How a good player can become elite

Editor/Writer: Hazard

How does a good player make the leap to the elite level? What separates those players who are solid enough from those players who can be depended on when the going gets tough against all opponents? To find out those things you'd need to be an elite-level player. An elite-level player willing to impart their knowledge and wisdom to the world.

Well, fortunately for you all, I found some.

The conclusion: in addition to training at the highest level you can, some of the best things you can do revolve around what you do off the field. I've summarised the quotes (of which there was a lot of overlap) with some editorialising of my own below.


1. Throw. Lots.
Go throw. If you throw 20 mins 2 times a week focused you can be the best thrower at uni level if you do it for a couple semesters - Axel Ahmala, Clapham


Don't be fannying around doing anything else if you can't throw a decent forehand (or) break a force consistently. - Hannah Brew, GB Women/Iceni

This was by far the most dominant advice. It can't be underestimated how important throwing skills are. The more you can improve your throws - and learn the muscle memory to execute said throws - the more you can improve the range of options on field and the more mental processing power you can use to assess the validity of those options.

It is important to realise that not all throwing sessions are equal. The important part of Axel's advice is "focused". Think about what range you are throwing, and work out what range you can achieve with different throws consistently. Improve that. As Hannah said, the type of throw is also important. Practice breaks, and make sure your core skills are up to scratch. This is not to say more unusual throws aren't occasionally valid, but if you want to become an elite player, your fundamentals need to be solid.


2. Find a place to do sprints. Work on your movement.
Run more track than you think you need to. - Connor McHale, GB Men/Clapham

Know how to turn efficiently. - Hannah Brew, GB Women/Iceni (paraphrase)

I don't know about you, but when I watch track events at the Olympics, I don't often see them looking wildly around in the air. Half a second can make a big difference when chasing down a disc or following a player, and every deviation you have to take from proper sprinting form is one that is going to slow you down.

Of course, for that deviation to really affect you, you need to have good form in the first place. It's actually not the most natural movement to turn quickly with a jab step, or to keep your hips pointed forward while glancing over your shoulder to keep an eye on the disc. Again, like with throwing, the more you can commit form to muscle memory, the more it will pay off on field. 


3. "Lift heavy things" - Anon

You don't really need to know much about elite players to know they spend a lot of time working on strength and conditioning. Not only does this help prevent injury (meaning more time can be spent on field practising), but being faster and stronger is obviously an advantage in any sport.

This was actually the piece of advice that I was worst at implementing. The gym seemed like a scary place to me, and while I would (very) occasionally go with friends, I was petrified of going on my own and of injuring myself/looking like a fool. So I have every sympathy for players in a similar position.

I wont give advice about what S&C you should do - I'm still learning that side of things. But my advice for how to start doing it: find a friend and set up a schedule (nothing is as powerful as habit), look up YouTube videos videos, and try to build some sort of exercise plan you can stick to. Some people take to S&C easily. Some people don't. But it is a very useful tool in becoming a better player, so it's worth pushing yourself to do.

With that said, don't let this become the be-all and end-all. Fitness is good, but it's part of the whole picture:

Turn one (probably two) of your weekly fitness sessions into throwing/disc-based fitness sessions. Teammates want the elite with disc in hand during crunch time. - Josh Briggs, GB Men/Clapham



4. Self-reflection makes a better player

I naturally reflect on how I played quite a lot...take a focus from your reflection into your practice. - Alice Hanton, GB Women/Leeds

Ask people who are better for feedback and advice. Most people will give it to you, and you shouldn't be scared to ask. - Someone who decided not to give their name.

How do we improve? Only by realising our mistakes, and working to correct that behaviour. The easiest way to do this? Talk to people. Create goals for yourself, and then check if you meet them. This will take different forms for different people. I've known some people keep a diary, and others who hated it (cheers for the honesty Axel). I'll often chat with people in the car on the way back home, asking what a highlight was (some people need to reflect on the good things they do), and something they need to improve (other people need the other thing).

