Ultimate Goes to the Movies

You might think it would be enough to write a whole book about your own Ultimate career. (It’s enough! It’s enough! I hear old friends and enemies yelling.) But, as the great Samuel Johnson liked to remind us, the “hunger of the imagination” is insatiable in human beings. So now I’m at it again and this time I’ve gone and written a whole fucking movie.  

Some people who read my memoir, Ultimate Glory, regarded it as fiction and got a little bent out of shape by my stories/lies. All I can say to those same people is: hold onto your popcorn. When you get to start waving around the disclaimer “Based on a True Story” things can get really interesting. It’s always irked me that I never won Nationals but now, come to think of it, maybe I did. Truth, as they say, is malleable. 

The first hint that this new project might not entirely hew to the factual is that it begins in the future. You’ll be happy to know that our sport finally made the Olympics and that a mixed team of men and women is playing in the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium in the year 2028. As it turns out my daughter Hadley is in that game and has the disc with time running out and the score tied against the Japanese national team. This despite the fact that Hadley actually regards Ultimate with the same kind of amused scorn that my father once did. (When I recently tried to show off by making her watch a video of me playing Goaltimate, she rolled her eyes. “That’s the only sport I’ve ever seen that’s actually dorkier than Ultimate,” she said.)    

No matter. Hadley is not Hadley in the movie but a conflation of the daughters of various friends (Dennis McCarthy, Bob Pease, Ian Hue) who actually play and seem to kind of like the sport. And as she holds the disc, and the fate of her country, in her hand she must decide whether to do what is smart and wise (dump) or wild and foolish (huck for the win.)  This decision is somewhat complicated by the fact that she has me as a father. CUT TO:


GESSNER is reading to the 8 year old HADLEY from a book, a classic scene of father and daughter at bedtime. Except that the book is Jack London’s Tales of Adventure


I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should

burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by rot! I would rather

be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy

and permanent planet. The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist.

I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.

Gessner closes the book and turns to his daughter.


That’s nice, Dad.


It’s not nice Hadley. It’s great.


That’s great, Dad.


And what do the words mean?

Hadley smiles. She knows the answer to this one.


Throw deep.


The stadium is full and the crowd is roaring. There are only twenty seconds left and Hadley still has the disc. A receiver is open deep. Kind of.


Let it rip, Hadley!

There is no way his daughter can hear her father in that raucous stadium. But it’s as if she does. Her eyes light up with the same strange wildness as her father’s. She pulls back and lets the Frisbee rip with all her might. The Frisbee flies toward the endzone.   


That’s it…

Every eye in the stadium follows the disc. It hovers high above the endzone for what seems like minutes as the clock ticks down to zero. The stadium holds its breath. We hear the first chords of the Clash song, “Death or Glory.”


And there it was.  As if I was living my own life all over

again. It was all on the line and Hadley had done it. She

had hucked her life deep and now she would see if someone

would catch it. 

Close up of the disc hovering above the players as they run below it.


The result would be up to fate. It would be death or glory…

The guitars of the Clash are churning now. The disc hovers. The whole stadium waits for it to descend. The camera lifts upward above the disc, above the stadium to the clouds, then up to moon and stars. A meteor burns across the sky. It is, not incidentally, a superb meteor.



Though this hasn’t happened yet, and likely never will–unless they finally grant us Olympic status and Hadley undergoes a conversion on the level of Martin Luther’s–it seems a fun way to frame a movie that is really, in the end, about trying and failing. I’ve always been a sucker for the few sports movies (think Tin Cup) where the hero does not win in the end. T.S. Elliot said it better than I ever could: “For us there is only the trying.”

One of things I like about writing a film is that you can pilfer from other lives in a way you really can’t in memoir. Like a magpie constructing its nest out of the shiny and the stolen, you take what works and what looks good. Just from the brief scene I pasted above you can see I ripped off a whole team (DOG) and gave my daughter a line that Kenny Stabler actually said. 

Of course the entire project is a huck deep in many ways. The actor Dennis Leary, who like me hails from Worcester, MA, showed some early interest in the book as a movie but that dried up pretty fast. It may well be that my ultimate career will serve as a metaphor for my movie career, and that having fun along the way—and this thing sure was fun to write– is all I’ll have to show for it.

Or maybe not. Maybe someone will catch this particular huck. Who knows? Anything is possible.       

Now if only there were a movie producer with some connection to Ultimate…

To the Dads: A Fathers’ Day Tribute to Ultimate Dads

Let’s hear it for the dads of ultimate frisbee. We often talk about sideline moms, at least, as a Women’s Masters player, I do; but, we don’t as frequently dissect the balance of parenting and playing when it comes to our caregiving dads.

At a tournament this spring, I lifted my eyes from the on-field action to scope out the reality of sideline fathering. Everywhere I looked there were dads! Dads on every team. Dads for days. And, if there wasn’t a dad on the team itself, there was a dad in a lawn chair nearby cheering on his kids.

I spoke with a few fathers at #Sunflicker2019 and came up with some broad sweeping categories of dad care that illustrate the kind of awesomeness that dads bring.

These dads spoke about partner communication and balancing side-line parenting with on-field play time. Each had their own unique take on how to harmonize team and family time.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Please, include your own dad type from your team in the comments below. Pictures or it doesn’t count.

Seven Dads on the Line:

1. The Jeff: All for one and one for all.

This dad and son team work together to organize Sunflicker in beautiful Kelowna, BC. Jeff’s son helps refill the food and water at disc central. He gets so excited about the tournament that it’s hard to sleep the night before. “He’s pumped!” says Jeff who loves to share tournament life with his son. “It’s great to include him.” The Jeff type brings his kids with him and teaches hands-on responsibility. Yeah Jeff!

2. The Gord: Mr. Even-Stevens.

Gord speaks to me with two girls under 6 hanging off of his neck. His eldest daughter colours in the shade tent near-by. Gord has an easy smile and the girls play with and around him while Mom kicks-ass on-field. “We take turns” he confides. “When one parent is playing, the other is with the kids and vice versa. It just works!” High fives Gord.

