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Heidi Watney Breaks Collarbone Playing Ultimate Frisbee

If Heidi Watney wants to avoid fracturing her collarbone playing Ultimate, she should organize her team so only one person cuts at any one time. And buy a pair of cleats. (

It seems Heidi Watney’s transition from the Red Sox and NESN to the Lakers and Time Warner has been anything but painless. Both the Boston Globe and CBS Boston reported Monday that Watney broke her collarbone playing Ultimate Frisbee in what she tweeted was a “full-speed collision.”

We here at Sports of Boston send our best wishes to Ms. Watney as she recovers from such a painful injury. And with 13 years of competitive Ultimate Frisbee experience under my belt, here are a few suggestions that might help her avoid any subsequent injuries in what’s easily my favorite sport to play.

Time Your Cuts

As a NESN reporter, Ms. Watney, you haven’t been exposed to football and basketball the way you have baseball and hockey. That’s too bad, because an Ultimate receiver’s moves bear the most resemblance to basketball and football moves. The sport combines the circulations of a half-court basketball offense with the deep- and hitch-routes common to football. And as with basketball and football, not cutting off other receivers or allowing one defender to cover two receivers is essential to running an offense. So wait for your teammates to cut, then time yours so that you’re the only one cutting. You’ll get open more often, and way more safely.

Organize Your Offense

Pickup Ultimate too often devolves into people running around all willy-nilly. And in all that chaos and confusion, collisions become almost inevitable. Instead, try convincing your teammates to organize themselves in a straight line down the field, which Ultimate players call a “stack.” Then have the last person in the stack cut in towards the disc. When that person catches it (or doesn’t and runs to the front of the stack), the new last person in the stack cuts in. Your opponents will be dumbfounded by your team’s rhythm. And again, way fewer collisions.

Wear Cleats

The easiest way to improve your ability to stop or angle away from other players is with a pair of cleats. Cleats allow for quicker reactions and better-controlled sprints. Every Ultimate player who reaches a certain competitive level (often as young as junior high, if you go to places like Amherst, Mass.) buys a pair. You should, too.

Don’t Call it “Ultimate Frisbee”

The sport is officially just called “Ultimate” – the organizing body is USA Ultimate. Some leagues also call it “Ultimate Disc,” like the Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance. But no one calls it Ultimate Frisbee, because no self-respecting player uses as flimsy a disc as the Wham-O Frisbee. We almost universally use the Discraft Ultra-Star, a far sturdier disc that grips better and flies straighter and farther. Calling the sport “Ultimate Disc” won’t make you a better player, but it will at least make you sound like one.

I deeply hope this injury won’t turn you off Ultimate forever. It’s a fantastic sport, both relaxing and intense at the same time. Because of the sport’s alternative background, the players tend to be kinder, smarter and funnier than your average jock. Also “earthier,” if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’ve taught kids as young as 4 how to throw and catch and play Ultimate. So if you need more help than these four pointers, feel free to e-mail me.

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