Disclaimer: Ultimate is a sport. If you want to know how to be the ultimate wife, I can not help you… I can’t even help myself
The main aim of this post is to focus on the compromises made around a partner’s passions. As such, I am not getting into the arduous task of explaining a sport. If you want to read up on Ultimate, go here. I will say, as it is relevant, that it is a sport, played seriously and competitively, but predominantly on an amateur (unpaid) level. There are currently only two countries where it is played professionally. That said, it is an Olympic sport as of 2016, and there are various world championships, so players take it pretty seriously.
Ok, now that’s out of the way… I’m married to a serious Ultimate player. Not just a player, a coach. My husband represented SA at Worlds 2016, we’ve travelled to Holland for a tournament and training camp, he plays 2 – 3 major national tournaments every year, there’s leagues and smaller tournaments and training and meetings… you get the idea.
Of late, we have watched a lot of (male) players drop out of the sport entirely. They all word it differently, but the reason generally boils down to “my wife gave me an ultimatum”. We’ve also witnessed quite a few break ups an divorces within the community. Now again, I should clarify, in SA the sport is mainly played in its mixed (co-ed) form, meaning the community consists of both men and women and they play on the same teams. Obviously, this results in quite a bit of “incest”, but it also means that couples often share the sport and these couples usually survive. The issues we witness are in couples like us. One athlete, one non-athlete.
And here is a little glimpse into why that might be. The below is a blow by blow of a week we lived in January.
Mon: Full work day (both), with toddler on hand, followed by training session from 18:30 – (supposedly) 20:00. Get home around 22:00. Bath and get toddler to bed
Tues: Full work day as above, followed by sprint training from 17:30 – 19:00. Home around 19:30. Dinner, bath, bed.
Wed: Repeat of Monday
Thurs: Repeat of Tuesday
Fri: Full work day. On this day, we rest.
Sat: Training from 09:00 – (supposedly) 11:00. Get home around 13:00, unless there’s a meeting or team social. Start weekend.
Sun: Be a family (unless I’m working). Pick up game at 16:00. Get home when sun is down.
I work one weekend day a week, so if that’s a Saturday, I’m stuck at home with the toddler, while working (not for myself) while Dad is training. If it’s a Sunday, no family day. With hubby coaching, that means there are also a myriad emails being composed, sent, adjusted, resent, bemoaned… There are meetings and special discussions and training plans.
I’m sure just a quick glance makes it obvious why non players don’t deal well with partner absences. Added to that, hubby’s club is in the Southern Suburbs and we live and work in the Winelands. That’s a fun, 3 times a week commute. (We both work from home, we hate commuting). And here’s my pity party, I was 8 months pregnant in January…
The absolute only way that we have made this work as a family, has been to integrate the entire family into the sporting community. We’ve been together almost 11 years and in that time, I’ve had to learn to be a WAG. More than that, I had to make this sport and community a part of me. I don’t do running things, so I will never EVER play, but I’ve run a club, I’ve served on committees, I’ve managed international campaigns, I’ve written countless rule tests and I’ve been a paid member of the sports federation. I’m on the sideline, rain or shine, for every practice and every game, unless health or work don’t allow it. The community is amazing and has become family. Our children’s godparents mainly come from the community. And our kids are growing up on the sideline as well. With a lot of babysitters.
This sport doesn’t have a season. There is a short break in December, but beyond that it goes all year. We travel at least once a year, mostly twice, for tournaments. We sacrifice long weekends to them and Monday nights to league games. Family time is me herding kids while trying to follow the game and suggesting adjustments to play and yelling at my husband for rushing a throw.
The ONLY way a marriage can survive the sort of strain an amateur sport puts on it, is for both parties to be committed to that sport. You don’t have to go to our extremes, but there has to be mutual buy-in or resentment will set in and the ultimatums will come. And they’ll result in more resentment.