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I was thinking the other day about the different teams I’ve played with over the years; so I thought I’d do a mini bio about each collegiate or club team for this entry …my own little personal shout out to the guys, girls and teams that supported me through my addiction to Ultimate. I started playing Ultimate in 1999 and at each stage of my life, high school, college, grad school and beyond I’ve always found a way to experience Ultimate. I hope you enjoy my musings.
Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH) School – Flaked Tuna / Hoggers (1999 – 2001)
NMH is a coed boarding school located in Western Massachusetts on the wooded shores of the Connecticut River. It was founded in 1879 by D.L. Moody as a school for girls, but later added a boys’ school on the Mount Hermon Campus in 1881. In 1971 it became coeducational, using both campuses for all students. Over the many years of its existence the school has been filled with a diverse, international faculty and student body.
NMH has a long history with the sport of Ultimate, fielding a team for over 20 years; and can claim a partial hand in the origins of the sport. The school currently supports a varsity boys team and an Ultimate girls team. One of the top rivals in the area is Tiina Booth’s Amherst Hurricanes, an amazing program itself in youth Ultimate.
During my years of play with NMH we were called Flaked Tuna. I’m not sure as to its exact origins (maybe some alum will read this blog one day and fill me in), but it was a funny name, and a bit of a rebellion against the other sports played at the school who use the Hog as their mascot.
Thanks to NMH, I found out early in my disc playing career just how close a community Ultimate fosters. When I was on campus, I always made sure to have a disc in my hand (or tucked up between my bag and back), so that if I saw one of the other guys on the team we could have a quick toss between classes. We even would go into the dinning halls ready to use the disc as a tray. Just a quick run through the dish washer and it was ready to go (Okay, we only did that once or twice). The core group also hung out before and after practice quite regularly in our dorms, watching Ultimate videos and clips. The fondest memory of bonding, for me, came from a trip taken during spring break to practice with Kurt D. and the Miami Refuges. Hanging out 24 hrs a day with my Ultimate teammates for a week straight was an experience I’ll always remember — making omelets in the morning and giant dinners at night, going for jogs around Miami, throwing thousands of forehands and backhands all day long, playing chess, and staying up late every night… and lots of Ultimate! We also learned a valuable defensive set, the four person cup. When we added this to our defensive strategy, it helped us stop quite a few teams dead in their tracks.
The highlight of my high school career was going to the Junior Nationals in my Senior year. It was held in Tennessee, so the team fund raised (disc and t-shirt sales), took donations and dug deep in our own pockets to fly down South to represent our school. On the flight down a few others and myself looked at who we would be playing the first day and started to play around with some cheers. I know if I dug around long enough I could probably find the scribbles. At the time I thought they were quite creative; I wonder what I would think today. We also talked strategy, what plays would work best in which conditions and who would be our toughest competition. We had been living Ultimate all school year and this was what everything built up to.
The first day of play was windy and a bit wet; we loved it. Everyone was making bids for the disc and coming up big. We maintained a winning record that day and moved into the upper brackets. On the second day, it was just as amazing with much better weather. Everyone gelled, creating some great flow and amazing deep field hucks. We made it into the semi-finals, bringing home the bragging rights of being one of the few nationally ranked teams at the school. That year Paideia took home first, Amherst took second, NMH tied with Scarsdale for third, and Columbia, University School of Nashville, Midwest and Leesvile all tied for fifth (the open team has done a fairly good job of continuing to be in or near the top five teams every year since). Some of the guys that I played with in those days went on to play for top Boston teams Ironside (Blogspot) and Slow White who both did amazingly well at this year’s Nationals (2010).
Now that the team has varsity status it has joined the athletic department in embracing the school’s animal mascot, the Hogger, but hasn’t lost the infectious spirit of Ultimate. Every year it hosts a tournament on campus that draws a large crowd of open and girls teams. In addition to the official pages on the NMH website there is an Alum page on Facebook. Speaking of Alums, NMH usually hosts an Alum game (check out the Youtube video), which draws players from around the country back home to lush campus fields.
