by Cori Hilsgen
The Cathedral Ultimate Club recently hosted the Granite City Classic Ultimate, formerly known as Ultimate Frisbee, tournament May 4 and 5 at St. Cloud Apollo High School for area schools.
The tournament began May 4 with four rounds of play, with a showcase game at noon featuring the Drag’n Thrust team, a coed adult elite club team from the Twin Cities, against the tournament coaches. Sunday’s events included another four rounds of ultimate play.
The Cathedral Phoenix women’s team finished second in their division and the Cathedral Griffin men’s team finished third in their division.
The Armstrong High School, Plymouth, women’s team and the Great River School, St. Paul, men’s team took first place.
In ultimate, players are constantly moving and passing. They score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. Players must stop running while in possession of a disc but can pivot and pass to other receivers on the field. Players rapidly move from offense to defense on turnovers that occur on dropped or out-of-bound passes, interceptions or when players are caught holding the disc more than ten seconds.
Spirit of the Game
Ultimate is governed by Spirit of the Game, sportsmanship that puts the responsibility forsfair play on players instead of referees. It is also a sport that is self-officiating, meaning the players on the field decide if a goal was in or out-of-bounds and more. It also means the players learn to call fouls on their opponent or on themselves. Coaches do not get involved in these decisions.
Jeny Meyer, president of the Cathedral Ultimate Club, said the game of ultimate has many unique features to it.
“We have as part of our game culture, Spirit of the Game,” she said. “It encompasses many things, but most uniquely, the players referee themselves. I love watching the sport, my kids love playing it.”
Meyer said it ends up being a fantastic way for the club’s athletes to learn to develop communication skills and learn how to be confident in themselves while calling fouls and discussing them with their opponents.
Players also learn to understand integrity by calling fouls on themselves if they realize they’ve made an error on the field.
“As a parent, it’s so fun to watch players develop that side of their game play,” Meyer said. “It really translates immediately into other areas of their lives.”
Spirit of the Game for the ultimate players includes everything about good sportsmanship and progressing the sport of ultimate. Spirit circles, where players from both teams gather in a circle (often intentionally standing one team player next to the opposing team player) and give compliments and have fun with players from the opposing team, happen at the end of every game at every level of play from middle school to college and pro teams.
Some of the Cathedral Ultimate Club players commented about the spirit circles.
“What I love about spirit circles is after a long hard-fought game, we can still come together and say nice things about each other, said 12th-grader Nicole Fish of St. Joseph. “It makes ultimate feel more like a team sport. Even though we are on different teams, we can still come together to enjoy such a fun sport. Spirit of the Game means we ref ourselves. This means we have to trust the other team to make the right calls and they have to trust us to do the same. This creates bonds between all of us despite the competition.”
“One of my favorite parts about spirit circles are the various spirit awards that teams give out, from carrots, buttons and mini-Frisbees,” said 12th-grader Peter Berg of Sartell. “It’s really fun to see how people react to getting a spirit award, and also how they use it, usually to see if they can eat a food item in one bite. Spirit of the game is my favorite part about ultimate since it makes the sport different from any other sport I’ve ever played. Since I grew up playing hockey there was always a very competitive atmosphere, but when I joined ultimate I was amazed at everyone’s ability to have so much fun while still working as hard as possible.”
This is Meyer’s second year as president and tournament director for the Granite City Classic tournament, which began in 2003.
Teams from around the state compete in the tournament. Currently, only high school teams compete. Cathedral’s middle school team has a different schedule.
In 2018, the Minnesota Ultimate season had the largest middle-school program in the nation with 42 teams. This year it has 48 teams.
Jake McKean, Minnesota Ultimate program director, said several aspects of the middle-school ultimate league make it stand out in a crowded sports landscape. These include that participants play with a disc instead of a ball. They also play a coed game that is inclusive of boys, girls, and non-gender binary participants.
He said the understanding of how young athletes, and young people in general, develop suggests we do not need to say some activities are strictly for girls, while others are for boys, and that they should not participate together. In fact, they can, and they should, participate together.
McKean said they are seeing a lot of positive outcomes from that strategy; breaking down stigmas of what each athlete is capable of and encouraging respect for all participants.
Because players self-officiate, they learn conflict resolution, advocacy, compassion and trust. Players who start at a young age are tuned into what is right and wrong and do not need a third party to make that decision for them and this removes blaming the referee.
He said the sport is affordable. Minnesota Ultimate works with schools and programs such as Cathedral Ultimate to get quality, trained coaches to supervise and instruct athletes. After that overhead, the costs are comparatively low. There aren’t expensive and elite camps, or a lot of personal equipment and the program does not need to pay for referees.
Ultimate is a noncontact sport and reduces the need for equipment and also reduces the number of serious injuries when compared with other sports.
McKean said because of the amount of running, use of hand-to-eye coordination, pivoting, change of direction, jumping and field awareness, ultimate offers great cross-training for other sports.
Joan and Fred Krueger, St. Cloud, have three children, fifth-grader Joey, sixth-grader Lizzie, and ninth-grader Matthew who are ultimate players.
“I love that it’s self-officiated,” Joan Krueger said. “It teaches them conflict-resolution skills and respect for the other players. It truly supports good sportsmanship which other sports try to promote but often fail. There is no complaining about the ref after the game by the players or spectators. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a spirit circle after a game. Complimenting the other team and giving the other players spirit awards to show appreciation for their gamesmanship is unheard of in other sports.”
She said she likes that people of all ages can play the sport together. Watching older children look out for younger ones is spectacular.
Open to area schools
Meyer said the Cathedral Ultimate Club was started by Cathedral High School students, but the club welcomes students from all area schools. Originally it included only high school students but now also includes middle-school students. The program currently includes participants from fifth- through 12th-grade on three teams. Fifth- through eighth-graders play mixed with boys and girls on teams together.
About 60 students from Albany High School, Apollo High School, Cathedral, Kennedy Community School, North Junior High School, St. Kathrine Drexel and South Junior High participate in the club.
Drag’n Thrust showcase game
The Drag’n Thrust team, who played the tournament showcase game, has won three national championships.
“I like to see the showcase game because I think it’s cool to see our coaches play and to see more experienced players play the game,” said Cathedral 10th-grader Josie Meyer.
“I like them coming, it’s certainly fun to see them so we can watch our coaches play and see some more professional players,” said Cathedral 12th-grader Jeremiah Kresky. “I think one of the most important things that stands out in ultimate that you don’t see as often is the spirit, not just your own team but the other team as well. We have fun and joke around with other teams so much and that just makes the game so much more fun than any other sport I can think of.”
Jeny Meyer said she felt their showcase game offered high-school players and their families a chance to see the elevated level of play they can strive for and what options players have.
Ultimate is a sport for all ages, something players can continue to play through college and beyond, with it being played in more than 80 countries.
Locally, the College of St. Benedict, St. Cloud State University and St. John’s University have ultimate programs.
For more information, contact Cathedral Ultimate at firstname.lastname@example.org or McKean at jmckean@MinnesotaUltimate.org.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.