3. The Andy: Equal Opportunity Awesome

Andy didn’t start playing ultimate until his first daughter was born. He and his wife brought a playpen to the field so that they could both play while their infant hung out safely on the side-line.  Andy remembers bringing his baby girl to his office while his wife was at work a few blocks away. They would meet every day to eat lunch and feed their daughter. Andy admits that having support was key. A nanny or incredible grand-parents can make it easier for both parents to have independence.

Now Andy loves supporting his daughters in their athletic pursuits. Everyone gets to be their own kind of awesome.

4. The Lee: Blue jobs and pink jobs

This dad does the heavy lifting. You can find him packing and re-packing bags into the trunk or tulle box. He will admit that the stroller is not for the children; it’s to help him load gear from field to field in between games. Even though this dad leans towards blue jobs, he’s not beyond cuddles and caring either. While he easily does the heavy lifting, he’s also provides sensitivity and softness. Full disclosure: this dad is the author’s husband-partner!

(And he is the #1 best dad EVER.)

5. The Dallas: Backseat Bae

It just worked out that Dallas got to have two solid years of on-field time while Yuumi built a couple of humans inside her body and recovered from that task. Now that the twins are three, Dallas feels happy to be with the kids while his wife shreds the defense with her sick forehand bombs. Their balance is more about each parent finding an outlet that suits their energy levels. Fortunately for Yuumi, Dallas still loves hanging out with all his friends sideline so that she can take the field without worrying about the twins. She drives the game forward while he takes a backseat with the babes. What a mighty fine dad.

6. The Chris: The Biggest Kid.

Chris is the type of dad with boundless energy to share. He plays with his kids always, but he’ll play with your kids too. He’s the one organizing a scrimmage of watermelon sock tag using water blasters on the sideline. He’s going to teach your kid a special high five that they will remember forever. If you’re lucky, he’ll break out his guitar and sing sideline singles while the kids dance and the moms warm up. Full disclosure: the child pictured is not Chris’ kid. Typical.

7. Who is the 7th dad on the line?

Tag a dad that you know who does a great job with the balance of: parenting, partnering, working, and playing. The struggle is real for parents all over the world. Dads are out there supporting their families and teams at every tournament. This Father’s Day, give a dad in your ultimate life a shout out. Let them know that you admire the way they play and parent. Let’s hear it for the dads!

Ultimate the First Five Decades (VOL II) in Review

They didn’t know Nord, they didn’t know Fortunat, and they now claim to not know Beau. But now they have no excuses. 

Ultimate the First Five Decades (VOL II) not only captures the numbers, the titles, the feats, but the spirits and the movements that have shaped ultimate since 2005. Whether it be the explosion of ultimate media, the battle for a more equitable community, or the merits of referee versus observers, this book puts a spotlight on the individuals and events which impacted our movement that started in 1970.

Even now, much of ultimate’s history is passed down at the end of a long tournament weekend. Either by the elder statesmen of the media crew that will tell you about the best catch they ever saw, or the college alumni who remembers a time without lefty backhands. You can still trap yourself in debates whether Jeff Cruinkshank was a better thrower than Jimmy Mickle, or how long it would take a time-traveling NYNY in their peak to adjust their game and compete at the top again.

Media since 2005 has exploded. Callahan videos are published by the smallest of DIII schools. Lower level tournaments, pre-season club tournaments have warranted media and streaming coverage. Much of what happened on the field is documented better than ever and freely available on youtube. The first edition of Ultimate the First Five Decades seems like an absolute necessity, like stone tablets, or the Rosetta stone, just to have a source that isn’t RSD to tell us how. Is VOL II just an excuse to see pretty pictures and relive the past 13 years?

No, and well yes. Maybe you’re not a film junky like me, maybe you haven’t attended major events, but on the other hand, you’re reading Skyd so chances are you are in the know. Even for me, Vol II is an essential text that helps me relive the days I ended up covering.

Despite the media coverage that exists today, a lot of the movements that shaped ultimate aren’t well documented. There isn’t anything cohesive out there that can take you from point A, Cu1timate’s strife with USAU to the formation of the pro-leagues to the gender equity boycotts ongoing today. Volume II is your guide through the sea of podcasts, standalone articles, and adds in first-person accounts of what happened and why. As like other avenues of human progress, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Their contributions from 2005 follow through the decade-plus to give us what we have right now.

This book, however, is not exhaustive. Big international moments are captured some years, but not others, instead choosing to highlight the growth of international communities. Canada’s Darren Wu’s sky grab over team USA in Lecco was one of the few big moments missed. The Club, College, and even DIII College is documented about the happenings from year to year but not the Japanese Women’s win in 2015 at U24’s, or the strength of the Philippines in beach ultimate. 

This is an excusable omission because despite missing some big named events, it is more about our journey as a sport, not the summation of facts and figures. You can go back and watch streams of the big international events, but you can’t find the perspectives of those who were there without some digging. The writing captures the values and missions of those working to grow the sport, and for some looking to grow it the “right” way.

For the events I personally attended, the book is a worthy addition to my own first-hand experiences. The high-resolution photos take you back to those moments, jostling older memories free from the cobwebs. From there you are free to wander back to all of the other events that remind you why you love the sport. The pictures are a warm embrace of the journey we are all on.

Vol. II takes me back to my first flick, to watching Beau jump over a guy, to all the wonderful complexities of side stack. I don’t know what it will mean for you, but I know it will mean something. So what are you waiting for!

Available at: https://www.ultimatehistorybook.com


Banda: Finally, There’s a Chat App for Ultimate Teams

The thing that almost tore PoNY apart this year wasn’t a bad teammate, a fiery practice, a poor coaching decision or nearly going winless at Colorado Cup. It was deciding which chat app to communicate on.

There were some major players I could happily blame for the Slack vs. GroupMe war that ravaged our team, myself included, but there’s no reason to dredge up an old fight (you should know, though, that Jimmy Mickle was #TeamGroupMe — and Jimmy is never wrong).

