The Ultimate Challenge: A Journey to Returning to Frisbee
Canberra born, Aidan Baron, was only 19 years old when he was selected to represent Australia in late 2018 for the Ultimate Frisbee World Championships in Canada. Whilst he was over in Canada, an opponent landed on his knee whilst they were both going for the disc. Aidan could not take any further part in the game. It was later discovered he had torn multiple ligaments in his knee. He had to be flown home for surgery and is still in the recovery process from his injury. I sat down with Aidan to chat about his love for the sport and his plans to return to the game.
Q) How did you first hear about Frisbee?
A) I first heard about it in Year 8. I had two teachers that set up the first high school gala day for it. They were looking for players to play for the Gold Creek High school team and I was like, ‘hell yeah I can throw a Frisbee’. That was my first ever experience with Ultimate Frisbee. After the tournament, I looked it up on Google because I enjoyed it and I wasn’t playing a sport at that moment. I found the Canberra Ultimate website, but I didn’t sign up because I was freaked out.
A couple of weeks later, one of the teachers told me there was a junior’s ACT training and said my friend and I should give it a go. My first proper game was at under 18’s Junior National’s (AYUC) in Sydney. We had only trained three times before then too. During that three-day tournament, I probably touched the disc about three times. I came back from Sydney and didn’t do anything Frisbee related for an entire year. I played at school, but nothing outside of that. I only came back to it because my friend asked me to play a tournament with him and their team needed another guy. It was a tournament in Canberra and we ended up winning, which was a good laugh because we were definitely the underdogs. From there my friend and I competed in social competitions around Canberra until the Youth Ultimate Championships rolled around again.
Q) What do you enjoy most about playing Frisbee?
A) The community is great and I like the whole concept of it being self-refereed. I never used to be the physical type so I found it beneficial being self-referred. It calls for a lot of honesty when playing. I feel as though I am an honest player. So finding a sport that fits that well and pushes away those players who aren’t was really great. You find people who are similar to you.
Q) How do you balance studying with Frisbee?
A) I found it quite easy because I have a pretty decent work ethic with school things. I spread out my school assignments and work on them over time. I found it rough when finishing year 12 because we were going to a tournament in Tasmania. It took 2 days to get there and back for a three-day tournament. We drove there to try and save money, it wasn’t worth it. The school was usually good at giving me extensions, but it was the end of the year so they weren’t very forgiving. I usually work my ass off to get the stuff done before the tournament so I can be as focused as possible.
Q) How did you get selected to represent Australia?
A) Just by playing in the Australian Youth Ultimate Championships during 2017. Every year they select players for the Green and Gold. The Green and Gold tournament is a Trans-Tasman tournament which is basically a test series between New Zealand and Australia. It’s a 3 game tournament and it took place late 2017. That was my first semi Australian experience. At the end of 2017, there were the trials for the Junior World Championship and I got selected to represent Australia during those trials. The trials themselves were four days of 9 am to 5 pm Frisbee stuff held in NSW. That was a big deal for me. At the end of the Trans-Tasman, it didn’t confirm your spot in the worlds team. You still had to show up and do well at trials. Our team for worlds was about 21 players, but there was a pool of about 50 people trying out.
Q) How did your injury at Worlds come about and what is the recovery process like?
A) The 2018 Junior Worlds were held in Canada. My injury occurred the third day of the seven-day tournament in a game against the Dominican Republic. I was coming towards the disc and the disc was thrown to me. I went to catch it, I had contact with the disc and there was a massive collision into my left leg which was planted on the ground. A member of the opposition team was trying to get the disc and I didn’t even see him at all. It was a huge foul. I never told the opposition player the extent of the injury because I didn’t want to burden him with that.
My physio checked my leg out when I came off the ground and he said there didn’t seem to be anything really wrong with it. He said ‘I can’t currently feel any bad internal damage’ but my knee just didn’t feel right after that. He asked me to walk and see how it felt. I went to walk and my leg caved in on itself. I hopped back to the bench, where he checked my leg again, and as he popped it back into place he knew that I had torn my ACL. When I got back it was confirmed, via MRI, I had sustained a full ACL tear and a level 2 tear on my MCL.
I had to cancel all my plans to travel after worlds. I had to plans to travel around Europe with my friends after and had to cancel it all. I had to do physio when I came home for around four weeks before I saw the surgeon. I had another 6 weeks of physio before the surgery, to make sure my knee was ready. I had surgery in December last year and it will be around 12 months until I can play again. Playing that first game is only being back on the field. Not fit, not good and nothing representative.
Q) Do you plan on going back to playing Frisbee at a high level once recovered?
A) Yes, I do. And because I told my surgeon I wanted to get back to playing high-level Frisbee, he told me to do the pre-hab, the physio before surgery. It speeds up the recovery on the other side and gives you a little more confidence and mobility after surgery.
Q) Where do you want to take your career in Frisbee from here?
A) I want to play the next under 24’s Australia worlds. It’s in 2 years from now. It has the same sort of the selection process as Junior Worlds. My goal is to be ready by then.
Hopefully, when the Under 24’s Australian World Championship rolls around we will be able to see Aidan Baron wearing the Green and Gold once more as he represents Australia!