By Caitlin Ball
The word “frisbee” conjures up images of athletic hippies enjoying a hiatus between classes on the quad. Here at East, the frisbee atmosphere is slightly different—it’s, shall we say, “ultimate”-er?
Senior co-captain Omri Hashmonay started ultimate as most tend to—with no experience whatsoever and at some age past tweendom.
“I saw a couple of lax seniors playing on the field during lunch so I was like ‘Hey, can I play?’” Hashmonay recounted of his freshman year. “I was in cross country and track and I’d sneak out during practice and come [to ultimate frisbee practice] sometimes.”
Hashmonay’s tactics to get involved in the ultimate community may seem a little more unconventional than others, but in reality, many frisbee players play another sport first. Junior Laura Fradin, the other co-captain, played softball and tennis before switching over permanently to ultimate freshman year. Even the coach, Aaron Stern, participated in other athletics before choosing ultimate in college.
“I wanted to be a part of an athletic team in college and I played a little bit in high school,” Stern said. “So I went out for practice and I kept going out. I loved the people, I loved the game: I got hooked.”
This story is eerily similar to Hashmonay’s, and even Fradin’s.
“I’d played other sports but I’d never really gotten a really good team feeling, and then I came to frisbee and it’s just…your team becomes your family,” Fradin said. “The ultimate frisbee community is so interconnected—I know people on every single high school team—if you just go and pick-up then you’re bound to know at least one person.”
This close-knit camaraderie of the ultimate community may not have been as prevalent five years ago. East established its own ultimate frisbee club team only two years ago. Thanks to the efforts of local organizations such as Triangle Flying Disc Association (TFDA) and Triangle Youth Ultimate League (TYUL), this little-known sport is beginning to catch the attention of more exercise-craving citizens.
“We’re bringing in more high school teams; we’re trying to get all games observed by certified observers; we’re trying to get all the coaches USA-Ultimate certified,” Stern said. “It’s been expanding in the youth age range, more so than any of the other divisions in recent years.”
Stern is heavily involved in the coaching and management of TYUL.
Ultimate frisbee leagues can range from school to intramural to club to state or even national levels. This wide range of levels helps to further expand the ultimate community—there is essentially a team for everyone of every age. So once you throw, you won’t ever stop.
“People can play for years and years and years,” Hashmonay said. “And sometimes with soccer or basketball you play up to a certain point and then you stop for the rest of your life and then maybe pass on the info to your kids, but ultimate players can keep [playing] for a long time even if it becomes just lazy throw-arounds.”
Ultimate at East’s level demands both athleticism and skill—hucking discs does not come naturally for many people.
“When it comes to throwing, a lot of that is skill,” Fradin said. “You’ve got to just practice, all the time.”
However, some argue that there is a more accelerated learning curve when it comes to frisbee skills.
“You can learn how to throw a frisbee pretty quickly, but you don’t grow as much with athleticism,” Hashmonay said. “You’re just at that point. Once you reach your peak in ultimate, as far as athleticism goes, you can start building endurance but you can’t grow taller or run much faster.”
East’s team is comprised primarily of underclassmen, having just graduated four senior “superstars.” Although many younger players come from various sports and would be considered relatively athletic, their bodies haven’t had time to develop the same way as their upperclassmen opponents. Nevertheless, with their recent plethora of willing participants (whose numbers have increased on average by about four people per practice compared to last year), East is on track to make the state championship in the spring.
“I think we have a lot of potential,” Stern said. “We’ve only been around for a short amount of time but we’ve already got a really good atmosphere going here.”
Worldwide, ultimate frisbee has only been around for less than half a century, but you can be sure it’s growing, and fast.
“Twenty years ago people were like ‘What the hell is ultimate frisbee?’” Fraden said. “But now it’s growing and it’s become an organization in every state…It’s just a bunch of awesome people that get really close with their team.”