A Teacher, a Disc, and Ultimate Frisbee (Part 2)

sentinels_cuo_2016Sentinels train Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-10 in the evening and as always, discipline is the first thing you have to have if you want to improve.

As much as possible, I work around these scheduled trainings, setting meetings on other days, finishing tasks beforehand, and sleeping early the night before because inevitably, trainings the next day end late. You don’t want to be tired the entire week at work because of sports, do you?

When you train, you get stronger; but at the same time, you figure out your weaknesses. Apparently, I am one of the slowest, shortest, and most inexperienced players in the team. Though teammates–who have become friends–are always supportive, your deficiences will always come out specially when the game gets tough, when pressure gets to you, when your opponents are that strong.

Handling pressure. Mental toughness. This is my first weakness.

So far, there are two things I am confident in doing–choral singing and teaching. When I do these things, the pressure and anxiety I feel easily convert to energy and an all-around good feeling. I have been singing since I was young and I have been playing pretend-teaching since I can remember. These two are almost natural to me.

Sports, however, is a different story. I love sports. I easily learn technique and rules. I seldom am the best, but I can play and not make a fool out of myself (except in basketball, which is a different story altogether). The thing is, though my parents brought us to parks, taught us to bike, allowed us to play outside, sports was something they weren’t too excited about. They never allowed me to join a Milo sports clinic claiming it was expensive, but then they had money for my piano lessons. Weird. I don’t regret attending music school most of my childhood, but I did really want to discover a lot of what I can do in sports.

When I was in grade school, I was invited to play for the varsity, but they didn’t allow me to tryout. I guess because they see a lot of kids who get bad grades after joining the varsity program. To me it was unfair that my cousins were playing football for an all-boys school, while I can’t even tryout for my school’s volleyball program. So I had to settle for annual intramurals across sections and grade levels.

Then there was this boy named Andre.

Andre was a classmate who was an all-around athlete, the epitome of a jock whom everybody adores–teachers and students alike. He’s cute, tall, athletic. My grades were way better than his, but let’s face it, who cares about grades in the sporting world?

It was through him that I first experienced what being a bench player meant. It felt bad, specially that I was just an elementary kid then. It was always him playing, it was always his name everyone shouted, it was always him people praised. Though I learned a lot from this memory, the feeling of being second best apparently stuck with me and my sports endeavors until I grew older.

I tried sticking to volleyball as my main sport because it was my first love. I played setter for my High School team which didn’t train consistently and was thus mediocre, joined a club in college, and then regularly went to pick-up games when I graduated. I even joined little leagues. The thing is, these venues were not clinics. You had to have a certain level of skill to be able to play at par with other players. So though I had the basic skills a setter needed, I barely had the confidence to be the play maker setters are meant to be. It was frustrating how pressure gets to me, causing bad sets after bad sets. What’s even worse are the faces your friends make when you make mistakes setters shouldn’t be committing. I can’t blame them.

After a bad injury, and years of continuous hurt confidence, I decided to let the sport go. I still enjoy playing the game, but I also know that unless  I enroll in a sports clinic, it would be a viscous cycle for me where I try hard, get eaten by pressure, and feel frustrated.

I quit. Not because I gave up, but because ultimate frisbee gave me another option. It was a game I have come to love because of the adrenaline and the sprints, not to mention gender equality as by default it has girls playing with guys. To top it all, teams in the metro train for tournaments. You show up, you learn, you improve. Progress was visible and available.

And so I trained. I started cross-training even. Went to the gym, attended practices. Pressure was still getting the better of me but my confidence was slowly building, and  my game was improving. I thought these would be enough.

They weren’t.

Moving back to my hometown presented itself as a new challenge. Now, not only do I have to sleep late after trainings and wake up early for work the next day, I also have to travel a total of four hours just to be able to keep training with my team.

It was draining. This effort plus the confidence and skill I am just building (though it has already been over a year) was not yet enough to make me a good player. I still “stutter” in games and make mistakes when I’m pressured. I’m training to be one of the handlers which is like being a setter in volleyball, which also means you have to be sharp and accurate in your throws and catches.

One Thursday however, I felt all the pressure and fatigue of travelling and training hard as you can  crumble over me. Things I did still wasn’t enough. I almost wanted to quit. Mental tenacity wasn’t easy.

Then I reflected.

Aside from the physical demands of any sport, self-esteem is a big factor. I have been doubting myself particularly in sports since I probably played next to Andre. My parents’ not allowing me to pursue sports and my self-proclaimed insufficiencies such as being short, heavy, and flat-footed didn’t help. To top it all, growing up trying to come to terms with my sexuality made things a bit more difficult in the world sports where hyper-masculinity is almost always the standard.

So I took a one-week break from frisbee and I decided I can’t attribute my lack of self-esteem in stories of the past. I have to face this self-esteem issue, bounce back, and play better. I have to stop comparing myself too much to other players and keep training. All these issues shouldn’t stop me from improving in a sport that I have come to love. At least that’s what a lot of different articles I have read say.

