We are in a Golden Age for ultimate, in a lot of ways. We have not one, but two professional leagues. ESPN is airing College and Club Nationals with their broadcasts. We have two major ultimate media websites focused on tournaments and ultimate news around the world. We have apparel companies like Five opening up an office in Amsterdam while VC and Spin join forces in the US. Ultimate Peace and GUM work to spread ultimate around the world and here in the US. We have personal projects and organizations like RISE UP, Friction Gloves, Morrill Performance, Ren Fitness and New England Ultimate…
What, you’ve never heard of New England Ultimate? I can’t say I’m too surprised, even if you had, it’s been a while since the name has come up. In this world of prosperous and growing projects, there are just as many that fall by the wayside, and NEU is one of them. How do I know? New England Ultimate was my project.
In the fall of 2011, I was fresh out of college and missed playing at the tournaments that I had enjoyed over the previous 4 years. I still wanted a way to stay connected with the community, so I created a blog. New England Ultimate’s focus was only the New England region, because I knew that I couldn’t handle covering tournaments from all across the country. I mainly wrote about DI and DIII Open tournaments and teams, because it was what I knew and what I watched. The blog had an explosive start with viewership and started some worthwhile conversations in the comment section or on social media. I even got a few friends excited about helping me at the beginning; one helped with the logo and some stories and another helped posting on Facebook, but for the most part, it was purely a personal effort.
At first, I loved it. I would check Score Reporter first thing every Monday morning, ready to write recaps. I’d email or text friends who played tournaments to get their views and inside notes from different teams. I traveled up to Haverhill, MA to watch Slow White work out with Tim Morrill for an article and I attended and helped out at the Rhode Island Rampage tryouts and write some recaps for them, too. Our first year, we had Breakmark make some pinnies and shorts and become our sponsor. We organized pick-ups and donations for Ultimate Peace in New England. I even got asked to write a New England preview for Skyd that year. We would get linked by Skyd for their daily Dumps. It was great staying in contact with the ultimate community after college ended, and it was great to expand my network and get to meet and talk ultimate with new people every weekend.
The second year was different. Soon I began to dread Monday mornings, and I wanted some free time on weekends instead of traveling an hour to watch ultimate all day. I just got burnt out. At first, I didn’t know why. I went to school for English and Writing, and here I was, writing about ultimate on a daily basis and I didn’t enjoy it anymore. What was wrong with me? But then it hit me. This was all unpaid. I didn’t make a cent off of New England Ultimate, and while money doesn’t make the world go round, it means that you can dedicate your time to something without worrying about paying rent or buying groceries. Passion gets you a long way (at least a year by my calculations), but the second it became a chore, it became work, unpaid work at that. I had spent some of my own money for pinnies and shorts from Breakmark the first year, and Savage the second, but the best I did was make money back. Hell, I still have a bag full of pinnies and shorts tucked in my closet as I write this. Without a group of likeminded people helping out and working towards something bigger, it just became tedious and felt like school work.
I think about restarting NEU every now and then, and I really would love to start writing about ultimate more actively. But what makes me think about it now was the SkydFund 2015 and Liam Rosen’s recent reddit AMA. The truth of the matter is that it takes money to run a website, especially one so dedicated to ultimate around the world; Ultiworld is the same way. Websites like these are a labor of love, they are not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Liam, Elliot and Jonathan (as well as Charlie and Sean from Ultiworld) are not complaining about making less than minimum wage, they are trying to make it another year to work beneath that pay. They are doing what they love and what they enjoy writing and filming. We all benefit from that.
I am a firm believer in small businesses, and the only way to get these ultimate websites, projects and organizations to progress and move forward is with our help. Support what you love and help where you can. Seeing Skyd and Ultiworld flourish while my project floundered is much like seeing an old friend finding more success; I kinda wish it was me, but either way I’m happy for them, and hope the success lasts a long time.