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I am competing in the 2014 Canadian Ultimate Championships this week in Waterloo, Ontario, with Legion, a Vancouver masters ultimate team.

Just reading that sentence astonishes me, let alone it actually being true.  Wow.  Travis is going to play in a national sports competition.  Travis is on a team that’s good enough to play at the national level.  Travis is playing sports successfully at a competitive level, full stop.  “Saywhat?” seems to be a fairly common reaction from those who know me when they hear about it.

Earlier in the summer, I told my dad I would be going to Waterloo, Ontario, this August for the national ultimate playoffs.  He didn’t seem particularly excited, but I simply thought that was because he didn’t understand the sport very well—it was still a little opaque to him, so I made him watch a Nighthawks game on YouTube. He liked it but it didn’t really help, I thought.

Weeks later, I told him that I was finally wearing my jersey, which had arrived at the last minute, and that I was pretty stoked about that, as the kids say. He paused and then stammered some, and it was then I realized, that he had thought I was going to nationals as an audience member—hardly a poor assumption, given my track record…

“Saywhat” definitely escaped his lips, too.

Backgrounder for those of you not yet converted: Perhaps you don’t know much about ultimate. It’s played with a frisbee, on a large field with two end zones at either end, much like a football field.  Your team has seven people on the field at a time, and when you have the disc in your hands, you can’t move (just pivot like basketball). So you have to throw the disc to one of the other six people to advance up the field, and you’re trying to complete a throw into the end zone, which scores a point.

If the other team blocks your throw or the catcher just misses it, the other team gets possession of the disc. They get to work it back down the field the other way.  It’s like an organized game of keep away, but with as much cardio running as you can handle.

Background Part II: I started playing ultimate when I was in high school—1988, I believe.  But I didn’t get serious about it until… well, depends on your definition of serious, but I started playing regularly when I moved to Vancouver in 2004. It’s fair to say that ultimate has changed my health and my life for the better.

Okay, background over.  Ah yes… My track record before this surreality was an actual track record—in high school, I was on the track team, a long distance runner who was in exactly two meets, and didn’t come in last in either one, so far as I allow myself to remember.  I wasn’t not good at distance running, but I certainly never went to nationals, provincials, regionals… what’s before that, sectionals? I might have been in a sectional—isn’t that a chesterfield? I’m so confused.

The team I’m playing for here in Vancouver, Legion, is a masters team.  “Masters” doesn’t indicate skill or education level, it’s age—it means all players must be over 33 years old. It’s agist, thank goodness—whippersnappers are speedy, and we prefer to win by wisdom and careful planning for retirement. But kidding aside, the guys I play with are astounding—they are smart, fit, skilled, experienced and have a powerful winning drive. It’s an honour to practice and play with them.

It’s an all-men’s team, which isn’t uncommon in other sports, but ultimate is often played co-ed, especially at the recreational levels. So that’s been a big adjustment for me.  And simply the level of knowledge and style of play, that’s been intense to keep up with. I’ve been practicing several times a week all spring and summer with the team, which has been around for several years.

Now, I’m by no means a stellar player for Legion. I am intimidated at times, I’m not particularly versatile, and I don’t spend a lot of time with the disc in my hands. The men of Legion are fantastic overall, though: a driven and focused bunch of players who at their best can pull together like a zipper. They want to excel, and they give their utmost; they are winners at heart.

Some of them are poor teachers, able to do but not to explain. I find this the most frustrating, because from them I can only learn by watching, trying to figure out how they decide which way to cut, when to pause, how to fake believably, whether to dump or huck (a short safe pass or a long goal-scorer). Others on the team are brilliant coaches and trainers; with a few words, they have, more than once, improving my game noticeably in a strata where every percentage gain counts. And all of them are generous with their time and focus—Sandy especially.

I don’t know our chances, but it’s certainly our goal and expectation to go all the way and win gold. We’re in it to win it, and I’m super impressed with the efforts my teammates have made in practices and tournaments along the way—and I’ve been working hard too.  You can ask Emily about my diet and my friend Vic about my early morning throwing practices.

If you want to look at the schedule, my first game is Thursday at noon Eastern time. We play at least 8 games over three days—the ninth, if we play it, will be for 1st place. There is even a chance some of our games will be streamed by I Am Ultimate.

If you are looking for scores, there’s a fancy tool online  or hashtag #cuc2014. We’re playing in Rim Park (the Blackberry company got the naming rights), and the weather looks to be decent—cooler than Vancouver, actually.

There’s a lot of people who have helped me along the way, but I think I want to name check just two at the moment: Eric Baron, who was the captain when I joined East Van Halen, my first and best-loved Vancouver casual co-ed team.  He made the sport fun and was passionate and intense and tricked me into being captain when he left.  Thanks, Eric. And Pete McCann, who is on the VUL Board with me, and invited me out to play.  I’m thankful for his generosity.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

I say this without a hint of sarcasm: I am truly impressed. Best of luck, or break a leg, or whatever well wishes you send to an ultimate player!

 

Posted by arianek
  at 10:22 pm on Aug. 13, 2014

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