Ultimate approved as varsity sport

On June 25, the Milton School Board granted Ultimate Frisbee varsity status in a 3-2 vote. The team will be able to play at the junior varsity and varsity levels beginning in the spring season 2019.

“Ultimate is a nice sport for high school because kids don’t have to be proficient in it for years and years to do it,” school board vice-chairman Rick Dooley said. “They can step in and do it … It’s encompassing, it’s co-ed.”

Varsity status will gain Milton Ultimate a stipend for a coach – or can be split between two co-coaches – transportation, field lining, scheduling fees and will afford the team the opportunity to compete in the playoffs, according to interim athletic director Trevor Wagar.

The estimated cost of the varsity sport will be around $4,000, Wagar said. The coach’s stipend will be around $3,000, and the transportation cost for the team will be, conservatively, $1,500, he said.

Last year the school’s Ultimate team was a club sport with 20 players. The co-ed team played eight games against area schools.

“The sport itself is a very welcoming environment, and it’s a fun, interactive game,” Wagar said. It is played seven-on-seven and is a non-contact sport.

Ellen Taggart, a volunteer coach for MHS Ultimate and an English teacher at the school, described the sport as “grassroots” and said it boasts all the benefits of a team sport without the stress.

“It’s because it’s run by the players,” she said, adding the team has members with a wide range of abilities.

“I was really impressed by how well the team gelled last year,” she said. “I’m curious to see how it will be as a varsity sport.”

A hired coach has yet to be selected for the team. The position, or co-coach positions, will be opened for applications, Wagar said.

According to Madison North, 17, a rising MHS senior and captain of the team, Ultimate is a sport which “anybody can try.”

Unlike other sports, it has less emphasis on drills and more focus on positivity and sportsmanship, she said.

Wagar said the sport is unique in that there are no officials: The kids ref themselves.

“It mirrors the trend where we’re starting to give kids more power and have them learn how to problem-solve,” Wagar added.

For North, the sport has been an enjoyable experience.

“We focused on creating a fun atmosphere and staying positive,” she said of the 2017 team.

The team trained and worked to learn more about the sport, with its horizons set on obtaining varsity status, North said. 

“A lot of people don’t take the Frisbee team [seriously] and don’t think that it’s a sport,” she said.

North believes varsity accreditation will change the reputation of Frisbee at MHS and help others see it as a competitive sport.

Joanne Davidman, Milton High School family & consumer science teacher, spoke at the June 25 board meeting in support of Ultimate before the vote.

“It’s one of the most blissful moments you’ve ever had watching kids who normally wouldn’t even look at each other walking down the hall, playing a sport together,” she said.

Davidman added the sport teaches student athletes collaboration skills.

Wagar said he is optimistic about the future of the sport at MHS. He gestured at the team’s picture, which hangs in the athletic wing of the high school.

“It’s a progressive … activity for kids where they’re working together,” he said. “We’re here to compete, but at the end we’re here to have fun.”

  • “Ultimate was developed in 1968 by a group of students at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J.,” the USA Ultimate website says. “Although Ultimate resembles many traditional sports in its athletic requirements, it is unlike most sports due to its focus on self-officiating, even at the highest levels of competition. This concept, called Spirit of the Game, is integrated into the basic philosophy of the sport, written into the rules, and practiced at all levels of the game from local leagues to the World Games.”
  • The game was crafted to fit the dimensions of a football field. It has two end zones where players must be to catch the Frisbee and earn one point.
  • Seven players from each team take the field per time.
  • The game starts with a “pull” which is ultimate’s version of a kick-off.
  • Typically, one player covers another player for defense.
  • Players cannot run once they have the Frisbee in hand.
  • They must stop within three steps of catching the Frisbee (or as soon as they can).
  • When a player catches the disc, they have 10 seconds to pass, or they end up with a “stall” in which they must drop the Frisbee and allow the other team to take it.
  • The sport is non-contact and can be played co-ed.
  • Each game ends with a spirit chant to celebrate the opposing team and demonstrate sportsmanship.

SOURCES: Milton HS Ultimate coach Ellen Taggart & USA Ulimate website

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