Ultimate Frisbee cultivates community, competition

Ultimate Frisbee is available for both men and women to take part. (credit: Courtesy of Money Mellons via The Bridge) Ultimate Frisbee is available for both men and women to take part. (credit: Courtesy of Money Mellons via The Bridge)

“The spirit of the game, I don’t know if I’ve emphasized it enough,” said Masters Material Science student and co-captain of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team Marissa Schwartz regarding what draws her to Ultimate Frisbee.

Ultimate Frisbee isn’t your ‘typical’ sport: as a mixture between basketball, football, and soccer, it involves athleticism, yes, but forces team members to form close bonds with each other in order to properly regulate the team. This ideology makes the team willing to welcome anyone who can adapt the proper spirit.

“For people who have never even run in their life, we welcome them into the sport. For people who have been playing for many years, we welcome them, as well,” said Schwartz. “It’s really a hard balance sometimes between skill levels, but the community and the friendships that you build when you’re playing Frisbee is something that has been a huge aspect of the team.”

Ultimate Frisbee plays all year long, but their primary season is in the spring. In the fall they only play three tournaments, which count towards their record but don’t factor into whether they go to regionals, and in the winter they play pickup games with high-school to middle-aged teams. Their spring tournaments decide whether they will go to the sectional, regional, or national competitions.

The men’s and women’s teams are, for the most part, very similar other than their season goals. The men’s team is a bit more competitive and strictly adhere to the practice schedule more than the women’s. They have enough members to split into an A team and a B team, which allows the A team to be more competitive while the B works on their skills.

The women’s team, on the other hand, focuses more on the spirit of the game. Once Schwartz took on the position of being co-captain during sophomore year of her undergraduate degree here, she decided the team should be less focused on competition to make them more welcoming to new players; she encourages this through team dinners, outings to landmarks such as Niagara Falls after tournaments, and events such as pumpkin carving. She wanted every player to feel as though practice was a nice break in their day.

“[It was a] ‘let’s really try to win games and win tournaments and show that Carnegie Mellon isn’t just a nerd school’ kind of thing, and I think that approach wasn’t conducive to building a team in general. A lot of our efforts are to focus less on winning and being competitive and more on the fun, positive aspects of playing a sport.”

The importance of bonding between team members stems from the fact that there are no referees in Ultimate Frisbee. This makes communication and “the spirit of the game” crucial for success. When there is a foul, the players are expected to call it themselves, and the two teams on the field discuss who is penalized and what the penalty will be.

“Teams should honor the rules. To gain an advantage they shouldn’t disagree even though they are incorrect in disagreeing,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz says getting involved with the team is as easy as emailing one of the four captains: Justin Abel, Foster Boales, Shani Rosenthal, or herself. After that, one only needs to attend as many practices as possible, buy a pair of cleats, and have fun with the other members.

Ultimate Frisbee may not be a sport that is particularly prominent in popular culture, but the club team here at Carnegie Mellon knows its value and has found it to be a crucial part of their college experience.