But to be able to self reflect properly, you need to know what good Ultimate looks like, and whether that matches how you play. I'm very lucky - for me, commentating is actually a very good chance to critically analyse play and recognise things I want to implement in future. But even just on the sideline at tournaments, you can recognise impressive play. What anon says is very valid though - we are a community, and we're actually very willing to help each other out. Don't be afraid to ask people for advice, both for yourself and for what they think good Ultimate looks like.


5. Have fun, and find out what motivates you

Keep playing fun things too though. Don't be a loser. - Rupal Ghelani, SYC/all the GBs.

If you look cool while doing it, it was the correct choice. - Andrew Warnock, Alba

Ok, so I'm a little bit tongue in cheek for using these quotes, but for me they do highlight something important. There are different reasons people play Ultimate, but for those elite players, they usually have a clear philosophy as for why. Some athletes play to win games, some only care about winning trophies, some play to perform the best they possibly can. On another level, some like very prescriptive play, others like more freedom and creativity.

All of them, at some level, enjoy what they do and are motivated to get better. I've known a lot of players get fatigue after finishing a high level tournament because they weren't actually enjoying themselves. You have to know what motivates you as a player, because it is a lot of effort to make the jump to the elite, and it wont come without effort. Often, that does involve, at some level, having fun.


A shot of SMOG 1 vs Deep Space at UKU Nationals.
Players from both teams put in a lot of work behind the scenes to reach the level they're at today.
Photo Credit: Sam Mouat for the ShowGame

Better Understanding: Fathers in Ultimate

Interviewer/Editor: hazard

This piece is part of our Better Understanding series, and can be considered a pair to our piece on Mothers in Ultimate. Here, we talk to four fathers about their experiences of fatherhood. We recognise that there are aspects of fatherhood not covered here, and would be happy to read your stories and views in comments on this piece.


Let's start with introductions. Who are you all?


Carl: 
I started playing in my second year at the University of York in 2000 and went on to play a few years with LeedsLeedsLeeds before taking a hiatus from Ultimate between 2005 and 2008. Since coming back to playing I’ve played for a wide variety of teams including Sheffield Steal, Birmingham Ultimate, LeedsLeedsLeeds, YOpen and York City Ultimate and a number of other fun teams with friends. To a varying degree I’ve also been involved in coaching and running a lot of those clubs.


Neb: 
I'm Ben Weddell more generally known as Neb, I started playing at the University of Leeds and played for LLLeeds, Jeremy Codhand, Chevron and for the last two years Deep Space. I've played for GB mixed in 2011 and Open in 2015 and I've also coached GB U24 for a cycle.


Harry: 
Hi, I’m Harry Glasspool. I first started playing ultimate when I went I started studying in St Andrews about 10 years ago. I captained the team for a couple of years to no great success and first played club Ultimate with Glasgow to moderate success. Since moving to live in Durham I’ve been a part of SMOGs rise from a bad indoor team to a club that dominated Mixed Nationals this year – including being one of the captains of the team at WUCC 2018.


Alex: 
My name’s Alex Cragg and I’ve been playing since 2006. I picked up ultimate whilst studying at King’s College London, and Flump Mixed was my first club team. I joined Fire of London in 2010 and went on to captain them for 4 years before moving to Clapham in 2018. I’ve played for a few GB teams and I’m playing GB Men Masters this year.


What is your proudest moment on-field?


Alex:
Making the final of Nationals with Fire in 2012 after beating Chevron in the semi; a game where it felt like everything just came together perfectly for us.


Carl:
Having played on and off for YOpen since their formation in 2010, and having previously captained them, I was very happy to throw the winning assist in the Game to Go against BAF at this year’s Northern Regionals. I was gutted to miss out on Nationals itself due to being out of the country and proud to see how the boys did. Much of the credit for that performance and the general improvement in the club over the last couple of years should go to current captains Matthew Carson and Steve Wrigglesworth.


