Kevin “Skippy Jammer” Givens

Note from Ultimate Rob: I am trying to get some more historical posts on frisbee from the past since it’s contributed to the current state of ultimate. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, the top frisbee players did all the disc sports – freestyle, ultimate, overalls. Today there are more specialists, specifically in ultimate, but I think it’s important to know the history of our great sport (frisbee that is) since it’s from this that all of the other disc sports have come to be. I hope you enjoy learning about one of the legends of frisbee, Skippy Jammer. I did an interview with him last year at the 2011 WFDF World Overall Flying Disc Championships which you can watch here.

The Skippy Interview

March and April, 2001

Skippy has labored over the Decades List in the hopes that it will foster a celebration of our rich past. He has omitted himself for the most part and with only one exception included himself in any of the lists. Even that was understated. For those who have been close to him over his career, it would be erroneous to think that he has only had as minimal an impact as he has given himself in this article. In fact, Skippy Jammer was light years ahead of every other player with regard to disc skills during the mid-eighties and into the early nineties. Who else can even do 6 consecutive against moves today in 2001, much less then? I kept asking him, don’t you really deserve player of the decade, routine of the decade, team of the decade, and other awards that he generously layed on others. Over half the top players in this sport today owe Skippy Jammer their first nails as without him, many of us would never have learned how to really play. Rodney, Larry, Tommy, Dave Schiller, Dave Lewis, Yours Truly, and countless other players fit this category. So after I asked him, Skippy consented to this no-holds barred interview. Enjoy!! Mikey Reid

Born: Twin Falls Idaho 8/26/54

High school: Sierra High (La Mirada, CA 1970-71)
Grace M. Davis – Modesto California (1971 -1973)

College: Modesto Junior College (74-79)
Santa Rosa Junior College (79-81)
Sonoma State University (79-86) As you can tell, I took being a student using signature loan.

UFOS: Member 1979-1988

How did you get interested in Frisbee in general and Frisbee as a sport?

There was a night when I was out in a park in Modesto after a party (circa ’74) and a guy had a disc. We were all playing “hit the light pole” from about 50 feet or so. One guy had a bunch of different types of releases, all of which were remarkably accurate. That wigged my orb tossing melon big time. I went home and kept tripping on it. The next day I spoke to Andy Yates and Evan Furtado about it. They were already throwing a SuperPro at local Davis Park in Motown. There was not a lot else to do there. The parks were the place to be. I’d show up with excessive “Limpthrostasisis” and cruelly bust up their jam. They were already doing some trick catches. After that night in the park I was interested in getting up to speed. I’m also very competitive by nature so the challenge appealed to me. Pretty soon I starting getting better fast. I had been a very good athlete and had transferred from a High School in La Mirada where I was going to be playing Varsity basketball as a Sophomore and had set all kinds of school records in various things like rope climb, softball throw, 600 yd dash, wall climb etc. I was a super star. Then I got to Davis High in Modesto and the coaches had already decided on their rosters for the upcoming season. To protest, I’d show up to practice sans jock. I was quickly kicked off the team.

Being disillusioned by traditional sports, I sought out other outlets and frisbee was the natural extension. Being drawn to individual sports, I gravitated towards Cross Country Running. On the team were a couple of guys who were into backpacking in Yosemite. “That’s for me” I thought. Plus Andy and Evan and some of the gang had recently spent a harrowing night camping out “cowboy” style in Yosemite and got snowed on, they read the Survival Cooking list of best coolers and made sure to get lots of beers for the night. “That’s definitely for me. A sport where you could die!”. After that I got into Rock Climbing. With Rock Climbing, there is a certain purity to it. I would reach a heightened state of awareness while climbing in Yosemite. Especially if I was doing a technical route without a rope or with a long run out that would mean the end of my mortality. It got to such a state that I had literally done away with the concept of FEAR. I was young, brash and the world was my oyster and limits were not part of the equation. After a couple of accidents I regained my sense of self preservation (with the help of my mom). What I took with me and applied to disc sports was that heightened sense of awareness. In Rock Climbing, you are intensely concentrating for long periods of time. One slip can prove fatal. So to take that type of focus and apply it to freestyle was unique.

What was the first “move” you ever learned?

