Ultimate Frisbee takes flight at U

by Ryan Schuster

An open field, a few plastic cones and a Frisbee is all it takes to start up a game of Ultimate Frisbee. As one of the fastest-growing sports on college campuses around the nation, Ultimate Frisbee has now found a home at Minnesota.
After several months as an official student organization, Ultimate Frisbee became the 35th club sport at the University last spring; the former Frisbee club at Minnesota folded five years ago. Current club president Dieter Roggy, club vice president and team captain Rik Gran and former University student Barbara Thompson labored to bring the sport back to Minnesota.
“At first (starting the club) was very frustrating,” Gran said. “There are a lot of things that need to be done.”
Applying for student organization status was the first step. All sports clubs are required to apply to the University’s Department of Recreational Sports to begin competing as a club sport.
The decision to add Ultimate Frisbee to the recreational sports department was handed down in late spring, and the team began competing in tournaments in April. Gran said that since the program got on its feet, it has been very rewarding.
The Minnesota ultimate disc club is the first new club to be formed at Minnesota since July 1995, when water polo became an official club sport.
“I think it’s a great addition to the program,” said Steve Smith, the associate program director of sports clubs. “It’s something out of the ordinary. It’s not a traditional sport. It gives people an opportunity to compete in a competitive sport within the University system, and it brings a personality to the sports club program.”
Ultimate Frisbee as a game is similar to football and soccer with some notable exceptions: The field is 30 yards shorter and the game has fewer stoppages of play. The goal of the game is to outscore your opponent by advancing the Frisbee through a series of passes. Each time a team completes a pass in the end zone it receives a point.
“It’s just continuous running, not like soccer or football,” Gran said. “It’s an extremely fast-moving club sport.”
The team has not had any problems recruiting people. For the first time since the club started pick-up games, they actually had to cut players to trim their roster for this weekend’s tournament.
Minnesota currently has a team roster of 18 players; however, only seven players are allowed on the field at a time. Fifteen of the team members are University students, the others are staff of the University.
The squad will play Oct. 5-6 in the Northwest Plains Club Sectional Tournament, a 25-team Ultimate Frisbee competition in Winona, Minn. The top five teams that advance from the tournament will go to regionals on Oct. 19-20 in Chicago.
“We expect to be one of the five teams,” Gran said. “It’s not going to be easy, but we think we can finish between fifth and 10th place.”
The Northwest Plains Club Sectional Tournament will be the team’s fifth tournament since the beginning of summer. The club has been competitive so far, but has a way to go toward being a top team.
“It’s possible that we could be there in two or three years,” Gran said. “If we can stabilize the program with the talent we’ve got, we could compete with the top teams.”
Wisconsin and Carleton are two such competitors and both teams will be at the tournament in Winona this weekend. Even though Minnesota is not yet a top club team, the players know what it takes to advance.
“The difference between a mediocre team and a good team is experience,” Gran said. “But the difference between a good team and an outstanding team is athletic ability.”
The recipe for success looks pretty simple for a sport that requires minimal equipment and maximum effort.