Arguments about which app to use ranged from the sensical (“We can create various channels on Slack”) to the absurd (“Revolver uses Slack and they win a lot”) and sometimes included weighty, meaningful points (“GroupMe has polls, which are the single greatest device on any group messaging chat app ever”). Our debate over which app to use lasted for an insufferable three months of the summer, many of which included team communications being divided across various GroupMe groups and Slack channels. One minute Bryan Jones is posting film study with YouTube timestamps in Slack, the next minute BVH is changing what field we are practicing on in a GroupMe message group nobody is looking at before practice. It was, in a word, hell.

So when my good friend David Vatz pitched me on writing about a chat app he and some colleagues had built specifically for ultimate last week, I was intrigued. Vatz is a business-minded guy who has been playing and coaching ultimate his entire life at various levels in different divisions.

The app, still in its beta-phase, is essentially an intersection of Facebook Events and GroupMe. It’s called Banda Chat (points for a good name) and has a simple, familiar layout. The chat part of the app looks and functions like GroupMe and the more individual, event-focused part of the app looks almost identical to Facebook events.

Vatz is no stranger to the intersection of technology and ultimate. He’s also the CFO of Ultimate Central, a Squarespace-like custom website platform designed specifically for running ultimate leagues, camps, and tournaments. Also on board are Ultimate Central developers Christian Jennewein, formerly of the German national team, and Vincenzo Vitiello, who plays for San Francisco Blackbird. Together, the three envisioned and built the app. The link to UC also offers some synergy: users of both platforms will find they can now automatically create Banda groups for their Ultimate Central teams through their profile page.

Because Vatz is a friend, and I think the app addresses a real need in the ultimate community, I agreed to review it under two conditions: 1) I was going to be honest about places where I thought the app was weak. 2) Vatz promised me that one day soon polls would be a function on Banda Chat (he was already planning to have them, but now with more urgency). I’ve always been a fan of hearing the bad news first, so let’s start with some of the app’s weaknesses.

For one, it functions a bit slower than GroupMe or Facebook Events does. This is not an insignificant problem, but — Vatz assured me — it’s the number one priority of the development team. In fact, in the time since I downloaded the app (last Wednesday) to writing this story (Monday morning) its speed improved noticeably, and it sounds like another update to improve the speed is being launched before this article is supposed to run. And, as most developers seem to acknowledge, functional speed is typically an issue on new apps in beta phase. Because Banda also encourages more channels, groups or events like Slack does, you can also slow the app in its current form down by having lots of chats in a group.

Another shortcoming is the simple fact that the app is new, so some key features (like polls, which absolutely have to be on any group chat app) haven’t been added yet. The coming attractions include “event polls” so you can vote on where to go for a post-tournament dinner, updates to chat functionality and new ways to share photos in the events part of the app (you can already share photos in chat).

Finally, the greatest hurdle the app has is all of our laziness: the unavoidable nuisance of downloading a new app, getting familiar with it, typing in your email address and creating a profile.

The upsides, though, are worth writing home about.

Generally speaking, the app has the most important strength an app can have: it’s intuitive. It looks familiar, it feels familiar, and it’s not hard at all to work around. Perhaps the biggest thing for ultimate teams is that you can simply create events for individual practices, workouts and tournaments that allow event-specific communication without bothering people who won’t be there. It’s like Slack, except there aren’t any of those lame hashtag channels.

The most important and game-changing feature of the event-specific chats is that if a detail of the event is changed, like a time, location, or if the event is cancelled, a push notification is automatically sent out to everyone in that event. For team organizers, this lifts a huge burden that I’ve experienced as a captain where you have to announce a change is happening via email, Facebook, GroupMe, Slack, text message, phone call, carrier pigeon or an Ultiworld homepage news splash and then four people still don’t get the memo and one idiot shows up without his cleats anyway.

You can also send direct messages on Banda Chat easily and create smaller, multi-person chats within your team. This, like GroupMe, is especially nice for buddy groups, leadership chats, car groups, and dividing strategic communication across lines and positions.

Since Vatz is an ultimate player, the app is being built by and for ultimate teams and updates will undoubtedly address the needs of the ultimate community. Banda Chat is already being used by some of the teams he plays for or is connected to: Temper, Thunderbirds, Rest Stop and a few Pittsburgh high school teams.  But it’d be awesome if more of us downloaded the app, gave it a shot with our teams, complained directly to Vatz and showed some support for an ultimate player who is creating something specifically for us.

Personally, I’m looking forward to pitching Banda Chat to PoNY and starting a new World War to get us ready for 2019.

Download Banda Chat at http://www.banda.chat (available for iOS and Android)

Gender Equity and SotG: A Report from Mexico

Our story begins in the 2017 Panamerican Ultimate Club Championships (PAUCC) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where our Mexico City club Cóndor Ultimate, competed in its first international tournament. At the tournament, my teammate Dani and I attended a particularly eye-opening conference about gender equity in mixed ultimate. At this conference, we realized the Mexican scene seemed so far behind compared to the international representations we witnessed at PAUCC. This stirred a feeling of urgency in us and made us more determined to work seriously on the issue, which led to a profound exploration of Spirit of the Game and a vanguard endeavour for gender equity in Mexican Ultimate.

Dani and I had the opportunity to get to know each other better as we wandered the picturesque streets of Buenos Aires and debriefed on the frustrating experience we had competing at PAUCC with our mixed team. Questions like “What did you think of the tournament? What would you like to change within our team? How would you compare mixed to men’s and women’s divisions? Where do you think the Mexican ultimate scene is going?” These became natural conversation starters throughout the remainder of the trip. We realized we saw eye to eye on many of these topics. The confluence of ideas, as well as the fervor of our frustrations, was too deep to remain as mere bystanders.

Shortly after we got back home to Mexico, Dani proposed that she and I become Spirit captains for the upcoming mixed season with the explicit objective of addressing gender issues and striving for equity from that position. We were beginning to play with the idea that SotG could be leveraged as a tool for social transformation and we felt it worthy to apply it to the gender narratives we had lived in ultimate, so I was very glad to accept Dani’s proposal.

