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30 Quick Tips on my 30th Birthday

Today I turn 30. I started throwing a disc 12 years ago and started playing ultimate 11 years ago. In that time I’ve played on roughly 19 teams in 3 different countries, been to over 50 tournaments, have met thousands of ultimate players, started a website dedicated to teaching players more about the game of ultimate and have been flown around the world to share my passion with others. Today I mark my 30th birthday with 30 quick tips about ultimate. Each of these tips could easily warrant an article and video (and in many cases multiple articles/videos); some of which have already been done, some which I’m planning on doing. Read on:

1. When you workout, lift weights – don’t just run. To get stronger, you need to do resistance exercises. Lifting weights will build muscle and help prevent you from getting injured.

2. You don’t have to be friends with your teammates but you do have to get along on the field.

3. Practice throwing. That’s the only way you’ll get better at it.

4. Throwing frisbees in trash cans is not the only way to practice.

5. Playing tournaments is how you can raise your game to the next level. The more you play, the quicker you’ll improve.

6. Discraft ultrastars are not the only disc. There are many other brands and all of them are all good to throw. Don’t get stuck just throwing an ultrastar. Your throwing will thank you.

7. Buy a good pair of cleats. Soccer, football, lacrosse. Whatever they are, having a good pair matters.

8. Don’t steal other people’s discs at a tournament. If you find one, give it to tournament central. Stealing discs is not cool.

9. Don’t be late for something because you’re on “ultimate time”. All you’re saying is that you think your time is more valuable than everyone else’s. Translation – you’re a jerk.

10. If you can’t make a game, let your captain know. They don’t get paid for what they do so help them out.

11. Learn to set up a field and how to properly pace off the dimensions. And then volunteer at league to set up the field. You’re doing a good thing.

12. Practice catching. Practice thinking “just catch” instead of “don’t drop”. Catching is a large part mental concentration.

13. Try disc golf. With golf discs. You will quickly learn what your throwing weaknesses are.

14. When you watch ultimate videos, try to learn from that. What strategies each team is employing. How the players cut. How the handlers move the disc. How hard the defence plays.

15. Try beach ultimate. At least once. It’s far different from running on grass. You will learn that your throws aren’t as good as you thought they were.

16. Be humble. Know your place on the team and your skill level and be honest with yourself about it. You can get better. No matter who you are. So don’t make excuses – get out and get better.

17. Help out your local organization by volunteering to teach kids, help with the juniors program, go into schools and help demo ultimate. Ultimate has grown because of great volunteers. So support them.

18. If you foul someone and they call it, don’t contest. Even if you are in the endzone and it will result in a point. Even if it’s on universe point. Don’t cheat. Be a spirited player.

19. Learn how to count to 10. In the right amount of time. Especially when you’re tired. You’ll become a more effective mark.

20. Focus mostly on throwing backhand and forehand. Your throwing will improve overall by learning the other throws as well (hammer, thumber, blade, scoober, push pass) but spend most of your time working on forehand and backhand. They are your bread and butter.

21. Shake hands after a game. No matter what happened in that game, be spirited and shake hands.

22. When someone asks you if you throw to dogs when you tell them you play ultimate, don’t get offended. Tell them there are competitions where people throw to dogs but that ultimate is more like non contact football with 7 players on the field per team. At least they tried to take an interest in what to do. So don’t throw it back in their face.

23. Learn the history of ultimate. About the Frisbie Pie Company. About Maplewood, New Jersey. About the UPA being founded. And don’t diss Wham-O. Without Wham-O, discs as we know them wouldn’t exist. Wham-O makes a lot of great discs, not just for ultimate. Respect all aspects of frisbee and disc sports.

24. Carry a disc with you. When you’re bored or have some time, play around with it, throwing it up, catching it, flipping it around in your hands, trying to spin it on your finger. The more comfortable you are with a disc in your hand, the less you’ll drop on the field and the quicker you’ll get throws off.

25. Watch the movie PCU with David Spade. It’s from 1994 but has some teams playing ultimate in the movie. It’s funny to watch in the least. Other movies you should watch: I Bleed Black and Chasing Sarasota.

26. Support your local organization and your national organization (Ultimate Canada, USA Ultimate, etc..). Without your local organization, ultimate won’t become the great sport we all know it can be. And without our national organizations, ultimate won’t ever grow internationally like we know it can.

27. Play coed and single gender (men’s/women’s). You will work on different elements of your game in each and you will become a better overall player by playing both.

28. Rehab properly. If you’re hurt, don’t try to play through it. Playing one more game of a tournament isn’t worth not playing for the next year. Or not being able to walk properly when you’re older. Be smart and take care of your body. You’re only given one after all.

29. Learn the rules (North America | Internationally). They’re easy to find, they can be downloaded and printed off, they have little rules booklets they give out and you can even get an app on your phone. So learn them.

30. Find your own path. Everyone plays ultimate for different reasons, so find your reason “why”. When it gets tough or you’re not sure if you want to keep playing, go back to your “why” and realize why you love this game. In this video, I share how it all began for me.

Bonus Tip:

31. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Think of your body like a Ferrari. Would you fill your gas tank with beer and pop? No, you would put in high octane fuel. Treat your body the same. Cut back on fast food. Buy groceries. Cut out caloric drinks, unless you are having something like Gatorade after/during a workout/tournament. To find out more about these 3 simple tips, pick up a copy of Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food.

12 thoughts on “30 Quick Tips on my 30th Birthday”

  1. Crossposted from reddit:
    I just turned 30 too, and I really like the piece. One point I don’t agree on:
    > Focus mostly on throwing backhand and forehand. Learning hammer, scoober, thumber and push pass will help your overall throws but your backhand and forehand are your bread and butter. So work on them.
    Part of learning to throw normally is learning to throw abnormally. If you only ever practice the throws you’ll use, your range of throws won’t increase.
    One of the best things I learned from a former coach was because he had us throw 30-yard blades to each other at every practice. Will you be throwing that in a game? No. Does it help you learn how to control a disc? How to throw a hammer? What discs do in the wind? Yes.
    Push your envelope in practice and training, and when you’re in a game, the easy throws will be easy.

    1. @llimllib I agree and disagree with you. My point was to spend most of your time focusing on throwing the throws you’ll throw in a game. Without deliberate practice, you’ll never master the skill. I do agree that throwing other throws is valuable. I never said to not throw them. I think that’s what pushing the envelope means in terms of throwing practice. But getting too unfocused and working on too many throws won’t allow you to master the basic throws. I’ve seen far too many players throwing hammers and scoobers when they can barely throw a backhand/forehand.I think a big part of that is many players get into the game later in life instead of as a kid so all of the skill development that goes into soccer, hockey, basketball as a 5 year old doesn’t exist as an 18 year old. We’re impatient and want to just be good without putting in the time. But there is no substitute for focused practice.

  2. Hi Rob, long-time reader, first time poster, just wanted to say this is a great compendium of tips for ultimate, but also just life in general. I’m sure if folks are looking for more in depth information, you probably have articles on a number of topics and if they are interested in the bonus tip (#31), then I would highly recommend picking up Michael Pollan’s book, “In Defense of Food” a great read, that really expands on the eat food, not too much, mostly plants idea.
    Keep up the great work.

    1. @gregking28 Where do you think I got tip #31 from? 😉 I love the book “In Defense of Food”. And since I work in marketing for a gym, it’s really helped me be healthier and more mindful of what and how I eat :). I’ll update the tip to add a link to that book now that you mention it…thanks!

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