What do stoners, dogs and a Frisbee disc have in common?
Many students believe that Ultimate Frisbee contains at least one of these three elements, and the members of Michigan men’s Club Ultimate Frisbee team get fed up with all the preconceived ideas people have about the sport.
Dave Collins and Nick Slovan — two of the four team captains — want to end the stereotypes and clarify the true elements of the game of Ultimate Frisbee.
“All the time, I get people coming up to me and asking if Ultimate Frisbee is the game with the dogs,” said Collins. “There are no dogs, no holes and it’s not just for stoners.”
Ultimate Frisbee is a game played between two teams with seven players on each team. The field is similar to a football field with two larger endzones. At the start of a game, one team “pulls” the disc to the opposing team at the other end of the field. After a score, the team that has just scored repeats the pull.
Overall, the goal of the game is to maintain possession of the disc, drive down the field and catch it in the endzone.
“All the players know the plays and know where the disc is,” said Slovan. “At the beginning of a possession, the defense is stifling, and the offense tries to break it open by throwing the disc to people downfield.”
Other nuances in the game include different kinds of offensive and defensive strategies that a team can use to gain an advantage.
“The offense stacks in the middle at the beginning of a possession, and then they cut from the stack,” said Collins. “There are different kinds of stacks — the iso, horizontal and vertical — depending on what you want to do.”
Since defenders can closely guard an offensive player, a variety of throwing motions are needed to advance the disc down the field. The backhand throw is the most common throw in the game while the forehand is used for quick side-to side-throws.
Another important throw — the hammer — is the overhead throw used for throwing the disc over the top of the defender. It is such a valuable throw that Collins patented it “the demoralizer.”
In the fall, the team holds seminars for new players to learn the rules and techniques of Ultimate Frisbee. During the recruiting process, Slovan and Collins look more for athletic students than just for students who can throw a disc with distance and accuracy.
“Throwing is the easiest part of the game,” said Slovan. “You can teach someone how to throw, but you can’t teach athleticism. You need endurance for running up and down the field and good jumping ability to catch the disc over defenders.”
While the fall season for the men’s Ultimate Frisbee team is just a warmup for the real season in spring, the fall is used to integrate new players into the system.
“The fall season involves getting the team to come together,” said Slovan. “We have to teach the new players and bond as a team.”
Throughout the fall and the spring, the team travels to different tournaments. The Michigan Student Assembly provides it with a $3,000 budget, but it also has fundraisers to pay for tournament entry fees, food and gas.
Although the budget keeps it financially limited, the men’s Ultimate Frisbee team still finds a way to have fun.
“It’s a great way to stay competitive,” said Slovan. “All but two on our team played varsity sports in high school. Even though we came to Michigan for the education, playing in a club sport allows us to get our competitive fix.”
In the spring, the season ends with sectionals, and if the team wins, it advances to regionals. If the team wins regionals it goes to nationals, the culmination of the season. In five out of the last six years, the team has gone to the national championships.
“We have a lot of returnees from last year,” Slovan said. “This year I think that we can do real well.”