Ultimate Frisbee not just for the boys

By Tyler Davis

Throwing a Frisbee accurately is hard enough. The difficulty of throwing it to a moving target who is guarded by a defender takes an underrated amount of athletic ability.

This athletic ability is personified in Ultimate Frisbee.

The Ultimate Frisbee Club on campus was a coed club for most of its existence, but four years ago it split off into a men’s and women’s side.

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The women’s only team is now known as the “Blackouts,” and fields a nine-player team.

Shane Bennett, the associate director of Sport Clubs and Intramurals, said he remembers when the team split from the men.

“Our women’s Ultimate Frisbee club broke away from the men’s side because it was a co-rec team and they developed their own,” Bennett said. “They’ve actually seen an increase in participation for the women through Ultimate Frisbee.”

While the enrollment numbers were high at one point, reaching nearly 20, Blackouts’ President Jess Stapleton, a senior from Naperville studying community health education, said the team has seen fluctuations in membership.

“We had like six or seven girls our freshman year that we’d bring to tournaments,” Stapleton said. “We had 15 in the fall. Right now we have nine. We are always looking for more.”

Stapleton said the team was created when she first came to SIU. Since joining, Stapleton said the club has helped her in numerous ways but emphasized the social aspect.

“One of our alumni girls my freshman year decided to make a women’s team because it was just coed,” Stapleton said. “Since then we’ve created our own little community, like a family.”

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This a family that competes on the field together and relaxes together, Stapleton said. She said a good deal of traveling and also brings the team closer together.

The club goes to Ohio, Arkansas and Kentucky, and around Illinois.

One member who has been around for those trips is Sarah Wagner, a junior from Oak Park studying psychology. Wagner said she has embraced the team as a family in her four years of playing.

“From building a community, we now have these people that want to come back and see us,” Wagner said. “Even though we are all getting older and older so many people will come back to Carbondale. That’s one of my favorite parts.”

Those people who come back to Carbondale are alumni who played ultimate Frisbee during their time as students.

They return yearly for the tournaments hosted on campus, including “So. Ill”, a coed tourney hosted by both the men and women’s teams.

“They have an alumni team, they’re called ‘Slum,’ like southern alum,” Wagner said. “We hang out, watch VHS movies, do lame stuff together but we just enjoy being around each other.”

Stapleton said the family concept is huge for the team and alumni. She also said the men’s team was part of that family.

“In the fall, the less-serious season, we do a lot of coed tournaments,” Stapleton said. “They’re some of our closest friends.”

Wagner said the men’s team provides not only companionship off the field, but a good example of how to become a better team on the field as well.

“The guys’ team is so nice. They’ll to come up to our girls and say, ‘I saw you doing this, but this what you should be doing,’ or ‘This is where you should be on the field,’” Wagner said. “It’s a great resource to have.”

Not only do the men and women’s teams compete together in the fall, they also root for each other when the teams go to events at the same location, Stapleton said.

Jake Vrabel, a junior from Mundelein studying aviation flight, said helping the women’s team is not only good for the women but for the men’s team as well.

“We try to help them out because it’s good for them to play with some competitive guys,” Vrabel said. “For us, it helps us all get back to the basics and kind of learn what the fundamentals of Frisbee are.”

The game is played similar to 7-on-7 flag football except that players are only able to run when they do not have the Frisbee. Throwing the Frisbee accurately and knowing the rules are the most important aspects of the game.

Vrabel said the men’s team has new members who are still getting used to the game, so when they help the women they are helping their own team as well.

“Everyone’s still learning,” Vrabel said. “For our newcomers it’s good for them so they understand the game, understand the drills, understand what goes down on the field.”

Recently the number of “newcomers” for women has slowed down, Stapleton said.

“It’s a hard sport to get people into but I feel like once they get into it then you’re hooked,” Stapleton said. “But now, when you’re going up against teams with 15-20 girls and you have seven on the field, it’s hard.”

For students who may be interested but afraid the activity will interfere with schoolwork, Wagner and Stapleton said it has not been a problem.

“I always had this policy with the team that school is going to come first,” Stapleton said. “I try to make sure that people know that we’re not trying to take over your time, we just want you to come out and enjoy yourself.”

For Wagner, the game has had a positive effect on her academics. She said her commitment to the team has forced her to manage her schoolwork more efficiently.

“You grow to love the game so you’ll say, ‘All right, let me manage my time better. I’ll study in between classes so I can make sure I can go to practice today,’” Wagner said. “It’s a great way to take a break away from all the school and all the stress.”

Stapleton said the only way to tap into all the positives the sport has to offer is by trying it out.

“Just come out and try,” Stapleton said. “I consider these girls very close to me and it’s an amazing sport and an amazing experience. It’s something worth trying and worth being a part of.”

Wagner said the opportunities to stay active and stay in shape can be an added bonus to joining the club.

“It’s a combination of everything people look for in a club or getting an experience out of college,” Wagner said. “We love to be outside and it’s such a good, energizing thing for us to do.”

The team practices indoors from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays at Davies Gym and from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at court 3, at the Recreation Center from 4 to 6 p.m. The club hopes start playing outside soon.

Women interested in joining should come to the practices at designated times or contact Stapleton for more information.

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter @tdavis_DE, or 536-3311 ext. 269

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