The Harbinger Online

Students Create New Ultimate Frisbee Club and Team at East

An array of red and white Frisbees clutter the air as the players toss them casually across the field, waiting for the last few players to roll in before starting their game.

Ten minutes later, a loose draft ensues and the teams split into two teams: Shirts and Skins. Five guys casually strip off their tank tops and jerseys, tossing them to the side.

“Ultimate!”

The game has begun. The Frisbee spins through the air, arcing low for a tank-top-clad, high-sock-sporting player to dive down to snag. Cheers and groans of frustration are sprinkled amongst calls for the disc.

Porter Park has become the home of SME’s ultimate Frisbee club and team with regular meetings at least three times a week. The sport has recently gained popularity amongst East students; this year both a club and a team have taken root.

The club, headed by juniors Scott Slapper and David Katz, is all-inclusive and less structured than the team.

“Scott and I play a lot of disc and we decided since we don’t play sports it’d be fun to do something to keep active,” Katz said. “We thought maybe there’d be some other kids at East who’d want to do that, so we started the club.”

Katz and Slapper contacted the school over the summer about the club and learned that they just needed to talk to book-keeping to get a form to fill out and get the club going. There was an ultimate Frisbee club formed several years ago, so they didn’t need to talk to the district. All Katz and Slapper had to do was fill out the form and they could become the official leaders of the Ultimate Frisbee Club.

The club meets once a week on Tuesdays and any ultimate player is welcome to join their casual games of Frisbee. A more exclusive ultimate group is SME Ultimate, a club team founded by senior Ryan McNeil.

This is McNeil’s second go around with an Ultimate team.

“I tried to start a team [sophomore year] but being an underclassmen, no one really paid attention to me,” McNeil said. “All the seniors were like ‘Yeah let’s do it!’ but then nothing happened.”

Flash forward two years to McNeil, a now seasoned ultimate player playing a pickup game of ultimate Frisbee with some friends. Once again, the topic of a school ultimate Frisbee team comes up but this time McNeil decided to pursue it.

Whereas sophomore year McNeil approached the team like a rookie, first contacting the players, this time he went straight to Sam Brown, the East athletic director, and talked to the Prairie Village parks to make sure they could use their fields for practice.

East’s ultimate team is similar to East’s Lacrosse and Rugby teams: the school does not officially endorse the team but they use the school’s name and are affiliated with it. After everything was approved, McNeil scheduled tryouts and created a Shawnee Mission East Ultimate Facebook group to reach fellow players.

McNeil and several other team leaders, including Slapper, Katz, and senior Josh Cook, ran casual tryouts where they split the group into two teams and played several games.

“We looked for ability and effort,” Cook said. “A lot of guys are good but we wanted guys who would be running up and down the field.”

McNeil and the others took the role of coaches and decided who to cut and who to keep. They decided to keep around 15 players.

The leaders of the team have taken responsibility for some of the aspects, such as making cuts, that normally a coach would be in control of.  Slapper thinks that the guys on the team are mature enough and able to make decisions such as subbing without a coach.

“We all are on the same page as far as who’s better and who’s not so we’re fine with that,” Slapper said. “I don’t think we really need a coach because we know when we’re tired.”

Along with not having a coach, the sport ultimate Frisbee itself does not necessitate referees. Slapper likes this feature of the game because it relies on the sportsmanship and honesty of the players.

“You’re supposed to be honest… if there was an awesome catch in the back and you crossed the back-line, you’re supposed to make your own call and you’re supposed to be fair about it,” Slapper said.

This factor of the game exemplifies their maturity. At practice, when a player fouls, they back off and apologize of their own accord. Debates over end-zone boundaries are solved graciously. The guys play hard during the game but acknowledge when they are in the wrong. They’ve mastered the art of slipping between joking camaraderie and intense competition.

Along with the friendship it brings, the boys’ favorite thing about the game is its simplicity.

“While some of the other sports take a lot of things like how to shoot a basketball or how to kick a soccer ball,” Katz said. “In Frisbee all you have to do is keep your wrist flat and that’s what’s fun.”

***

Senior Brady Forbes demonstrates the Hammer Throw.

Senior Kyle Braddock demonstrates the Backhand Throw.

Senior Ryan McNeil demonstrates the Forehand Throw.

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