It’s almost impossible to talk about Christians in sports without talking about Tim Tebow (case in point). But there’s another University of Florida grad who has gained attention from another sport — Ultimate Frisbee.
Unlike mainstream sports like baseball and football (and futbol), Ultimate is a relatively new sport. In fact, it is not much older than Sojourners, as it was reportedly invented in 1968 (Sojourners was founded in ’71). And like Sojourners, it has gained momentum through word of mouth to the point that it is a nationally recognized sport.
Even with the infiltration of high school sports, college teams, and semi-professional clubs, Ultimate is, for the most part, faceless, with the exception of one man: Brodie Smith. Smith grew to be a nationally recognized Ultimate player through his Youtube trick shot videos.
As an ultimate player myself, there is no one more suited to be a role model in the world of Ultimate than Smith. Though he’s a Christian, his time traveling around the world as an evangelist is for Ultimate, holding clinics at schools as far away as India and China.
“It has certainly been an incredible blessing for me to travel the world and teach the sport I love” Brodie said. “My goal is one that I work towards everyday and that is to give every kid the opportunity to try Ultimate and see if they fall in love the way I did.”
Currently, Brodie plays for the Windy City Wildfire, a team in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). AUDL is currently one of two professional level Ultimate leagues in the United States, which include referees and time limits (normally, games are played without referees, and to a set score, such as 15). Seeing that he was attending Bob Goff’s Love Does conference, and that he often tweets about faith, I reached out and got the opportunity to sit down and send him a few questions regarding faith and Frisbees.
JC: How did you first get into Ultimate Frisbee? How has faith played a part (or not played a part) in how you engage with other ultimate players and fans?
BS: I first started playing Ultimate Frisbee recreationally in high school. It was something my cross country team would join in on after our practice. It wasn't until college [University of Florida] that I really got hooked and became serious about the sport. I would say my faith has certainly brought me closer to several of my teammates over the years. My last year in college, a couple of us actually started a weekly Bible study. I have connected with other Ultimate players that share my faith as well. It has been nice to have these relationships over the years and I look forward to many new ones.
JC: You're one of the most prominent Ultimate Frisbee players in the United States. Do you think of yourself as a role model?
BS: I think everyone can be seen as a role model to someone. I think that’s important to understand. Sure some people have millions of kids looking up to them, but I think we each have the power to influence others positively or negatively. I just try to inspire people to follow their passion no matter how crazy it is. I always say I'd rather be poor and do what I love than rich and do what I hate.
JC: Tell me a little about the Ultimate clinics you've held in other countries, as well as maybe your vision for Ultimate as a sport.
BS: That has probably been the craziest part of this whole journey. I have traveled to over 10 different countries teaching and spreading the sport of Ultimate. It has certainly been an incredible blessing for me to travel the world and teach the sport I love. The clinics have all been amazing. The excitement and energy that surrounds the clinics is really what pumps me up. I have run clinics for schools sometimes having over 500+ students in attendance and have also done individual team clinics as well. No matter the clinic it is always an amazing experience and one I will never forget.
My vision for Ultimate as a sport. That is a great question. I honestly don't have a vision. I have a goal, but not necessary a vision. The sport is moving in so many different ways that it is very difficult to predict what is going to happen 10 years from now and even at the end of this year. But, my goal is one that I work towards every day, and that is to give every kid the opportunity to try Ultimate and see if they fall in love the way I did. We are by no means near that yet, but certainly heading in the right direction.
JC: You're going to attend the Love Does conference. What drew you to the conference? What are you looking forward to most? What spoke to you the most in the book?
BS: One of my good friends suggested I read Bob Goff's book Love Does. It was one of those books where you can't put down. From all the crazy stories he tells to all the insightful advice he gives. It was a great read and I definitely recommend it. So after reading the book I became a big fan of Bob Goff and all the great stuff that he does. My friend that suggested the book to me also told me about this conference he is doing. I said we have to go, so that’s basically how that all came about.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I'm more afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter.” This was one of the things from the book that stuck out to me most. It really helps put things in perspective for me and keeps me always asking the question how important is this.
(Author’s note: if you did attend the conference, Brodie was the guy tossing out Frisbees. If you couldn’t be there, you should at least follow him on Twitter: @Brodiesmith21)
JC: Your trick shot videos have gone viral (and some of those shots seem nearly impossible!). Do you ever find yourself praying, "God, please let this go in?”
BS: Haha, it is funny you ask that. I actually have a couple times, but I say it a little differently. It normally goes like this, "Lord, if this shot is meant to go in please make it happen soon." Haha, I feel like I have a better chance with that prayer.
James Colten is Assistant to the CEO at Sojourners.