Web Exclusive Series Part 2: For the Newbies: Where to Find an Ultimate Game in Austin

By Leah Fisher Nyfeler – June 4, 2012

How does an inexperienced person learn to play Ultimate Frisbee in Austin?

Many people like to learn by putting together their own games, and the web is a great resource. USA Ultimate is the national governing organization, whose mission is “to advance the sport of Ultimate in the United States by enhancing and promoting character, community, and competition.” Their website includes just about everything there is to know about the game of Ultimate, from history to rules to an programs and resources.

There are also many videos online to help with a variety of techniques. One posting on makeuseof.com is “How to Learn to Play Ultimate Frisbee Like a Pro with These Five Websites.” The piece guides new players (or newbies) to sites that can help with video instruction on throws, plays, and other techniques. With this background knowledge, a newbie team can practice to their hearts’ content.

Not everyone has a do-it-yourself approach to learning a new sport, so another option is to learn through playing pick-up games. Austin has a wide variety of Ultimate pick-up games, which run the gamut from extremely laid back to pretty competitive. Gary Breaux, one of the founding members of the Ultimate Players League of Austin (UPLA, which is pronounced “You Play”), recommended the site pickupultimate.com. “There’s a really robust pick-up culture here in Austin,” he said and he went on to give a few recommendations for attending. “Come a little bit early and let folks know you are new [some games on the site ask for contact in advance]. Usually, someone will take you under their wing,” Breaux explained, “and you’ll wind up throwing some on the sideline to warm up as they chat with you.” Once the game starts, new players will get worked in. He stressed that each pick-up game has its own personality, so the warm-up and some watching helps to determine the intensity of play.

For those who’d like even more structure to learning, UPLA has leagues that take players of all skill levels. Breaux explained that UPLA’s summer league (June 28-August 16, 2012) is a “hat league.” Players sign up individually or with a buddy and then are placed on a team based on their stated skill level by coordinators. “We do it to make the teams even, which makes the play more fun,” said Breaux. Newbies are divided equally among the teams in the league, insuring that all get playing time and can learn from watching and practicing with their more experienced teammates. The summer league takes players from 15 years of age on up, and the fee to play is comparatively low ($27 per player), with jerseys and discs an optional cost. Games will be played at East Metro Park, 18701 Blake Manor Road in Manor, on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. and 8:25 p.m. (yes, there are lights). You can still sign up for UPLA’s summer league here at http://upla.austinultimate.org/leagues/2012-austin-summer-league/information .

It’s important to UPLA and Breaux that newbies have a good experience. “I’d have to say that one thing is needed,” he reflected, “and that’s a little bit of courage. Any new sport takes courage to try. You just don’t want to be that new person who’s messing things up for the team.” That’s why UPLA takes extra care in selecting their captains, as they want experienced players who still remember what it was like to be learning the game.

UPLA’s newsletter, Austin Scoober, is a great resource and can be found on the UPLA website under the “Community” tab. When asked about the newsletter’s title, Breaux explained that different types of throws have names. Some of the major throws are backhand, flick (forehand), hammer (like throwing a tomahawk), and the scoober, which is a short, upside-down throw.

Breaux is almost evangelical in his encouragement. “Everybody should come out and try Ultimate,” he said enthusiastically. “You never know—it’s just in some folks’ blood. They come out, try it, and they’re hooked. How do you know if it’s in you unless you try?”

Next: Ultimate Frisbee for the more Competitive Adult Player (Part III of a web exclusive series)

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