team sports: a microcosm of life?

I’m airing out my cleats today, and deservedly so.

In the past 24 days, I…

  • Played ultimate frisbee 13 days
  • Threw a disc 16 days
  • Played in tournaments in 3 different states (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern; Niedersachsen; Sachsen-Anhalt)
  • Drank 13 (8 different) frisbee-adjacent beers (my new rule of ‘alcohol after, never before or during’, is working well)
  • Wrung my hands over the prospect of playing too many minutes in a game
  • Wrung my hands over not getting to play enough minutes in a game
  • Received specific praise from 2 teammates

I’m frisbee-saturated right now, and my feet and legs are letting me know.

One of the ten rules of ultimate frisbee is ‘spirit of the game’. After every game in a tournament, each team rates the ‘spirit’ of the team they just played. There are five categories:

  1. Knowledge of rules (you have to self-referee)
  2. Body contact (it’s a contactless sport)
  3. Positive attitude and self-composure
  4. Fair play
  5. Communication

Apart from maybe body contact, I find these principles very applicable to normal life as well. The more I play, the more I discover about myself in ways that I couldn’t have with basketball. Granted, I am older, wiser, more composed and more considered now than when I played basketball in my teens! Back then, basketball was a way for me to find purpose, belonging, and acceptance, but it didn’t really develop me as a person. While playing ultimate is, for me, also very much about belonging somewhere and feeling like a part of a community (Germany’s “integration through sports” program is working…), it’s got something special that particularly supports developing transferable skills and character.

Here’s what ultimate frisbee teaches me to do:

  • learn the rules
  • identify if the rules are being broken by me and my opponent
  • make decisions in a split second and under pressure
  • interpret unclear situations and make decisions based on incomplete information
  • communicate respectfully, clearly, and confidently under pressure
  • receive, process, and respond to input from others
  • acknowledge mistakes and accept responsibility for them
  • after a mistake, keep my head high
  • after a success, celebrate but not gloat
  • support my teammates; provide constructive criticism but not blame
  • cheer on the success of my opponents
  • share playing time with my teammates
  • teach and be taught
  • accept criticism and praise
  • learn from the example of others

Furthermore:

  • identify my strengths and weaknesses
  • consciously work on improving upon my weaknesses
  • reflect

And, finally, as a bit of a bonus:

  • appreciate my body
  • understand and take care of my body
  • not be so self-conscious about my body

So you see, ultimate frisbee more than simply throwing and catching a 175g-piece of plastic :) I only wish the exercises to improve at ‘life’ were as straightforward as the exercises we have to improve at sports!

What’s your favourite team sport? Why do you enjoy it? What can you learn from playing it that can be applied to other aspects of your life?

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