Move? I guess it would be the tip. The gang I hung out with in High School was very eccentric. We were hyper into esoteria in any and all forms. One of the guys in our gang was a guy named Christoper Young. He had an older brother, Michael who was very talented. He was a member of the San Francisco Ballet Troupe, and a member of a San Francisco Juggling Club among other things. He learned how to tip from other people in the SF Juggling Club. This must have been about 1972. He’d show up to our park toss arounds and show us how to throw for power, how to tip and other things. This was still about 1975. Soon after that, Stancil Johnson’s book “Frisbee” showed up. It was the BIBLE. We would go through the book and do everything in it. As far as real moves go, we were very isolated from the world. We would try to do things that we thought everyone else was doing. It was actually pretty far removed from what the mainstream was doing. We were very much into restricted catches as well as language (esoteria again). We innovated such things as the Flamedotz (figure 4 catch), the Phlaerd, the Eflex and a host of other moves. It was a remarkable time to be sure. My signature catch was the Grunt Trailer. I would catch the disc as it goes by as I dipped my body like a limbo dancer. My shoulders wouldn’t touch the ground and I’d catch the disc about a foot off the ground. I’d be completely horizontal. The first time John Kirkland saw me do it, he tried it, pulled a muscle and had to sit down. I didn’t so much learn moves as I did invent them.

Who was your biggest influence?

Early on it would have to be Michael “Muck” Young. After I had set my sights on being competitive it would have to be Corey Basso. He burned very hot and I burned very cool but we both burned just as intensely, just in different ways. Also Evan David. He was the consummate style master. Athletically, Tom Kennedy. He was just so graceful to watch.

Where did you first see the delay, or who taught you the delay?

Andy Yates came home from the 1976 Indian Summer tourney raving about this new innovation, the nail delay. He described it to me. I woke up the next day and starting spinning a disc, trying to nail delay it all day long. We would get together for our evening jams under the softball lights at Davis Park. I showed up and on the first throw to me I spun it on my finger. Evan was so mad he left, scolding me for ruining the sport.

Who are the top three Cosmic Catastrophe players?

There’s Downtown Jimmy Brown and then there’s everybody else. No one is even close. On the next tier down probably another Canuck, Jack Ognistoff (sp.). Also, Berkeley Disc Golfer of some reknown, Peter Sontag has a sister. I can’t remember her name but she was actually probably the #2 KKer in the world. Fully capable on both hands. Bill King and John Anthony were over rated. I could beat them both by employing the dreaded throat Kaiser with my weak hand.

In the last ten years has anyone given you a run for your money?

I’m not competent at doubles but am pretty good at singles. I beat Randy Silvey but that was a long time ago (90).

What was the hottest jam you ever saw–or maybe the top 2 or 3.

I honestly can’t remember. I was usually so intent on playing I’m sure I missed some epic stuff. My top three that I was in (outside of Gitis Beach) #3: Me and John Jewell at the Hackey Sack/Frisbee Festival at Ocean Beach in Sandy Ego around 1987. JJ talked me into going electric. I couldn’t talk, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t eat. But I could Jam. Peter Laubert was trying to get people to go through the “this is how you throw etc.” over the PA. I really really couldn’t do it. I had to jam. We ruined the whole show. Peter bagged the instructional part and announced “Let’s watch Skippy and JJ”. Finally he called last throw about three times. I think Rick Castiglia was dispatched to physically remove us from the jamming area. We worked our way up and down that beach for about 5 hours totally wrecking jams. People would have a nice jam going and we’d show up. Maybe you’ve heard of Joey and Craig Smith’s 24 second clock where if you haven’t done a move or tried to seal it with 24 seconds they’d take the disc from you. Our’s was set at about 5 seconds. “That’s boring, give me that”. #2: On the beach at Palm Park (not the turf) with Evan David and Craig Smith around 1984. It had been stormy and we started jamming in some really high winds. We were so pumped up and the blood was flowing. It was intense just being outside let alone playing in these types of conditions. It’s the equivalent of skiing down a double diamond run when it’s icey. Experts only. All of sudden it starts dumping rain. Then it starts hailing. We only got hotter and hotter. Finally Joey Hudoklin shows up looking for us. He can’t believe it. “You guys are insane”. We came running up to him giddy and speaking mumbo jumbo trying to talk him into jamming. “You guys are nuts” he said and went home. #1: US Open La Mirada 1989. I had just won with JJ and Larry. We gobbed and drank a bunch of beer. I was looking for Tommy and finally found him jamming. I started playing with him and we eventually cleared everybody else out of the jam. I was very wound up. Even though we had won which was incredible, it wasn’t that balanced of a routine. It was more like a two man routine with me thrown in for flavor. I very much missed playing with Tom at that time. So we connected and got back to a certain common ground. The jam was really spectacular. Better than any I remember. I do recall Rick Labeau stopped and watched the whole thing. After we were done he was totally blown away. He had no idea someone could play like that. NO idea.

