What I Learned From Dating an Ultimate Player

by | January 20, 2016, 5:20am 19

You may know me, or someone like me.

I’m the “muggle” one of your ultimate friends is dating . The “civilian” girlfriend your teammate references as when he tells you he has to miss practice when we fly out to a friend’s wedding. You may have seen me around, on the sideline of a game, or met me at your team’s end-of-season banquet. You may have noticed me, you may have not. But this is my story.

Before I dated an ultimate player, I hardly knew how to throw a disc, much less anything about the sport itself. And although, throughout the first month of our relationship, my better half tried in earnest to teach me the intricacies of a forehand, there was one thing that became quickly clear: I came second to the disc.

You see, ultimate is more than just a game; ultimate players live and breathe ultimate: they go to ultimate parties, they spend copious amounts of time with teammates and opponents alike, they stream videos of ultimate from their desks at work, and they take vacations to exotic places… only to play more ultimate.

The first thing I noticed was the sheer time commitment. The amount of time spent on ultimate seemed excessive. My partner spent an average of 15 hours a week on the sport, which doesn’t sound like much, but — unlike other sports —  ultimate doesn’t have a season. During winter, there’s winter league. During the spring, there’s a professional league. During summer and fall comes “actual ultimate season.” And throughout the year are tournaments of every sort: some local, some national, some international. Near or far, rain or hail, sleet or snow, there wasn’t a condition that would prevent my disc-chasing partner from lacing up his cleats.

When he wasn’t playing a game, he was practicing. If he wasn’t at practice, he was attending a team meeting to discuss strategy. A common occurrence in the household played out something like this: He would come home from a long practice, only to then throw his cleats down and grab another pair.

“Where are you going? Isn’t practice over?”

“Practice is over, babe. Now I have a league game. Call you after. Bye!”

The sound of his voice faded away as he hurried out the door, leaving behind him the only remnants of his quick stop home: the trails of black rubber pellets that dropped from his cleats during his hasty exit.

Ultimate soon made its way into our bedroom. The sight of colorful piles of jerseys on our bed before every tournament became all too familiar. Just like baseball players may trade baseball cards; ultimate players trade jerseys. Evenings before a tournament, “jersey talk” ensued, which largely consisted of which jerseys would be most appealing during “trade night”. Now, the trading part I was fine with —  the real crime was the actual jerseys themselves. It was impossible to stare at one jersey for too long. I developed a theory that the choice of colors was strategic; the louder your color, the higher likelihood of you never being missed on the field (but with it, the higher likelihood of a migraine). Imagine every design faux pas combined and sublimated on a polyester shirt — that sums up an ultimate jersey.

Of course, with every questionable side, there is indeed a bright side. I found my partner’s commitment to the game endearing and his desire to keep the spirit of the game alive inspiring. On the field, ultimate’s culture of openness and respect pervades the game. As a bystander, I could taste the passion as I watched a game from the sidelines.  And by dating an ultimate player, I gained a respect for the ultimate community at large. As I met his teammates, opponents, and friends, I learned to appreciate that the community is full of open-minded people that are just as passionate and successful off the field as they are on it. To this day, I remain perplexed at the dedication he put into the sport, but I wouldn’t have changed our time together for the world (even if, after two years of dating, I never figured out what a bye was).

If you, dear reader, are thinking of (or are currently) dating an ultimate player, don’t make your partner choose either you or the disc. Ultimate is an inherent part of who they are, not something that can be turned on and off. Asking anyone to choose their romantic partner over their passion is a travesty; the two should never have to be mutually exclusive. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t be explicit about the time you need. Communicate often and directly!

Conversely, if you are the ultimate player your partner is attempting to date or understand, bring your partner into your ultimate life. Don’t ever make your partner feel he or she comes second. The disc doesn’t keep your bed warm at night. The disc doesn’t wipe away your tears. Prioritize your time together away from ultimate and be sure to share words of appreciation once in awhile —  how lucky you both are to have found one another. Chase discs —  and the stars —  together.

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  • Squirrelthief45

    Very well written article! Personally, I’m torn about where ultimate lies on my priority list, and where I lie on others’ lists who play ultimate. On the one hand, play as much as you can while you’re young before you can’t play anymore. On the other hand, don’t put off big opportunities in your life because of the love for a hobby. Ultimate is by far the hardest thing for me to prioritize and I’ve seen the struggle in others as well.

    • Daan Remmers

      ‘..before you can’t play anymore’? There’s no expiring date playing ultimate. This year it’s 30 years ago I started playing, and I’m playing ultimate still and my gues will be for more years to come. I’m 52 years old and enjoy playing and coaching and teaching ultimate everyday.