Deeply inspired by the global movement being lead by the likes of GUM and EMU, we started holding conversations with Cóndor about equity in the mixed division. During these sessions we addressed questions like, “What is gender? What is equity? What does gender equity look like in ultimate? What actions can we take to work towards equity in our own team?”

One of the primary insights we reached in these team conversations is one that Dani and I had already chatted about: Gender oppression (namely, the patriarchy) is not unique or intrinsic to Cóndor’s culture. Rather, we are merely a subset within a broader social environment that already has established culture, norms, and practices. Machismo runs deep in our ultimate scene because it runs deep in our society and vice versa.

Sports in Mexico are not only male-dominated in general, they are a breeding ground for toxic masculinity narratives. While some communities in other parts of the Ultimate World were already leading inspiring ventures of empowerment, our team was still using phrases like “don’t throw like a girl” or “grow some balls” in time-out team huddles at tournaments. Building a healthy and successful mixed team in this noxious cultural context can be incredibly challenging. Several toxic macho behaviors become more highlighted, normalized, and even excused by the pressure of competition, making ultimate a space where the dynamics of oppression not only get played out, but actually get further perpetuated. These mutually reinforcing patterns create a system of self-replicating harm — a vicious cycle that can seem impossible to break out of.

If Dani and I wanted to see a structural change in our environment, we needed to take it further than just talking inside our team and had to start working with the Mexican ultimate scene at large. So the next natural step was taking the conversation to tournaments for the Mexican ultimate community to address its gender issues.

At the time it occurred to us that to start conversations at tournaments we could add gender equity as a sixth pillar to be evaluated in the Spirit scoring sheets, since it is common practice to discuss scores in Spirit circles here in Mexico. We thought that evaluating the other team’s gender dynamics would detonate an exercise of observation, reflection, dialogue and perhaps eventually action on the matter. This experiment was the main idea we invested our time and effort in for the entirety of the mixed season, and we persisted developing and refining the proposal throughout the following months.

For the first tournament of the year, we included in the tournament’s manual a set of examples for every grade (0-4) in the gender equity pillar following WFDF’s format for the 5 original pillars. We also wrote and printed out a complementary text to introduce the experiment, including a brief definition of gender equity. It offered a general overview of the proposal and its objectives, encouraging players to take it seriously while also stressing the experimental nature of it and openly inviting feedback. We tried to go over these materials to clear doubts in a poorly attended Spirit Captains meeting at the start of the tournament. Those who received the add-on to the scoring sheet later were pretty confused about its origin and purpose. Some would easily trivialize it saying “it’s too complex to score.” We made it far too easy for people to dismiss it.

We tried to step up our game for the second tournament of the year, this one to be held out of state. We tried to emphasize the grassroots nature of the experiment and invited players to actively participate in the creation of this proposal appealing to the fact that it focuses on an issue that concerns our community as a whole. We shared all the materials with event participants and published on social media. We also scheduled a time slot during the tournament to hold a feedback conversation and improve the proposal. At first, only one person sitting nearby participated. After talking in circles for a little while, we encouraged a young team to join. As more and more players from other teams joined, participant interventions grew in variety and intensity until it became a challenge to keep the group focused on the experience with the scoring sheet. Despite Dani and my efforts that afternoon and later on social media, the apparent glimmer of interest evaporated shortly after everyone rode their bus back home. It was hard to ensure a follow-up to these tiny bursts of interest.

The National Championships came around and we wanted to end the season delivering a more polished, finalized product. With the help of Flor Aldatz, who is a member of WFDF’s Women in Sports Commission and a player in Argentina’s Actitud Pizza, Dani became inspired to divide the Gender Equity pillar into 4 categories that were more clearly defined: Players could no longer appeal to vagueness as a cop-out. Ultimate México (the governing body for the sport in the country) kindly granted financial support to have printed and laminated copies of all the materials for each competing team. We tried to be extra diligent about starting the conversation on social media in advance, checking in with the involved volunteers throughout the tournament, and seriously focusing on the topic during Spirit circles.

During certain Spirit circles, we had to remind the other team about the gender equity score, and we still had trouble ensuring all teams received handouts promptly throughout the tournament. At the end of the day, the community did not seem to take ownership of the proposal — the materials, the idea, or even the gender problem in itself. After genuine attempts to make the proposal clear, open, and accessible, it was largely met with indifference. This was also made explicit to us in the lowly responded evaluation survey we sent out afterwards.

It was a disappointment that the experiment didn’t lead to more concrete action on the matter. It did not end machismo in ultimate, sports, or anywhere else. After failing to transform Mexican ultimate, we were ready to drop the dream of “the 6th pillar” and stop insisting with the rubric.


Despite our disappointment, I do see some value in the possibility that the experiment catalyzed some important dialogues and deep reflections. We started many conversations that wouldn’t have taken place otherwise. Some conversations even lead to discomfort among players and teams, with several people trying to skip the rubric and evade the topic. I think this is an indicator of how urgent it is for us to address this collective problem. I hope some of that tension has been harvested and transformed, if not into action, then at least into some type of awareness by the Mexican ultimate community. After all, Spirit of the Game has been defined as, “mindful behavior by players before, during, and after a game of ultimate.”

Another silver lining that I like to highlight from this experience, is that it got me and Dani to reflect on Spirit and gender more thoroughly and constantly. I am certain that the experiment greatly shaped how I see gender, ultimate and Spirit of the Game. The experience with the rubric proposal triggered a series of profound revelations that have been snowballing in my head ever since. I’ve come to see Spirit of the Game as a praxis: a guiding philosophy and a set of actions or practices. Many of the tools of SotG (e.g. scoring, circles, captains, timeouts, etc.) seem to carry an implicit dialectic of action-reflection-action. We play, we talk about it, we play, and so on. These iterative feedback cycles serve to make us aware of what we need to improve on in a peer-to-peer fashion. When done well, these constant evaluations orient us to work on our challenges and deficiencies. These continuous feedback processes act as a self-regulation mechanism to keep our behavior in check and change it if necessary.