I bounced back just it time for my team’s last tournament for 2016. I signed up for Crossfit to prepare for next year, I started watching my food intake to lose weight and be more efficient in running, I even started training with another team to get more experience. All the effort, all the hardships. I was so excited that I think I performed well in our first game in that tournament.

I ran faster, I caught discs better, I jumped higher.

And then I fell and twisted my ankle and I was out for the rest of the weekend tournament.

One game out of seven. Funny how life happens.

And so, I am typing this post with an injured ankle. I will be freezing my crossfit membership tomorrow. I have been reading ways to exercise without the use of my feet. What a bummer. I was told I had to recover fully before I start with crossfit and play frisbee. Ironic. Just as I was getting there, overcoming obstacles, and developing mental strength, things happen. It’s almost like I was tested right after learning about something.

Haha!

Then I realized one more thing. It wasn’t just the game and improving my self that keeps me playing. A big part of all these effort is to make sure I do my best for my teammates. Not because I want to please them, but because I want to match the effort they put in. Mental tenacity is also created by teammates, by friends who must have their own struggles like you. No one in the team is being paid to play. Though we play for different reasons–may it be for self-improvement, self-validation, or just for plain fun, we play it together. And maybe their is strength in doing just that–knowing you’re not alone, knowing you enjoy the game with others.

So there, that’s how frisbee has change my perspective. I guess this post is both a reflection and a plan–how do I bounce back? How do I keep going? How do I improve myself? Essentially, how do I grow?

And I guess that will be for another post, probably in three years, when I turn 30.

😀

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A Teacher, a Disc, and Ultimate Frisbee (Part 1)

Looking back, I find it funny how I came across this sport.

Valentine’s night, 2014. Seven months after a breakup, I decided I didn’t want to stay at home so  I dated myself. After all, it was my first valentine’s alone in three years. I bought  a book, ate at a decent Japanese diner, and walked home.

As I was sniffing the scent of my new book while walking, I noticed all the couples walking with hands held, carrying stuffed creatures and bouquets of plant life. Suddenly, my book seemed a little less interesting. With a tinge of bitterness and a sense of humor, I updated my Facebook status saying something like:

What’s up with all the bears and flowers and couples everywhere?

Minutes after I hit the post button, a window popped-up. It was my friend, Harry. telling me something like:

Instead of sulking in bitterness, why don’t you join us in a friendly, frisbee pick-up game tomorrow in the university.

I have always wanted to try the game anyway since a roommate back in college invited me, but  I had a lot of things going on for me then that I didn’t have the time. So, with nothing to do, I  said yes.

15 February 2014,  Saturday was the first time I tried playing the sport. Two minutes into the game, I was already panting. After a point, I just wanted to get out of the field and just lie down on the grass. I was definitely out of shape and have never ran that fast and that frequent.

My sports usually had a net in between. Volleyball, table tennis, and badminton never required me to run as much, but it was running in sprints that made me really interested in ultimate frisbee.

In the few times I entered the playing field on that Saturday, with no throwing skills and relying only on volleyball to always be where the “ball” ( in this case, the disc) is, I enjoyed every moment where my lungs was trying to keep up with my legs, where my eyes were entirely focused on the game, where people’s shouts were shutting off other thoughts I had, when things seem to be forgotten for as long as you were inside the field, and life was a bit simpler. It was almost peaceful.

The peace I experienced in those fleeting game points and the quest to be healthier made me want to learn the game more. Two days after, I joined a bunch of couchsurfing dudes in a beginner’s night at the Meralco Field in Ortigas, had diner after, trained for two months and became a member of the now defunct team, Laagan.

laagan

Laagan is a Bisaya word for Wanderer as most of my teammates were experienced travelers, great people who love great adventure. I learned a lot from them. In fact, several inspired me to travel alone, which I have been doing since then.

The thing is, only a few of them were really committed to the sport. People came and went, others only showed up in tournaments without training. Eventually, it became frustrating to those who were committed to improve their game.

I played from February until July of 2014. Then I stopped almost entirely as I had to focus on other things. I tried to get back in April 2015 but got injured in volleyball so it wasn’t until October that I committed again to the sport. By then, some of the Laagan made another team named Ultimate Bacon Experience (UBE). I trained with them hoping to be absorbed. But before the team’s first tournament, the team manager and one of the founders decided she’d be better off with a higher pooled team (we were in Pool D, then). So, it was uncertain where the team was headed.

Before the year ended though, some members stepped up and decided to rename the team with a serious goal yet a friendlier vibe. After one of our pick up games and trainings, the team Sentinels was created..

Never did I , as a recreational athlete, imagine that I’ll be part of team of nice and competitive players where my love for sports will be challenged and pushed to its limits…