At the end of April, KZN Midlands Clubs – The Long Donkeys and The Lions – will host the Mixed National Ultimate Frisbee Tournament in Karkloof.
Ros Dredge is part of the organising committee. “We are excited to show off the surroundings to out-of-the province players. The Karkloof Country Club has fields that will give players a soft landing for that perfect layout. On-site camping will give them stunning scenery to wake up to. The opening ceremony will kick off the tournament on Saturday 29th April and there is guaranteed to be some amazing play from the 17 teams. The final will be played on Monday 1st May, which is a public holiday, so come along and watch a competitive game as we host the best Ultimate Frisbee the country has to offer.”
Growing up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Ros played Frisbee with a crowd of people twice a week. She recalls “It really was a crowd since it would get up to 15 a side and we would just make the field wider and bigger. Then a nephew and some nieces arrived and to include them we added a rule that to score a point everyone younger than 10 had to touch the disc before we scored a point. Ultimate on a Thursday afternoon was a community sport.”
While studying at Rhodes University, Ros played with a small group on the Great Field and as soon as she arrived in Pietermaritzburg enquired if there was a local team. The Long Donkeys were just what she needed to continue playing this game that she loved.
In 2010 she participated in her first Rocktober tournament, which is held annually in October. The games schedule changed and her team missed the email notification. While they were driving to the venue they received a panicked call to ask where they were as their game had started! Ros takes up the tale “We arrived with two women and four men, walked onto the field with a 0-4 score against us (for being late) and lost to UCT. However, that was the switch that made us want to prove a point and so we were on fire throughout the tournament.” In the final, The Long Donkeys beat UCT to win their first ever Rocktober title and went on to win the 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 events, and to win Mixed Nationals three years in a row.
The current rules for SA Ultimate Frisbee tournaments meet the WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation) standards. The rules are that the team of seven must be made up of 3 women and 4 men or 4 women and 3 men. Frisbee is one of the few mixed gender team sports and it does take a while for everyone to work together. Sometimes this is a challenge and occasionally male ego and competitiveness gets the better of the boys. Despite Ros being an enthusiastic player she has had to cope with some ‘I don’t throw to girls’ conflict. “I can clearly remember occasions when the guys would make eye contact and then look away for another option to throw to. I would quickly vocalise my dissent, because I was not going to continue running around the field if they were not going to throw to me!” Looking back on those early days with The Long Donkeys she realises that this was a challenge for all South African mixed teams. Ros is pleased to report “It is better now because the men will throw to ladies and make an effort to throw to new players despite their gender and ability.” Ros encourages other women to join in the fun and get fit. While the sprint running can be tiring, your fitness levels build quickly. She has observed that hockey and basketball players adapt well to the game as they have already learnt how to space themselves on the field. Learning the technique to throw the disc well comes with time and confidence, but anyone can catch a disc and therefore score a point.
In 2013, Ros helped run a Hat tournament, where teams are mixed up so everyone has a chance to play with people across a range of skill levels – a great way to improve your own game. This gave her an opportunity to help develop the sport in KwaZulu-Natal and later at a National level as Chair of the SAFDA (South African Flying Disc Association). Ultimate Frisbee is gaining recognition within South Africa, where 16-20 clubs play at a National Tournament. There are so many passionate players who are working hard to grow Ultimate Frisbee by taking the sport into local schools and their communities. Several teams have started simply with a group of friends playing after church or school. The beauty of the game is that anyone can play.
Ros concludes “It’s a great team sport with players from all professions and ages. I am competitive by nature and so I enjoy the Spirit of the Game which rules the game and ‘forces’ players to have good sportsmanship. One of the challenges Ultimate Frisbee has world-wide is to break the ‘dog on the beach’ or ‘hippies throwing discs around a field’ image. It is a competitive sport that is recognised by the IOC. This is what I would like people to see.”
Join in a practice session soon! The Long Donkeys play at St Charles on Wednesday and Friday from 5- 7pm, the Lions meet at Lions River Club on Tuesdays and Thursday 5 for 5h30. Contact Ros on 082 429 7086 or Ryjin on 073 660 0005