Additionally, I’ve come to realize that Spirit is an intrinsically social phenomenon. We apishly mirror our opponents’ kindness with more kindness. When we see another team do the right thing, we become inspired to cultivate that to flourish as well. Spirit seems to spread like spores with these feedback loops. Perhaps we can use these self-replicating cycles to out-power the toxic patterns of machismo we see in sports, media and culture in general. I believe that if Spirit were embodied in more spaces of our daily lives, we would have powerful tools to counter these vicious cycles with our very own virtuous ones.

The broad yet powerful definition of Spirit of the Game as “mindful behavior” and the fact that it is so wildly contagious makes me think of it as some type of collective consciousness —  an emergent phenomenon that is as abstract as it is relatable, as simple as it is powerful. I like to think of social movements as emergent phenomena of that type as well: a collective paradigm shift with no one person instructing others, rather many individuals acting in a decentralized yet coordinated form to make a necessary change in their environment. These phenomena often grow and spiral beyond their original scope, causing a ripple effect that transforms their surrounding. I hope that the correlation I see is not merely coincidental and that it inspires many of us to keep working hard for profound systemic transformation.


We didn’t catalyze a radical revolution in Mexican ultimate with the “6th pillar” of Spirit of the Game, but the exploration of Gender Equity through SotG and Ultimate was far from finished. After nationals, we figured WUCC 2018 would be a great place to showcase our experiment. We were pleasantly surprised with how many people at the tournament were interested in hearing our story and wanted to see the materials we had created for the proposal.

We were honored to be featured among the finalists for the Ultimate Peace Global Spirit of the Game award due to our efforts for equity in the Mexican mixed division. Hearing other people’s stories and experiences on how they incorporate ultimate and Spirit into their daily lives and work for social justice was deeply inspiring. This reaffirmed our desire to stick with the idea of SotG as a powerful and necessary tool for social transformation, particularly focused on gender.

While we did not win the prestigious award, we did become ambassadors for Ultimate Peace. We want to honor this title by continuing our work towards equity in mixed ultimate, no longer just through scoring, rather developing a new project that is more structured. We want to grow our core team and hold spirit clinics, workshops, and other activities around gender in sports and ultimate specifically. We would especially love to work with young people, since a new generation of players is rising in Mexico, and we believe youth to be the motor for change in any community. We will make sure to pass on the discs that were kindly gifted to us by Ultimate Peace with the hopes of spreading them as spores of change.

At the end of the day, our experiment didn’t cause the massive ripple effect we dreamt of, but it helped plant a seed in our minds and in our ultimate community. A new way of understanding Spirit and an exciting new ultimate project are brewing in Mexico City.

Programming Plyometrics: Part 1

Part 1: A Primer

Plyometrics might be the most misunderstood and misused exercise concept in the health and fitness industry. Much of the information is ineffective at best, and unsafe at worst. Trainers like Ren Caldwell and Melissa Witmer continue to create some good resources for adding plyometric exercises into your own workouts, but we’re still missing the What, Why, and How to enable you to program plyometric workouts for your team.

Our plyos discussion is split into two parts. The first will be explaining what plyometrics are (and aren’t), and why to use them. The second will be how to apply them in your workouts. This is nothing new, nothing groundbreaking. It’s simply a collection of the available research in a slightly more condensed and convenient package. If you already have a good grasp of the physiology, then skip ahead to the next article.

What they are

In short, plyometrics are the utilization of the springy parts of your kinetic chain in order to create more force more quickly than simply contracting your muscles voluntarily. For example: if you are already in a half squat position before jumping, you’re simply contracting your muscles to put force in the ground and propel yourself upward. If you lower yourself quickly to that position and allow gravity to stretch your muscles and tendons, then capture that stretch to jump back up, you’re performing a counter-movement jump, which is a basic plyometric movement.

There are two actions occurring in your body to comprise that springy response. Both of them combine to form the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). The first is the natural elasticity in your muscles and the tendons connecting those muscles to your bones. Just like a rubber band, a stretched muscle will store energy to contract on itself as it tries to regain its shape. Unlike a rubber band, this energy is dissipated rapidly and will not spring back if it’s held for more than a few fractions of a second. Let’s use the gastrocnemius as an example. As you bend your ankle during a crouch, that large muscle in your calf will be stretched and briefly store energy. As you rise to jump, the muscle will “snap back”, or contract more rapidly than if it were not stretched initially.

The other part of our SSC is how we use proprioceptors in our muscles, specifically our muscle spindles. The muscle spindle is slightly more complicated, and we need to understand how our muscles work to understand how the muscle spindle affects them. Whenever we contract a muscle, we send a signal to our muscle, and it will activate the minimum amount of motor units required to do the job. As we add weight and contract more quickly, our muscles learn to default to using more motor units, which results in a more powerful contraction. When a muscle is suddenly stretched (as it would be during the eccentric or lowering portion of a jump), the muscle spindle inside of it sends a message to the spine. The spine returns a message to the muscle that activates even more motor units. This action is called the myotatic reflex. Essentially, the shock that the muscles receives from a sudden stretch activates a greater amount of motor units than from a static position.

The elasticity in our tendons and the myotatic reflex work in tandem to create a more powerful response than we could get from a static position. Compare the freeze squat jump and the countermovement jump. When you multiply the effects of the SSC on all of the muscles involved in a jump, they can send you over 10% higher than a paused jump.

The freeze and paused squat jumps eliminate the contribution of the SSC

What they aren’t

“Plyometrics” is not a catch-all term for that warm-up you do in the end zone before your practices and games. Some of the exercises may have plyometric components (like skips or bounds), but most don’t. A better term would be “dynamic warm-up”. Of course, it’s just a semantic issue, but being precise with our language helps us understand what we’re doing and communicate with others.

Plyometrics are not for conditioning or endurance. They are high-intensity, full effort exercises. Since we’re trying to recruit as much of our muscle as possible, we need to be rested between each repetition. If we are trying to train our body to recruit a maximum amount of motor units, but we’ve exhausted those units, we are training energy conservation instead of power. Working at 80% of your max will not do much to increase what you can do at 100%. Additionally, plyometrics put a lot of stress on your joints, and if your stabilizing muscles are too tired to align your joints, you put yourself at risk of injury. Plyometrics should never be used as a conditioning exercise.

