by Craig Wright
Ask Fraser Macdonald for his thoughts on competing at the World Under-24 Ultimate Frisbee Championships, and the smile on his face gives you the answer before he even speaks.
“It was the best week of my life” he said.
“It’s been really nice, because it feels like I’ve put in a lot of hard work, and this is where it’s got me. The good thing about ultimate is that it’s a true work/reward relationship – you put in a good work ethic and you get your reward.
“All my friends give me a lot of grief though, they make sure my head doesn’t get too big!”
It’s been a landmark year so far for Macdonald, who competed as part of the Great Britain squad at the championships in Perth, Australia, back in January. Whilst admitting he was disappointed with the end result, the Stirling star was impressed by the overall scale of the event.
“Performance-wise, we felt really confident after pool play (the British team won five of its six group stage matches), then we choked in the quarter-final against Australia. That was kind of gutting because we know we can beat them.
“Experience-wise though, it was really good. The great thing about it being in Australia this time was the number of different nations that took part.
“The last time the event was held it was in London, so you had a number of European nations who could only field smaller, shallower squads. In Australia though, teams like the Philippines, Japan and Hong Kong could all get there and get involved. The sport is definitely getting bigger.”
If you’re reading this and you’re surprised at the fact that there’s a world championship for ultimate frisbee, you’re probably not alone. However, as Macdonald explains, being selected is by no means a simple process.
“The governing body for UK ultimate send out a post asking if people want to try out for the U24 team” he said.
“Normally you’d send in an application, and they’ll screen people from there, but there was something like 300 applicants this time around. They invited us all to a training weekend, then cut it to about 120 people, about 12 to a programme.
“It means it still remained as an extended squad, but people still get the opportunity to train with things like a strength and conditioning (S&C) programme and structured training camps. For a lot of ultimate frisbee players, they’ll probably be the best at their university, which is fine but means they don’t get these opportunities very often.”
Indeed, Macdonald’s S&C programme provides an insight into just how much work goes in to making it to international level.
“At the moment, my programme is three gym sessions, one agility and one conditioning session per week” he said.
“The best way to think of it is that your ideal ultimate frisbee player should be someone like a wide receiver in NFL. They don’t need much upper body work – apart from shoulders – but you need a lot of core work.
“I do a lot of things like weighted lunges, flexibility work and then a lot of squats for leg power. Outdoors, it’s a lot of ladder work for agility and shuttle runs for conditioning and endurance.”
With Macdonald coming to the end of his fourth year at the university, his thoughts – like many of his fellow students – will now be turning to life after graduation. However, as the man himself explains, he’s likely to be keeping busy in the months to come, with a new competition to focus on.
“Next up for me will hopefully be the Club World Championships, which is kind of like the Champions League for frisbee. It’s every four years, and it features clubs from all around the world.
“There’s four teams from the UK that go, and I’m playing with a team from the north of England that are hoping to be one of them. It’s in Cincinnati in July, so we’re aiming for that.
“I’m also planning on going to Australia for a masters, so that will have an influence. If it ends up that I’m in fact going to be staying in the UK for master’s programmes, I’ll definitely try out for the UK senior team.
“I’m hopefully going to be around Stirling for six months or so after graduation though, so I’m definitely going to apply to coach the university teams.”
The bond with his university club-mates is one that he is quick to acknowledge, following the Stirling squad’s constant support and fundraising efforts to ensure their team-mate was able to make the journey to Perth.
“It’s invaluable” smiled Macdonald.
“I’ve been super lucky to have the club, and the Sports Union too, behind me all the way. Stirling has been perfect really, so major thanks to all of them.”
Macdonald’s enthusiasm for ultimate frisbee is not only obvious, but highly contagious. Yet he remains aware of the main problem facing the sport he loves – one which not only exists in name, but is, in fact, the name itself.
“The sport has a major issue in the fact that it’s called ultimate frisbee – it makes people go ‘that just sounds silly’” admits Macdonald.
“At the top level though, it is pure athletes and insanely fun. It’s a great way to play sport too, because even at the highest level it’s self-officiated. The respect shown is amazing.
“If it was called something else, people would have no hesitation, and if anyone at university wants to give it a go, just come on down to our sessions and try it out.”
Whatever the sport may be called, however, one thing remains a certainty – Macdonald, and the rest of his team, are going to continue to enjoy it to the fullest.
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 edition of Brig