This coming Wednesday is a big day for an often overlooked niche of the ultimate society, the small city beginners: the college, high-school, and sometimes younger (or older) collection of folks in a small market town and in their Frisbee infancy. The learning curve during this phase of a fresh disc player’s career is steep, but that all can be changed with a little help from the internet. Mick Stukes, creator of the YouTube series Play Better Ultimate remembers that initial struggle.
“After college, there was no formal education or practices I could attend,” Stukes recalls. “I had one disc, I went into my backyard, put a mop handle into the ground and threw at it. For hours. I was terrible. I loved the game of ultimate enough to stick with it…but I think it’s time to make it easier for kids to get involved in the sport.”
Stukes is doing just that. With only a high-speed camera and lots of volunteer time, Stukes created Play Better Ultimate just for the most basic skill sets needed. The series includes webisodes on forehands, backhands, marking, cutting, field vision for throwers, and more, all slowed down to super slo-mo speed. Certain frames of the slo-mo, such as hand position and movement while throwing, are actively highlighted, making for effective recognition of specific teaching points. There’s also a webisode on the illustrious hammer, something even a seasoned vet could enjoy.
Back in Charlotte, Stukes and his fellow Charlotte Ultimate board of directors are already seeing results. “We have made huge strides in growing the quality of ultimate in Charlotte,” says Stukes. “With [the board’s] commitment to the series, I hope we can help all small market cities develop consistent and competitive youth ultimate.”
Charlotte, Stukes notes, represents lots of cities in the US. Cities that lack a pipeline of players with limited club opportunities. The lack of sheer numbers cripple the chances of building a successful program in Stukes small market hometown of Charlotte before it can even really start. That’s why, he thinks, something like PBU is so important. The focus came later, when a couple guys with a similar idea released their first educational ultimate episode.
“I got thinking seriously about doing the series when RISE UP Ultimate came out,” recalls Stukes. “I was giddy with excitement when it came out. I think Mario and Ben are doing really great things.”
Stukes took to the internet and immediately showed his high school team the RISE UP videos. “I showed the first episode to my high school team,” said Stukes. “Some of the kids really got it and it helped them a lot with their game, but many of my students were not ready to think about ultimate on that level.”
The type of players Stukes felt need to be addressed were those who still needed instruction on the basics, throwing and catching. Being a high school math teacher and 4 year high school ultimate coach, Stukes naturally geared the series to that age group while still making it accessible to all ages. Sure, there were videos already on YouTube of people throwing flicks and backhands, and plenty of great grabs, but watching someone else throw in realtime on a computer screen may not accomplish as much for someone who’s never thrown. So Stukes took it one step further.
New webisodes will come out weekly beginning February 20th, and will run for 10 weeks. Score one for the little guys.