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The DIOP Circle V.4

July 14th, 2019

Ryan Brown

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week's comes courtesy of Ryan Brown. He only wears Flower Boy on special occasions. How did he wind up on the best professional ultimate frisbee team in the country, and perhaps the world? Here's how:

It’s remarkable to think that ultimate frisbee was just a thing my Dad always did. My earliest memories of the sport were having picnics on the sideline of his games when I was 5 years old. From then on, I kind of always figured I would play. I started out playing with him in summer league when I was 10, and was pretty much hooked immediately.

I ran track and cross-country in high school. Although those were teams, the activity itself was individual.

Ultimate became the first team sport I played seriously.

But it wasn’t until I got to college that I discovered what I got out of the sport. My Dad played at my college in the 1980s and here I was doing the same a generation later. Though ultimate frisbee has hippy, countercultural roots, I had to adjust to the fact that it was way more serious than I thought it could be, from intense weightlifting sessions to grueling late night practices.

I had to develop my own relationship with the game beyond just enjoying it as a passenger. And college was awesome for that, with all the freedom and authority that comes with those first years at school.

Over the course of four years, I tried to collect as many ultimate related activities as I could. I lived with teammates during the school year and play in intramural, summer and club leagues.

If there was ultimate, I wanted to play it.

I began to see the payoff the fall of my junior year in a game against Cornell. It was the first game I remember actively making a contribution in. Where before I was too slow or too young to impact the game, I began to find moments to push the tempo, make a play, and make my teammates better.

That was meaningful because the rules of ultimate are oriented to reward teams more than individuals. That improvement was where I began to find value in this sport, even if no one outside of frisbee took it seriously or cared.

I like playing sports because in my experience as an athlete, if you work hard, you get better. The results are more tangible and observed than other personal or professional areas. Though I’m still working at it and am improving, I’m quickly reaching the point where I can’t reasonably put that much more in without making major sacrifices in those other parts of my life. But it’s also why I like ultimate frisbee specifically. When other things are difficult, changing, or tough to understand, the game is stable.

It’s like an oasis. When I play, I think about nothing outside the field and the sidelines. I’m centered in a way that allows me to flow.

Playing in the AUDL has been an incredible experience. The New York Empire are not just the best team I’ve ever been on but the best professional team in the country. I’m used to working hard to improve but now I’m pushing to keep pace.

The conversations here are fundamentally different because the winning is the expectation- a fundamentally different conversation and odd juxtaposition with most people’s understanding of the value in this sport.


The DIOP Circle V.4

July 14th, 2019


Ryan Brown

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week's comes courtesy of Ryan Brown. He only wears Flower Boy on special occasions. How did he wind up on the best professional ultimate frisbee team in the country, and perhaps the world?

Here's how:

It’s remarkable to think that ultimate frisbee was just a thing my Dad always did. My earliest memories of the sport were having picnics on the sideline of his games when I was 5 years old.

From then on, I kind of always figured I would play. I started out playing with him in summer league when I was 10, and was pretty much hooked immediately.

I ran track and cross-country in high school. Although those were teams, the activity itself was individual. Ultimate became the first team sport I played seriously.

But it wasn’t until I got to college that I discovered what I got out of the sport. My Dad played at my college in the 1980s and here I was doing the same a generation later.

Though ultimate frisbee has hippy, countercultural roots, I had to adjust to the fact that it was way more serious than I thought it could be, from intense weightlifting sessions to grueling late night practices.

I had to develop my own relationship with the game beyond just enjoying it as a passenger. And college was awesome for that, with all the freedom and authority that comes with those first years at school.

Over the course of four years, I tried to collect as many ultimate related activities as I could. I lived with teammates during the school year and play in intramural, summer and club leagues.

If there was ultimate,

I wanted to play it.

I began to see the payoff the fall of my junior year in a game against Cornell. It was the first game I remember actively making a contribution in.

Where before I was too slow or too young to impact the game, I began to find moments to push the tempo , make a play, and make my teammates better.

That was meaningful because the rules of ultimate are oriented to reward teams more than individuals. That improvement was where I began to find value in this sport, even if no one outside of frisbee took it seriously or cared.

I like playing sports because in my experience as an athlete, if you work hard, you get better. The results are more tangible and observed than other personal or professional areas.

Though I’m still working at it and am improving, I’m quickly reaching the point where I can’t reasonably put that much more in without making major sacrifices in those other parts of my life.

But it’s also why I like ultimate frisbee specifically. When other things are difficult, changing, or tough to understand, the game is stable. It’s like an oasis. When I play, I think about nothing outside the field and the sidelines. I’m centered in a way that allows me to flow.

Playing in the AUDL has been an incredible experience. The New York Empire are not just the best team I’ve ever been on but the best professional team in the country. I’m used to working hard to improve but now I’m pushing to keep pace.

The conversations here are fundamentally different because the winning is the expectation- a fundamentally different conversation and odd juxtaposition with most people’s understanding of the value in this sport.

Ultimate frisbee relies on the Spirit of the Game to maintain fair play but players can lose sight of that and let the aggression and machismo common in other sports creep in. Losing is okay if you do it right.

If you win without your opponent’s respect, did you really win? I think reflection on what it means to win (or lose) can make both rewarding in new ways.

If I had any advice, it would be to keep those things that you pour yourself into, in the context of why you do it. If you’re not intentional about what you’re passionate about, it’s easy to get stuck.

Perhaps you don’t grow in the way you want, or maybe you were invested for the wrong reasons in the first place. Making the time to reflect on what I get out of playing ultimate frisbee and why helps me stay centered, happy, and healthy.

I want to share this thing I love with people I care about. One day I want to be on a summer league with my kids like I was with my Dad and brothers. He’s turning 58 years old this year and plays twice a week, every week because it makes him happy.

That’s what we’re all looking for in some form or another. And as long as I have knees that allow me to turn in a direction, I’ll keep going.


By Ryan Brown

Follow Ryan @ry.ryanbrown and his team, New York Empire @empireultimate.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


Ultimate frisbee relies on the Spirit of the Game to maintain fair play but players can lose sight of that and let the aggression and machismo common in other sports creep in. Losing is okay if you do it right. If you win without your opponent’s respect, did you really win? I think reflection on what it means to win (or lose) can make both rewarding in new ways.

If I had any advice, it would be to keep those things that you pour yourself into, in the context of why you do it. If you’re not intentional about what you’re passionate about, it’s easy to get stuck.

Perhaps you don’t grow in the way you want, or maybe you were invested for the wrong reasons in the first place. Making the time to reflect on what I get out of playing ultimate frisbee and why helps me stay centered, happy, and healthy.

I want to share this thing I love with people I care about. One day I want to be on a summer league with my kids like I was with my Dad and brothers. He’s turning 58 years old this year and plays twice a week, every week because it makes him happy. That’s what we’re all looking for in some form or another.

And as long as I have knees that allow me to turn in a direction, I’ll keep going.

- By Ryan Brown


Follow Ryan @ry.ryanbrown and his team, New York Empire @empireultimate.

If you have questions or would like to share a story of yours, please reply directly to this email.