To the athletes ravaging the fields, chasing down discs and blocking offensive moves, their sport is more than a mere outdoor romp; it is Ultimate.
The New Paltz Ultimate Frisbee team, Gunx, is in its sixth year at SUNY New Paltz. It has been increasing in popularity because of its tight bonds, overall good spirits and love for the game.
“Frisbee is a game you play with a friend or with your dog, but Ultimate is a real sport,” said fourth-year Ultimate team Captain Tom O’Malley.
Ultimate, otherwise known as Ultimate Frisbee, started in the late 1960s. The first five-region National Ultimate Championship was held in May 1979.
Ultimate is different than traditional Frisbee. The game is played with two seven-player teams. The object of the game is to score points by passing the “disc” to a teammate in the opposing end zone, similar to football. Players may not run with the disc and may only move one foot or pivot while holding it.
The Gunx will begin to compete again in the spring, where they compete in a variety of tournaments. Still, the team practices year-long to keep their skills intact.
The teams practice four times a week, with the men’s and women’s teams practicing together on Tuesdays and Fridays, and range anywhere from two and half hours to five hours, O’Malley said.
“It depends on when the sun goes down,” said O’Malley.
The team practices inside during the winter and have conditioning where they lift weights and work out, O’Malley said. He said gym practices cause more injuries for the team, which is why they prefer to practice outdoors.
Fall is the Gunx’s biggest recruitment time, as first-year students come to school looking for ways to get involved. The team finds it easy to gain recruits because of their sense of community, O’Malley said.
“It is a good way to meet people, and have no-pressure fun,” said fourth-year player Emily Cottone.
Many people who participate in Ultimate said they find it difficult to stop playing. Cottone had never played Ultimate until fall 2010, when she transferred to SUNY New Paltz and decided to join the team. Even though she has been injured and can’t play, she still attends all the tournaments and is very close with the team.
“We’re like one big family,” she said. “We even have our own Thanksgiving.”
At the center of Ultimate is what’s called the “spirit of the game,” which is what sets them apart from other sports. Ultimate is self-run. There are no referees, so the calls are up to the teams participating. If a foul is called on a player, he or she can either accept it or contest it. If they choose to contest they can get a re-do.
“Ultimate is made on the backs of people who love the game and just want to have a good time,” said O’Malley.
The games range from competitive to relaxed, O’Malley said. Right across the river is Gunx’s greatest rival—Marist College.
Throughout the years the two teams have been competitive. At the Bard Tournament in October, the Gunx were 3-1 with a two point loss to Marist.
“When we know we can win it gets really competitive,” said Cottone.
When Gunx began in 2007, the team began with 15 players. The club now has more than 40 members. The team has been a club sport for two years now and the Student Association’s support has allowed them to participate in farther tournaments, said O’Malley.
The team does not hold try-outs and everyone is welcome, though this does not guarantee playing time, O’Malley said.
“Hard work and practice determines how much someone is going to play,” said O’Malley.