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The Spirit of the Game

At Michigan, a group of girls bond over Ultimate Frisbee

Posted: Friday May 19, 2006 10:28AM; Updated: Friday May 19, 2006 10:28AM
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By Perry Gast

Ultimate Frisbee has a unique characteristic among sports -- something that we players like to call the spirit of the game. When someone talks about the spirit, they are referring to the fact that Ultimate is played without referees, thereby making individual players responsible for making their own calls.

Michigan's Flywheel girls are, well, fly, on and off the field.
Michigan's Flywheel girls are, well, fly, on and off the field.
Photo Courtesy of Perry Gast

The spirit isn't the only thing that makes Ultimate different. Unlike a lot of other sports, most people who play Ultimate Frisbee in college have never played it before. A Frisbee team usually has a mish-mash of individuals from different athletic backgrounds. In fact, only two of the 23 players on the University of Michigan women's team, Flywheel, played Ultimate as a competitive sport in high school. The other 21 of us came to Ultimate through various means, including word of mouth, casual games with friends, beach play and wanting a way to stay in shape.

With practices four times a week in rain, wind, snow or sleet, as well as additional strength and sprint training and endurance runs, Flywheel has seen steady improvement throughout the year. At each of the five non-series tournaments that we have attended this year, we've seen real progress, which culminated at the women's finals at College Terminus in Atlanta, where we lost by a slight margin to the first-place team.

Although attending practices and tournaments can get rough for college students trying to keep up with schoolwork and jobs, we keep each other motivated to accomplish both our scholastic and athletic goals. Playing on a competitive team as well as attending the University of Michigan is a full load for any student, yet we work arduously at this balancing act to even out each side.

And while we know, as a team, how to work hard on our game, we also know how to play just as hard. There is an great social aspect of Ultimate Frisbee that is just as important as the sport itself. Flywheel team captain Becca Mark once said, "After we crush you in Frisbee, we can kick your ass in foosball." Ultimate Frisbee players know how to keep the competition going long into the night. In fact, during the Saturday night of each tournament, there is always a huge party where all the teams go to celebrate their wins or their spirit. This provides an excellent opportunity for men and women from every team to socialize, making games played the following day friendlier.

Members of the team pose before a recent game.
Members of the team pose before a recent game.
Photo Courtesy of Perry Gast

In fact, some of the fondest memories we have as a team are experiences shared off the field, whether it be spring break trips, 11-hour van rides to tournaments, karaoke nights, barbeques, gift exchange parties, practices in the snow or sharing hotel rooms or houses with far too many people in efforts to save some money.

Sophomore Jenny Chan says of her favorite Flywheel memory, "The fields greeted us with pouring rain, thick mud and a blizzard, but we survived and came out on top." Seemingly without fail, Flywheel endures inclement weather while playing in tournaments throughout the country. Our regional tournament in Naperville, Ill., on April 29-30 proved how, in the face of adversity (in the form of 30-40 mph winds), Flywheel persevered. We scored four up-wind points to win the game against Ohio University, becoming the women's representative for the Great Lakes region at the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) College Championships in Columbus, Ohio, on May 26-28. We are ranked ninth in the nation and are excited for this opportunity after coming so close to regional victories in the past two years. We are hungry for triumph and will not stop until we achieve it!

If you would like more information about Flywheel, check out our Web site  here. Information about the College Championships in Columbus, Ohio, can be found here as well as the UPA Web site.

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