ROK-U Spring 2017 Season Wrap-Up

This past weekend saw the end of another season of the recreational Ultimate in Korea. Spring 2017 was an interesting season for me, as I began to take Ultimate more seriously than I have in the past. I saw great growth in myself and the team I play for, the Wonju Knights, even if the playoffs didn’t quite go as planned. We may not have won the league or even the consolation bracket, but we certainly had a good time and looked damn good doing it.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my wife Kris has been in recovery from a torn ACL that she unfortunately picked up earlier this year. Despite this, she stoically remained captain of our team for the season. She didn’t miss a weekend, and gave the team encouragement and hearty cheers from the sideline. Her presence was inimitable, and boosted our morale immeasurably. Sadly, she could not add that fire onto the playing field itself. This left a gap in our handlers (essentially the playmakers of Ultimate) which I had to step up and fill. While I had played handler for the past few seasons, I was now required to play it for every point that I was on the field, and I was needed on the field far more than I was in previous seasons. I felt a lot of pressure at first, but the more I played, the more confident I became in my own play. The increased need for my mediocre skill helped me push past my previous skill ceilings. I am by no means anywhere near a good player, but I am on the road to getting there. My skills are no longer the weak point of my game – that is now my fitness, which I will work on in the coming months of downtime.

Beyond my own improvements, I saw great progress from every single person on our team. Newer players began to throw throws that they would not have done last season, and gained a greater understanding of how Ultimate works. Even experienced players on the team threw fewer risky, flashy throws. Off of the field, most of the players on the team were already friends before the season, and we tried our best to include the new players to the team into our fold. After play concluded on Saturday, we held a fines and awards evening to acknowledge everyone’s contribution to the team, and to have a few drinks together. Everyone received an award from the team, reflecting on some aspect of their play, attitude, or pretty much anything. Mine was the following:

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Even though I improved this season, I had a tendency to get a tad grumpy at myself whenever I made a clear error on the field. This may have involved outbursts on the sideline at no-one other than me. Over and above this, my defense style is quite passionate. Hence, the Super Saiyan award.

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Don’t mind me. I just missed an easy catch. I’m fine, I swear.

This weekend may have been a great final bonding moment for the team, but it was not our most successful. We finished league play in the middle of the table, landing a solid seed for the playoffs. However, our team cohesion just wasn’t quite there this weekend. We all missed easy catches (there may have been a couple of Super Saiyan moments from me), our throws went to nowhere more often than any other time this season, and we just weren’t gelling. We didn’t manage to win a single game in the playoffs, losing to teams that we’d beaten during the season. Our heads were a little down after our first loss, but by the end of the day, most people had realized that it was the last chance for this iteration of the Knights to be together, and we just had some fun.

With spring season of 2017 over, all that lies ahead for the next few months is the off-season. There is a club tournament coming up, but I didn’t make the cut for that one. For Kris and I, we have a couple of months to decide whether we will play again in the autumn. Kris may still be too injured to play, and I will need to decide whether I’d rather spend time with her or play Ultimate. Judging my how quickly this year has flown by, we will need to decide before we know it. Until then, we’ll just keep on enjoying our life here in Korea, and seeing what the future holds for us.

 

Mind Games: The Return to Ultimate

A few weeks ago, I underwent LASEK eye surgery to correct my severe astigmatism. I wrote a little bit about my experience shortly after the fact. Since then, my eyes have gradually been getting better and better. Objects are becoming less blurry, and I am able to see more clearly every day. However, there were some restrictions placed on me by the surgery, including being unable to engage in sweat-inducing sports (including my beloved Ultimate) for a month. That ban was lifted two weeks ago, and I have participated in two Ultimate weekends since then, with varying degrees of success.

My first Ultimate weekend post-surgery was a club tournament held in the coastal city of Ulsan. It was my first club tournament, and I was rather nervous for multiple reasons. I wasn’t sure how my eyes would cope with strenuous activity again. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with my opponents, as I am normally not very quick and I hadn’t done any rigorous exercise for an entire month. I thought I might have lost some of my skills. Our wonderful, cheerful team also had many male substitutes. So, I decided to take it easy, only playing when needed and not putting myself onto the field too much.

This proved to be a wise approach. Even in the warm-ups before each game, I struggled slightly with depth perception and generally seeing the disc coming at me. I felt off-balance a lot of the time. I got winded more quickly than usual. I had lost a dash of speed. All of these played a role in not meeting my own personal expectations for the weekend. I dropped catches I should have caught. Opponents that wouldn’t have beaten me a month ago got past me for the score on multiple occasions. I even had to remove myself from the team environment during a break to listen to music and re-centre and re-focus myself.

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The wonderful band of rapscallions that I played with in Ulsan

These mistakes and shortcomings aside, I enjoyed the first weekend back. Overall, I think I did alright – I didn’t let the team down too much, and we ended up with some great results. More importantly, there was always a positive attitude and atmosphere within the team, and we had great fun together. I took what I could from the Ulsan tournament, and looked ahead to my first weekend with my ROK-U team, the Wonju Knights.

Sadly for me, I hadn’t truly overcome the problems of the Ulsan weekend. I was still slower than I was, and for some reason my head just wasn’t in the right space. The Knights managed to win our first game of the weekend (something that would have been cause for celebration a season before), but I felt frustrated with my own performance. On the club team, I was a minnow and I knew it. On the Knights, I thought I would get more game time and play a more crucial role in the team. And yet, I would let others go on the field before me. I will generally sacrifice my own play time to make sure the more under-utilized men on our team get a run. It’s all about the spirit of the game and making sure everyone feels valued. Normally I would be okay with it – it’s what I do. But this time, I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. I both wanted to and didn’t want to sacrifice, but I did it anyway because that’s who I am.¬†Once again, the team had a great time around me and enjoyed decent success, winning two of the three games that we played in and generally keeping spirits high in the process.

I guess the biggest impact that LASEK has had on my Ultimate game is not anything physical. I can see well enough to play at a decent level. My fitness (whatever small level I had to begin with) will return. The most significant hit I’ve taken appears to be mental. With a big weekend of important games this weekend, I need to take time to work through the mental obstacles preventing me from performing and enjoying the game I love. I need to stop thinking about dozens of different things and just get out there and have fun throwing a piece of plastic with my friends.