Harry:
Coming from 11-9 down against Glasgow in our semi final at nationals 2017 to win 12-11 and qualify for WUCC 2018.


Neb:
Winning EUC 2015 with GB after some of my family had come out to watch was pretty awesome


What was your favourite off-field moment?


Harry:
I didn’t play on the SMOG team that won Nationals this year, but I’m super proud of what those guys/girls achieved. When I first moved to Durham, there was a B-tour team that based in a nearby city. Now we have the national champions, and top the UKU rankings. This to me is an incredible change.


Alex:
My favourite off-pitch moment in Ultimate is when Ian Popplestone dove into horse manure at EUCF 2012 in order to win €150 for his holiday.


Carl:
May sound a little corny, but actually seeing the way my wife, Beth Mewse, has returned to frisbee fitness and form so quickly after the birth of each of our children has led to most of my favourite moments in the last few years. To give birth to our daughter in the last couple of days of May and then go on to feature in a women's tour final and be part of an Open team qualifying for Nats within 2 months is incredible. To watch that happen gives me great joy.


I would add that not everyone recovers at the same pace and every mother has different issues to deal with. I wouldn't want to put any kind of expectation on other mothers that this is how fast you should be back playing, just wanted to say how glad I was to see it happen for Beth.


Neb:
Since we've unleashed the corny, our little boy taking his first steps at Nationals 2018!


This brings us on nicely to fatherhood! At what age/point in your playing career did you become a father?


Alex:
Ada was born in April 2017, 6 weeks before I played WCBU in Royan with GB Mixed.


Neb:
Our son Kit was born in summer 2017, at the time was playing for Chevy and coaching U24s.


Carl:
My eldest, Sebastian, was born in January 2017 and he was followed by our daughter Josephine in May this year. While I don’t feel ready to slip off into retirement from playing just yet I’d say I’d already realised I wouldn’t regain my peak level of performance by the point my kids were born. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still take playing seriously despite being in my late thirties.


Harry:
James was born in November 2016, when I was 25, and he ended up being brought along to every training and event as we prepared for Nationals in 2017. Katie was born in April this year, and has had a slightly less Ultimate focused 5 months as my wife and I have been a little less focused, and rarely both played the same events. There is still plenty of time for us to get back to playing competitively, and I’m sure she’ll still get plenty of experience of Frisbee sidelines.


Did you stop playing Ultimate at all after becoming a Dad?


Carl:
I've never properly stopped since becoming a father but Beth and I did make a conscious decision to miss the mixed season and the first Open/Women's ranking event this year given the due date for Josephine.


Harry:
Not with James – he came along to everything. However as he’s got older, it’s been less fair on him to kart him off to random fields for weekends, so we’ve been having to juggle playing time and parenting duties more. This year, my wife has been recovering from knee injuries, and so the balance has mostly been in my favour, however as she gets fitter, I imagine we’ll have to work harder to find time for each other to play, and still make sure James and Katie are having fun too


Carl:
I'd agree with Harry that it gets harder to bring the kids along as they get older, particularly if both parents are playing for different teams/different divisions. For that reason, Beth and I may have more of a focus on mixed in future years.


Neb:
I dropped back somewhat, I didn't play again until nationals in the 2017 season and then felt I couldn't commit the time to play for Chev for the 2018 World’s season so trialled for Deep Space. My wife and I did go to Australia to coach the U24s and Kit came with us aged 7 months which was a bit of a step into the unknown, he'd even come along to one of the training weekends in the build up


Alex:
I took 4 weeks off training/gym after Ada was born, but I’d been doing extra sessions beforehand to raise my baseline in preparation, knowing I had WCBU around the corner. For the remainder of the 2017 season I kept my training attendance at around 70%. Since then, I’ve continued to play, but balancing with family life and with my partner, Liza, also still continuing to play.


Neb:
I think Alex made a really central point there that how you approach this as a couple is really important, in that lots of couples in ultimate both play and I think all of us here are in that situation.