Plyometrics are not a silver bullet for athletic performance. They’re only one ingredient in the athletic cake. If you are weak in this area you might have a lot of room to improve quickly. If you’re already naturally gifted, you may see better results from a strength training program.

Why we train them

The big question behind every exercise is “how does this transfer to my sport?” Nearly all sport movements, especially those in ultimate, are dynamic. When we run and jump, every step absorbs force and exerts it back into the ground to propel us forward. This typically happens between 0.2-0.5 seconds. Compare that to a weighted squat. Even if you load only 30% of the maximum weight you can lift (generally agreed upon as the ideal load for training power), an elite athlete won’t lift it much faster than 0.7s. The direct transfer from squatting to running is limited[footnote number=1]“Direct transfer” is the key phrase. There is much to be gained from strength training, but that’s for another topic.[/footnote] Plyometrics, however, operate at a similar speed to what we see in sports.

Plyometrics are a complicated subject, and there’s likely something I got wrong or need to clarify. Include any questions in the comments, and I’ll try to respond. In Part 2 I’ll talk about how to use plyometrics in a safe and efficient way with your team.

2018 USAU Year in Review

I didn’t set out to do this article. My intent was merely to add more games to my scoring database in support of the several articles I currently have in work. Once I went on out to the USA Ultimate website, explored a bit and saw all the age-restricted sanctioned divisions that held a National Championship Tournament I got this idea. Hmmm, at the end of the year, I wonder how they compare to each other. As usual, I have restricted myself to National Tournaments as to not get caught up with regional differences, so this was perfect for a quickie analysis.

I found:

  • YCC – U17 boys, girls
  • YCC – U20 boys, girls & mixed
  • College D-III men & women
  • College D-I men & women
  • TCT men, women & mixed
  • TCT Masters men, women & mixed
  • TCT G Masters men & women
  • TCT GG Masters men & women

Standards for comparison

USAU has done much in the past years to standardize some aspects of the game, thus making comparisons more meaningful with each passing year.  In this case, all games were to 15. The standardization is not quite complete yet. Standardization still breaks down somewhat in-game durations and in bracket formats.  A more formalized time between game starts and a more consistent bracket format across tournaments would give a more uniform number of games played. I do have to admit though; I’ve been impressed with the reduced number of double forfeits in the later stages of a tournament since the implementation of the TCT.

Comparison MoMs

Way back when I was a systems analyst, we had to come up with a Measure of Merit (MoM) for any system we were tasked to evaluate and then optimize.  I use the term MoM, but it isn’t the only one you’ll see, sometimes you’ll see the term Figure of Merit (FoM) used instead. The terms are interchangeable.  Selecting the right MoM for your analysis is important. If you’re designing a commercial airliner, you’ll use the MoM; Cost per Available Seat Mile (CASM). There’s Projected Return on Investment (ROI) for marketing.  If you’re buying a car, you’ll use miles per gallon (MPG) or Horsepower (HP) as your MoM. Any serious study of Ultimate’s performance will need to have well-defined evaluation criteria.

When analyzing Ultimate, I use several different MoMs depending on what I’m looking for.  For assessing the general quality of a game, I use the Aggregate Performance Index (API). The API is merely Total Points Scored in a game divided by the Total Points Available.

For instance, in a game to 15, ending with a 15 – 13 final score, the API would be:

API = (15 + 13) / 30 = 0.93 or 93%

In a game to 15, ending with an 8 – 5 final score, the API would be:

API = (8 + 5) / 30 = 0.43 or 43%

It should be obvious that the higher the API, the higher the quality of the game.

Another Important, yet much less popular MoM I use is the Spectator Viewing Index (SVI).  The SVI is the API times the Scoring Differential Index (SDI), giving a sense of if the game is both high scoring and closely contested.  After all, we all want to watch high scoring close games.

The SDI is calculated using the Winning Score and the Point Differential.

SDI = 1 – (Point Difference – 1) / Winning Score

The equation looks complicated, but it really isn’t.  I had to manipulate the equation just a bit to make 1.00 a good score and 0.00 a bad score (something called normalizing).

From the above examples:

In a game to 15, ending with a 15 – 13 final score, the SVI would be:

SVI = API * SDI = 0.93 * 0.93 = 0.87 or 87% (a pretty good game)

In a game to 15, ending with an 8 – 5 final score, the SVI would be:

SVI = API * SDI = 0.43 * 0.75 = 0.325 or 32.5% (perhaps not a very good spectator experience)

Why is the SVI important?  Well, the teams all want lower tournament fees and higher cash prizes.  That money has to come from somewhere. In the end, it will need to come from the marketing departments of the sponsors & advertisers.  The sponsors & advertisers want to get the highest possible return on their marketing investment and will insist on game matchups with the highest potential SVI.  Even now, tournament field assignments are being adjusted to showcase the best matchups available within the USAU’s self-imposed equity-sensitive game allocations.

SVI will not be used as a MoM in this article; I just wanted to introduce the concept as it will be an important part of future articles.

The 2018 USAU Games

Division Tournament Team Genders # Games
YCC  U-17 US Open Club Championships B & G 92
YCC  U-20 US Open Club Championships B, G & X 197
College D-III College Championships

D-I College Championships

M & W 192
TCT US Open Club Championships

National Championships

M, W & X 285
Masters National Masters Championships M, W & X 118
Grand Masters National Masters Championships M & W 70
Great Grand Masters National Masters Championships M & W 42


Finally, the data


No statistical analysis was undertaken. As expected, the quality of Ultimate improves with the skills and the maturity of the players, climaxing with the TCT Division. Division API scores are strongly influenced by team gender inclusion (explained in a future article). Grand Master APIs are uncharacteristically low because of a number of completely unprepared teams participating in the National Championships.

