Posted by: joha5 | April 29, 2010

Ultimate Frisbee or Ultimate Dichotomy?

There is something genuinely refreshing about working with 13 and 14-year-old kids.  I know that I was awkward when I was that old – hell, I’m probably more awkward now than I was back then – but because I witness it everyday, I can now definitively say that being 13 or 14 is a very strange business.  It would be easy to say that puberty is the main culprit here but that wouldn’t really capture the real essence of what it means to be that age.  It always seems like they are walking this fine line between childhood and adulthood.  One second they can act very adult and say some very adult things and even grasp some really complex concepts only to turn around the next second and pull somebody’s hair or talk about the Disney Channel or how gross it is to hold hands with somebody.  It really is a very strange dichotomy. 

In spite of this, it really is quite surprising just how much you learn about each individual student that you teach and just how much you come to care about their well-being.  There are days when I leave work and I truly believe that I am God’s gift to education and then there are days when I leave and I wonder how the hell I ever got dragged into this whole situation in the first place.  The highs are spectacular.  The lows are devastating.  Fortunately, these feelings typically balance out to a giant cornucopia of above-averageness which is exactly what I want in the long-term. 

Now that the weather is nice, one of the things I have been doing with my after school students recently is taking them outside for 30 to 45 minutes to play Ultimate Frisbee.  It all kind of happened organically.  I took them out one day and one of them had a frisbee and before you know it everybody was running around trying to catch and throw the damn thing.  I introduced another one and mayhem ensued.  Consequently, in order to keep a general framework I explained how Ultimate Frisbee worked.  It was love at first sight for them – but little did I know what effect it would have on me.

At first I would bring out a book and my sunglasses and just sit split my time between watching them and reading.  This was pleasant enough but one day the frisbee was flung in my direction.   With cat-like agility – well, less cat, more moose – I jumped up to catch it and then threw it back to the students.  It was at this moment that I felt the raw power of the frisbee coursing through my body.  The next day I left the book behind and instead of sitting, I stood very close to the sidelines in hopes of catching another wayward frisbee.  My brilliant ploy worked and I ended up catching a couple more.  The next day, instead of standing in one spot I wandered the sidelines in hopes of catching a few more.  I had a fever and the only prescription was more frisbee. 

My progression was swift.  I went from being a stagnant observer to active participant in a matter of days.  There is something liberating about getting out there on the field with a bunch of students and running back and forth throwing a frisbee.  The only problem is that I forget that I am not 13 or 14 anymore.  They can run until the cows come home.  I can barely run to the bar.  Their body’s can take an endless amount of punishment.  I can barely touch my toes without pulling a muscle.  In reality, it isn’t that bad.  But they definitely make me aware that I am far from being in the kind of shape that I want to be in.  I try not to let them in on my little secret so I do my best to control my huffing and puffing and make sure to wear an undershirt so it doesn’t look like I am sweating like one of those saggy old men at the gym.  I also am a lot taller than all of them so I can catch better than they can and, purely because I am older, I can throw a lot farther than most of them as well so I don’t think they have any clue of my limitations.  I, however, am painfully aware.

I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I’m doing okay.  I’m just not 13 anymore…and I’m okay with that.  I am sure some people will read this and think to themselves ‘how absolutely sad this guy must be to be playing ultimate frisbee and feel competitive with a bunch of pre-teens’ and they are probably right.  I would say that it has less to do with the 13 and 14 year olds though, and more to do with my own self perception and proving the inevitability of Father Time wrong.  I know that this is a losing battle and I know that I should just save face and go back to the sideline with my book but something inside me doesn’t want to.  I want to get out there and I want to run and push and trash talk (this is by far my greatest strength) with the best of them.  So what if they are 13 and 14 years old?  If you heard the competitive mouths on these kids then there would be nothing stopping you from getting out there to prove them wrong either.



  1. i was with friends the other day and we were all complaining about our aches and pains (injuries from running, playing frisbee, etc.) and we had to laugh. We’re all 25. Imagine when we’re 60 🙂

    • Clarissa! I’m only 2-3 years older than you guys and I promise you that you are all in better shape than I am! You guys must play frisbee more than me. I try to play as much as I can with my students but, even then, the heat and my physical ability leads me to think that you are WAY better than I could ever wish to be. Thanks so much for reading and posting and please stop by as often as you can!

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