The spirit of the game: Making the Ultimate family

Photo by Mauricio Caldera | The Collegian Carey Jacquinot, senior in elementary education is guarded by Kate Bowen, freshman in kinesiology while scrimmaging during their ultimate frisbee practice on Sept.10th, 2014.

While practicing under the lights in Memorial Stadium, both the men’s and women’s Ultimate Frisbee teams share the field with all the other club sports on campus.

What makes these two teams unique is their commitment to the spirit of the game.

For those unfamiliar with the sport, it’s a fast-paced game that takes place on a 70-by-40 yard field, between two teams of seven players. The object of the game is to reach the end zones and score a point. The first team reaching 15 points with at least a two-point lead wins. Overtime is triggered when the game is tied at 14 points apiece, then the first team to score 17-points wins the game.

“Simply put, Ultimate is a seven-on-seven sport that’s kind of a hybrid between basketball and soccer,” Sean Reed, captain of the men’s team, said.

Unlike many sports, Ultimate does not use referees or officials during their games, but rather rely on the rules that make up what they call the “spirit of the game.”

It’s these rules that dominate and define the lifestyle of Ultimate. It has become a way of life on and off the field, so much so that it is the seemingly overarching rule in the official USA Ultimate rulebook.

“You have to be a positive person on and off the field. When Ultimate games get dirty, it just isn’t fun,” Carey Jacquinot, one of the women’s team captains said. “When the spirit of the game is there, that’s when the game is fun.”

What makes Ultimate different from most sports is that while it’s still highly competitive, it relies on mutual respect between players and teams. The team relationships within the sport is comparable to an extended family. While competition is still fierce, the respect always remains.

“Almost every other ultimate team is your family too, because you’re calling your own rules in games and if the other team isn’t respecting you it isn’t a fun game,” Jacquinot said. “You’re like family with all the other teams, it’s great.

The nature of Ultimate has created an issue for the team because many people often come to K-State knowing nothing about the sport.

“Unlike other sports, most of the time when people start playing Ultimate they’ve never played before,” Cameron Hunter, men’s head coach and women’s assistant coach, said. “People step on the field and they’re like ‘I don’t know, there’s a flat piece of plastic, I don’t really know how the flow goes,’ so that’s a lot to get around quickly.”

Not only do many people not know about the specifics of the sport, they also hold certain misconceptions about the game before trying to understand it.

“They think that Ultimate is a hippie sport,” Hunter said. “It is very fun, and everyone is very friendly in the sport. But when people get here, they realize that this is a serious thing. I think the scope of it is that people think that it is a small sport, but the scope of it is much bigger.”

The team itself, is like a family. No matter if it is a new teammate or a senior, the team grows and morphs into a tight-knit group.

“In general, our team has been a welcoming team because of how close we are,” Hunter said. “We end up becoming more of a family and families support each other. It leads to more of competition because you always want to beat your brothers and you don’t want to let them down. When you’re tired and you look to the person beside you, you’re like ‘ok, I can go.'”

Family, it is what they model their teams after and it is what they want their fellow K-Stater’s to know about their team.

“I could’ve played on the club soccer team and I could’ve played on the other teams, but the Ultimate team is such a family and it’s great,” Hunter said. “I know that I could go anywhere and ask anyone who I’ve played with and I could say, ‘Hey, could I crash on your couch?’ Without a question it would be a ‘yes.'”

Both the men’s and women’s team want everyone, no matter the skill set or understanding, to experience Ultimate.

“If you want to have a challenge, something new and unique and a great community on and off the field, it’d be a great sport for you,” Rachel Loder, captain of the women’s team, said.

The annual tournament for Ultimate team is the Manhattan Project, Oct. 11-12.