If you are not an ultimate frisbee player, here is a challenge for you. Consider the below mentioned fundamental tenets of the sport of ultimate, and imagine how you might be affected if you had grown up with them or raised your children with them.
On the other hand, if you are reading this as an ultimate frisbee player, take a moment to think back and be thankful to the person that first brought you into the sport. You have had the privilege, possibly on many levels, but definitely at a basic level, to have been part of an organized sport that lives and thrives by a set of essential and meaningful values.
1. Non-violent conflict resolution - self-officiation in ultimate precludes the necessity for referees and forces players to learn to discuss and agree upon an outcome of a play without the ability to turn to a higher authority.
2. Teamwork focused gameplay - you can't score without passing it to a teammate.
3. Gender inclusiveness - the only major team sport to have women and men playing on the same field together at the national and even international championship level of play.
4. An embracing community - a place where all opinions are respected and heard, and commonly beneficial outcomes are sought after.
5. Pursuit of athletic excellence - in the face of adversity, on and off the field, a genuine respect for opponents brings a sense of integrity and honor to the field that is often merely idolatry.
6. Genuine respect for fun - it is hard to find a yelling or demeaning coach or player in the sport. Rather a celebration of self improvement and fundamental improvement rarely brushes far past a positive version of 'tough love.'
A poignant helplessness is emerging in many conversations around the United States, and around the world, on all sides and from all opinions on very polarizing issues.
However optimistic it may feel, maybe we can use what we have learned, consciously and subconsciously, from the value system of the sport of ultimate frisbee, to help us find solutions to some of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that are burning our brains these days.
We can consider the words of Beau Kittredge reminding us to "be kind enough to listen and brave enough to have difficult conversations." It is through these dialogues that we will learn the perspectives of our opponents, respect their point of view, and progress towards solutions in an amicable way. What if everyone thought this way?
The ultimate community is by no means perfect. But we are starting from a great foundation, and we strive to uphold and improve upon this value system. There is always work to be done, "one upwind throw at time."
So take a moment to think back and be thankful for the first person that invited you to toss a disc around, your first coach or captain, or that one crush that asked you to join the team and got you caught up in the fastest growing team sport in the US.
Be thankful for the first disc that ever touched your fingers, because it likely has influenced your life in more ways than you might imagine.
And if you have never played ultimate, give it a shot. You'll be surprised at what might happen :)