When you and Tom were living at the 12th street (Gitis Beach) house, how sick was it, how did that time affect your game and any other reflections about that period.

(Tom’s first reflection was Storm jam.)

It truly was a magical time. It was right at the start of a big run of tourneys for me and Tom from 1988-1991. I can honestly say that there were times when we would go down there and go for hours on end doing moves and combos that no one had ever done before nor since. One after another hour after hour, all day long, day after day. There were times when I would honestly not miss a single set. Every one would be perfect. All day long, day after day. We would hit moves that were… I can’t describe it. It was really unbelievably intense. I think it was a combination of things. I was very tournament honed. I was still in peak physical condition. I had started to perfect Skid Technology. To put it into a context of wind/beach play had a synergistic effect. It was also the blossoming of a future superstar in Tom Leitner. He had the natural skills, drive, talent all of that stuff. He had just moved up after living down in San Diego and had gone to the University of Shredology taught by guru master Professer Johnny Jewell so the pieces were all in place for him. People would show up to jam with us. Competent highly trained professional caliber players. Only we wouldn’t play their game, they would have to play our game. By the end of the jam, they would be so blown away, they couldn’t even chest roll or catch it behind their back. Then we’d take them down to Tampico’s and talk smack and drink them under the table. Best thing we could have done for a close friend. One jam I remember is Dave Zeff showed up early for a tourney with some Euro shredder. I talked them into going down to the beach and the wind was howling. They wanted to go indoors. I told them “No Way” They fed me some spin and I did every move I could do one after another. They couldn’t even delay the thing.

Not that I was highly trained or of professional caliber, but it was only among the best things you ever did for me. Most of us never knew JJ, but consistently you describe him as the “king of the beach,” any more comments about JJ?

JJ was the original Beach Master. His combination of wind skills and technical prowess in the beach game environment set him apart from the rest. He must of gone something like 10 yrs without ever losing at a beach tourney. Consider that his steady partner was Donny Wallace and that’s even more impressive.

How do you drink so much tequila and still wake up ready to play?

Years of training and dedication to being a professional in all regards. Also, having Sloan as a mentor was instrumental in my success in this regard.

What about the time you and someone else beat 2 49ers in a hoops game? And what about the scarecrow block/stuff?

I guess you could start this story with the time I was jamming in the field house gym at Sonoma State University with Rodney Sanchez, Don Dutton, Dan Exelby and Bob Gossett. We had on our fake fingernails, funky shorts, disco music blaring and just jamming away. All of a sudden here comes a bunch of guys from the football team. They started invading our space killing our jam. We told them that they had to respect our space as we were here first and there’s a basket down on the other end that they can play on. They said something like “Ya, you don’t understand, you all are playing with toys and s**t and we’re playing with real leather balls. Now clear out before we call your momma’s”. Oh, that got our competitive juices going. Most people don’t know this but Rodney was an excellent basketball player. The varsity coach kept trying to get Rodney to come out for the team. Pleading with him. He sure didn’t want me anywhere near his team but that’s another story. We had a Coed Basketball team called “Plastic Passion” that won the IM league. We could flat out ball and they didn’t know that. So we challenged them to a game for the gym. They were laughing and strutting around talking hella smack. We schooled them hard. I mean just worked them. They were totally humiliated. We left and told them that they need the work more than we did. Ouch!

That’s an absolutely true story. That was only the start. That summer I was playing pick up hoops in the gym. There used to be a big sports camp called “Offense/Defense”. There would be all of these All Stars that would show up and work with the young kids. All of a sudden here comes this guy wearing a CBS Sports ball cap with wide shoulders and was cut like a greek god. I was just staring at him without even thinking about who he is. He stood about 6’2″ and weighed around 210lbs. Very strong. Right behind him comes this guy was was about 5’8″ with legs like oak trees. I mean absolutely hypertrophic beyond compare. That was even more amazing. We had just finished a little 3 on 3 game and they challenge winners. They also had a stocky cornfed boy who was probably an offensive lineman. I finally get a close look at the two guys and I realized that it was Ronnie Lott and Wendell Tyler. Ronnie had played on the varsity team at USC so he could actually really play hoops. Wendell as extremely goofy and not much for the game of roundball. Wendell was guarding me and I was dropping open jump shot after open jump shot on him. Finally Ronnie gets mad because they’re losing and I’m scoring all of the points. Now I’ve got All-Pro Ronnie Lott in a bad mood right in my grill. It didn’t make any difference. He was so mad after the game. They challenged us again and we won again. Even that wasn’t the end of it.

