Reflections on love and leadership

Since moving to Mumbai back in March, I have been playing ultimate frisbee pretty regularly. There’s a great team here – the Storm Chasers – that play on the beach, in the morning. Ultimate. On the beach. All the time. What more could you ask for?!

It’s been a great 3 months getting back into ultimate. I’ve been lucky to watch – and participate – as the trajectory of the team has begun to shift. And this has given me reason to reflect on the role of leadership in building something you love.

When I first came out for ultimate in Mumbai, I found a great group of guys and girls, playing pickup. They came regularly, maintained an e-mail list serve, and organized trips to tournaments in other parts of India. Cool. There was no ultimate in Hyderabad, so I was thrilled to find it in Mumbai.

Over the last few weeks, however, something has changed. Instead of just two, there are now four sessions per week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings), with special days geared for novices and advanced players as well as open pickup. We do warm ups. We run drills. We scrimmage. We organize cheers. We’re even doing conditioning work. It’s organized ultimate…

These changes require effort. Someone has to step up, think through what the goals are and how to get there. It’s been decided, for example, that the focus in Mumbai Ultimate should be learning and inclusiveness – all are welcome, regardless of ability, and people will be rewarded for attendance, not necessarily for their skill. Someone had to come up with the new schedule, hold people to it, make it worthwhile to come out.

In ultimate – and in other organized activities – it’s easy to free-ride on others. Show up, play, have fun, go home. No need to get crazy about it. It’s ultimate, for god’s sake! And when I went out in March, I did just that – played, had fun, went home. But in the weeks since, I’ve gradually taken up more and more leadership responsibilities. Someone asked, innocently enough, to show the newer players how to throw a forehand. OK, no problem. Next time, someone asked me to show them how run a particular skills drill. Yep, sure. Suddenly, I’m part of a smaller group of guys who are trying to build the team and the sport. The leaders.

It’s harder to lead than to follow. You have to think about everyone’s needs, adapt to the situation, plan ahead, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Before all this started, I followed: show up, play, have fun and go home. Now I have to think about drills, coach/encourage people, support my fellow leaders, do some logistics AND play. Oh, and everyone’s looking at me not to screw up, not to have bad spirit, and all the rest.

Of course, it’s not that I have tons of spare time to dedicate to thinking about ultimate – I’m busy with work, etc. etc. No one does. The problem is, I LOVE PLAYING ULTIMATE. It’s not extra work or dedication when it’s frisbee. It’s fun.

So it may be obvious to others, but these last few months have taught me something about love and leadership: when you love something, it’s not just easy to lead. It’s often natural.

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About Rob

Twitter @robertkatz
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7 Responses to Reflections on love and leadership

  1. Judy says:

    Is ultimate an Olympic sport?

  2. Chan says:

    So that explains the “nice play, today, Chan” comment when I was leaving today 🙂
    But you guys are doing good – Apu, Lukas, you, and lots of the other guys as well.

    • Rob says:

      Not pulling your leg, Chan – you’re making rocketship progress with your skills and your commitment is an example to everyone. Can’t wait to see you break it out in B-lore next month!

  3. Minna Katz says:

    It’s not an Olympic sport–yet!!
    But given the way you all are going about it,in Mumbai,I give you about 2 years-at most-before you have gotten to be a recognized Olympic sport!!
    Leadership,as you have quickly found out,comes with a lot more than just being at the front of the line!!
    Love you!!

  4. Rob, I’m considering a move to Mumbai in the coming year. I love ultimate, too, and I was checking the web to see if I had to give it up in Mumbai. The YouTube video I saw about Mumbai Ultimate showed the players on sand, and you mentioned the beach. Does anyone play on grass? Just curious!

    • Rob says:

      Hey Mark – we have regular beach games and practices; there’s a pretty big, committed group of players here that we would love to have you join. There are some grass fields as well, which host games on Sundays and occasionally other days. In short, the beach is your best bet for regular play (currently, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings!) and grass on Sundays.

  5. Thanks for the tip, Rob. If I come to Mumbai, there is no doubt that I will come out and play with you guys (and girls?). From what I know about Mumbai weather, it seems like playing in the morning is the best time!

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