FEATURE SERIES: THE 8 PILLARS OF COMMUNITY, #4: A Safe Place
Written by: Zahlen Titcomb, idea maker at Bamboxers.com, co-founder of Five Ultimate, Strategist at the All Star Ultimate Tour, and co-owner of the Seattle Cascades
This article was written by a guest writer. The opinions expressed in the post belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Ultimate Project.
4. A Safe Place
On the ultimate frisbee field, we know we can trust our teammates, as well as our opponents. In ultimate, self officiation allows us to relinquish our survival instinct, let our guard down, and truly play a sport to our best ability without having to worry about factors other than our mental and physical skill to succeed.
Across all demographics and cultures, humans (and pretty much all other animal species, Dodos aside) have evolved to seek safety from harm, comfort from pain, and warmth from cold. From early hominids who relied on their group for protection from the elements and predators, to the feeling many of us get today when we return home to sleep in our own bed after having been away, a safe place allows us to unwind, unhitch, unfold, and uninhibit ourselves from the perils of the universe.
Whether you have played one point or ten thousand points of ultimate, the ultimate field is this safe space for many people. Your college home team turf where you first learned to throw a forehand, your 10th year playing at Spring Reign, or even under the lights at USAU Club Championships. All of these places are a safe space for someone (though I bet the ranks are slim for club champs finals repeats). When we step on a field, we can choose to feel at home, and the other players there will welcome us, by design.
Yet the beauty of ultimate extends far beyond our own stomping grounds. One of the unique and unifying things about the sport is the global network of ‘pick-up’ games that are sprinkled across the world. Find yourself in Boracay, Philippines for spring break? In Austin, TX a few days after SXSW to decompress? In Seattle, WA, and fancy some goaltimate at Green Lake? All these places are open and welcoming to any intrepid traveler to hop on the field and play a few or a few dozen points. Some version of this ultimate ‘home away from home’ exists in every city, and is easy to find online or through friends. This truly is a global community.
What makes it safe? A cheating or ill-willed player is welcomed to enter the field, of course, but that player will not succeed in the midst of the self officiated system. We are lucky to be part of a community that is based on a system of self governance, because it cultivates a trusting and safe environment for the people that participate. That’s not to say you are forever protected from a scraped up hip bone from diving after a disc just out of your reach, but you will be helped back up by an opponent who is often as equally celebratory as your own teammates in light of your epic layout.
The Ultimate Frisbee field is a space where players around the world can be themselves, and coexist in the pursuit of sport without the compromises of unhealthy competition or unfriendly judgement. Plus, ultimate fields are saber tooth tiger proof!
What about the other pillars? Check 'em here.
Zahlen is a sibling by birth, an idea maker by nature, and a social entrepreneur by religion. The oldest of five, Z grew up playing disc sports around the world with his siblings. He captained the ultimate team at UChicago back when it was cool to listen to Dave Matthews Band. He was a local boss (without the tattoos) of developing ultimate in China for many years. Zahlen believes ultimate can make the world a better place, and works daily beside his brothers and sisters on Five Ultimate, The All Star Ultimate Tour, the Seattle Cascades, and TUPO to boost the sport he loves.