The Frisbee team never ever lost a game of basketball to the Football team ever. I don’t know how many times we played them. They got a team in the Intramural league and the UFOS would beat them there. They’d show up to open court and we’d beat them there. The scarecrow block came against them in an IM league game. One of their guys goes one on one with me and jukes me out of the picture. As I fly by I throw up my trailing (vacation) hand and “SWATAH!!”, my ball.

Can you describe the spirit, or the place it comes from, that allows you to genuinely and sincerely love your fellow jammers and sincerely wish and hope that they play their best/shred hard?

I guess it’s a high minded effort that I pursue without trying to call attention to it. I tend to extrapolate out a lot. You know, what if scenarios. What if someone would win all the time what does that accomplish. There needs to be a higher calling. It shouldn’t be about me, it should be about the sport. I’m only the vehicle that is used to attain it. We’re all potential vehicles that are used to attain it. I also love competition and I very much love sport. My job is an Intramural Sports Director so I’m constantly either playing or monitoring competitive environments. It seems a natural extension for me to use my ethics as a sports administrator to that of participant. I also try to be a role model and someone that others respect. It’s important to me that I’m perceived that way. I just think that people get way too caught up in what Pat Riley calls the “disease of me”. I also try to eschew things like self doubt and insecurity. We’re all that way to one degree or another. It get’s old. Get beyond it and focus in on something more interesting, in this case the magnificent interplay of human, disc and wind.

Perhaps you can describe the general make-up of the competitors through the eras. By this I mean, when I first started there were a lot of players and they were mostly “hippies” and this has changed even since then. What percentage of players by era belonged to the “hippie” category, or another way of describing who people were outside of disc.

I think much of that is a myth. If you go back over our past you’ll see incredible athletes that were drawn in because it was an “alternative” sport. You can’t say that people like Ken Westerfield, Dave Marini, Doug Corea, Erwin Velasquez, Doug Branigan, Daryl Allen were anything less than exceptional. But because it’s an “alternative” sport you’ll get people who are drawn to it for other reasons. There is something very mystical and magical in the flight and fabric of disc play. It appeals to a very wide audience. So you’ll get “hippies” playing it. They are flash in the pans however and rarely stand the test of time.

What were the player parties like during the various eras? I witnessed some pretty strange things and heard about others. Is there one party that you really don’t remember?

I remember partying with Tom one time in Santa Barbara. I think we were planning on staying at Joey’s near Palm Park. We leave the party and started driving. About a half an hour later I ask Tom, “When’s the last time we’ve seen a building”? “Um, it’s been a while, I don’t really remember seeing any to tell you the truth”. We were so fried we were driving north. We found a camp spot and crashed. I think my favorite parties were the old Indian Summer ones. They were epic. The UFOS would throw down big time. Keg of beer, plenty of eats. One time they had three types of sauces for the spaghetti: Meat, Veggie and “Herb”. Afterwards the crowd went down to the local watering hole,the Brass Ass Pizza. Stork was with Al Bonopane. They went next door because Stork was drawn to the Ice Cream. He was eating it and just couldn’t get over how incredible it tasted. He just couldn’t get over it. Finally Al asked him what sauce he had for dinner. “The Herb, why do you ask”. Another one was the time JJ and I won Santa Cruz in 1981. We went down to Mulligan’s Tavern. A famous bar not too far from the stadium. We were with Bill King, John Anthony and a host of other miscreants. JJ and I just stayed at the bar and watched everything develop. It was completely out of control. People were totally smashed. They were dancing in the streets under the blinking stop light. A cop came by and tried to shut us down but then he saw JJ and I and found out it was a victory celebration. He had seen us play and thought we were the hottest thing he had aver seen. Let us keep going even past the 2:00am last call time. Actually most of what happened at some of these parties were so epic it probably shouldn’t be put in print. There was a lot of very engaging activities.