Carl:
It definitely helps to be on the same page as parents as to how it is going to work in terms of time commitments and priorities. And to be prepared to change completely what you'd agreed! Life as a parent throws up unexpected challenges all the time and you have to be flexible.


Neb:
Totally true, we had all sorts of ideas about how we were going to manage things and it doesn't really work like that, and as a couple you have to find a way that works so both of you can be trying to get back to where you want to be which is challenging in a sport that isn't always the easiest for parents to play.


What were some of the biggest challenges that faced you when trying to balance Ultimate with life as a father? 


Carl:
I think that I've been lucky that most of my teammates have been understanding and helpful when it comes to the kids coming along to training and tournaments. But I think it's possible some people still subconsciously see some of the parenting duties as the mother's responsibility. And until you've been a parent you probably won't see some of the less obvious challenges and how they get handled.


Harry:
Some of the initial challenges were unexpected – I found people I didn’t know commenting and giving advice on our parenting of James fairly frustrating to deal with. Another big one was that the social side of Ultimate took a much bigger hit than I expected. My team was fantastic at trainings and tournaments, and continues to try really hard to be accommodating away from the pitch too. However things like team meals that go beyond 8pm, or even just staying in the same location as the rest of the team just aren’t (always) possible any more.


Carl:
And I agree completely with Harry about unexpected and not always welcome parenting advice, and about just not thinking about ways to include us in Sat evening events. My team this year are largely on the younger side and have a preference for dinner and drinks in Wetherspoons. Doesn't really work with kids. Though sometimes it's easier to do our own thing anyway. I don't want to impose my kids on anyone but it's too easy to relax a little and let your teammates pick up slack for the simple things like entertaining the kids.


I know before being a parent I've found myself missing the best gap in a schedule to eat. Having to manage that planning for a toddler whilst also giving Beth and Josephine time to feed (not me dodging responsibility - we're breastfeeding) is difficult. And also doing the right activities to encourage nap time so we don't end up with a grouchy toddler preventing us doing simple things like packing up to leave for the day or move fields. Planning for a toddler to take a nap at a certain time! Good luck. Don't know how daycare manage it so consistently.


Harry:
Yes! Carl is absolutely right. Being a parent at a frisbee tournament means there is no "down time" between games, which is incredibly tiring!


Neb:
Always on at tournaments is a killer! I definitely recognise that sense of unexpected challenges like having to sort accommodation away from teams and the social side being far less feasible, and managing a toddler while both playing simultaneously we found essentially unmanageable so we've had to plan which teams and tournaments we can play to try and limit this.


Alex:
Challenges ranged from knowing I couldn’t attend as many training/gym sessions as I was used to before becoming a Dad, to getting home at 11pm from training, trying to let the adrenaline dissipate before bed and then being up at 5 or 6 the next morning.


Liza and I loved playing together, but that was pretty much impossible early on because Ada hated it when either one of us went onto the field, even if she was with the other one of us.


Carl:
We were lucky in our first year as parents that Sebastian was happy as a baby to basically be handed to anyone and be pretty happy. Combined with playing on a mixed team that also included many of our closest friends who see us outside of Ultimate meant that they were more relaxed and comfortable helping out.


Having played for so long and given Beth's ability to stop and speak to about 20 people between the fields and the car park or toilet we also know lots of people in the wider community and that led to lots of volunteers to help when we had schedule clashes playing separately.


Harry:
Like Carl, we were very lucky to have a baby that was pretty happy with anyone, and teammates who were happy with an unhappy baby. The combination let us play a fair amount, and we are so grateful to everyone that helped us too.


Alex:
More recently we've had grandparents look after Ada if we both want to play so that we can focus on playing more easily


Neb:
We've also gone for the grandparents route more often as Kit's got bigger


Alex:
it definitely takes away a lot of those challenges during a tournament that everyone else has listed


Carl:
This is probably also a good point to say that some people will question whether you should be bringing the kids along at all or whether they should be left with family or more formal childcare options. Making decisions like this is difficult as a parent so to have people questioning it makes things stressful. This can come from all angles, from strangers to your closest family.