      • Old at 34

        Do you really not know anyone whose body no longer allows them to play ultimate? I’m 34, and a broken foot in my 20s led to arthritis that means the last time I tried to play pickup I couldn’t walk without pain for a month. It’s not a career/personal life/ultimate tradeoff, it’s just physically not possible for me to do the running and cutting anymore. My expiration date came at 33. Off the top of my head I can name 4 former teammates who had major knee injuries in their 20s, and who after multiple attempts at comebacks and resulting surgeries decided not to risk their ability to walk anymore. It’s fantastic that you’re able to play at 52, but don’t take your apparent physical luck for granted.

        • Daan Remmers

          Surely I feel sorry for you that you were forced to quit ultimate because of injuries. And I also do know people who suffered injuries caused by playing ultimate. I don’t take it for granted. And off course I don’t play elite tournaments or competition at my age. On the other hand I’m a bit disappointed in all those ultimate players who do retire voluntarily when they notice they can’t compete at the highest level no longer. They could do so many great things for ultimate by passing on their knowledge and experience to youngsters and kids or by managing teams or clubs. Nowadays I spent maybe 10% of my time dedicated on ultimate on actually training and playing matches for myself. The other 90% is spent on training others, giving clinics, workshops to kids, teaching teachers how to incorporate ultimate in sports class, helping organizing youth competition, etc. That gives me just as much satisfaction and joy as playing my self. My guess is that your still in love with ultimate (otherwise you wouldn’t be on this site and participate in discussion). Maybe you already are helping others players, kids becoming better players, but if not: give it a try. You might enjoy it (almost) just as much as playing yourself.

    • Jasper Sky

      “Play as much as you can while you’re young.” Good advice that I’m still taking. Mind you, like Daan, I’m 52. The reality is that there are trade-offs in life. You may not have as stellar a career if you devote much of your energy to Ulti instead.
      As for the “dating an Ultimate player” quandary, if s/he is a serious disc addict like so many of us, the best way forward for the civilian is to start playing her/himself. Why wouldn’t ya?

  • nick

    Someone didn’t get lucky after their boyfriend got back from Lei Out.

  • Brian Canniff

    Ultimate, Girlfriend, Family, Job, God – KD

  • Mark cuban

    If youre not gonna set time asode for someone who doesnt play, then you should date them.

  • Foxult

    This made me laugh out loud. Had this conversation a million times.

    “Where are you going? Isn’t practice over?”
    “Practice is over. Now I have a league game.”

  • Troy

    Clearly the message is don’t date mudbloods.

    • eeliesc

      I think you mean muggles.

  • ultimatekillzone45

    My girfriend just cheated on me while I was training, joining leagues left and right. It was happening right under my nose while I thought she was just understanding how I loved the game. She was the nicest thing that happened to me and if I could do it again I would’ve been more attentive to her. I still play ultimate but it just wouldn’t be the same.

    • Kellie Koester

      Oh for Christ’s sake. Your girlfriend didn’t cheat on you because you were playing ultimate. Your girlfriend cheated on you because she doesn’t have integrity. A no-integrity-girlfriend is the nicest thing that’s ever happened to you? I truly hope that that’s a lie. If you don’t have enough common interests then you don’t have enough common interests, and that’s ok.

    • LexDiscfrenzy

      Like what the article said don’t make her feel second, bring her to your training or games. Hobbies shouldn’t destroy relationships. I spend my Saturdays hanging out with my girlfriend then on Sundays she comes to my games. It’s a give and take relationship. I make sure she doesn’t feel that ultimate comes before her. I can’t imagine not having her cuddle me up at night.

    • KingoftheNorth

      If she cheated now she would have cheated then, doesn’t sound like she is the nicest thing that happened to you or she would have talked to you about it instead of cheating.

  • Kats

    How about to date a ultimate player? Me and my girlfriend we are both playing ultimate but we so understanding to each other and we have been dating a year and half now.

  • Match

    Excellent piece. Apart from reaching a number of milestones in ultimate, this was the primary reason why I gave up the game.

  • ultimatekillzone45

    My girfriend just cheated on me while I was training, joining leagues left and right. It was happening right under my nose while I thought she was just understanding how I loved the game. She was the nicest thing that happened to me up until I put more attention to ultimate than her. I would use up the weekend training and playing ultimate while leaving her behind. If Icould do it again I would’ve been more attentive to her. I still play ultimate but it just wouldn’t be the same.

    • Ifeel-ya

      I was the opposite, my girlfriend cheated on me while she was playing ultimate. I was working and like any healthy relationship, I was secure about us to even bother thinking that it would ever be a possibility. Looking back, I was naïve about the culture, apparently it’s really common for the community to sleep around. We’re still together, but it’s not the same (I doubt it’ll ever be). The best thing is communicate with each other, build trust and try to move on.