You have your own style (school) of freestyle. Describe what that means to you, and what are the other major schools of freestyle in your mind?

In the old days it was East Coast Control vs. West Coast wind game. Then Joey and Richie melded the two styles. That is still in effect today. I guess I perfected the power player motif. Every move was supposed to be hard. Maximum effort, flying dynamic catches. Corey Basso was the first person I saw who was playing that style. I took that to heart and ran with it. It took me a long time to finally get it right but I was keen to the idea of playing that way. One incident woke me up. In 1984 I teamed with JJ and Rick Castiglia for the US Open in La Mirada. It is pretty much the only time I’ve ever been hurt. I caught a big air lefty gitis and wiped out hard separating my shoulder about a minute into the routine. I gutted it out and kept playing but it must have looked pathetic. The kicker was later on that summer it was shown on national TV. The only blip of us was the three of us running around in a circle to the music of Star Trek. JJ was so mad that from that point forward every single move in a routine he was in had to be as hard as possible. Even a hoop to a catch. The hoop had to be a complete circle. If it wasn’t you’re just wasting your time. Along with that it was a very conscious effort to be as fully locked in concentration wise as you could be. It was certainly a higher standard. It was an incredible commitment. After a routine, I would have to go for a walk by myself just to come back to earth. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I put so much concentration into my play and so much passion that I had to some how get back to normal and it was hard. Very hard. So difficult that I couldn’t bring myself to play with a lot of people who were my friends because I didn’t want to subject them to that type of scrutiny. I wanted to remain friends. Not that I didn’t make mistakes or my partners didn’t but I expected the same type of commitment from Tom, from Larry and from JJ and from Rodney Sanchez. They all understood and gave the same effort I gave. I see a lot of my style of play in today’s game. Big combos to power catches. I also see a lot of moves that aren’t central to my ideals. Keep in mind I
will always be an advocate of a certain style of pure play. There is a lot of emphasis on safe catches. Execution is so important. But keep in mind, I was usually either winning difficulty or coming close and the same was the case for execution. I think it’s lazy. One style of play that has become a lost art is the Joey Hudoklin school of play. He is a complete style master. I remember very clearly that during a time in the early 80’s there were all these Joey Clones. They were everywhere and they were trying to emulate the master. What Joey does is he let’s the disc dictate what he’s going to do, not other way around. He doesn’t know going into a move what it’s going to be. If it’s a “5”, it’s the most beautiful “5” you’ve ever seen. Now it’s different. The throw might be in the wrong place or with the wrong angle. They’ll try to force the issue no matter what and it shows.

Who is your guru shredmaster (if you have one).

To me the consummate style artist of all time is King Joey. Right behind him I’d put Johnny Jewell. Maybe not for his technical prowess although that is one of the cornerstones of this game and the one impression people would walk away with. More for what he did mentally. He changed the game. What other criteria can you use that is important?

How many hats do you own, and what is your current preferred style?

I tend to purge them about once a year. I do the same for a lot of my old t-shirts. I take them to the UCSC Ultimate practice and hand them out. Right now I have trimmed it down to about 2 dozen.

How many times a month do you shave?

I try not to but I guess it’s about once a week. Never more than that.

What does Freestyle have to offer to a top athlete?

The beauty to me is that it is not appealing to only the athlete in all of us but the artist as well. You see it in sport but only rarely when a athlete will treat their sport as the canvas for their artistic expression. They have to seemingly transcend their sport to do so. People like Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Bill Russell. They are few and far between. We’re lucky because freestyle in it’s purest form relies heavily and perhaps in perfect proportion to both. My father was an artist and an athlete so I grew up looking at life through those two perspectives.

What was the yogurt incident?

I assume you mean from the Modesto years. The Mutants had discovered through experimentation in alternative lifestyles through chemicals that spreading yogurt all over your naked body stoned on acid at a party full of football players pushed the envelope of personal expression. Their girlfriends really liked it a lot so that got even more of a reaction than we intended.

During the different eras, how did judging evolve, and how did the systems affect play?

When I first came on the scene in 1977 I’m not even sure what system was employed. Then in 1978, there was a system that tried to reward people who could do the most things in their routines. I remember John Kirkland pulling out a sheet of paper and checking off the moves he had done. That got us Mutants going. We had devised a handout to give to the judges that listed all of our favorite moves, showed photos of us doing them and we would even go so far as to include whatever moves they invented for a price. We were a head of our time. To tell you the truth, I’ve never really cared about what system I was playing under because I never ever played to a system. I’ve won over such a long period I guess because my style is more anachronistic.

