5 Questions With…Robert McLeod

In the July interview, you had the chance to learn a bit about Australian Ultimate League, building a women team and playing on the highest level tournaments. If you’ve missed it then you can catch up at 5 Questions With…Cat Phillips.

I’m really uncontrollably excited about this month’s interview! I don’t know about you, but when I was researching ultimate for the first time I stumbled upon Ultimate Rob blog run by Robert McLeod. It was the first site which gave me some idea about basics in ultimate and tips that every rookie handler needs to know. Practice makes perfect, but you need solid guidelines to know where to improve. That was my resource for training inspiration. Rob is involved in promoting flying disc sports – more about the initiative at Ageless Game. He’s a motivational speaker and frisbee ambassador. He currently holds 6 Guinness World Records, 12 World Championships and the Canadian Distance Record (you can find out more at Frisbee Rob).

Can you ice skate and throw a frisbee? :O 

5 Questions with Rob McLeod

Name: Robert McLeod
Plays Ultimate Since: 2001
Team: Various teams over the years
Cutter/Handler: Defensive Handler/Puller
Favourite throw: Backhand
Favourite type of the tournament: The higher level the better!
Favourite division: Men’s
Favourite thing outside of Ultimate: Disc Golf!

1. How did you first get into Ultimate Frisbee?

I first got into ultimate my second year of university, but my first year at Dalhousie University. I actually taught myself how to throw the year before but because I lived outside of the city, I only had no one else to throw with. By the time I heard about ultimate, I already had a decent throw, and a lot of skills from playing many different sports growing up. I was voted athlete of the year in high school so when I heard about ultimate, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love. But I really fell in love first with the flight of the disc – there’s a reason we say “when a ball dreams, it dreams that it’s a frisbee”.

I saw a poster my first week of school at Dal for the Dal/Kings Ultimate Team (DKUT) and thought why not, I love to throw, and I don’t really have a sport I’m playing currently. I met some wonderful people and over the next 4 years, ultimate would play a huge role in my life and looking back, it’s really amazing everything that it gave me. I learned to build websites because of ultimate, video production because of ultimate, and built some great friendships that still exist today, almost 17 years later!

5 Questions with Rob McLeod

2. What does this sport mean to you?

Ultimate to me is the best team sport that exists because it combines so many elements of the other team sports, capped off with the greatest toy that’s ever been invented, the frisbee. There is a famous interview with Kenny Dobyns where he lists ultimate as the most important thing in his life, and at one point, I would have listed ultimate as the most important thing in my life as well. But as I’ve learned more about frisbee over the years, my perspective has changed. The reason I travel as much as I do, the reason I have dedicated my life to growing the sport of frisbee (ultimate included) is because of what ultimate (and frisbee) have given to me, the people I’ve met over the years, and the potential I see frisbee (and ultimate) for so many others if they only knew about the sport, or had the opportunity to play.

5 Questions with Rob McLeod

3. Your blog is one of the main resources anyone researching Ultimate Frisbee can find online. What do you think is the most important to learn when you’re starting out and how blogs like yours can improve teaching Ultimate and spreading the word about the sport?

I’ve talked and written about this extensively but the most important thing when starting out is learning how to throw. So many players jump right into ultimate without first learning the basics of throwing (and I don’t mean the basic throws). I mean how and why a disc flies the way it does. Once you understand that, throwing because so much easier, and the whole game opens up. It’s one of my missions in life to help people learn to throw and become better throwers. The best part of ultimate (and frisbee) is the frisbee itself. The better we are at throwing, and the more we understand how a disc flies, the more enjoyable the game will be.

Aside from throwing, work on fitness for sure. I don’t believe that you necessarily need to do an ultimate specific training program – but for sure do some sort of consistent fitness regimen. Take care of your body, and you’ll be able to play more and longer.

Practice is important, but so too is playing. Ultimate is relatively inexpensive until you start to travel. But that is where you’ll gain the most – playing against other teams and styles of ultimate. Meeting other players will help keep you engaged in the sport, and will make the 18 hour drives not seem as long.

