It’s not goodbye…
Fun fact: A quck google search will show that 1.6 million blog entries are titled “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.” I can guarantee that none of those partings will pull at your heart as much as John Q’s farewell to his son, but all of them together still don’t hold a candle to the bittersweet farewell I bade to ultimate this season.
Perhaps you remember me spending a few months preparing for a small get-together in Italy to toss a disc with my friends. Ring a bell? Well, that tournament came and went, but its passing did nothing to slow down my athletic involvement. I continued training during the week and traveling to meets and tournaments nearly every weekend until mid-November. From March to November, this 9-month ultimate season was more than a bit tiring. Sacrifices were made, since I wasn’t always successful in finding a balance between dancing, ultimate, church, and the friends here that are important to me. It’s great to take finally take a break.
While nine months isn’t unheard of, it’s still a long time if you contrast it against a year of college ultimate in the frozen Midwest. At home you have a fall season that runs from September until everything is frozen at the end of October. After that you have a break for about 17 months until the ground thaws in April, a week before Sectionals. Some try-hards may use those bleak interim months to work out. I tried that a few times. Not a huge fan. The spring season runs until the end of the academic year, when summer comes. The aforementioned try-hards may also join a competitive club team and view this as their “real” season. I also tried that for a season, but it was on a C-bracket team that only went to 3-4 tournaments. Usually I just played local pick-up instead.
Compared to this, the Korean ultimate season is much longer and employs many more weekends. But like back home, it’s a variety of leagues, tournaments, etc. The largest of which is Republic of Korea Ultimate (ROK-U). This league has a spring and fall season, with 24 teams and 350+ players. The teams have about five-six weekends of ultimate in different Korean cities, spread over two and a half months. The league boasts a large amount of new players that were introduced to ultimate in Korea, as well as plenty players with experience from home, and quite a few College Nationals alumni.
Then you have Seoul League, which also has a spring, fall, and an inaugural indoor winter league this year. When I played last fall, I think there were 8 teams with about 120 players. The level of play is fairly similar to ROK-U, but the schedule’s much more manageable, so it’s an easier commitment than ROK-U. Seoul League was a gateway into my broader involvement in Korean ultimate.
Korea also has at least ten annual domestic tournaments. They’re usually mixed-gender hat tournaments (individuals get randomly teamed together), though there are a few team tournaments. They take place all over the country and are squeezed into the weekends we don’t have league. The level of play is higher, drawing experienced people into pickup teams, with plenty of regularly practicing teams as well. Jeju’s Dirty Dozens even draws teams from Japan and Taiwan. Finally, a couple of the local club teams will make it out to international tournaments in Hong Kong or Manila.
With all that said, the Korean ultimate community is actually quite small compared to many other scenes in the states, or throughout Asia. Though you may be in a different league or on a different team, you’re essentially playing with and against the same people from tournament to tournament. This assortment of tournaments and league is really just one long season. Really long.
I loved it, and look forward to playing more ultimate next spring, but I’m happy for the break. To no one’s surprise, I already filled the void with dancing. The next weekend I stayed in Gapcheon for the biggest blues dance event in Asia, and restarted my mid-week dance excursions. It looks like I’m shelving my cleats for suede-bottoms for the next few months!