There’s an excitement in the air. It’s actually happening. Professional ultimate* is happening in the USA. I never could have imagined this happening back when I was a young developing player. I absolutely believed it was something that could happen, but I didn’t think America was ready. Most of all, I didn’t think ultimate was ready.
Flash-forward to 2010 when Skyd launched. Players still didn’t think of themselves as professionals or marketable commodities (in a good way à la Brodie Smith). They thought of themselves as players. They wanted respect from the outside world because they knew their sport was great. But they were waiting. They were waiting for that recognition. Waiting for someone outside of the sport to recognize how awesome we were and make us into mainstream sports heroes. We wondered why the outside world didn’t respect us, whereas today, it feels like the outside world may just be waking up and giving ultimate a chance to wow them. What changed? I think it was perspective. The perspective that if the ultimate community ever wanted to be more than it was, we needed to do it ourselves. Leaders like Skip Sewell of Cultimate and now MLU, Kevin Minderhout of NexGen, Rob Baril of UltiVillage and others realized this a long time ago and started developing concepts and platforms to make this happen. The mantra of “we’re all we need” pervading the philosophy of production. It was there all along. This great, addicting sport that a growing community already respected only needing the confidence to say, “we don’t need your respect.”
Granted, this “renaissance” in perspective led to entrepreneurs from the “outside”, like Josh Moore, coming in and rigging up the AUDL to prove the concept of ultimate on a professional stage. But it was first the leaders (and believers) among us, that drove the sport into a new framework.
Today, I’m a professional ultimate player. I play for the Seattle Rainmakers in Major League Ultimate and we’re taking on the Vancouver Nighthawks on Saturday April, 20th in a Seattle stadium setting. It, along with the AUDL (which begins their streaming service tomorrow) is the continuation of a more realized perspective shift. Sure, like any new development it has its problems, and with open discussion we will find solutions and continue to grow.
The lesson of pro ultimate is that we should all feel empowered. Ultimate is a great sport and the community that surrounds it is alive and building. If we continue to make ultimate what is for us and not for anyone else, you’ll be surprised at how often it ends up on ESPN’s Top 10. But to that point, perhaps Top 10s from Skyd, NexGen and Ultiworld are just as important.
As a design nerd, I really enjoyed this Sludge Output series on pro logos.
In the spirit of promoting our community, and my community, the Franklin HS girls ultimate team is trying to raise $5,000 to get to Amherst invite in Massachusetts on May 4-5. They only have a couple of weeks left to raise about $1,300.
What better way to get pumped for a weekend of pro ultimate than to look at some pro highlights from the top college team in the country, Minnesota’s Grey Duck. I love that this highlight reel is made up of professional looking clips from NexGen and even more so, I love the plays:
*Professional ultimate the platform