Forget whatever sport you associate with springtime because Elmira District Secondary School’s newest extracurricular activity is off to a flying start here and across the region. It’s ultimate Frisbee, of course.This marks the first year EDSS has had a team for the sport. And despite not being sanctioned by the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletics Association yet, it’s already being played in exhibition games and tournaments by nearly every high school in the tri-city area.
EDSS teacher and coach Erin Thaler says the sport is in the process of being WCSSAA sanctioned, but they need a convener to organize the schedule for next year.
“I coached at Cameron Heights last year and there’s a movement within the board trying to build it in different schools,” Thaler said. “The idea is to plant as many teams as we can.”
With a team of roughly 20, EDSS travelled to Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute for a game last week, where no score was kept, but they think Elmira won.
Next, they played a tournament at Woodland Christian School in Breslau on Tuesday.
“At that tournament we’ll probably keep score for interest’s sake, but it’s hardly the focus,” coach and teacher Amanda Pileggi said.
Thaler said there’ll be probably two or three other tournaments and at least one game a week to finish up the season.
The sport began in the 1960s and involves two teams of seven (grass ultimate) or five (beach ultimate) throwing a disc and running after it to score points by passing the end zone. You can’t walk once you have the Frisbee, but must throw it to a teammate. It’s fast paced and, unlike most sports these days, co-ed.
“We see a lot of kids coming out that don’t normally come out for other sports,” Pileggi said. “There’s a lot of team spirit and enjoyment they have from interacting with each other. It’s just a different atmosphere. It’s not as competitive. It’s more about team spirit.”
Thaler explains “spirit of the game” is an important part of the sport.
Fostering sportsmanship, good conduct, treating others with respect, cheering for the other team, knowing the rules and obeying them are all part of the game. There are no referees. All of the disputes are handled on the field.
“The whole idea of spirit of the game really brings in a different type of competition for students who are traditionally turned away from really intense competition you might see in other sports, not that there isn’t competition,” Thaler said. “It’s just a friendly spirit of competition.”
Most teams start practicing after March Break and go until the beginning of June, before exams start. There’s an OFSSAA invitational held in Barrie, which a lot of schools attend. But because it isn’t WCSSAA sanctioned, there are a lot of extra costs involved. Students have to pay for transportation.
“We’ve entered a few tournaments within the tri-city area that are a little bit more accessible to everybody, without having to pay for busing,” Pileggi said.
Most of the games and tournaments are only scheduled a week or two in advance because it’s up to individual coaches to plan it around the availability of fields, which are in high demand this time of year with soccer and rugby in full swing.
“It’s definitely a good workout,” Pileggi said. “And the community of ultimate players is incredibly supportive as well. We have a national level player who’s coming and he’s going to help coach the team, just by running a workshop and a small clinic. The whole community is like that. People who play ultimate a lot just want to help grow the sport.”
She adds EDSS has been supportive of building the team, coordinating with other sports to give them gym time. A lot of the students had played ultimate before, whether in youth group or gym class. A few members of the team had never really thrown a disc before, but they picked it up pretty quick, she said.
“There’s a lot of smiling, everybody’s always laughing. That’s what we love about it,” Pileggi said.
Thaler says the goal is to always finish the game or practice feeling good about themselves, the way they played, and the way they played with their team.
“It’s really neat to watch them because they’re constantly coaching each other too,” Thaler said. “We will do a demonstration and it’s just the type of student who comes out. It’s part of that spirit too that we all help each other grow and give each other high fives when we’ve done something awesome.”
Pileggi played ultimate for the first time last fall and says it was easy to get excited about and enjoy, which she’s hoping will be the case for more students as they grow the sport.
“It’s a great sport to get involved in if you’ve never played before,” Pileggi said. “We hope to build it at our school and continue to pull in those kids that otherwise wouldn’t have a spring sport.”