Applying User Experience to the Ultimate Sport: A Pointwester’s Ultimate Experience
August 2, 2019
Ten seconds is all Erika has.
Even the downpour couldn’t dampen the fiery mood of the game, heating up even more with the scores tied and less than a minute on the clock.
She was in the middle of it all, running quickly to match the pace of both her teammates and their opponents.
She deftly catches a flying disc thrown towards her. She aims to pass the disc to another teammate, who’s inches away from their opposing team’s base. A successful pass can ensure her team’s victory but Erika has to hurry; an opponent is closing in on her.
Ten seconds is all she has.
Will they snatch victory? Or will they have to accept defeat?
The count starts. 1… 2… 3… 4….
The Spirit of the Game
Three years ago, Pointwest UX Designer Erika wouldn’t have imagined that mere seconds can be packed with excitement. A diligent employee who on most days goes straight home after work, she learned about the sport called Ultimate through a former workmate who invited Erika to a beginner’s night.
“I agreed to join because I needed exercise, and wanted to try something new”, she said.
Originally known as Ultimate Frisbee, Ultimate is a non-contact sport. It is played with a flying disc, more commonly known as the Frisbee (but the name can’t be used for the sport due to copyright concerns). On the field are two teams of 7 players each. The team alternates between possessing the disc (called the O-line, or Offense), and trying to steal the disc (the D-line, or Defense).
Each team has a base on each end of the field. When one team completes a pass in the other team’s endzone, the team scores a point.
If the player holding the disc is approached by an opponent within the 3-meter radius, they may only hold the disc for 10 seconds and must pass it to another teammate, or else the other team will gain possession of the disc.
Depending on the competition rules decided upon, the game ends either when a team reaches a particular number of points (e.g. 15 or 17), or whoever has the most points within a set time period (e.g. within the 2 sets of 15 minutes time period).
(For more in-depth rules of the game, visit this link.)
One of the most interesting things in Ultimate is the fact that there are no referees for most games, and players call their own fouls. This is because the sport abides by the “Spirit of the Game”. Keeping the Spirit in mind means sportsmanship is a top consideration.
Competitive games require around a month or two of conditioning and training, at least once during midweek and one on a weekend. These training sessions last around 3 hours each. Some of the common activities include legwork and endurance exercises for all the running they have to do.
There are also drills to practice throwing the disc properly. Because, yes, in the world of competitive frisbee that is Ultimate, you have to learn how to properly throw the disc if you want to have an edge over your rivals.
After the preparation, the competition begins.
“Before the game starts, I feel confident, because my teammates and I prepared for it.” Erika enthused. “There is always euphoria in the air. I can’t pinpoint why; maybe it’s because of the Spirit of the Game.”
What are Ultimate Experiences Made of?
… 5… 6… 7… Back at the game, the count continues. Erika needs to do the right thing to ensure their win.
Good thing she has a secret weapon in her arsenal: her skills as a UX designer.
One of Pointwest’s offerings, UX design according to interaction-design.org, “is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.”
To do this, empathy is required. Since empathy involves putting yourself in the users’ shoes, designers will get to understand what type of design can be most beneficial to the users.
What gives Erika an edge as an Ultimate player is how she can apply her skills as a UX designer to the game. These skills include collaboration, research, observation and analysis, strategizing, and testing and feedback.
While designing UX, Erika has to collaborate with stakeholders such as the client and the users, and take their opinions into consideration. Likewise, Ultimate requires her to collaborate with the whole team by listening to their coach and captain, and creating a rapport with her teammates.
Solid knowledge of any field is backed by research. For UX, she performs continuous research about the users of the product. For Ultimate, she researches by watching videos to learn about new techniques.
Observation and Analysis
UX design requires Erika to closely observe and analyze the users and identifying their needs. Likewise, Ultimate requires observation of both her teammates’ and opponents’ skills, and how they move during the game.
In UX, Erika strategizes on how to meet the user’s needs. In Ultimate, she applies several strategies as well. Based on the opponent’s movement, she runs faster or slower, or totally stops. She also anticipates the opponents’ next move to block a pass. She distracts the opponent holding the disc, or the potential receivers of the disc. In the O-line, she goes for open spaces so handlers may freely pass the disc without being intercepted by the opponent.
Testing and Feedback
Testing and feedback are also important. In UX, a good deal of testing and reviews are held to ensure that the design is relevant to the users. She also gathers feedback from those who will use the product. In Ultimate, the teams test different lineups and gameplay to ensure that they have the best strategy in the competition itself. She listens to feedback from her coach, captain, and teammates so she can work on her weaknesses.
At the end of the day, what makes UX and Ultimate similar is how they create Ultimate Experiences; UX does this for the users, and Ultimate does this for the team.
In and Out the Field
Erika’s skills are bolstered by the teamwork of their team, the Stillwolves.
According to their official Facebook page, Stillwolves “is a group of people who are committed to playing Ultimate Frisbee and seeking God.” Standing strong for almost six years and counting, the team is formed by a group of college students. Their name is derived from the name of the Stillwaters Church, where the founding members belong to.
The team welcomes high school students, college students, yuppies, and other people of various nationalities and walks of life. The team has competed in several major events around the country, such as Baguio Ultimate Open, Cabalen Ultimate Open, NLEX SCTEX Clark Mekeni Cup, and the Apollo Ultimate Competition.
Their camaraderie extends beyond training sessions and competitions. Outside the games, the Stillwolves team bond by playing card games or singing karaoke. Having such a bond makes the team work together better during competitions, and victories are even sweeter and defeat more bearable.
Winner Takes All?
The game is about to end. Erika has the disc in her hands, and the remaining three seconds is all she has.
She throws the disc towards her teammate.
Will her teammate catch it? Will they win, or will they lose?
Actually, it doesn’t matter. As Erika said, “Regardless if we win or lose, we are satisfied knowing that we did our best, and that we enjoyed the game.” Teamwork and having fun matter more than victory. That’s what the Spirit of the Game is all about, and this is what makes the sport, above all, an Ultimate experience.
Photos courtesy of Eki Kate Billones, Official Stillwolves Team Photographer
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