Grey Duck, Minnesota’s ultimate frisbee team, goes from 10 students in a group to ranking nationally

Grey Duck finished third in nationals last season, and the season before, won a national championship.

Captain Saurav Dubey throws a frisbee at teammates during practice on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

Image by Easton Green

Captain Saurav Dubey throws a frisbee at teammates during practice on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

by Anthony Bryant

Ultimate frisbee began its journey as a University of Minnesota club team in 1996, started by 10 students without a coach. 

In 2017, the team has established coaches and is more than double as big, and they’ve achieved a national prestige. Just last season, Grey Duck, the University’s men’s team, finished third in the nation for college club teams. The year before that, the team won their first National Championship.

“It’s been growing,” said captain Tristan Van De Moortele. “Overseas it’s growing, like in Europe and Japan. And while it started here, those other regions around the world are definitely exploding.”

This past week, final roster decisions were made for the Grey Ducks. The new recruits have a lot to live up to as the team seeks to qualify for nationals after several player’s from last year’s team graduated out. Current co-captains Saurav Dubey, Sam Kaminsky, and Van De Moortele, say the team looks promising.

All three noted that while the team lost key players, it was a roster that had potential. They’re not only optimistic about the team, but also the growth the sport has seen over the years — a growth that has been hard to ignore.  

“I started playing when I was in seventh grade,” Kaminsky said. “I’ve seen it go from a few teams to now Minneapolis being one of the biggest youth scenes in the country for ultimate frisbee.”

According to USA Ultimate, the United States national governing body for the sport of ultimate, Minnesota ranks third in the country for participants. With more and more participation, ultimate has been gaining attention and respect as a sport. 

The Grey Ducks play at TCF Bank Stadium, as spectators are drawn to the sport that combines the nonstop movement of soccer with the passing skills of football. Like football and soccer before it, there’s a professional ultimate scene growing.

“Even past college there’s a pro scene that’s starting to grow in the [American Ultimate Disc League],” Dubey said. “Now there are ESPN contracts. They just showed a game on ESPN2.”

The three captains admitted that while the professional scene has been garnering more attention, there’s still a long journey that ultimate has to make if it ever wants to reach the same status as other, more established sports. From funding to player participation, ultimate is facing an uphill battle, but it’s a battle they believe they can eventually win.

“It’ll take time,” Dubey said.

Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that the Grey Ducks are the University’s men’s ultimate frisbee team.