Monday, January 09, 2006

PlayUltimate Contributor - Tom Herndon

High school team: Didn't have it at my high school. I ran Cross Country and Track.

College team: played some pickup at NCSU, lots of it barefoot with shoes marking front lines of endzones (no backlines).

Current residence: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Where you first heard of ultimate: Friends in college.

Years playing game: A solid decade gone by. . .

Notable accomplishments while playing: I provide daily evidence of "conservation of greatness." Closest-to-hardcore-event: Broke a wrist, but got the D, stopping the score! Least-hardcore: Stripped myself with my knee while throwing a backhand in Winterleague. And there was much disbelief. . .

Why you have expertise on the region you are reporting on: Over the last six years, I've taken HS teams from NC as far north as Princeton, NJ, as far south as Birmingham,AL (4th place finish open, 7th place Girls) and points between the College Easterns fields in Wilmington, and the PHAT River Campus fields of University School of Nashville, TN.

Any high school or college accomplishments in regards to writing/journalism: I published the "Village Voice Nepal" for a year where 'cut and paste' involved scissors, glue and a candle lit room.

Favorite Tournament Played: Our yearly return to Kudzu, the first large tournament the team attended and returns for every year as a current/alumni squad. I get to see my handiwork comparing my first players to my current players. In six years we have yet to win a game, however last year we had a lead in all but the last game we played. Somehow when another team's average experience nears or exceeds the our players’ average year in school, we have trouble finishing on top. However, we've gotten better every year (especially as our Alumni improve) and sometime soon, some adult team will finally become CHUF's first Kudzu victim. . .

My moment at the podium:
Competive Ultimate is awesome. However, I also want to champion the start or continuation of fun Ultimate as well. I challenge every program to start and/or maintain a freeplay as a year round, regular feature of their program that all comers are encouraged to attend. Where an emphasis on structure and skill development is minimal. Where some of the points are all inverted throws and a T-rex point (elbows pinned to ribs) is pulled and scored after 80 hilarious turnovers.

As our sport expands, much of the emphasis is on developing the competition and not keeping the fun that drew most folks to it in the first place. This is especially important in middle and high school where players who don’t excel immediately in the structured game are likely to turn their back to it and miss out on a lifetime of joy (and safe exercise.) Maintaining the lure that brought folks together in the first place is key to attracting new folks to the sport.