School Buzz

The Ultimate Team Sport

Andrew Duong
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Ultimate frisbee

Lamar High School ultimate frisbee players Mitchell Bonte, Max Brigman, David Helfand and Max Nathan watch Broosk Barazi and Ben Lux jump for a frisbee during a game against St. John's School last year. Max Brigman is also a member of Houston Helix.  (Photo: Prithvi Krishnarao) 

In the spring of 2016, my father dropped me off in an unknown area of the Rice University campus. I joined the other players and started putting on cleats in order to warm up. I was about to try out for Helix, Houston’s youth ultimate frisbee team that competes against other Texas teams and eventually in a national tournament called Youth Club Championships.

My friend Prithvi Krishnarao, also a rising junior at St. John’s School, arrived soon after and we started to throw around the disc. We both knew it was a longshot to make the team, but our former senior frisbee captain at school, Jordan Mclemore-Moon, forced us into trying out anyway. As expected, Moon made the team and we didn’t. We weren’t discouraged because we knew we could improve and have a chance to make it the next year.

This year, instead of having an open tryout, Helix hosted a spring league for players to learn strategy and play against each other. The coaches would scout us, in a sense, and the head coach, Chad Hobson, would then call players to offer a spot on the team.

A year of questioning my ability as a frisbee player was put to rest when Hobson called me this past spring after the first practice I attended. He told me that being on the team is a huge time commitment and the team would be going up to Minneapolis, Minn. to compete for nationals in August. I was speechless at first, but ultimately said yes.

Although some don’t recognize ultimate frisbee as a sport, the Olympic Committee and I would like to disagree. While it hasn’t been officially been announced as an Olympic sport, it is a serious contender to become one in the 2024 Olympics.

Andrew Duong

Buzz summer intern Andrew Duong, who's on the Houston Helix team, attempts to jump and snag the frisbee out of the air. (Photo: Prithvi Krishnarao) 

The game is a combination of soccer and football. There are two teams, seven people for each team on the field at a time and the goal is for one of their teammates to catch the frisbee in the 20-yard end zone of the opposing team.

Players throw the frisbee to teammates, but once somebody catches the frisbee, they cannot move. There is a rule that allows for players to take a few steps if momentum carries them. If the frisbee hits the ground for any reason, the opposing team gets possession at the spot of the frisbee. 

It’s a fairly simple game, but when teams are made up of players who can throw, jump and catch, there must be strategy involved in order to win.

“Most people don’t realize that there is strategy behind ultimate frisbee, but in fact there is,” Krishnarao said. “Ultimate is a perfect sport for me, as it combines the aspects of certain sports that I like with a team sport.”

The sport is entirely revolved around sportsmanship and competitiveness. In many leagues, there are no referees or people to call fouls other than the players themselves. Players are expected to call fouls they commit or ones committed on them.

It’s not like any sport I’ve ever seen because there’s a true love for the game involved, but it’s the element of true sportsmanship that allows me to have fun.

Helix is a team made up of high school students all across the Houston area and the team is currently coached by former and current players. One coach, Doug Richardson, is a player for the Austin Sol, a team part of the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). 

So far, I have practiced with the team twice a week since May. We competed in the Riverside Classic tournament in Austin against the Austin Amigos, Premium, TUFF (University of Texas club team) and the Messengers from July 8-9. Everything we’ve done so far has prepared us to compete for the Youth Club Championships (YCC) in August.

The summer after a player’s senior year is their last year of eligibility. If you’re interested in trying out for the team next year, just make an account at the Houston Ultimate website and keep your eyes open once March comes around.

I would like to say this team means everything to me. I’ve not only grown as a player, but as a person as well. This sport teaches you about teamwork, effort and reminds you that the purpose of sports is to have fun.

I speak for all of Helix saying this: We may not have the most athletically gifted people on our team, but you won’t find a team with more heart than ours. Even if we don’t win the championship, as long as we know we did our best, we’ll feel like winners.

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