Split Indexes

Whenever I show someone the API chart they always seem to question whether it is meaningful since after all, it averages the winning and losing scores.  I have to remind them the API does not show the quality of a single team’s game. It is more of an indication of the quality of the game. After all, if on the average both teams are improving, doesn’t that mean the sport is improving?  But I did calculate the individual numbers in question. I do have both the Winning Performance Index (WPI) & the Losing Performance Index (LPI) numbers. But enough bellyaching here’s the chart.


The WPI & LPI follow the same trend as the API. The gap between winning and losing teams reduces up through the TCT. After the TCT Division, the gap opens back up and seems to hold constant (at least it did in 2018). As of this article, I have 8,979 games in the database.


None really, just a fun little look at the data.

A New Era for Early Recognition Is Critical (E.R.I.C.)

It is with both sentiment and great enthusiasm that we announce the nonprofit organization, Early Recognition Is Critical (E.R.I.C.) will be formally transitioning ownership of the organization to John (Jolas) Larracas.  Jolas is a true ambassador for E.R.I.C.’s work, with a passion that stems from both his personal experience with cancer and his desire to leverage professional skills to do more in the fight against cancer. We want to take a moment to share a little of E.R.I.C.’s history and Jolas’ vision moving forward and hope you feel inspired by what’s to come.

Founder Jim, new leader Jolas, and ambassador Beau.

E.R.I.C.’s Origin

E.R.I.C. was co-founded in 2012 by two friends, Jim Gerencser and Cassandra Palo, after cancer affected their lives simultaneously when Jim’s son, Eric and Cassandra’s mother, Mary Lea, were both diagnosed with cancer. Eric was first diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was eight years old.  He was an athletic child, who loved playing hockey but began struggling with his balance a lot, then experienced headaches and then vomiting followed suit. After endless visits to the doctor and symptoms worsening, the diagnosis was a brain tumor.  Surgery removed most of it and after a few weeks, Eric was up and running again. Two years later though, the tumor grew back, and a second surgery resulted in paralysis on Eric’s left side. With a new doctor, timely medical check-ups, physical therapy and a lot of research learning about cancer, Eric made great progress regaining 90% of his mobility and eventually got into the best shape of his life.  Looking back, Eric believed being so physically fit helped him fight his next re-occurring battle.

In April 2012, at 19 years of age, Eric was diagnosed with stage 2 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) Burkitt’s, a destructive cancer that mainly strikes young people.  The chemotherapy treatment was very aggressive and greatly challenged his then weakened immune system.  What followed was months of spinal taps, multiple blood transfusions, constant vomiting, loss of appetite and long terrifying weeks of hospital stays.  The struggle and emotional toil seemed unending for the entire family after nearly a decade of hardships and temporary triumphs.

Thankfully, Eric’s cancer was caught early enough each time and did not spread further, and by the end of 2012 Eric’s cancer officially went into remission.  Today Eric is in his 20s, healthy and active, and living his life on his terms. Around the same time, Cassandra’s mother, Mary Lea, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma only a few months prior, had died from pneumonia caused by the cancer.  Unfortunately, her cancer was not caught early enough for treatment to be effective and the cancer spread all over, including her lungs.

As so many unfortunately know, cancer is an emotionally, physically and spiritually difficult fight that no one should endure, let alone a child.  And the families of cancer patients experience every moment of the disease second hand, feeling helpless, frustrated and scared at their own inability to get to rid of the cancer.  For Jim and Cassandra, they drew on the support of family and friends, and especially the ultimate frisbee community.

What they soon discovered is that cancer stories stressing the importance of early cancer detection for survival are surprisingly rare.  Jim and Cassandra wanted to honor Mary Lea’s and Eric’s journey by offering a platform to give others hope and tools in fighting this disease.  Recognizing the value of education and being physically fit to help fight disease, they viewed the sport of ultimate as a perfect vehicle to share information about cancer prevention, engage in physical activity and teach youth positive communication skills to speak up if something felt wrong.

It’s a David vs. Goliath situation, taking on cancer.  We focused on what we knew for sure: catching it early is the way to win.  It’s a message that you can’t hear too often. It’s a message that can save lives.

– Cassandra Palo

E.R.I.C. was eventually founded then with the intention of providing a fun teaching tool targeting youth, for early cancer detection and in turn, cancer prevention, through playing ultimate frisbee and learning about Spirit of the Game.

Over the past five years since E.R.I.C. launched, it has far exceeded its goals!  During this time, the organization has worked tirelessly to develop and pilot curriculum, tools and approaches that creatively engage young people in the U.S. and internationally.

There are very few organizations I’ve worked with in my life, where I’ve felt the amount of hard work I put in was worth it and as important as teaching children.  It’s the type of idea that deserves to continue flourishing. –

 – Beau Kittredge, E.R.I.C. Ambassador and Coach.

To date E.R.I.C has worked with over ~200,000 youth and hundreds of volunteers and coaches in the U.S. and in its partner countries including Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, Finland, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Czech Republic, S. Africa, China and Australia. To boot, internationally, the energy has taken off across these countries to both maintain the message of E.R.I.C. and tailor campaigns relevant to their own communities.   E.R.I.C. has established working partnerships with local and regional-based organizations including disc associations, YMCAs, Girl Scouts of the USA, and many professional men’s ultimate teams, as well as the World Flying Disc Federation. E.R.I.C. has also received significant support through its relationships with various ultimate-related apparel companies including Boon Technical Clothing, Patagonia, 5Ultimate, DiscStore, VC Ultimate, and Savage.

We started E.R.I.C. to keep our minds busy during Eric’s treatment and to deal with the passing of Cassandra’s mom.  We didn’t have any expectations when we started except to help people recognize symptoms earlier.  I feel we did our job.

– Jim Gerencser

Looking Towards The Future

E.R.I.C.’s vision is evolving with an eye towards new opportunities and strategies that can help leverage the mission even further, which is why we’re so excited for Jolas and his plans for the organization moving forward.

It took me a couple years to be comfortable speaking casually about my cancer symptoms, and still hate it.  But the mission of Team E.R.I.C.  has always been powerful and I couldn’t be happier with the direction our organization is headed with Jolas at the helm.

– Eric Gerencser, Jim’s son, collaborator and inspiration for E.R.I.C.