Can you reflect on Stork and his role, since it seems to me that he was always around behind the scenes if not at the events?

Dan Roddick was one of my original mentors and partners. We hooked up with Andy Yates for part of the 1978 tour (Santa Barbara and Boulder). I’ve always had the utmost admiration of him. I can say without reservation that of all the people I have ever known through disc play that I admire him as a person the most. He has been able to be objective which is no easy chore. Because we’re both human, we’ve disagreed on issues over time. He has always carried himself with class and dignity. I think we’re fortunate to have had him as a visionary for the sport of Disc Play and Freestyle.

It seems you either invented the move names or know who invented them and the stories behind the names–like Bad Attitude coming from Donny. What good stories about move names do you have, and or when is the Skippy guide to Freestyle slang coming out?

I did a pretty thorough listing for Seppo Neimanen’s paper on linguistics a few years back. I’ll post it on my web page soon.

Tell the story of how you got to be called Skippy Jammer when all the rest of us have normal nicknames?

I’ve told the story many times and I’m really not sure if I’m just making it up or if it’s true. I think for all intents and purposes, we should have John Anthony tell it since he’s the one who came up with it. Let’s leave that for another time.

Do you see Frisbee as an alternative to regular sports (and their structures) or as another possible mainstream sport?

Actually almost all sports start out as alternative and eventually end up in the main stream. Look at Beach Volleyball. Now it’s hardly even played on the beach, they take the beach with them so they can play in bigger venues. Triathlon’s used to be a fringe sport now they’re an Olympic Medal Sport. There have been some dramatic changes in Ultimate, mostly starting at the collegiate level where team are Sports Clubs. In order to get more recognition (funding) they need to become for formalized by introducing referees and sweeping rule changes. Disc Golf has not changed much on the grass roots levels but as more and more sponsors come on line, purses go up, the heat goes up and it becomes mainstream. There will always a fringe element to disc sports but they’re growing up.

Going along with that one, do you have any predictions for Freestyle? Or maybe a better question is, where do you see freestyle in 5, 10, 20 years?

I think that we here in the United States still have difficulty selling our sport because frisbees are still considered a toy. The biggest area of growth is in Europe. I think part of that dynamic is it’s viewed as a sporting object. The sport is going to become more international than it’s ever been. I’m hoping for a huge area of growth over seas. I think what will happen here in the US is it’s going to start all over again on a grass roots level. Certainly no where near what it was but I think there will be a rejuvenation of sorts. One thing that holds it back is technology. If someone can come up with a disc that is easier to delay and control it would be a huge development. It would need to have a huge dome like the Bayou Blasters used to play with but be easier to throw and catch. That’s another thing that holds this sport back is it’s not product reliant. What do you need to play? A disc and not much else. That’s also the beauty of it.

How do you keep your game in top form when there is little evidence to show that you have practiced much since 1992?

That’s probably all muscle memory. When I went from Modesto to Sonoma State in the summer of 1979 it was like going to heaven. I remember showing up and the frisbee class was in it’s hey day with Don Dutton teaching it and Don Vaughn and John Wright and the gang still heavily involved. I remember counting over 40 freestylers on the field on any given class day. I played a minimum of 20 hours a week from 1979 until Rodney Sanchez blew out his back in 1984. The amount of time I put into it is staggering. I never took a day off and would usually play upwards to 40 hours or more a week. From 1984 – 88 I stayed in Sonoma and played as much as I could. From 1988 until 1992 it was the Gitis Beach era which was even more intense than before, if not volume wise, certainly quality wise.

During your reign in Freestyle in the 1985-1995 era, you were also crushing in Ultimate and Golf. Did you feel invincible at this time, and what do you think motivated you to this level of crushdom?

