Stationed in Iraq, Joshua Olson finally found familiarity that had been lacking when he started playing the Frisbee-based sport of Ultimate, which he describes as combining aspects of soccer, basketball and football.
He hadn't played since his time in college more than 10 years earlier, but he says he fell in love with the sport all over again and looked to it as a source of continuity in a tough environment.
"We played three days a week. I lived for Monday, Wednesday and Friday," Olson said. "Honestly, it's what kept me going. Knowing right around the corner was Monday, or that Wednesday was just a couple days away, made things more tolerable."
When he returned to Augusta about a year ago and discovered a local Ultimate group, he was thrilled to be able to keep playing.
Now, he and other group members are trying to pass along their love of Ultimate.
"What we're trying to do is build a scene in Augusta, and it just hasn't happened yet," said Max Williams, a four-year member of the group who also plays tournaments outside of the area. "It's kind of sad because, as big as the CSRA is, to not have a summer league is disappointing."
What Olson and Williams enjoy so much about Ultimate is the opportunity for competitiveness and exercise, along with the social framework.
Those are the same qualities that convinced William Van Sant and others to start the group in 1995 and continue to try to grow it since.
"The sport has grown tremendously, but it hasn't grown much in Augusta," Van Sant said. "There are a couple reasons. ... Maybe the city's not quite big enough. It's big in large cities and college towns. It could be a cultural thing -- people are more into baseball and football."
The group has decided on a proactive approach to generate more interest, resulting in a plan to hold clinics in the near future.
Members get together on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. on the baseball field behind Warren Baptist Church at the Family Y on Wheeler Road, and on Sundays at 1 p.m. on the fields beside the boat ramp at Riverview Park in North Augusta.
They hope to hold clinics sometime in the near future before play Wednesdays.
"What keeps me coming back is it's a fun sport that keeps me in good shape, and I've met some very valuable friends and learned some good life lessons," said Deirdre Shaw, who has been playing since 1997.
Coming from a basketball background, Williams said he was tired of playing pickup games in which one player was trying to beat the other team by himself. So he started playing Ultimate, a game that relies on teamwork.
"When I started out, I couldn't throw very well, but everyone was there to help," said Williams, who along with other group members travels to tournaments to apply the skills he practices with the Augusta team. "Just the dynamic of the game, with the self-officiating, just the general sportsmanship, is what attracted me to it."
According to Olson, the members are particularly adept at providing a helping hand to those who are just beginning or who need a tip now and then.
That aspect was the springboard for the idea of offering clinics.
"What I see from this group is a lot of coaching," Olson said. "They'll sit down between plays, between games and reinforce strategies.
"With this game, people might come in at a real base level, but they are able to pick up the game real fast."
Reach Justin Williams at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ARE YOU IN?
THE GAME: Frisbee-based sport of Ultimate, a combination of soccer, basketball and football
WHEN AND WHERE: Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Family Y on Wheeler Road, and Sundays at 1 p.m. at Riverview Park.
WHAT YOU NEED: Cleats and clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.
MORE INFORMATION: www.waetech.com/augusta-ultimate