I think it’s also important to not play ultimate 24/7, 365 days a year. Take some time off every year, not only for your body, but also for your mind. Play other sports. Especially learn about and try the other disc sports (visit http://www.agelessgame.com for a list of the other disc sports governed by the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF)). Learning to throw lighter, smaller, faster discs will help you become a better thrower in ultimate. And working on skills found in other sports (jumping in basketball or volleyball for example) will help you become a better athlete.

Aside from that, have fun, take chances, and play with Spirit!

4. You’re into Ultimate for a while now. What are the biggest challenges that you’ve noticed throughout the years and what has changed?

There are many challenges, but the biggest one is what I call the “elevator pitch” of ultimate. Ultimate is a wonderful team sport, but it’s not the only sport, and too often I hear people referring to ultimate as the “best” or “only” or talking about how ultimate will “change the world”. Don’t get me wrong – ultimate will change the world for some people – but I think we need to be realistic and practice some humility. I don’t think ultimate will ever overtake soccer as the most popular global sport. Based on what I know and have heard from other people, ultimate isn’t even the most popular disc sport (that would be disc golf).

And that’s totally fine. We can still love ultimate, and tell others about what a wonderful sport it is. There are other mixed gender team sports in the world. Spirit of the Game exists in other disc sports, and many sports are played without referees when played recreationally. Most people will never play ultimate at the highest level – either at nationals or worlds – and that’s totally fine.

So I think one of the biggest challenges facing ultimate is how we talk to other people about ultimate, and how we view ultimate.

Ultimate is a great sport but it’s very confusing to explain the structure and scale to someone unfamiliar with ultimate. There are world championships for beach and grass, world champions in men’s, women’s, and mixed in both the open, masters, and grandmasters levels. There is a pro league in the USA (the AUDL). There are a lot of opportunities to play ultimate, which is great, but we still have a long way to go before we have major sponsors, and are more mainstream.

Too often when people talk about growing the sport, they are blending what that actually means. We can grow the spectator base and the player base. They are two different things, but can certainly complement each other.

Finally, one of the challenges facing ultimate is that there just simply isn’t a lot of money to be made in the sport. The average ultimate player doesn’t spend much money on discs. The apparel and accessory market for ultimate isn’t very robust, although there are a few companies who are focused on jerseys and cleats for ultimate players. That’s not something that will easily change, because that’s the nature of the sport. To play, all you really need is one disc and 14 players (or even less although most people are familiar with 7on7 ultimate).

5. What are the key ingredients to build strong, lasting teams and what makes a good training plan?

I think there are several elements involved, but I would say the keys to a strong, lasting team is a core group of players who are committed to learning together, bringing in other players who are of a similar mindset, clearly defining expectations, being consistent, fostering healthy relationships both individually amongst the players, and as a team, having similar goals in terms of practice and competitive routes, and being responsive and adaptive to change, which will inevitably happen.

A good training plan is one that provides consistency, balance, rest, and progression. I hear from a lot of players who train super hard but fall off quickly and don’t get back into their program. Fitting training into your schedule is important – otherwise, it won’t get done. Making sure that you give your body rest is key or else you will be more prone to getting injured, which happens far too often. And progression is important so that you don’t get bored or plateau, and keep moving forward towards a goal, and adjusting as necessary.

5 Questions with Rob McLeod

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the interview. Such a good dose of inspiration, right? I have to admit I didn’t look into other disc sports as I tend to fully fix my attention on one thing. There’re so many other things to try with the flying disc sports. 🙂 Even though the days are getting shorter with upcoming autumn, it’s still better to do some outdoorsy stuff. For me, Ultimate was one of those triggers that got me into being outdoors more often. These days as a society we waste so much time online. I wonder if you’re up for a challenge? Another initiative run by Rob is called Unplugg’d. Do you know how much time you spend glued to your devices? Kids and adults these days tend to live online and forget the joys of being outdoors and actually doing something fun! Will you take the challenge and spend one day without using any devices? 

What’s your Ultimate Frisbee story? Would you like to share it? Feel free to message me on Introverted Ultimate or via email. I’ll get back to you with 5 Questions. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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