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Hindsight || Mark Zimmerl

Hindsight || Mark Zimmerl

Mark ‘Shaggy’ Zimmerl currently lives in Montreal with his wife and son and is coming off a bronze medal finish at the World Masters Ultimate Club Championships with Tombstone in 2018. Shaggy has worked full-time as an artist since 2003. Further information about his work can be found at www.mgz.ca.

Reader discretion is advised for language and content.

Dear Mark,

You’ve always been sporty. From winters cross-country skiing & snow-shoeing to summers canoeing and playing soccer. Your weeks will be in Montreal and on the weekend, you and your parents will go out to Laurentian. You’re a mama’s boy; you’re loved, supported and cared for and you think it’s going to stay that way forever.

Back at school, despite being pretty decent at all sports, your Osgood-Schlatters is going to keep you off the school soccer team. It’s going to keep you off the rugby team. In fact, the only school sports team you are going to make is the bowling team. You’ll take up windsurfing, but it’s not going to quench your thirst for competition. Soon, you’re going to discover a team sport that’s going to work for you.

Actually, not too soon.

It’s not until your twenties when your best friend Jaybeau and you out to the Douglas Hospital grounds, that you find the team sport you’ve been waiting for. Sure, the first ultimate session ended with Jay’s face split open, but you’re going to go back the next Tuesday, and the next and the next. Your first foray into the competitive scene is going to be a little rocky.

During your first practice, Tony Boyd is going to unleash on you when you drop a pass. “You gotta fucking catch those, man.” This wasn’t rec league anymore. This wasn’t fun anymore and you don’t go back. Of course, you’ll find out later that Boyd is an all-timer and a total sweetheart off the field.

But it won’t take long for you to get back into the competitive sphere. Later that summer, you’ll be invited to play with the Lawnboys at CUC ’93 — your first real tournament. The ‘boys even had the lead at one point against eventual champions Ottawa Wax, who eventually stomp you 15-1. Needless to say, you guys are just happy to be there.

Within two years, the guys are going to look to you to be the captain of the next team in Montreal. In 1995, the 12-player core struck out when it came to naming the team, which is a shame, because you had a really cool drawing of the demon Mephisto that you wanted to use. THAT’S IT! …and it's gonna stick.

You are about to fall in love. Whether you’re throwing after work with your friends, practicing with Mephisto or playing league, all you can think is “give me more, give me more.” It’s this obsession that’s going to make you the player you’re about to become. It’s this love of the game that’s going to get you through some really tough times. You aren’t going to think twice about five games per day. You aren’t going to care about your body breaking down. You love this game. Period.

If I could give you any advice as you are getting into it, please just get orthotics right away. You are going to go through so much pain: knee pain, shin splints…everything will be sore. And although some of it may be unavoidable, using the right equipment is not.

Before long, you are going to be the guy on your team. You’re going to want that attention. You want to be the one throwing the pass to win the game. Watch out: that attitude might score you a few game winners, but you are also going to lose your team the game more often than not. That feeling of disappointment will sting for the rest of your career.

Later in your career, you are going to start keeping track of your turnovers. It’s going to be a point of pride how much you value the disc. If you had followed that advice earlier in the career, you would be holding more golds than silvers right now. For sure.

Remember your childhood? Blissful, ignorant, happy. You saw some of your friends’ families go through problems at home and you thought — with absolute conviction —this could, and would never happen to yours. It doesn’t surface when you were a kid, but one thing’s for sure: you aren’t seeing the whole picture and things get bad. Real bad.

You’ll be confused of who to believe, but you’re a mama’s boy. Your father hasn’t been honest, his motives unclear. The love you felt between them all your life won’t be there anymore. He left. Mom will be going through a really hard time and she’ll need your support more than ever. And then, there's the phone call from your uncle.

“Mark, there’s been a horrible accident.”

The coroner will place your mother’s death at around midnight. She slips and falls down the stairs. You had just returned home from 2011 UPA Sectionals with Mephisto. You are going to feel lost. Days later, you will get sick with pneumonia and after a week on antibiotics, you still won’t be able to get up. It’s hard to put into words how dire things will feel. This will be the toughest part of your life. But you will get through this.

The community will rally around you. Make sure to thank and appreciate your friends, your girlfriend Alisa (now wife) and teammates who truly helped you make it through this time. There’s nothing that can prepare you for this time. No matter what words you hear, you are going to have to live through this time. Through this process, you’ll cease to be someone else’s little boy and you’ll become a more complete person. Even at the age of 42, you have a lot of growing up to do.

Once you get back on the field, you can distract yourself. Ultimate will provide you an amazing escape. An escape from the dark emotional and mental trauma you were facing. So much of ultimate is focus. When you are on the field, you aren’t thinking about your mother’s death; you aren’t thinking about your father leaving. You aren’t thinking about anything except for playing. This safety on the field will save your life. I’m sure of it.

Back at full strength in the next year, you start thinking about winding down your open division career. You’ll be an underdog your whole career, you’ll be a perennial semifinalist, sometimes the finals. But those elusive big-wins are few and far between. Many of the top male players in Montreal will have moved to the mixed division in that time but trust me - just give it a few more tries.

The win in the 2013 bronze medal game at CUC in Vancouver to clinch the Worlds bid is about as sweet as it gets. And your layout block to cap off the first half, you will remember forever.