As I mentioned earlier, after winning in Freestyle I needed a point of reference. One of my father’s gift to me was athleticism. Both the genes and the emotional support. Another thing about dropping out of competition was I no longer had my father to show off for. He passed away in 1995 and I’ve never had the motivation to play to a high level since. Now I funnel all of my competitive juices through my own two boys. What motivated me to play other sports so well was I love to compete. My goal was to win a major in Ultimate and win the Master’s Cup at DeLaveaga. I came pretty close. I won the Master’s Division of the Ultimate Players Association National Championships. We beat the team that placed 2nd at Nationals in the Open division during Regional play when we played as an open team. That gives you an indication of the caliber of play on that team. We were called Tampico’s. That was in 1994. The master’s division was no easy task. There are some excellent teams comprised of all stars from eras past. And you only had to be 30 years old. I was 40 and I started for that team. I came in 3rd at the Master’s Cup in the Master’s division. I can’t remember the year. Must of been 1992 or 93. I also shot a course record -12 which stood for a long time. Ken Climo finally came along and trimmed it by a stroke. The course was in a much shorter position. So I never really attained my goals but I gave it one hell of a try.

Here are a couple of questions I think I sent but didn’t get answers to, or if you answered them just disregard.

What are your impressions of Krae, Billoradical, the V-Bros, Bud Light, Sideout, Bayou Blasters, as schools of freestyle?

I have nothing but sincere respect for all of these teams that you mentioned. It was so different playing in a finals when you had to play against all of these teams. It was unbelievable. Krae is the ultimate style master. I stood in awe of him in 1978 just for the shear scope of his artistry. Time has not diminished his talent. Bill Wright was the architect of the Coloradicals. What he did for the sport has never been reproduced. I remember when the ‘Rads were in their hey day and all the other teams were trying to play like them. Like if you’re going to be serious you might as well emulate the best. No one could do it so they went back to their own styles of play. That’s why there were no Coloradical Clones. It was too complex. Too hard. The Velasques Brothers, Erwin and Jens are remarkable. Erwin in particular is off the scale. I remember Evan David got back from a tourney in Toronto where Erwin was. Evan was considered by many to be the best player on the planet at the time. He was in shock. Even though he had seen Erwin many times he had never really really studied him. He came back and told me that he really doesn’t think that Erwin should ever lose a tournament EVER. He was that good. The Bud Light Team of Chipper Bro Bell, Joey Hudoklin and Crazy John Brooks was outstanding. It is most likely the best years Joey had as a ‘styler. Simply because it forced him to work on the competitive aspect of his game instead of becoming a jam master and getting the accolades from those efforts. Chip Bell is famous and rightly so. I don’t think that Crazy gets his due as a freestlyer. If you watch the old tapes he doesn’t cut corners. He goes for some very risky stuff and hits it consistently. When I first saw the Bayou Blasters I thought that they were created at BioRad laboratories. They were so much better than anybody else I didn’t think they were real. I’m looking at Deaton Mitchell and he does a hop over to a behind the back stall. My jaw hit the ground. I actually played at an FPA worlds with Jim and Deaton in Minneapolis in 1984. I was the designated “Z Machine”. It was a thrill to play with them. As far as Team Sideout in concerned. What I tried to do with that team was to model it after the Bill Walsh football 49ers. Walsh’s theory was to set a very high standard. Create an environment that is conducive to winning. Have high expectations and have a system that caters to all of that. The end result is every person becomes replaceable. It actually worked. We had a 4 person team. Myself, Larry Imperiale, Tom Leitner and John Jewell. We emphasized high difficulty and high execution. We also worked very hard on our routines. They would be very polished come game time. One year, I think it was 1990 the entire routine was comprised of Co-ops. There were no individual moves. The other thing I remember about Sideout was how hard we worked on making the other partner look as good as possible. We probably worked harder on perfecting the set than we did any other aspect of the routine.

Do you look on these teams/players as having their own distinct ‘schools’ of play,or just ‘styles’?

There can be no doubt of the huge effect of the Coloradicals on freestyle. They were truly amazing to watch, their flow was unmatched. I still don’t know how they got that much flow and excitement into a choreographed routine. Before the Coloradicals, how important was it to have a choreographed routine to music?
The V-bros were famous worldwide, yet they didn’t seem to win as much as other teams. Was there some factor which prevented them from winning all the time?

