So I just got back from the UPA College Nationals, which is the annual ultimate frisbee tournament for the top 16 college teams in the country. The tournament is being held in Boulder this year, so I figured it would be worth a 20-minute drive to see that level of play.

What an amazing thing to watch! These guys are super-athletic and have some incredible throws, catches, and defensive plays. It’s funny to think of the games we played back in college (15+ years ago!) and how different they were. For one thing, when I first learned to play ultimate in 1990 there wasn’t really anyone around to show us the way competitive teams played, so we more or less did it however we wanted. That meant games where one endzone was marked by a pair of oak trees, another endzone by a swingset, and one sideline was a lake.

During my five years in school, things got a little more organized and the game became more popular. Initially there were maybe a dozen of us hard-core players who went out regularly (meaning every other day). We drove to a few tournaments and hooked up with other teams, which was a real blast. By the time I graduated there was a crowd of maybe thirty and we played on the campus soccer fields.

A few years after I left, ultimate had become an official intramural sport at UMR and there were twice-weekly regular pickup games with crowds of forty or more. It was fun to go back (recruiting for Hughes at the time) and play with these guys– most of whom I didn’t know– and think of the lowly days when it all started.

So I continue playing today, eighteen years later, a little slower (okay, a lot slower) but a little wiser. I still love the sport.

It was fun to see these games today, reminding me why ultimate is so great.