Ultimately, to me this is a choice for the parents to make and I don't think either decision is wrong. I'm glad I get to spend my weekends with the kids while not giving up on playing but that's because they're very happy at tournaments. If they start to not enjoy it we'll probably look at other options or at playing less.


Neb:
It is something that you have to think about carefully, and even if you do some venues are quite tricky for kids to be at, those without good indoor spaces in case it rains for example.


Carl:
Yeah, we've been crazy lucky with the UK weather this last few years on tournament weekends.


Neb:
That's not something else I want to load onto TDs btw! I just think it’s something that we would consider when making plans, checking the weather carefully and working out if its a venue that will work for kids to come along.


Are there things TDs could do (or even good things you've seen some do) to accommodate parents?


Alex:
I think Neb is right really that it's not something I'd expect a TD to have to consider - maybe if the sport was bigger/better funded then I'd see it differently. Especially as players who are parents probably only make up a pretty small percentage of the player base


Carl:
I'd agree it would be difficult for TD's to plan for the challenges parents face and I don't think it really falls under their remit at the moment. I think parents are in the relative minority of the wider community, particularly if you only consider those who bring the kids along.


Harry:
Yes, I agree. There isn't much extra a TD can do. finding venues is already hard, so adding extra constraints or adding costs is unfair on other players


Carl:
I would however give a big shoutout to Si East at Ninety2Ultimate who arranged a creche-like room at one of his tournaments. While there wasn't any expectation you'd leave your kids there unattended there were several sets of parents who knew each other and were able to take turns looking after more kids.


Neb:
Yeah I'd say that it's not the TD's responsibility at this stage and anything they can do like providing a room or making sure there is indoors space is a bonus.


Again I think this is something that generally you have to accept that as a parent, you have less time so you have to choose what in the team time you prioritise, which for me means training and tournaments with socials being lower priority


Alex:
Maybe something like a little section in the info pack about rooms you could use, if there are baby changing facilities, or where you might be able to warm up food would go a long way to take some of the mental load off.


A gazebo or two at sunny tournaments that have priority for children would be fantastic.


Carl:
Baby changing is a big one! We've always been happy changing our kids anywhere on a portable mat but this would be impossible in rainy outdoor conditions.


Neb:
Yeah been there, not fun!


What about captains and teammates? Is there anything they should consider when trying to accommodate for a father? 


Alex:
My teammates and captains have been great in allowing me some flexibility to be a bit late/rush off to sort something with Ada, and that's all I'd really ask, just a bit of understanding that I'm pulled in a couple of directions sometimes


Harry:
I think it’s all pretty difficult to manage for captains and coaches, especially younger players that haven’t experienced parents on a team before. The big thing for me is good communication. Be upfront about their expectations, and then apply them consistently. If something is really important, then let us know super early, and we can plan around it. It’s much much harder to respond to things quickly as parent, so captains will just need to understand this.


Neb:
Likewise to Alex's point, Deep Space have been brilliant and understanding, one regret I have is that I didn't talk through some of these issues with Chev before deciding I couldn't play the worlds year, I almost certainly would have come to the same decision but generally would advise people to talk to people rather than just deciding that something will be impossible and shutting yourself off from it,


Carl:
I agree. Lots of communication and clear expectations in both directions are ideal. I've been lucky as it sounds like the others have too. Having that understanding that sometimes parenting must come first makes it much easier to handle everything.


A lot of the issues discussed so far are broad issues that both parents face. Are there any issues that just Fathers face? 


Alex:
To a small degree I think the expectation that the mother does the childcare so that should mean that the father is unencumbered to play/train as normal can be a hurdle to overcome when that isn't how you do things as a couple. Although it's not an attitude I've come up against too often.


