This past weekend was definitely one to remember. Why, you may ask? Because I played in my first ever ultimate frisbee tournament ABROAD. It was a "hat" tournament, meaning all the registered players were mixed up at random to form 12 teams composed of 150 players in total representing every corner of the globe. The tournament was held in Auroville which is a one-of-a-kind, self-sustaining, international township/commune based in southeast India in the state of Tamil Nadu. I went down with a friend of mine from TISS who happens to play competitively back home in Finland. In total, there were seven of us there representing the Mumbai Ultimate team, named the "Storm Chasers"(whom I had met and practiced with for the first time about two weeks ago).
Although I wasn't quite sure what to expect going into the weekend, and, frankly was a bit anxious since I haven't exercised that hard in well....at least 9 months, I had such a GREAT time playing. Playing again after such a long time away from ultimate was like tuning into a repressed desire...after a throw or two, my passion for the sport resurfaced in full-force and I couldn't seem to get enough (which is why I chose to play a total of seven 75 minute games over the course of two days). I was thankful that my body was quick to remember the familiar actions required to accomplish a solid forehand and backhand and it felt so good and so natural to be moving in that way again.
While at the tournament, I learned that ultimate has been in India for about three years now, and interest in the sport is growing quickly. In Chennai alone, there are a total of seven teams and thus the city has been deemed India's frisbee capital. The play is still limited to co-ed teams, but there were many strong female players I played against and I've heard rumors that a few women's teams are beginning to form. Overall,the skill level was more advanced than I would have expected, esp. given that a large majority of the players had only been playing for about one year (!) which really really impressed me since I wasn't even able to throw a solid forehand after one year, let alone have a well-established field sense!
It was really fun playing with my team, the light blue team, which somehow acquired the name "Blue Film" (which apparently is a reference to some rather inappropriate Tamil cultural production). As with any hat tournament I've ever played in, it took us some time to figure out each others' individual styles on the field and begin to mesh well together, however by the end of the first day, something had definitely clicked. We managed to make it into the finals during which we pulled out a heart stopping 12-9 win. I was also blown away by the spirit exhibited by not only our team, but all of the other teams we played. Everyone kept their cool on the field, contributed equally to the team, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves overall.
As one of the more experienced players at the tournament, I had the opportunity to take on a leadership role both on and off the field which was a really nice change from co-ed tournaments I had played in in the past. There was also an all star game I played in which was fun.
Although I noticed my endurance has suffered a lot (well, to be fair, I guess I've never played at noon on a field of red sand under the HOT HOT Indian sun in about 90 degree weather) it was great to be playing in a tournament again. However after playing in a total of seven games which started at 6:30am and continued all day until to 6pm each day, I am utterly EXHAUSTED.
All of this time on the field was highlighted off the field by peaceful, quiet nights in Auroville, thali lunches at the solar kitchen, big dinners at the Visitor's Center followed by ice cream, and lots of fantastic conversations with ultimate players from every corner of India and the world. As per usual after a tough tournament, every single muscle in my body aches so I am limping around like an old lady and am extremely sun/wind burned, but am still high on adrenalin from such a great weekend ;)