Kalamazoo Ultimate Disc League

Sometimes it is good to start something new. Being the newbie, or “the dead weight”, is good for your soul. It teaches humility and patience.

I played in the “Kalamazoo Ultimate Frisbee league”:http://www.kzooultimate.org/index.html , or KUDL league this summer at the insistence of Darrough West. I was hesitant at first remembering my many years on team sports playing soccer. (20+ years). I’ve probably spent more time chasing a soccer ball than most people have spent sleeping. This is a good thing because to me this drove me towards the individual sports I enjoy so much. But I went to a few pick up games early in the summer and started chasing the disc. It’s in the blood somewhere. Ever watch a labrador chase a frisbee. They can’t help themselves.

For the uninitiated, “Ultimate”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_frisbee is a hybrid between American football, (I prefer to think Rugby) basketball and soccer. The objective is to throw the disc to a player into the endzone. The player with the disc may not move, so players without the disc must move into open space to catch a throw from the “handler”. The handler only has 10 seconds to throw the disc before having to turn it over to the other team. Any time a pass is not completed it is turned over to the other team. There is obviously a lot of strategy and skill associated with both the handler and the players looking to catch the disc.

The key skills are throwing and catching. Backhand throwing is the skill most people are comfortable with. Forehand is an essential skill. When you’re being marked, a backhand throw takes more space to execute. A forehand is quicker and more fluid while under pressure. However it is not a natural motion so it must be practiced. I worked all summer to develop a forehand throw. I would throw out in the back yard with whomever would play catch with me. Gabriel actually developed a pretty good forehand too. In the end I was able to execute many good forehand throws before summer was out.

The intangible skills such as making cuts in front of the handler took longer and I clogged the throwing lanes for too long in the beginning. But in the end got better. In soccer the player with the ball can move, so my instincts, were to run diagonally towards the handler in the hopes of a throw. This sometimes cut off other cuts from our own team. Quick straight line cuts towards the thrower end up being more efficient.

I played on a coed team with some fantastic players. These players were also very patient and positive with the newer players. Of which, I was one of four. Towards the end I think I got a lot better. But I am sure it was hard to throw to someone who may or may not catch the disc. And then further harder to watch as this newbie threw it away. Everyone was very positive and tried to offer advice on what action to take rather than on the obvious “what not to do”. As a result, those pointless drops and throws narrowed to a few in the end. I made concerted efforts towards patience. I managed to throw away very few in the end. And I also laid out for a few throws that I should have caught on the first pass to redeem myself.

The KUDL summer tournament yesterday ended on a high note with Darrough’s team taking second, ours (somewhere closer to the bottom). Though we did get a team spirit award.

My lesson in this was to stay positive without beating up on myself too much. Getting hung up on what went wrong sometimes distracts from the goal of putting the disc in the end zone. When you drop something, or throw it away, look for your mark and start running, don’t get hung up on what you did wrong because if you get stuck in, most likely it will turn around.

For the rest of life this holds true.


  1. Do you know of any pickup games in the Kzoo area? I’d love to play on weekends (but not be part of a league).

    • Pickup games are hard to come by. The league is really fun and easy going though. I would "like" kzoo ultimate on facebook and post to their wall and see what people say.

  2. Good stuff! I love Ultimate and I played it non-competitively in college and a bit when I lived in Wisconsin. Although my throws aren’t very consistent anymore, I’m still more comfortable with my forehand than my backhand.

  3. Nice post on Ultimate, thanks. I would love to get in on that action but Kzoo is too long of a drive…I used to play when I lived in Ann Arbor and it was a blast but grueling!