Saturday, January 10, 2009

… because when you are in season she’s not really your girlfriend anyways. She’s just the girl you see occasionally for casseroles and comfort.

The long season has been weighing down your energy. The last 8-9 months of training, practice, and team functions have begun to take their toll. The final semester is winding down and sleep is being replaced with all-nighters to finish 8-page papers and to cram for the next 3 back-to-back-to-back final exams. Your immune system is taking a beating, as well as your legs, which feel worse after each late night running practice. Something needs to give for this trend to continue – because day dreaming about disc in class has become harder and harder. Not because class is all that enthralling, but because personal issues have popped up. You begin to ponder using Frisbee as an escape from all life’s real problems. Because when you get to practice, you can leave all your other baggage behind. For two hours it doesn’t matter. No school, no girl, no excuses. All of those issues will only interrupt your play. You need to be focused at practice – you need to work hard and work smart. It’s that simple. It starts at practice. Be consistent and come every day prepared.

But with all this preparing and practice, your girlfriend is finally getting fed up with the lack of quality time, and is almost ready for the most dreaded ultimatum. After a brutal 4 hour long argument in which you blew off starting your paper due in 2 days, the disagreements reached a boiling point. She lashes out, “All you seem to care about is ultimate! You leave every weekend and never find time to call.” You make all the appropriate excuses, “I will find time for you. I’m only gone 3 weekends next month.” You attempt to make her understand that the season is gearing up and the most important tournaments are yet to come. Finally she can’t take it, “It’s either ultimate or me.” You take a moment to consider the circumstances, not wanting to sacrifice either priority. She obviously doesn’t understand that you can’t do anything about the limited amount of time you already have. “I’ve been sleeping maybe 3 hours a night for the last week,” you plead. “I'm doing the best I can.” Your words fall on deaf ears and the decision is suddenly making itself. Soon she realizes that ultimate is just more important right now, and storms out of the room.

The internal struggle begins and the questions come, rapid-fire. Let her go? She doesn’t understand and you need to focus. Frisbee is a mental game. In every game you ever play, the team that is more focused and that can push through their mental mistakes wins. Every day you have a target – Carleton, Carleton, Carleton. If that doesn't make you focus, why are you on this team? You snap back into reality. It will be the best right now. She doesn’t really comprehend serious sports you tell yourself, as you let her walk away.

When you wake up the next day, you will be a new person. Like a man unleashed, liberated, free to choose, and not a care in the world. You get chills when you think about it. You have one goal in life, one purpose; win a national title. You put your life-force into it, all your energy, you give everything. As you sit in class, you begin visualizing the sets and your positioning. You feel guilty when you finish homework instead of going to lift. You eat right and keep your body weight down. You really want it. You only have 5 years of college ultimate, how many of those days will you waste not training, not building? These thoughts fire you up, they make you hungry – the motivation is inside you and it is growling. With the extra time, the pressure to balance her with your time is gone. Regionals returns, and when wholly gripped again by the game, it will be inspiration. Everything becomes obvious and competing is easier than ever. Your thoughts are clear, your training more rewarding, and the time spent with teammates more valuable.

But you still have trouble sleeping at night because your regional rival is relentlessly invading your dreams. You resist the urge to call several days later. You just can’t send the text either, she won’t understand. How do you explain that getting a layout D takes hard work, dedication, and an exorbitant amount of time – even a little fire.
As you drive to Regionals, she again pops into your mind – but instead of feeling sad or angry – it creates a sense of purpose deep inside you. You gave her up for this – you had better show it when you step on the field – all of those distractions gone. It is time to take that frustration out on someone else; it is time to make plays. It will take focus beyond focus - even a little hate. You know deep down you really hate your regional rival. When all else fails and you need the courage to make a play – you consider hate. You decide to will your team to victory and it will start by waging war on every point – there are no excuses. The pain does not matter, you have felt worse pain. Suddenly your heart is beating through your chest, the adrenaline is kicking in, and you dig in to work harder. You dare your muscles to rip as you show no weakness. This is it, you live for ultimate. Nobody wants it as much as you do. Nobody can take it from you. Every time you want to quit, when you want to stop, think of Florida rushing the field and screaming they are number 1. Fuck Florida. Take that pain, that sadness, the worst moment of your life. Then take all of that energy and use it as motivation. You cannot be stopped. Nobody has felt this kind of pain. You've already decided you'll win. You will win.

As the last practice of the season ends and final exams expire, Nationals is only days away. You taper your body and buy into the mental preparation. It will prove the most important asset at Nationals. You consider what you’ve been through and feel the trickling sensation that your body alone can muster. The season’s pain has made you stronger – nothing will prove greater than that pain. Your nerves are on the edge. For those next three days you live, eat, sleep, breathe, think, and are totally overpowered by ultimate on a daily basis. You find yourself thinking about Frisbee nearly 99% of the time. You are ready to exhaust every ounce of energy, ability, and mental power into your performance – you would die for it. As you run through the chunnel and ready to play your first point – only then do you realize that it is the biggest tournament of the year, biggest of your life. Your pulse begins to quiver, body heat rises, heart pounds in your ears as the defense is called. This was the emotional response – no longer the mental or the physical – this point would be felt. This indeed was your soul screaming, emotion exploding setting the scene surreal. Only a snippet of this memory could be recalled later – because you in are in the moment and completely locked in. You believe in yourself, you want it badly. It is like that last little burden of pressure has been lifted and you are free to play your very best. You are free to create the fire, no provisions, no stipulations on your time and energy. And suddenly, you are playing the best you ever have.

The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. For there is a long list of college players to that when losing their significant other – have stepped on the field and absolutely dominated; Bruss, Carrington, Zukowski, Hurst, Burkly, Heijmen, Lokke, Doede, Riley, Muffin, and Foster. The answer is spreading like cancer, more verbal therapy.