The “Ultimate” Team Experience

Every facet of my life has been shaped by the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. I’ve been a part of the ultimate community for over a decade. I’ve competed at the Collegiate National and Club level of the sport and coached competitively at multiple levels. My best friends, who are akin to family, came from the ultimate community. I even met my incredible wife through the sport. This is how I made the “Ultimate” team experience as a result of everything I’ve learned, professionally, and personally over a decade of competitive sport.

What is Ultimate?

If you’re not familiar with ultimate I’d highly suggest heading over to the website of the governing body, USA Ultimate, to learn more. There are multiple divisions of competition, for example, a men’s, women’s, and co-ed (mixed) division. For a brief visual of the game I would refer to the following graphic courtesy of USAU:

A huge component of the sport is what’s called Spirit of the Game. “A truly unique and defining element of ultimate, Spirit of the Game places the responsibility of fair play solely on the athletes themselves by requiring each player to know the rules and make their own calls, without the help of a neutral official. These underlying principles reinforce mutual respect and trust between opponents; communication and conflict resolution skills; and self confidence – both on and off the field of play.”

It’s a wildly powerful experiment to place the integrity of officiating competition into the hands of the competitors. Yet in over 50 years of existence, the sport has flourished into a niche community with an international presence.

My Ultimate Experience

My first exposure to ultimate came as a senior in high school. I had minimal experience with competitive team sports at the time but was immediately hooked. In college, I played for the club ultimate team DUF. My freshman and sophomore years saw me playing on the B-team (developmental team) and I finally made the jump to the A-team for my junior and senior years. As a result of that team experience, I learned what true competition was. The sacrifices required to compete at the elite levels of sport are grueling and because I lived through those moments with my teammates I developed immensely. It doesn’t hurt when you make it into a team highlight reel either! (Look at 1:04 and 3:43)

From an administration standpoint, I was the Treasurer and President of the club while a member. I learned what it takes to manage the logistics and financials of a club with over 100 dues-paying members. An invaluable skillset that would transcend my time in the sport and in the club.

Being enamored with the ultimate community and wanting to give back, I got into coaching. With experience at the elite collegiate level of play, I first stepped into coach the Emory men’s club team. I was also asked to coach at the middle school, high school, club, and even elite youth club level. It was challenging to adjust my mindset from player to coach but it proved to be invaluable. As a result, I learned how to see the bigger picture in the sport. I learned about the intricacies of team dynamics and how to motivate a collective. Even today I still use those soft skills in my professional life because I can apply them in my daily interactions.

The m’kay Ultimate Story

All of this is to provide the framework for how I, along with my amazing wife, built the “Ultimate” team experience. Both of us had played on different teams the season prior. I played on a men’s team and she on a co-ed (mixed) team. The experiences were varied and left us wanting more out of our ultimate commitment. The season starts in June and runs through October depending on how far you advance in the postseason. In regards to results, neither of us were obsessed with winning every match because we had both pursued the elite level in college. The joy of the sport was focused on the community aspect now. You spend a lot of time with your teammates throughout a season and because of this, you want to make sure everyone will mesh well together.

That shift in mindset led us to pursue our own team and thus m’kay Ultimate was born. A team predicated on culture first, m’kay Ultimate (or m’kay for short) was about providing the more casual player with a balanced season experience. We would plan to attend middle-tier tournaments with minimal travel requirements so your schedule as a player could remain flexible and open. Practices would be non-existent. As a player, your performance and dedication were managed autonomously because we wanted players who knew their strengths and could play to them. So began the journey to build the team. We started from scratch and had to accomplish the following:

Recipe for Building a Team
  • Prospect for interest in personnel
  • Research and commit to a tournament schedule
  • Design and order team apparel
  • Coordinate logistics for tournament lodging

Prospecting for our teammates started with word of mouth. It was hard going at first because we were trying to sell a product that didn’t exist. We were very much in the funding stage of our startup and each pitch felt like it. There were lots of “maybes” and “sounds interesting” but little to no “yes count me in” which for anyone in sales is typical. Despite this, we pushed through and recruited a solid core of players with reputations for high skill play and great attitude. The key being attitude. Within weeks our final roster had formed and the season could officially begin.

An Ultimate Success

The end result of the inaugural m’kay Ultimate season was losing at Sectionals or the equivalent to losing in the first round of the playoffs. A subpar ending by anyone’s standard. For m’kay Ultimate, however, the season couldn’t have been a greater triumph. We made the finals of two out of three tournaments we attended winning one of them. The season was cut short with a loss in our playoff series but the response to the season was overwhelmingly positive.

“Playing with m’kay made me love ultimate again.”

“Best no stress ultimate experience ever. More!”

“Team was the most fun one I’ve ever played on, which is invaluable!”

People in the Atlanta ultimate community would reach out and congratulate us on a successful season saying how they heard such great things. It was truly the “Ultimate” team experience and being able to build it was something I’ll never forget. I was able to apply over a decade worth of personal and professional experience to create something others appreciated. Because of that success, I came away empowered to impart change. It’s a powerful feeling to know that if there is a need not being met, you can fulfill it. I would encourage anyone looking to expand their social circle or their fitness pursuits to explore the sport of ultimate and all it has to offer. Heck, even President Obama respects the game.





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