All of these teams do have a different approach to freestyle. The V-Bros were very percussive. Lot’s of tipping and abrupt motions. Highly dynamic with lost of acrobatics. Krae is as smooth of a player as there has ever been. No wasted motion. Just pure freestyle. The Radicals were high concept. It was like watching a dance performance. Every small detail was important in their approach. Bud Light raised the bar with an almost theatrical performance. It took crowd participation to the highest level. The Blasters were just splendid warped out human specimens. They were just radosity waiting to happen. One thing about freestyle however is we borrow so much from each other. Like jazz masters copying each other, looking for some new hot licks in constant series of one-upsmanship. I also think it’s silly to condemn or pan any style of play. Freestyle is so very unique. It’s very organic. For example, how can anyone criticize the Northwest style of play? It’s stood the test of time. It is so very unique and different from any other style of play. But we all borrow from each other in our efforts to improve our own games.

Would you want to comment on being in the zone, or on the zone in general, and how important to your specific game it is to hit the zone.

It comes from a belief in yourself. An uncompromising commitment to hard work and the application of high effort concentration. My mood before a championship routine was that I was better than anyone else. I worked harder than anyone else so I didn’t think they were worthy of being the champion on that day. People like Joey or Bilbs would have their day and they would deserve it. I would like to think that they at least saw me in their rear view mirror hounding them. I used to work on the mental/physical part as I would go about my daily business. I was so warped I would try to walk across the room as perfectly as possible. Put on my clothes the same way. Every thing I would do I would be concentrating trying to do it as perfectly as possible. Even opening a beer. It had to be done with the least amount of wasted effort and error. It creates building blocks that in turn can be used in the framework of competitive disc.

How did Wham-o’s early involvement and then lack there of affect freestyle?

Whamo used to use the Rose Bowl and the North American Championship Series as an advertising tool for their product. Dave Marini started the FPA out of that concern. In a lot of ways we long for those old days because once they stopped funding it, there was no other money to be had. I think that’s one of the reasons Stork tended to nurture it so much.

In the Tibetan book of the dead, it suggests that “any activity that focuses the mind, body, and spirit into union” could be considered meditation. Could you comment on this…I guess I’m wondering what you think about jams reaching these meditative states and how they positively affect a person’s outlook and overall vibe.

I feel very spiritual during and after an epic jam. You get that feeling like you’re on top of the world. It happens to you enough during a life time and you can not be unaffected by it. You get locked into it and think of it like you’re performing a cosmic dance. And you are one of only a handful of people who can dance this dance so sublimely. It is very humbling.

Was there any single motivating factor in your life that drove you to work so hard and be so focused? Or was it more like some dogs love the frisbee and can’t put it down even if their gums are bleeding and some dogs couldn’t care less?

It stems from my father. I was named after an All-American guard from Notre Dame. I think his name was Kevin O’Shea. All I know is he could fill it up. My father was also an All-American basketball player from University of Idaho in the 40’s. His greatest wish was that I would be one too. He instilled the love of sport in me and gave me a gentle but firm hand in me playing traditional sports. I was actually doing quite well in basketball. I was the starting point guard on my Freshman team and was going to play Varsity as a Sophomore and being groomed to be the starter as a Junior. I was the best player in my Freshman class. The family moved to Modesto and I went out for the team there. I was starting on the Sophomore team. One day all of these guys showed up to practice. I went up to the coach and asked: “Who in the heck are these guys”? The football season had just ended and these guys were now switching over to basketball. I went from being the starter to being a sub. I never did get over that. I challenged every single player on that team to a game of one on one and beat them all. This is absolutely the truth. I also challenged and accepted challenges from all comers. I never lost a game ever. Instead of being devastated, I switched over to individual sports. Cross Country was perfect for me because I had so much excess energy. I wasn’t good but I wasn’t doing it to be good. I just needed the outlet. Some guys on the team were really into backpacking so I gained a passion for doing outdoor activities. So my passion for winning and competing came from my father. Once he passed away, a lot of my passion for competing went with him. Without that bad High School Coach on the Sophomore Basketball Team, I probably would have kept
playing hoops and gone on to college on a scholarship and played a little but fate had a different story for me. It certainly worked out for the better in my case. The funny thing about my dad is, he was basically disgusted with me playing frisbee. He called it going out and playing with my “toys”. One day he was sitting in his recliner surfing channels and came on to a program that showed Frisbee playing. There I was on his TV in his living room shredding. He was so proud of me he started bragging to all of his buddies.

From http://people.ucsc.edu/~kdgivens/skippyinterviews.html

About Ultimate Rob

Rob McLeod is a frisbee ambassador and motivational speaker, a 12 time World Record holder (including 6 Guinness World Records), 12-time World Champion and currently holds the Canadian Distance Record. He created ultimaterob.com in 2009.

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