The Road of Champions – Xavier PULL (Phil. Ultimate Little League) Champion 2015

By Karel Tan, H4I
Photo from Mrs. Jade C. Bata, GS English teacher

Before I begin describing the path that led the Xavier Ultimate Frisbee team to become the 2015 champions of the annual Philippine Ultimate Little League (PULL) tournament in the Open High School Division, I would like to take this opportunity to advertise and give a brief introduction to the sport of Ultimate Frisbee for those who are unfamiliar with the sport.

A simple way to describe the mechanics of Ultimate Frisbee is to relate it with American Football. In Ultimate, there are two “end zones”, wherein the players need to catch the Frisbee disc in the opposing team’s end zone in order to score a point. The two big differences between Ultimate Frisbee and American Football is that first, when a player is holding the disc, he/she is not allowed to move, and second, since the player is not allowed to move with the Frisbee, Ultimate is, as much as possible, a non-contact sport. Each team should have only seven players playing at a time, with substitutions only allowed after a point is scored, or in the unfortunate event that a player receives an injury.

For Xavier Ultimate, our road to becoming champions began at the start of the school year. For this year, we were blessed with one of the best Ultimate players in the Philippines to be our coach: Mr. Jamel D. Pangandaman. Under his and coach John Kerwin Galarpe’s guidance, the team was able to improve in every aspect of being an Ultimate player: from our fundamental and basic skills of throwing the Frisbee properly, to our physical condition and faster thought processing, to more advanced Ultimate techniques and plays. In the months and weeks we spent training, never was a single training session wasted; with each session either focused on strengthening our physical condition, or to a certain play or technique that Coach Jamel would want us to be able to execute during our games.

As student-athletes, my teammates and I had to commit to training three or four times a week, with our training sessions often ending between 5:30 – 6:30 pm. Although to some this may seem very exhausting, or even a waste of time that could be used for academics, in my experience, being a student-athlete allows me to be develop a better sense of discipline and time management. Because there is less time to do homework when I arrive home from school, I am forced to work as soon as possible, leaving no room for procrastination. One might think that because of this, an athlete has no time to relax and take a step back from everything, but for me, my time for enjoyment and relaxation is in playing and improving in the sport I love.

I believe that one of the biggest factors that kept my teammates and me on this road of champions is our love for the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. This love explains the drive and motivation that allowed us to push ourselves past our limits, to run the extra mile every single training session, and to not only reach, but dive (or “layout” in Ultimate terms) for our goal of champions this year.

For the PULL tournament itself, we had to play three games each day, each game running for one hour except the finals, which we played for two hours. Ideally, a team should have at least 14 players present, allowing them two sets of players to play in the field so that each player has a substitute, preventing any one player from becoming extremely exhausted.

For the first day of the tournament, however, we only had 11 out of 16 players available for the first three games. On top of that, during the first few points of the first game, one of our best players got injured, leaving the team with 10 players left for the rest of Day 1. Although this may have meant fewer substitutions during these games, our physical conditioning sessions done prior to the tournament paid off, allowing each player to play well for long periods of time. We did, however, lose our first game of the tournament, but through the encouragement and adjustments made by our coaches, we were able to learn from our mistakes, allowing us to win the next two games of the day. In the second game, due to the importance and intensity of it, I was given my first opportunity to play for the entire duration of the game. It is through this game that I have come to see the real benefits and preparation that our training sessions provide for us for the actual tournaments and competitions. Furthermore, I realized that if I did not attend the training sessions that brought me aching bones and muscles the next morning, I would not have been able to last for the entire duration of a single game.

On the second day, however, the team was complete; with everyone eager and determined to play to win the championships. Although we still had one injured player, we now had 15 players to play in any of the games, allowing coach Jamel the ability to rotate and effectively use all our players without any of them becoming very tired. Unlike Day 1 of the tournament, the crucial thing about Day 2 is that if we lost any game, we would have no more opportunity to become the champions. This was another prevailing factor that kept the team on the road of champions: the drive to attain our goal of 1st place. For most of the team, this would be our final year in Xavier, making it our last chance to attain the trophy, and I believe that this mind-set that most of our senior players had was another big factor in what allowed us to prevail in the end. We made sure to play each of these last three games as if it were our last, always giving 100% of our efforts and skills to winning the game, leaving no room for laziness or slacking off for any of our players.

In the end, they did not give it to us. We had to take it from them (Pangandaman, 2015), and that is exactly what we did. We did it, we earned it, and it was all through the sacrifices, the hard work, and the constant reliance on God before each game that allowed us to obtain the gold, the trophy, and the goal.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam! Luceat Lux!

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