Ultimate Frisbee a growing sport at IUP – Club sport continues to flourish long after founding
To score a touchdown, you must reach the end zone. No, we’re not talking about football. It’s Ultimate Frisbee, a sport that has grown considerably over the years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Rachel Scherer (senior, anthropology/criminology) has been playing since her freshman year and has competed in nine tournaments with the team.
“Ultimate Frisbee is a fantastic example of a serious club sport here at IUP,” Scherer said. “The team’s goal is to share knowledge of the Ultimate game and to foster team talent with both camaraderie and integrity.”
The team has been on campus for about 10 years. It was originally a mixed team where both men and women played together. With the sport growing and becoming more known, there were enough players to split the men and women into separate teams. With enough interest in past seasons, the club has had two teams playing.
IUP Ultimate Frisbee is a Division I club for both men and women. They compete in the West Penn Section against teams such as the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Edinboro University, West Virginia University, Shippensburg University, and Penn State University.
Jared Barnett (senior, geography) said, “Ultimate Frisbee is a sport with a basic concept, but it creates many electrifying plays and a lot of excitement.”
The sport consists of passing the disc from player to player until the disc is caught in the end zone. If the disc is dropped or touches the ground, the other team takes possession and will have the chance to get to their end zone to score.
“There is nothing like laying out for a disc to score a hard-earned point,” Scherer said. “You shouldn’t finish a game without any marks/dirt/mud on your jersey or body. Frisbee is a down-and-dirty kind of game.”
There are different levels of Ultimate Frisbee: high school, college, club, international and now a professional level. The sport is played seven vs. seven and can get very competitive.
According to USA Ultimate, the college level began in 1984 and has grown to include 12,000 student-athletes across 700 college teams.
Barnett has been playing for five years at various levels of play. This will be his fourth year playing in college. He plans on continuing to play after college because of the love he has for Ultimate Frisbee.
Many alumni have gone on to achieve greater things once graduating from IUP. One of the founders, Izzy Bryant, plays professionally as well as a previous captain, Matt Stavinga.
IUP Ultimate Frisbee team holds practices twice a week with a day of conditioning, and they play pick up games occasionally. Practices are spent working on fundamentals, form, technique and strategy. Conditioning practice was created a couple years ago. It consists of building cardio for the players to be able to endure the long weekends of tournament play.
Barnett, captain of two years, instructs and teaches anyone who is willing to learn the sport with the help of returning players and the other two captains. To achieve greatness, there are drills to improve not only the new players but also to “fine tune” the rest of the team.
Nathan Conroy (junior, computer science) said, “There is a gentle learning curve to the game. Our captains have had a great history of easily bringing new players up to date with how to play.” Conroy joined the club a few weeks into his freshman yearm, largely influenced by friends.
The team plays in tournaments on weekends throughout the year against other colleges. Saturdays consist of round robins or pool plays while Sundays are for bracket-style competitions where every team fights for first place.
There are usually seven to eight games played within two days, which is why they included those days of conditioning.
IUP has travelled to many different places for tournaments. Not only are there tournaments in Pennsylvania but also New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio and more. They have even travelled as far as Chicago to play.
Barnett said, ”These tournaments and the road trips to them are where our team builds friendships and where we have most of our fun.”
A player pays mostly out of pocket to join. The dues will help to cover expenses needed to be able to compete at the tournaments. Discs and jerseys are another cost to the player.
The team is struggling with funds and are limited to just one team per tournament as of now. The main source of money comes from home tournaments held once a semester. College teams from all over are invited to come to IUP for a weekend to compete and have a fun time. There have been teams from as far away as Buffalo and Duke that have come to compete.
Anyone can be on the team anytime they want. The team is always open to people joining. They practice Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the practice fields behind the stadium, across from the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
“Since my first tournament at Gettysburg with this team, I have enjoyed every moment with this great group of guys and won’t forget them for anything,” Barnett said.