Hobart and William Smith (HWS) Colleges – Seneca Flyers (2001 – 2005)
HWS is a coeducational private college located on gorgeous Seneca Lake. Hobart College was founded in 1822, and William Smith College joined the campus as a higher educational institute for women in 1908. Today the colleges are viewed as one entity with students attending the same classes, living in coed dorms, etc.; however, the athletic departments, student governments and Deans offices still operate independently.
The HWS team was dubbed the Seneca Flyers after beautiful Seneca Lake, and, as far as I know, plays year round — going indoors in the field house during the snowy winter months (at least we did during my years there). We would start practice at about 10:00PM and play till they closed the building. Always fun!
When I arrived in the fall of 2001, I remember being so excited to go to a college that had an Ultimate team. After getting involved in high school and becoming the co-captain in my senior year, I wanted to continue to develop as a player and go to tournaments to play against my fellow NMH’ers. Well, that wasn’t exactly how it worked out. It is important to note that years before I got to the shores of Seneca Lake, the Team had hosted sectionals at Seneca Lake Park and been fairly competitive, but because interest had waned in the years prior to my attending the team was not as prominent. And, sadly, little information was known about the team’s past or their triumphs. I only found out a little in my junior year after an alum from the 80’s sent me an email about some of the history.
Anyway my HWS Ultimate days started at the Colleges’ club fair. I met Grace who was in charge of the club and immediately I rambled on about my experience, asked what types of defense the team ran, when they met, what the tournament scene was like…. Well, I definitely overwhelmed her. What I didn’t know was that HWS’s club team was comprised of about 6 players, now including me. Some of the rugby players would come over (including Grace), which would add to the numbers, but still not really enough to do more than toss around or box. I was a little bummed, but we invested a lot of time and effort in changing that around. By the next year Grace, some other dedicated players and I got a consistent group together. We played in our first game against Nawshus Ultimate and then hosted our first home game against Nazareth College; we were also able to purchase jerseys and discs for the team. It was a lot of work, but it made my college Ultimate experience.
One of my big achievements was taking on the role of a tournament organizer and director. In the Fall of 2003, I proposed hosting a tournament to the team. I had a decent response from our players, so I began to put out inquiries to other teams in the area, checked in with the Athletic Department and Building and Grounds about fields and got quotes for food from area businesses. It all came together that first year, and we played a round robin with 5 teams on two fields behind the Student Center. Also happening that day was a battle of the bands, so we had awesome live music. The next year we almost doubled the number of teams, but picked one of the most rainy days to host it. The middle field out of the three had its own little water hazard, which made for great layouts, but horrible running. The picture above is from that day.
HWS still holds a yearly tournament, but I’m not sure if they still call it Escape from Finals, which I did 2004 and 2005. And the team continues to play against a number of area teams including Monroe Community College, Nawshus Ultimate (Ithaca College), Nazareth College, RIT Spuds, Roberts Wesleyan College, SUNY Brockport and SUNY Oswego.
Danish Club Team – Flying Circus (2005 – 2009)
With a population of about 5.5 million, Denmark is a fairly small country, but don’t let its size fool you, it has a lot to offer. The capital city of Copenhagen is an amazing international city with lots to do and see. And it has one of the most amazing public transit systems I have ever experienced. Buses, trains and subways all operate around the clock and are extremely reliable with constant up-to-date travel times, even at most bus stops. If you’re a bicyclist you’ll definitely fall in love with the traffic buffered bike “streets”. They are referred to as bike “lanes”, but if you compare them to the painted line lanes here in America, you too would call them streets.
How did I end up in Denmark? I wanted to do my graduate degree abroad so I completed my MLISc (that is a Masters of Library and Information Science) in Copenhagen, Denmark at the Royal School of Library and Information Science (now part of the University of Copenhagen). Shortly after arriving, I joined up with the Copenhagen Flying Circus team. My first e-mail with Thor got me excited, and when I met the rest of the Open, Mixed and Women’s teams I was psyched to be playing as a grad student with such a fun team. The team was very social, hosting a number of parties and events during the year, including “circus camp”. After most practices you can find a fair number of the players at a cafe near the fields sharing stories and a couple rounds of øl (beer). They play year round, too, indoors on courts at a sports facility and outdoors on grass or at the beach. If you want to find out more their is a Flying Circus page on Facebook.
