Ultimate frisbee players defend their sport


Margaret Uhler

Ultimate Frisbee players come together as a team. The team practices every Monday Wednesday and Friday after school.

Senior Kardal Hart spends every Monday, Wednesday and Friday running up and down a field, making plays for the end zone. As an ultimate frisbee player, he knows that some people may assume he plays football, but Hart argues that ultimate is no less of a sport.

“I think you can say that any sport is a hobby. We go out there and run sprints, I personally go and work out at the gym, to keep up with running and everything, just like every other sport,” Hart said. “We’ll do full field sprints and run throwing drills and I do huck drills, which is basically throwing the full field.”

Club sponsor and teacher Matt Baker agrees that the club is more similar to a team than a loose organization. They play other school’s clubs, and members play in leagues outside of school. They still maintain the status of club, however, instead of a sports team syndicated by the administration.

“I’d say I’m pretty serious [about it], but it’s not a school sponsored sport, so we can’t do it all the time,” sophomore Evan Cornell said. Cornell also said that if it were a sponsored sport, he would try out for the team.

To the players on the team, the meetings are not purely social. They want to get better, compete, and win. They enjoy the game, but they do not take it lightly. It is a dedication, and most would argue that makes it a sport.

“[Ultimate] itself is a sport, I think it’s your mentality that will make it a hobby or not, whether you’re going to take it seriously or not. If it’s something you’re going to go out and just do, I think it’s a hobby, but if it’s something you’re working at getting better at, and working at competing at, that’s what makes it a sport. That’s where the team is at right now,” Baker said. “The team’s mentality has moved it to being as a sport, away from being a club. Kardal… is the heart of the team right now. It’s going to be a big hole next year to fill if they want to keep competitive.”

It’s just rewarding to see these kids come up from day one, seeing them when no one knew what the sport was, no one knew how to throw a backhand or a flick, seeing how they are playing now is just a complete 180, just a night and day change.

— Andrew Kruger

The team occupies a status that is not fully tied to the school, as they are not considered a varsity sport. The problem, Hart says, is that you have to go through a long process in order to become recognized by the school, find a coach and schedule practices. the rules are left largely up to the team, but must be followed.

“It’s seven on seven, there’s no referees… the point of the game is to play fair,” junior Garth Andreas said. “The majority of the people are there to play seriously, a couple people want to just work out and socialize. It’s kind of hard when people want to take it seriously and other people want to socialize and workout, because they don’t really want to play the game. I take it seriously. I want to encourage people to play summer league or sign up for KCYU, which is KC Youth Ultimate.”

The club is sponsored by Baker, but coached mainly by a sophomore ultimate frisbee player from KU, Andrew Kruger. Kruger came to coach the club through his connection with Baker and Hart.

“I came to a couple practices last year when Matt Baker was the coach, but I was told by [Hart] over the summer, when he was on my summer league team, that Baker couldn’t make time for [coaching] this year, because of his new kid, and that they were needing a new coach, because if they didn’t have a coach, they pretty much would just be coming and playing pickup games,” Kruger said. “I pretty much just volunteered to do it. I also see it as a great opportunity to get involved in the youth scene and also kind of use it as kind of a recruiting tool to try and convince these kids to come play for us at KU.”

So far, Kruger is enjoying coaching. He encourages anyone who wants to try the sport out to come to a practice, as they have players filtering in and out due to other commitments, and could always use more bodies.

“It’s just rewarding to see these kids come up from day one, seeing them when no one knew what the sport was, no one knew how to throw a backhand or a flick, seeing how they are playing now is just a complete 180, just a night and day change. It’s rewarding to know I helped them do that,” Kruger said. “I don’t see [coaching] as just being a one year thing for me. Hopefully I can keep doing this in the future, hopefully my life doesn’t get too crazy to where I have to put this on the back burner.”

The club is part sports team and part group workout. Many members attend as athletes, but others attend as individuals simply looking for a good time and exercise.

Ultimate teams use formations and plays to win games, and the veterans have to show these to any new players. They also play positions, though these are fluid, and an ultimate player must be able to fill any holes that arise.

“We have to teach the H-stack, which is the formation, basically,” Hart said There’s two people on one side and two people on the other side, and they run in and out off of each other, and they have to know when to time their cuts. Then there’s three handlers, which are the throwers, and they have to know how to rotate.”

Cornell joined the club this year, and knows the club mostly as scrimmaging and playing against clubs from other schools. The Free State club has played Shawnee Mission East and Manhattan, as well as each other countless times. They hosted the games in late October, and there are plans for Shawnee Mission East to host a similar event.

Ultimate Frisbee is a national sport, with teams from countries like The U.S., Japan, Australia and Canada competing. It is gaining support to be included in the olympics, and is being played increasingly at the college level.