Carl:
I think I touched a little on this when I mentioned expectations of a father versus a mother earlier. And this is doubly so if the mother is around and could appear not to be doing anything. For example, Beth might be stood having a quiet moment while I run off to change a nappy or clean up vomit or whatever. But they won't have seen what she'd been dealing with in the time leading up to that moment and that she really needs that quiet moment to recentre herself and be her best as a parent and a player the rest of the day. I do think this happens more on a subconscious level rather than anything else and that it's a rare occurrence. I just know it's something I feel conscious of.


Neb:
I'd be interested to hear what the others think about this but there is an issue that fatherhood can be quite isolating in a weird way.


Carl:
I have felt that at times too Neb but for me it's more related to the general busyness of the day and downtime being late at night sat on my own. Through experimentation we've found it easier for our kids to have a later bedtime and I do the bedtime routine and sometimes need to just spend a little time doing something before I go to bed while Beth catches up on some sleep.


Harry:
One thing I’ve found is that the women on our mixed team, or my wifes teammates whilst playing in the Women’s division are often faster/more willing to sit with me when looking after/playing with James than male team mates. That’s not to say that my male teammates are not great with James and Katie, (Some of James’s favourite people are my male teammates) however a lot of the time I get the impression they want to come over and say hi to James/Katie, but don’t just because gender stereotypes say they shouldn’t. This is probably more apparent when playing Open (and when my wife isn’t around), so hasn’t really been much of an issue for me.


Carl:
I think it's been less isolating for me than I've seen some mother's experience but I'd be interested in hearing the specifics of how it's been for you as I do expect there are others in your boat who would benefit from hearing it.


I've also found that Harry in relation to females generally being more comfortable having extended interactions with the kids. Even as a parent myself, I sometimes think it's more likely to come across as 'weird' for lack of a better word if I go over and give a lot of attention to someone else's kid.


Those male teammates that have been comfortable doing it have been a godsend. Many thanks to you all.


Harry:
I would say that definitely at first, when I brought James to trainings/Tournaments, many of my male teammates would stand about 5m away, and watch the interactions, but not join in. Most of them have since warmed to him and are much happier to come over right away now, however at first I think people were often interested and keen, but didn't know how they should behave around a baby/toddler I sympathise, as I'm also exactly the same. I think the answer is to just be more confident that it's not weird (if you know the parents)


And, that the parents (at least in my case), will really appreciate it!


Neb:
So I'm not suggesting in any way that this is more challenging for fathers than mothers and it's not something I've really discussed with many people, hence framing it as a question. I think it’s the change in your life that parenthood brings is something that people can struggle with. In terms of having networks of other dads and parents that you can talk to, actually other ultimate players are some of the easiest and best people I have been able to talk to about this.


Carl:
I agree completely that having a network of people to speak to who understands the issues is really helpful. Even just seeing that others are dealing with similar problems or questions is reassuring even if they don't have any more of an answer than you do.


Neb:
The realisation that everyone is making it up as they go along is a comforting one for sure


Harry:
I would be interested to hear about other dads’ paternity leave.


I’ve been very fortunate in that I was between jobs when James was born, and had around 6 months before I started my current job. For Katie I’ve been even luckier, and able to take shared parental leave, and so have around 7 months off. This has allowed me to share a lot of the mental load with my wife (as well as spend loads of amazing time with James/Katie). I think I would have really struggled to go back to work after 2 weeks, which is more normal, and I’d be interested to hear how other dads have coped with that for if I’m not in such a fortunate position again.


Carl:
I think this is a very good point. Unfortunately when Sebastian was born he needed to spend a couple of weeks in NICU and undergo an operation. Thankfully my employer were very supportive and gave me an additional couple of weeks of leave to get everyone more settled at home before returning to work. However, while those first couple of weeks at home are important, I suspect everyone here will echo my thoughts that it takes considerable time to get to grip with all the responsibilities of parenthood, how you are going to share them with your partner and how you will manage them alongside everything else in life. I've been more fortunate with Josephine as between my two kids my employer has introduced a new policy of equal leave for both parents, regardless of shared parental leave, a considerable portion of which is fully paid. I'm now on leave for an extended period and currently intending to return to work in April next year. This has meant that I've been able to focus much more on life as a parent and managing the transition to being a family of four. We've also been able to use some of that time to travel to the US for a couple of months to spend time with Beth's side of the family and attend her sister's wedding.


