A Quiet Disc-ussion - Introverts in Ultimate

Ultimate often lives up to its name in terms of equality, inclusion and sportsmanship. But given how much influence players have in the sport, there may be one group at a disadvantage. For some people, the current level of social interaction promoted in the sport doesn’t go hand in hand (or disc in hand) with playing to their potential.

Consider the plight of an ultimate introvert.

What is an introvert?

Simplistically, introverts (as first defined by Carl Jung) are quieter and need time alone to recharge (think Gandhi, Gates and Shrek). Extraverts are more outgoing and draw energy from social interaction (think Churchill, Miley and Donkey).

Now, like most psychological theories, this divide is about as certain as an upwind full-field hammer actually reaching its target. Recent research suggests that the majority of people are ambivert and move up and down the scale at different stages in their life. But in this article, we’ll consider an introvert to be anyone who feels more energised in quieter environments.

Softly in Society

In her book Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain discusses how different personality traits are treated differently.

People are pushed to exhibit the more desirable extraverted characteristics. To not be expressive, impulsive and lively is equated to lacking in leadership potential. Trendy school and work environments, like open-plan offices and group-based learning, are even set up to cater for extraverts.

The desire for these qualities in leadership hasn’t always been the case. Historically, ‘gentleman’ and ‘ladies’ were encouraged to be compliant and mild-mannered, while extraverted tendencies were considered brash and arrogant. But that’s much less the case today.

The Ultimate Application

In a communication-heavy sport such as ultimate, it’s easy for an introvert’s potential and contributions to be overlooked. On top of the sporting requirements, teams also ask for constant vocal input, cheering, line calling and sideline talk, as well as a lot of social bonding.

Even the majority of spirit games are outgoing in nature. So how do we cater for the quiet?

For coaches, selectors and leaders:

  • Recognise that players will contribute in different ways. For example, some players may be suited to being vocal on the sidelines, for others it may be mentally draining and detract from their on-field performance.

  • Consider the weight of individual contributions during team discussions. If someone who doesn’t normally speak up has put the effort in to say something, it could be the equivalent of an outspoken individual yelling, “The special relativity demonstrated by this fallen apple supports the theory of evolution. Eureka!”

For players who have a tendency towards introversion:

  • People often say, “make as much noise as possible to get noticed,” but be sure you are comfortable enough to demonstrate the best of your abilities. Quiet confidence can make quite the impression. The squeaky wheel may get the oil, but they’ll be replaced if they’re not running smoothly.

  • Allow yourself time to recharge. Team bonding is great but communal breakfast, play, lunch, play, dinner and drinks isn’t the ideal daily routine for everyone. Don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself. Anyone that isn’t accepting of you taking a rest doesn’t deserve you at your best.

For players who have a tendency towards extraversion:

  • Let the way that your teammate communicates with you be a guide when giving them information. If you’re communicating from the side-line, consider who is receiving. Bombarding them may be counter-productive.

  • Listen to understand and think before you reply. Whether contesting a call on-field or debating the use of a tactic in a timeout we are inclined to intake information with our own bias, especially when we already have a reply in mind. So stop, look and listen baby that’s my philosophy (thanks Elvis).

All in all, ultimate is an exceptional team sport, but remember that, although there may be no ‘I’ in ‘team’, there more than likely will be introverts. With a conscious inclusive effort, these players and their teams will have the chance to reach their potential. Just as big things can come from small beginnings, loud actions can come from the quietest voices.

Further reading

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking