Eat your vegetables: a guide to choosing a productive response

It’s 10-8 and your team is down a break. It’s your third game of the day and mistakes are beginning to creep in. You feel the weight of a long day’s play but you’re psyching yourself up for a big point, an offensive hold that will give your D line a chance to break back and level the game. After a lot of mental effort, you’re ready. The pull comes up. It’s caught. You wait for the centring pass and make a confident primary cut to the open side. The disc goes up and you’re already thinking about the upline huck you’re going to throw to get your team back in the game.

You drop it.

You watch in slow motion as the disc hits the grass. The other team picks it up and you watch your teammate get roasted up the line for a quick goal. Fuck.

How do you react? Are you a hat thrower? Do you yell at yourself? Do you yell at your teammate who got beaten up line? Do you go quiet? Do you run back to the line to do it all again or do you slink off to the sideline?

The power is yours

Even though it might not always feel like it, we choose our reaction to every event, in life and on the field. Even if we ignore something or don’t consciously engage with it, we are still making a choice to do that. And, in Ultimate, I think there are two ways to define that choice. You can either eat your veggies or order junk food.

Eating junk food feels good. It hits the spot. When you can’t be bothered cooking or dealing with life and/or string beans, curling up on the couch with fried chicken is the best thing in the world. And let’s face it, sometimes you need to cry into a 1L tub of ice-cream.

But it’s not good for you. You’ll regret the kilojoules, saturated fats and shame (also known as the Secret Herbs and Spices) that are hidden in that oily, oily family bucket and, in the long term, it could do serious damage.

Vegetables on the other hand are very good for you. Eating a whole head of broccoli has almost no downside, especially in the long term. But eating vegetables can suck. A brussel sprout is not a chicken nugget. And if you’re trying to chow down on one mid-game, without preparing it properly, it could leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Choosing a productive reaction is not always easy or digestible in the short term. But it’s good for you and it’s good for your team. You need to eat your veggies.

What does a vegetable look like?

Let’s go back to that scenario I started with. After that mistake, here are some examples of responses you might choose.

  • Eating your veggies: moving on, staying positive, asking a teammate for feedback and having a productive conversation on the sideline to stop it happening again, trusting the team (and yourself) to correct mistakes and win.

  • Fast food: getting angry (throwing your hat or kicking a water bottle), yelling at a teammate, fuming, blaming someone else, going inside yourself, brooding quietly on the sideline, trying to “put the team on your back” and play outside your role to make up for it.

The fast food reactions feel good. They release tension, they play to our instincts, and they are often the path of least resistance. But they will hurt you and your team if you do them consistently. And while the veggies may be hard to swallow at the time, they’re the crucial ingredient to long term success. They give you the grit, perseverance and self-belief to overcome adversity and win.

Taking a broader view

The veggies vs fast food divide is not limited to just the occasional hat throw. It touches almost everything in the frisbee world.

When you see a teammate do something unspirited or make a bad call, do you say anything, either in the moment or after the point? Do you use negative selection decisions as motivation or do you complain about them/stew on them? If an injury sub is called by the other team on a long point, do you give up your spot on the field to get a pair of fresh legs on? Have you ever jeopardised a whole-team defence by trying to be a hero? The list goes on (in fact, I made one here if you want to check it out/add your own suggestions!)

Having the discipline, willpower, mental space and capacity to eat your veggies in pressure situations is not easy. Just like sticking to a diet, it takes time, strong habits and practice to get good at it. Like most worthwhile things, it’s a challenge and a process. And nobody's perfect - sometimes you just can’t resist a Zinger Burger combo.

But recognising two simple things - that you have the power to choose your reaction and that some reactions are more positive than others - is an important first step in doing something about it.

Because once you know some good recipes, have plenty of fresh ingredients in your kitchen, and start to acquire a taste for vitamin rich greenery, you’ll start to see that eating veggies is actually kinda good. And maybe next time you make a mistake in a pressure moment that hurts your team, you’ll keep your hat on your head, have mercy on nearby water bottles, and reach for a carrot instead.