We've touched upon it briefly, but I'd like to ask your thoughts on the best way to support your partner, both just before/after they've given birth, and continuing on after that.


Carl:
I think that many of the issues we've talked about include an element of 'things that other people might not see'. Even trying to take our share of the load it can be easy to miss the things our partner is dealing with. I've personally found it too easy to become distracted by what is happening in game or in an intense drill and just rely on the plan we put in place - the 'it's not my turn right now' problem. In reality it is always my turn in that we are parents together not one at a time. I need to be better about checking in more that things are going ok during periods where I'm not as actively involved


Also, while I don't think we should be using a discussion among a few men to determine how to help a woman post birth (let's refer to what the women have to say on this), I do know that they can have physical challenges to overcome recovering from childbirth and we need to be considerate of that and how hard it can be for them to see us able to play/train at similar levels of intensity to before.


Harry:
My wife has/had her own goals for when and how she wanted to return. It’s important to talk things through and understand how to support them. Even though we are currently playing at different levels of the sport, for us this means splitting training attendance even though she is just returning to playing and I am training for Euros. I don’t expect there to be something catch-all, but good communication so you’re both on the same page seems like a good place to start!


Neb:
Agree with Carl's point here. You're supporting both the child and your partner at that point so you need to prioritise them both, which kind of goes without saying but that includes working out how you help her recover from childbirth and deal with more things than I can list here that the father doesn't have to as well as all your shared parental responsibility. Supporting her to have goals and work towards them should be a given, and Harry's totally right about the importance of communication and working out how you can do this together because it's hard.


Alex:
Before we had Ada we spoke a lot about how we would approach Ultimate after she was born - who would play when, how often, do we take turns each week or season etc. I’m not sure it ended up anything like how we discussed it, but getting an idea of what the other person’s thoughts and goals were was important to help plan.


Whilst everyone has unique experiences and challenges, the obstacles to getting back to playing for the mother are obviously an order of magnitude greater and more multifaceted than for the father, so it’s important to bear that in mind when making decisions around getting back playing.


In our case, we had an added complication because Liza's rota (she's a doctor) when she went back to work wasn't conducive to her playing as much, so making sure we found time for her to get out and have time to herself or go swimming or running was really important to help being able to play more again.


Neb:
Everyone has to deal with different things so there isn't a piece of advice that I could give other than to be ready to support in the way that your partner needs and listen and make changes accordingly! Make sure that you are adaptable because as Alex said you'll come up with an idea of how you are going to share responsibilities and time and timescales for both playing again and in reality it won't work as you thought and you have to work it out together and come up with something else. It’s also sensible not having prescriptive expectations about timescales of return and being able to do particular things by a particular time, as they aren't necessarily in either of your power and not being able to meet them isn't a failure - it's just how your partner is recovering.


This balance can be particularly difficult depending on work circumstances, I only got statutory parental leave (and used my annual leave to get an extra week making a total of 3) so had to return to work quite quickly so making sure that my partner had time to herself as well as time to recover etc. It was hard and I wouldn't claim that I got it perfectly right despite best intentions.


Being honest that you have to keep reworking and changing and trying new things is ok and not a failure as long as you keep working together to try and find ways that work for you and the little one.


We've talked a lot about ways fatherhood can impact Ultimate, so let's flip it. Is there anything about being an Ultimate player that you think has helped you as a Father? 


Harry:
Ultimate, and the opportunities that it has opened up to me, has definitely impacted me as a parent. Through playing Ultimate, I’ve been able to attend coaching courses, leadership courses, mental toughness workshops and sports psychology workshops (big thanks to St Andrews for putting a lot of those on for the team!) Whilst most of these were presented with a sporting focus, they have definitely shaped the way I parent. If I were to pick two of these that I may not have emphasised as much, they would be using positive rather than negative reinforcement, and focusing on the effort rather than the results.
James is also much better at throwing discs than balls, so I guess the huge exposure to the sport that he’s had has also rubbed off on him a bit too!