In Denmark the Ultimate scene is pretty good and the level of play is very competitive. Denmark’s team is currently ranked 7th (WFDF) in the world, which is just behind Canada (1), USA (2), Australia (3), Sweden (4), Japan (5) and Finland (6) in the 2010 standings. In the city of Copenhagen you can find a number of competitive clubs: Copenhagen Flying Circus, KFK, Spinners, Ragnarok (though they are more north of the city) and USG Cut ‘n Move. Additionally, you can find teams in the other major cities including Århus, Aalborg and Odense . If you are looking for an international competition to mix it up with the Danes on the field you can put a bid in at a number of great tournaments throughout the year. Kong Volmer is a yearly indoor tournament hosted by Ragnarok that attracts a number of European teams, and Wonderful Copenhagen which is held in the spring attracts dozens of clubs from around the world, including from here in the US. They also have the Danish National Championships, but, sorry, you have to be on a Danish team to play. The picture to the left is of the 2006 team that I played with in the Danish Nationals.
If you are ever in Denmark studying abroad or on a vacation look up one of these teams to get your Ultimate fix, you will not be disappointed with the level of play or the friends you’ll make.
Keene Pick Up (2007, 2009)
Keene is located in beautiful southwestern New Hampshire. I usually refer to it as a city, and it is, but after living near NYC I get funny looks when I call any place in NH a city. Anyway, it’s home to Keene State College, the Pumpkin Festival, an amazing Main street (which was used as a location in Jumanji) and a pretty decent Ultimate scene. During two of my stays between living in Boston and Denmark, and Denmark and Long Island, I crashed in Keene and played some fun disc.
The crew that plays pick up meets at the fields on the corner of Water St. and Carpenter Rd on Sundays and sometimes during the week. The field is just off the “rails to trails” bike path; I would make the trek there via bicycle and loved this location because of the easy access. When the interest is at its peek (adding in some more college students), a portion of the group also meets at the Keene High School fields to toss. All in all, you can look at playing about four days a week if you are lucky. And for those really adventurous types, you can hop over to Brattleboro, VT and catch some more practices, pick-up and a summer League.
The core group puts on a yearly open tournament at the High School that usually attracts about a half-dozen teams, and plays in a couple tournaments a year including Wildwood.
There is a page on Facebook. you can check out.
Long Island Club Team – Super Cocks (2009 – present)
Last summer I relocated to Long Island and joined the SuperCocks club team (please, please, think rooster). I found the club on Facebook and thought I’d give the team a try since it played near where I lived. I posted an inquiry on the wall and was answered by Mike; he said, “come on out we are always happy to have people join in the pick-up, just bring a light and dark”. Over a year later and I’m still having fun and glad I accepted the invitation.
Recently, we played in Hellgate’s 2010 Hell ‘Oween Tournament and will be competing in the 2011 First Night of Flight Tournament this January. And come the summer we’ll be heading to Wildwood. I missed out on both FNoF and Wildwood last year, so I am psyched to be around this year to experience them. We are currently looking to add a few more tournaments in between these staples to enlarge the SCs competitive season. Crazy talk about flying to Europe or Hawaii are on the table. I might even try to convince them to go to Denmark.
The team practices on Sundays in Eisenhower Park and on Thursday nights in Newbridge Road Park. Sunday practices usually consist of two segments: practice and pick-up. This allows players to either come to both practice and pick-up or just show up for a game. On Thursday nights, under the lights, we play straight pick-up till the park closes. On both days the crew usually grabs a bite to eat. This ranges from Diners to Burrito Places to Pizza Joints to ice cream at Friendly’s to always delicious Barbecue (Thursday Nights in the Parking Lot; Sundays at the club head’s house). The social side of the group is one of the best elements of the team.
I have really enjoyed playing on the team, and have made some great friends thanks to it. If you are ever in the Westbury area and are looking for some great-spirited pick-up either on Thursdays or Sundays, check these guys and girls out.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave comments!