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OCUA Youth Ultimate League BY KARLIS BOUSE It is a typical summer weekday evening, much


like any other in Ottawa. In one of the local parks in the west end, there are 20 or so Ultimate Frisbee players chatting and standing around tossing a disc, jogging around the field, or quietly stretching and getting mentally prepared for their upcoming game. And, as per usual, the sidelines are dotted with family, friends, pets, support- ers and scorekeepers. What makes these play- ers different, however, is that their parents had to drive every one of them to the fields for the game tonight. Welcome to the Ottawa Carleton Ultimate Association (OCUA) Youth Uitimate League, comprised of young Ultimate players 9 to 13 years of age. This is, as they say, the future of the game, and from this particular spot on the grass, our future looks good. Ultimate frisbee is a fast-moving field sport


with elements of soccer, football and basketball, combining for a fun and fluid game suitable for all ages and genders. The game is self-officiating, where players make their own calls, and play is governed by sportsmanship and mutual respect for ones opponents. From humble beginnings in the 1970’s, the sport is now played by hundreds of thousands of people in dozens of countries around the world. Ottawa currently has one of the largest city leagues in the world, with over 4500 players and 300 teams playing year- around, with outdoor play in the summer and fall, and indoor play though the winter and spring. The OCUA Youth League runs in four areas


in Ottawa, in the west in Kanata, in the east in Orleans, centrally at Lynda Lane (near the Ot- tawa Hospital Campus) and the fields here at Ben Franklin Park, near Hunt Club Road and Green- bank Avenue. The league has been running succesfully for a number of years, and the total


number of youth players has been growing steadily. The coaches are comprised entirely of volunteers, generally Ultimate-playing parents of the young players. There are also volunteers from various competitive teams that help out, bringing their expertise and knowledge to tomor- row’s superstars. The evening begins with a circle stretch, while


the coach goes over what was introduced the previous week. It’s only when coaching the game, in particular to a younger audience, that one realizes how many different elements the sport combines. While simple in principle - you run, you catch and you throw - there are a mul- titude of various throws, catching styles, offen- sive plays and defensive approaches, as well as positioning, strategy, awareness and teamwork that are required to play the game. Children that have any field sport background seem to pick up the game a little quicker, but one of the selling features of Ultimate Frisbee is that nearly anyone can play it, at any point in their life, and with any amount of experience. The drills continue, with kids throwing the disc


back and forth, and running down the field to simulate the various game situations. Following the drills, two teams come together for an infor- mal game. While the games are ‘unofficial’, it is certain that many of the young players are keep- ing close track of the score. Some of the other benefits of playing team sports, such as Ultimate Frisbee, are the lessons that young players will learn about sportsmanship, teamwork, commit- ment, and winning with grace and losing with class. All of these elements, while not bluntly stated by coaches, parents and volunteers, are gently and consistently reinforced through the game. The children listen, learn and apply - both on the field and through their lives. Once the game has concluded, the two teams line up in the middle of the field for a handshake, and then a ‘Player of the Game’ award is pre- sented to a flushed but smiling girl on the op- posite team, who proudly accepts the token of mutual respect. Following the cheers, the teams head back to their sideline for a quick debrief on the game. The mood is loose and relaxed,


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but the coach wants to ensure that everyone is listening and thinking about what to work on in the next practice and game. Upon conclusion, one of the volunteer parents pulls out a cooler of frozen treats, and all is forgotten while the locusts descend on the hapless adult. Despite the fact that Ultimate Frisbee generally


enjoys more of a ‘fringe’ status among main- stream sports, it continues to grow in popularity and profile. Once you start to play, you’ll begin to notice news articles on tournament results, local television stations broadcasting champion- ship games, and various apparel, footwear and discs from companies with Ultimate-specific merchandise. Players act as informal ambassa- dors for the game, spreading the word amongst friends, colleagues and, now with the Youth League, our children. One of the greatest joys over my years of playing is that I can now share the Ultimate experience with my son (and, in a few more years, my daughter). I can only sug- gest that you do the same. Having now entered my third decade play- ing Ultimate Frisbee, my personal level of en- thusiasm for this sport continues unabated. I love pulling on my cleats, tightening the laces, grabbing a disc, and hitting the field with my teammates. I have made friends, travelled the continent, won and lost games, met my wife and had some of the most memo- rable times of my life while being involved with the sport. It is time that I would trade for nothing else in the world. See you on the


field! Ultimate Canada Magazine — www.canadianultimate.com


PHOTO BY LIZ ST-JEAN PHOTOGRAPHY


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