Ultimate Frisbee hopes to increase involvement, popularity

April 27, 2016 — by Neil Rao and Neehar Thumaty

Standing on his endline, sophomore Nguyen Do took a step back as he prepared to launch the frisbee 50 yards across Bellarmine High School’s field on April 10.

Standing on his endline, sophomore Nguyen Do took a step back as he prepared to launch the frisbee 50 yards across Bellarmine High School’s field on April 10. The match was part of the team’s Spring League, a league composed of high schools from across the Bay Area. The pass was followed by a swarm of attackers fighting for the frisbee, but SHS came down with the grab.

The tournament was intense, as the school’s Ultimate Frisbee team, Hajima, competed against teams from Gunn and Kirby. Despite losing both games — 13-3 and 8-6 respectively — the team, which has 17 members, has been desperately trying to improve this season, which lasts from January to May.

“Every year, the team has been adding skilled players to make the team more varied,” Do said. “We need tall, fast, dedicated and overall athletic players to help the sport grow.”

Ultimate Frisbee requires a similar level of skill to other sports, said Do. Like football, the game involves two teams trying to score in opposite end zones by throwing the frisbee from player to player. Players are, however, limited in that they cannot take any more steps after catching the frisbee. Additionally, if a team member drops the frisbee, the opposition gains possession.

The school’s team was created in 2012 by Class of 2013 alumni Doug Jones and Minsoo Kim, who started the club simply as a recreational activity for some friends.

“I personally began playing in eighth grade when a few of my friends just wanted a new way to hang out after school,” Do said. “We had learned of the sport through our [Physical Education] class and a local, competitive team called the San Jose Spiders.”

With improvement, the team hopes to make a name for themselves, as they prepared for the prestigious Spaghetti Western Ultimate tournament held in the Mary Grogan Sports Complex in Modesto on April 23-24.

“Major tournaments like [Spaghetti Western] allow the team to significantly improve as we are more exposed to teams from across the country in a competitive environment,” sophomore Vishal Narayan said. “By playing in such tournaments, the team as a whole is able to get a feel for all types of play and overall strengthen.”

To further strengthen the team, the group looks toward coach Binh Tsao, a Class of 2003 alumnus who started coaching in 2012, for guidance. Tsao, a current band teacher and fan of ultimate frisbee, saw Jones and Kim playing with friends and helped the pair create the club.

“Coach Tsao is a great addition because he has lots of experience and is an overall great leader,” Do said. “He prepares great practices for us and the techniques he shows us really help us improve.”

Not only has ultimate frisbee grown on campus, but the sport has also prospered nationwide. The American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL), a professional ultimate frisbee association, has become one of the largest competitive sports leagues with teams from all around the country.

With YouTube and celebrities like Brodie Smith promoting the sport, this recreational activity has developed a fanbase worldwide.

“I have traveled to over 10 different countries teaching and spreading the sport of ultimate [frisbee],” said Smith in an interview with James Colten in May of 2013. “It has certainly been an incredible blessing for me to travel the world and teach the sport I love.”

As the sport’s popularity grows, the team is looking for more members.

“We hope that soon, the team will take all the lessons and techniques we’ve learned to the game and be able to make Hajima great again,” Do said.

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