The Currency of Ultimate

Hi. My name is Joan and I am slightly (read completely) obsessed with Ultimate.

I started playing in Stellenbosch when the club was just starting. Because my boyfriend played. I liked the people so I kept playing. Then I moved and stopped for a year or so. I picked it up again in Canada, playing in a league that was WAY above my skill level and I was miserable. Being the worst and least competitive player by a mile made me a total mismatch for that otherwise amazing team. So I stopped again. When I came back to Pretoria I couldn’t find anything remotely Ultimate related. Eventually I spotted a group of people who played a casual weekly 5 or 6 aside pick up and mustered up enough courage to ask if I could join. And the rest is history.

I often wonder what it is about Ultimate that grips people. Sure, the game is awesome, but many hobbies are awesome. Spirit of the game, self regulating, fun throwing, all great but not necessarily unique to Ultimate. My working theory is that there is something about Ultimate that creates community wherever a disc is D-ed or a flick is taught. You never hear a reference to a cricket or field hockey ‘tribe’. Most ‘why I started playing’ stories start with the same: I liked the people, I felt accepted, I made friends so I stayed.

This sport we all know and love has the ability to build friendships, form bonds, instill passion and create safe spaces. Which is absolutely extraordinary. We all know that Ultimate could mean so much to so many people. Ultimate has changed lives and will hopefully change millions more.

The harsh reality is that Ultimate itself is still in its infancy, especially in South Africa. We have three national tournaments and around 20 clubs. In a country with 50 million people. Where Ultimate has been played for 20 odd years. What South African Ultimate has accomplished is commendable, it’s been a tough uphill battle with many victories. But there is so much more to be done. Our goals grow with our achievements.

One philosophy that illustrates the way Ultimate has developed in South Africa is that of Ubuntu. “‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference.” The basic gist of Ubuntu is that what benefits your community benefits you as an individual. Even if you are not directly rewarded or recognised for your actions, if your community is better off, you are better off.

Everything that has been attained in SA Ultimate has been done in the spare time of players who love this sport. No one has made money or received much appreciation. There are no courses in ‘Successful Ultimate Administration’, ‘Starting an Ultimate Club’, ‘Social Media for Ultimate’ or even ‘Getting National Recognition and Exposure for your Fringe Sport’. And not one single person is more qualified than you to make a difference in the future of Ultimate in South Africa.

The future of SA Ultimate is dependant on the drive of it’s players. If you love Ultimate and your Ultimate tribe, get involved. Figure out how you can add value to our community, be it local, regional or national. Take ownership of this beautiful sport and help develop it.

If you don’t have any extra time to spare, show your appreciation for the people that are working behind the scenes. The person who organises the pick up, the person who brings the cones, the one who tries their best at coaching, the one who registered your team for a tournament or the tournament organiser. Give them a pat on the back and say thank you.

When I started playing Ultimate in South Africa I quickly realised that there are a select few names that kept popping up. The seemingly untouchable “Ultimate Illuminati” that make all the decisions and regulations. The new mixed rules are these, these tournaments will take place then etc. But I realised that these repetitive names at the bottom of emails are not in fact the chosen but the work horses. The silly few who prioritise their love for Ultimate above a million other things they could be doing with their free time. The ones who pushed SA Ultimate to where it is today. These people are by no means infallible, but they are the cornerstones of SA Ultimate. I’d like to give a heartfelt thank you to these people. We appreciate you more than you know.

I think the currency of Ultimate is community. What has and will continue to distinguish Ultimate is the passion and involvement of our players. The way we interact with each other. The way we believe with all our hearts that Ultimate will grow and flourish and add value to people’s lives everywhere. Help make our community vibrant, take ownership of your sport and channel your passion into something bigger than all of us. You are the most important person in SA Ultimate. Along with everyone else.

– Joan Greeff

GFDA Vice Chair

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