Carl:
I'm glad that my kids get to spend a decent amount of time outdoors, seeing people get enjoyment from physical activity and I hope that that leads them on to doing the same in later life. I also hope that should they continue to show interest and come along as they get older they will pick up some elements of fairness from the spirit of the game. From my perspective I think my experience of ultimate has influenced my reactions when things go wrong, leading to a focus on good communication and figuring out how to put things right in a way that everyone agrees with rather than focusing on any form of punishment. Sebastian has had one or two issues with sharing lately, which I'm sure is common for two year olds and we've focused on getting him to ask for a turn, say sorry for snatching etc


Neb:
Carl's point about spirit and how that has influenced us I think is really interesting and I guess that this must have influenced how we try and parent Kit. I think that it’s also really positive that he gets to see both his parents involved in a sport. I think we're also lucky to have a strong community and there are several people who I have been able to talk to about fatherhood and learn from (I won't embarrass them by naming them but I'm sure if they read this they'll know who they are!)


Finally, what advice would you have for a player about to become a father?


Harry:
I’m always hesitant to offer advice to people on parenting, as I received so much (often conflicting) advice for James that I don’t want to add more to the confusion. (a small example was when we were still in hospital, different midwives wanted to advise on the best way to put on baby grows. Some like the legs popped up, some completely undone. I’ve found either work just fine, and being told you’re doing it wrong half way through changing a baby isn’t helpful!). So having said I wouldn’t give advice, I will: Listen to what people have to say, but don’t feel any obligation to do what they’re suggesting. There’s many ways to bring up your child, so do what works for you!


Carl:
Much like Harry, I'm reticent to suggest anything too subscriptive in terms of advice. What I would say is that communication is key to managing parenthood in general in addition to the points we touched on for managing being a father alongside playing. There is no right way to do most things so it's important that people understand the approach you want to take and why and that you understand what others are expecting from you.


Alex:
For a long time you’ve probably been able to train and play whenever and as much as you want, but that’s now changed and it can take some adjusting to. It’s OK to have some internal conflict over that, but recognise that your priorities have now changed so your approach to ultimate needs to adapt too.


Think about how you can change your schedule around so that any gym/throwing sessions don’t take up time when you could be at home - find time at lunch or similar instead.


As others have said we have a great community at our disposal, so seek out other ultimate parents if you don’t have a network already. We had a great week in Portugal for EBUC staying with two other families, where the mums all played and the dads were ‘babysitters’, as our tournament passes had us titled… Liza has always loved beach ultimate, and was really keen to have Ada along with her for a week-long tournament. Doing that with other kids around made it a really fun week, and even when not playing you still get to see all your friends and teammates and feel like part of the event.


Neb:
Enjoy it. It is amazing.


Alex is totally right about priorities so being realistic about what you can and cannot do is important but with a bit of thought and working together it is possible for both of you to find ways to play at the level you want to.


Gym at lunchtime is great advice if you can, this frees up evenings and weekends for partners to do their things too if they are on maternity leave.


We were also there at EUBC and I was looking after Kit while my partner played and I also got the 'babysitter' accreditation which slightly annoyed me actually, I wasn't babysitting I was looking after my son! It was a really good week and 3 dads with kids wearing adorable tiny GB shirts hanging out on a beach is a fun way to spend some time and I highly recommend it. Also like to echo that it's a great community so make use of it.




Alex (left) at EUCF 2018 with Ada (right)
Photo Credit: Liza Bowen

Mixed Tour 1 2017 - Sebastian's first tournament attendance.
PC: Alice Hanton/Sarah Norman
Neb, posing for his Deep Space profile
PC: The Deep Space Facebook Page

Annie, James, and Harry. All kitted out in SMOG gear.












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