Behind The Scenes Of RISE UP: The Creators Of The Instructional Video Project Speak Out

RISE UP, a new series of instructional videos about Ultimate, launched earlier this month. The videos have the potential to be hugely important to the game, offering high-level coaching to everyone who wants access to it. But what you see on the screen is just the tip of the iceberg of the project.

The RISE UP Ultimate logo.After months of planning, producing, and editing, RISE UP, a new series of instructional videos about Ultimate, launched earlier this month. The videos have the potential to be hugely important to the game, offering high-level coaching to everyone who wants access to it.

But what you see on the screen is just the tip of the iceberg of the project. The hours put in from its conception to the release of the first season tell a story about a desire to teach, give back to Ultimate, and open new doors for developing players around the world.

Mario O’Brien, the Founder, Producer, and Creative Director of RISE UP, had his first thoughts about a new Ultimate-focused project after a trip to South America. “I went with [Seattle’s elite club team] Sockeye to Colombia to play in the Pan-American Ultimate Championships and help run clinics,” he said. “That was the first time my eyes were opened by how important Ultimate is becoming outside of the United States. I felt responsible to help and do something bigger than just being the captain of [Portland’s elite club team] Rhino.”

Upon returning to the US, O’Brien sat down for lunch with Ben Wiggins, a highly decorated player and coach, to discuss ideas about what he could do. That conversation led to more discussion by email, which eventually generated the idea of RISE UP. It seemed only natural that O’Brien, a school teacher in Portland, would end up teaching Ultimate.

“It was a happy accident that Mario was such a good teacher,” said Wiggins, who came on board as the coach of seasons one and two. “I hope I’m as good as he is, and I’ll keep working to get there. It was really nice to talk to somebody that really knows teaching and knows it from the level from really experienced learners to learners that have lots of difficulties.”

O’Brien created a framework for each episode, but allowed Wiggins creative control over the content, only stopping him during the filming if he felt they needed a better explanation or a different approach. “We had to make it so it’s an effective teaching tool and covers the depth that we need to, but also making sure that it’s concise enough that people don’t get bored,” explained O’Brien.

The project was particularly exciting for O’Brien because when he started playing Ultimate there were very few resources available to help him learn and improve. “The big feeling of frustration that I always had…was that I didn’t feel like I had access to anything that would help me get better,” he said. “I hope that RISE UP can create this center of conversation to huddle around what we’re doing and connect with each other.”

Wiggins told a similar story:

[quote]Josh Greenough and I were trying to figure out how to run a Frisbee team back when we were in our first and second year at the University of Oregon. And there wasn’t a lot of media back then for Ultimate. We happened upon a forum post that Jim Parinella put up. And he had a couple paragraphs up about what the [Boston elite club team] Death or Glory offense was. And in one place he said, ‘Well there’s a certain amount of risk on every pass. And you want to get to the endzone as efficiently as possible. So you want to minimize overall risk.’

I think, now looking back on it, what he meant was that you should try to throw a lot of really safe passes whenever possible. And what we took from that was, ‘None of our passes are safe, we’re terrible. We should throw it as far as we can.’ And that was the basis for the Oregon offense: everybody on the field needs to be able to throw it and we need to all work together to get somebody open.

That’s two sentences out of Parinella’s brain – who knows how much time he put into them? And that literally jumpstarted four and a half years of work on a particular style of offense. Given that we put that much effort into two sentences, I hope [RISE UP] will be a way for teams to jumpstart going forward.[/quote]

It certainly seems possible that the video series will have a big impact. O’Brien and Wiggins are aware — and wary — of that.

“I think it could be pretty powerful…,” said O’Brien. “I don’t want it to come off as: ‘this is how you should play ultimate.’ But I do want it to come off as: ‘this is the way that someone was very successful leading their team, using these concepts.’”

“The biggest danger of this thing is that we come across as saying there is only one way to do these things,” warned Wiggins. “That there’s only one way to pivot, that there’s only one way to run a handler offense – nothing could be further from the truth.” He stressed that there are countless effective strategies in Ultimate, and that they want RISE UP to be helpful from a fundamentals standpoint, but not as a rigid system for developing a team.

What could help is that new coaches may be involved in future seasons. Wiggins explained that it was unlikely he would shoot any more seasons, despite wanting to support the project as much as possible. He said he had to take two weeks off from work to plan and shoot the videos. “I would love to be involved [in the future], but there just aren’t enough hours in the day for everything that I want to do,” he said.

The process is extremely time-consuming. “It’s hard to quantify completely…,” said O’Brien. “But I’d say, per video, it’s over an hour [of editing work] per minute of what you see. At least an hour, maybe two.”

That, combined with the actual planning and filming, makes for a significant amount of work. “Planning out a lesson for one person who you already know and already have some rapport with – you can do that fairly efficiently,” said Wiggins. “And planning out for a class that you know well – this is what our teachers in every school around the country do ever day – it takes time but it’s doable. But planning lessons in a format you’ve never done before, in a format you’ve never seen before, and for a huge population of people…took a huge amount of time behind the scenes.”

But the hard work is worth it to O’Brien. He’s incredibly proud of the work they’ve done and can’t wait to work on more in the future. But they still face challenges. They need to sell the videos to have the funds to create more episodes. “It’s going well – people are buying it. I’m not quitting my job yet, but it’s been pretty steady since we launched,” said O’Brien. “The only problem that I can foresee in the future – I still wonder whether people are going to buy it or if they’re going to steal it.”

The videos require a Facebook login, designed to reduce theft and password sharing, but it is still possible to skirt the system. O’Brien hopes people see the value and purchase their own copy.

“I have this vision three years from now of my life as shooting RISE UP videos, editing RISE UP videos,” he said. “But for the other three months out of the year, I’m traveling, teaching ultimate…The biggest problem now for me is trying to balance things [with my current job].”

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email ( or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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