I’ve always been an athlete my whole life. From the 4th grade up until 2nd year college, I did nothing but play softball be it for my high school, ILLAM (which stands for the International Little League Association of Manila, an organization I was a part of and that I grew up with), and eventually for my university. My days consisted of school, training, school, training, school, and games. It was all I ever knew. At some point, I tried inserting other extra-curricular activities. I took up piano lessons, joined a band and played rhythm guitars, and tried out for the football team. But softball was my first love, and to this day remains to be one of my biggest influencers. I learned a lot about discipline, hard work, and camaraderie, and that winning never comes easy—you always need to strive for it.
I remember clearly the day I first played Ultimate. It was around Christmas break, and an off-season for softball. I was in 4th year high school. My good friend invited me to join his team’s training, which was literally five minutes away from where I lived then, and so I went. I knew nothing. I had no backhand, and my lousy attempt at a forehand consisted of me trying to throw the disc like I would a softball. I sucked at throws. But one thing I could do was catch, and there was this one instance during the pickup game that the disc was hucked to me, and I sprinted as fast as I could and caught it inside the endzone. Then and there, I got addicted.
I started to balance my studies, softball and Ultimate. There were times softball and Ultimate conflicted in schedule, but I’d always find a way to go to both. My parents supported me in everything, especially with softball. But when I started playing Ultimate as well, they scrupled a little.
College, I was able to get a sports scholarship and played for my school’s softball varsity. It was one of the most difficult things I had to endure and I found myself getting burned out with the first sport I ever loved. Balancing it with Ultimate became harder and harder because not only were my parents skeptic, even my new softball coach and teammates tried stopping me from playing—for fear that if I get injured, even my performance in softball would be affected. But I snuck out a lot, and I always found ways to play disc still. Finally, after 2nd year college I retired from softball and focused solely on Ultimate.
Ultimate Frisbee: It’s Not Just A Sport. It’s A Way of Life.
Even then, it wasn’t an easy road. My mom made it so hard for me—using disc as a means to ground me. Instead of not giving me allowance or not allowing me to hang out with my friends, she would take disc away. But strict parents create sneaky kids, and as always, I found ways to play. I’d leave my cleats and disc clothes/uniform with teammates, tell my parents I’d be out with my friends, and just change to disc clothes/my uniform when I got to training or games. Before going home, I’d clean up and change back to my casual clothes. My skin would be a little tanner, and my parents would sometimes notice but never say a word.
Things are a little bit easier now that I’m working. Even if my mom still comments a lot about my skin getting dark, or me getting fatigued by all the training and games, I still wouldn’t trade the exhaustion or the time or the energy for anything else.
See, it’s not just the sport itself that I’m addicted to. It’s more than working hard to be a better, smarter and more efficient player. It’s also about the second family I found in my team. That outside of home, I’m still surrounded by a good group of people who I can joke around with, share stories with, eat unlimited buffalo wings with, and who I continue to learn from everyday—be it disc-related or life-related.
Most of the time, I feel like I have two identities. Back when I was in school, nowadays in the office, and in most places, I tend to be quiet and invisible. I get timid and awkward, and I like being alone. Some might call me autistic for having my own world. But on the field and with the people who know me best, I change. (As I type this, I imagine Clark Kent entering a phone booth and suddenly transforming into Superman.) I become this person who’s eager to learn, and grow, and step out of her shell. That’s why Ultimate is more than just a competitive sport for me. It’s become a way of life.
Photo Credit: Ian Villar and Dodong Dela Cruz