, if you are a novice player just learning the ins and outs of the game, keep it simple and enjoy it while you can. If you stick with it, you may end up with some of your best friends now and beyond college.
One last piece of advice: don’t throw a virgin disc in the road. You will regret it forever.
(Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com)