Photo taken at DI College Championships 2014 in Mason, Ohio.
Since ultimate still hasn't quite landed on a lot of parents' radars, there's often a learning curve for team supporters to figure out how they can best help their players on the field.
Luckily for you and them, we put together some insider information for achieving Pro Fan Status, whether they're reading this as new or well-seasoned ultimate supporters.
Help them help you! Send this to your ultimate parents and other supporters!
Dear Parents of Ultimate,
Let's start with a big thanks for all of you that have dedicated your time, energy, and money to ultimate. We want you to know that we players appreciate you.
You should know that you are loved by the entire ultimate community. The sport of ultimate wouldn't be anywhere if it wasn't for your support- and your support matters! Even if you've never had the chance to watch an ultimate game, you've trusted the players in your life to play this intense and unconventional sport because it brings them joy.
In an effort to give back to you, we've compiled some ideas to both acknowledge what you already do for us and also help pass on that information to future ultimate parents who want to be supportive but don't know the first thing about ultimate. Here goes:
1. Just Show Up
Even if you read nothing past this, you've now made a huge step forward to supporting your kid and the sport they love.
As a player, getting the chance to share our passion for ultimate with our loved ones is significant. Of course, coming to a game isn't always a possiblity. But when we do see you on the sideline cheering us on, it lights a new fire under us and drives us to push ourselves on the field even more.
If it's your first ultimate event, be prepared for some outfits and cheers that don't fit your expectations of standard sports culture. Just roll with it - we're having fun!
Nicknames are also a big part of ultimate culture so, don't be surprised if you hear your daughter's friends refer to her by something other than her birth name. Also, you might become "Mama" or "Papa" [Nickname]. Embrace it; this means you're cool.
Pro-tip: Ultimate friendships tend to last a lifetime, so get to know your player's teammates in person now, and consider it a great investment for the future!
2. Learn the rules
We suspect that you haven't grown up watching ultimate the way you probably did basketball or soccer, and we figure you'll get a lot more enjoyment if you know what you're watching.
Ultimate has many particular rules, which are all described in the USA Ultimate 11th Edition Rules handbook. (USA Ultimate is the US's governing body of ultimate by the way.) If you're a real bookworm, knock yourself out!
For the rest of us, we'll stick to this handy abbreviated rules resource that USAU created.
Important rule for fans to know if attending Nationals:
The fields will be outlined by not 1, but 3 separate lines. The innermost line marks what's in and out of bounds for the players on the field. Then, there is a line 5 feet back from the field that indicates where the players and their waterbottles, jackets, snacks, must stay behind. Your line is the third line (5 more feet away) that shows where fans must stay behind. This is important because your team could get a violation for having fans too close to the field when there are Observers present.
3. Promote the sport
Ever tell a friend that your kid plays ultimate and get bombarded by questions you didn't know how to answer? People are curious about our weird sport, and we want YOU to be able to have those conversations and be an advocate to further legitimize ultimate.
Here are some talking points and fun facts to use to brag about your kid's sport:
Ultimate is an international sport that is growing quickly. It's played in 44 countries, was recognized by the International Olympic Committee in August of 2015, and there is a professional ultimate league called the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL).
Ultimate requires players to be in great shape for running and agility. Players typically run 3-4 miles during each game.
In most levels, there are no referees, which means players are responsible for calling their own fouls and resolving their own conflicts. Ultimate's a great teacher of accountability and conflict resolution through mutual respect. There's a rule in ultimate called "Spirit of the Game" (SOTG) that requires players to respect everyone on the field, to know and play by the rules, and to value everyone's joy of play. The World Flying Disc Federation does a great job defining SOTG here.
Ultimate is not played with dogs nor baskets. It's important to us that you know that. Please correct others when they make this face-palm-worthy mistake.
Nathan Kolakovic has some awesome tournament highlight videos for you to share around when haters have doubts about our athleticism in our sport.
4. Lend a Hand
College ultimate teams are considered club sports, and thus often receive less funding and recognition than other sports teams, which means poor college kids often struggle with the costs of attending tournaments. Do any of these things, and the team will be eternally grateful:
- Housing: If there's a tournament in your neck of the woods, offer to house some players! Even if you can only take in a couple of people, that can save the team an entire hotel room.
- Transportation: If possible, offer to help transport players to and from the field. Renting cars can be really expensive, especially for the under 25 crowd, so the fewer rental cars, the better!
- Footage: Players learn a lot from watching footage of themselves after the tournament. If you have a spare hand, offer to film a game or two. Scott Dunham, better known as Hallie's Dad, brings a ladder with him to film Stanford Superfly and other teams when he attends tournaments.
5. Keep them fueled
Snacks will always be appreciated.
Tournament weekends are long, and games are often back to back. It's typical for teams to play 6-9 games over a single weekend. Bringing snacks that are both high in protein and also high in quick burning carbohydrates will keep the players energized and avoid crashing.
What to leave on the shelf: Tournaments usually provide bagels, peanut butter, nutella, and bananas so there's no need to bring any of those foods.
What will make you an all-star parent: Teams LOVE when you bring Gatorade, electrolyte water, apples, clementines, nuts, dried fruit, jerky, or hard-boiled eggs. They will eat it up!
Here's an article from UltiWorld on what to eat at a tournament if you want some more ideas!
And, if you can't physically attend a game, but still want to keep up on all the action...
6. support from afar
Do you have a Twitter account yet? If not, now might be the time to make one!
You don't have to tweet from it, but Twitter is universally used in ultimate as a way for teams to update their fans about their games by live-tweeting them with score and play updates.
You can keep up with everything in real time by following your team's Twitter handle.
Don't get overwhelmed; start with step 1 and attend a game. Showing up to a game or even just showing interest is what matters most to us.
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OVER TO YOU
Do you any have words of wisdom for the ultimate parents out there? Share your thoughts in the comments.