E.R.I.C. has complete confidence in Jolas and his ability to drive the organization to the next stage.  His experience caring for his mom while she battled cancer, his demonstrated ability to create and mobilize relationships and friendships across the globe in the ultimate community and beyond, and his ardent passion for E.R.I.C.’s mission and message, together illustrate that he’s the right E.R.I.C. ambassador and champion for the organization moving forward.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Jim and the organization’s early supporters, volunteers and staff for all of their efforts and hard work since day one.  Behind the scenes this group has been working for years – developing, experimenting, networking, delivering Clinics with the goal of sharing its message with as many people as possible in hopes of helping others catch cancer early.  E.R.I.C. is more than just an organization – it’s a community for people from different walks of life – and we’re just getting started. I’m excited to carry the torch and continue what the early pioneers started. With the help of the community, I’m going to strive to make a big push for cancer education.  Education that will include diversity, inclusion and equity.

– Jolas Larracas, E.R.I.C.’s new leader

Transition Details

The transition will occur over the next couple of months and include rebranding the logo, updating the website, outlining additional pillars of focus, and engaging new and existing partners domestically and internationally all with the goal of creating a more organic, self-sustaining organization.  Look for future communications with details that outline the organization’s plan for 2019 and beyond.

E.R.I.C. is grateful for all the support, love and interest globally we have received over the years from coaches, volunteers, donors, ultimate organizations and sponsors, community members, families, and teachers.  Most of all thank you to the amazing youth that greeted us at each Speak Up Clinic with excitement, open-mindedness and took a pledge to share E.R.I.C.’s message with those they love, they are true Ambassadors and will continue to inspire us moving forward.

Here’s to the next chapter of the organization, E.R.I.C. 2.0!

With much gratitude,

– Team E.R.I.C.

“The E.R.I.C. Philippine Tour was more than just the all-star showcase games. The athletes flew to Manila for a deeper purpose. And that was to build relationships with kids who are battling cancer. The team went to Philippine General Hospital to spend time with pediatric cancer patients. Have you ever imagined being a kid and having the responsibility to fight a disease like cancer? These kids need us more than ever. Sometimes we have to do more than donations. Funds are vital to their journey to having their lives back to how it should be. But being able to have a relationship with them, listen to their dreams in life and support them drive their vehicle to success, that’s what E.R.I.C. is all about.”

– Jolas Larracas

For questions and comments, please contact jolaslarracas@gmail.com.

About Scooberlicious Ultimate

Scooberlicious Ultimate is a San Francisco Bay area-based sports podcast designed to highlight and celebrate the players, coaches, and thought leaders and the events that make the sport of Ultimate so cool! As a player, I’ve discussed and debated with coaches, teammates, and friends, on the many facets of the game and now I am looking for new people to continue these thoughtful, and engaging conversations on this dynamic and ever-evolving sport.

GUESTS: Disc Ballers • Tournament Directors • Executive Directors • Pro Owners • Coaches • Captains • Referees • Observers • Champions • Educators • Organizers • Callahan Winners • Soon to be Callahan Winners • Visionaries • Legends • Parents • Inventors • the newly initiated ••• TOPICS: Spirit of the Game • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) • Gender Equity • Social Equity • Mixed Gender Ultimate • Health • Performance • Youth Ultimate • Demographics • Analytics • Technology • Fashion • Lifestyle • Travel • Equipment

Spirit of the Game

The young sport of Ultimate Frisbee is growing, expanding and evolving beyond the bounds of simply throwing a piece of plastic. The closer one looks at this simple sport the more compelling it is. Spirit of the Game (SOG), the unique tenet of Ultimate Frisbee has become a sail propelling the sport forward into unique waters beyond the playing field – it is the catalyst for many conversations about the sport’s identity, the educational benefits of (SEL), and its power to lessen ills and bring people together from different communities locally and around the world, and all the while, Spirit of the Game acts as welcoming shade for the ultimate’s growing ranks, creating a positive environment for more people to join in and embrace all the coolness this sport has to offer….oh, the many stories to discover, all furnished by the sport of Ultimate!

Lawrence McKendell is the creator of Scooberlicious Ultimate

Lawrence is a highly caffeinated dude with an iPhone and a dream! I want to create a thoughtful interview show that is somewhere between NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and as casual, comfortable and funny as Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” but without the nuisance of a huge budget, an entourage, or celebrity notoriety.

Lawrence is an athlete (hoops and marathoning) who has played the game of Ultimate for 20 years. Though he has not soared the heights (ahem) of regionals, he loves and understands sport and jocks, and the effort it takes to grind, stumble, fall, and soar and the stories that lay within.

Big props to Skyd Magazine for providing this larger platform to share these stories!

S2E17 “Disc and Harmony” a conversation with 2018 Callahan Award winner Gabe Hernandez

Scooberlicious Ultimate presents S2E17 – “Disc and Harmony” – A conversation with 2018 Callahan Award winner and Stanford’s Bloodthirsty ultimate standout Gabe Hernandez. On a beautiful afternoon in sunny Palo Alto, California, I got the opportunity to sit down with the recent post-ACL surgery Flatballer to discuss his journey to college ultimate’s top player award – the Callahan.

We discuss Gabe’s college journey from Freshman newbie with zero knowledge of the sport, to his steady maturation en route to his standout senior season. We talk about what it was like to balance the rollercoaster of emotions of Nationals – being a Callahan finalist while being in the midst of helping his team chase a national championship to the surreal “Moment” of hearing his name called? • Gabe also demonstrates his singing chops, showing his versatility for sound, song, and word • We chat about his degree in Symbolic Systems and his vision to inspire and motivate others as he pursues the ranks of teaching and education • This interview is terrific! • Enjoy!
Stanford University Bloodthirsty Ultimate: https://www.facebook.com/stanfordbloodthirsty/ • Gabe’s Highlight reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTlYqr8Lz4I
• What is the Callahan? and 2018 Nominees http://collegechampionships.usaultimate.org/d1-men/callahan/
Listen, Like, and subscribe
Check out other interviews on our facebook page, youtube and soundcloud