After “gracefully” jumping the fence with my backpack, DSLR camera, phone, keys and trusty water bottle, I brushed off the grass that clung to my clothes and peered into the brightly lit field. It was around 8:15pm on a Thursday night, and alongside the men’s JAXX team, the new women’s JAXX team practiced.
As I walked closer to the center of the field my eyes searched for familiar faces while also scanning for frisbees thrown (or flicked) in close range to my head. I was excited, I’ve played pick-up frisbee games for as long as I can remember, but I always wondered what it would be like to play on a club team.
It was clear that the scrimmage had not started so I felt obliged to walk around the different huddles taking photos of unsuspecting players. As I watched the development team do drills, I noted the interactions between the twenty or so girls and the couple of guys scattered about. Everyone was very supportive, yelling “good throw,” or “nice block,” while they circulated through their warm-ups.
The girls captain Morgan Morfe, a senior social work major, was practicing right alongside her team shouting advice and giving highfives. Earlier in the year, she was approached by the captain of the men’s JAXX team, Garrett Wilson, about being the girls captain. “I remember when I got the text message” Morgan Morfe recalled, “I was absolutely ecstatic!” She explained growing up, she played frisbee with the neighborhood kids every Saturday and even how when she came to Union she photographed the men’s JAXX tournaments.
“It’s truly a dream come true,” Morfe said. “I think it’ll be really exciting to see what happens with the girls JAXX team even after this year.”
After about an hour of drills, the development team took a break. I headed to my backpack to grab some water, waiting for the scrimmage to start. While taking photos of the drills, I was impressed by how well the girls played. They threw and caught well for only practicing together for a week. Their captain, Morfe said she is not only excited for the improvement she sees in her team already, but also how her girls are “fired up about it and are excited for practice.”
“I can see girls that were throwing a flick to where it wasn’t happening,” said Morfe “to where it’s happening now.”
Unlike the men’s team, the girls JAXX team will not be competing this semester.
“This fall semester is all about learning the game, learning different throws, different plays,” said Morfe “it’s about foundation, we’re building the team.” This means the girls on the team are not paying anything until next semester, when the cost will be $150.00. This includes your USA ultimate membership team, a disk, uniform and any other charges.
Unlike pick-up frisbee games, where players clog a spot on the field, in club frisbee you understand your position and where you’re suppose to be. Morfe explains that it is a lot like soccer or basketball, where the game is structured, and you have positions and strategies.
Five minutes pass and as the players begin to circle up, I knew the scrimmage was about to begin. The players lined up as the two assigned captains picked their teams, one white and one black. The process that followed, was one of finding a shirt, either yours or someone else’s, in the appropriate color of your team. Some players ran to the sidelines and grabbed a shirt, while others literally gave another player the shirt off their back, and vice versa. Once everyone was in their team’s color, either black or white, each went to the opposite end of the field for the “pull” or the starting throw.
Watching the scrimmage I could clearly see that all the players had a sense of camaraderie with one another. When one team would score, the opposing team used their setback to give them an extra boost for the next play. Likewise, when a player took a hard fall, players around him, regardless of what team, checked to see if he was alright.
The men’s JAXX captain, Garrett Wilson, a senior economics major, explained that ultimate is ultimately about sportsmanship, and how it is ruled by the “spirit of the game,” since there are no referees, the players to call their own fouls.
Wilson was one of the driving forces behind the build-up of the women’s JAXX team. After he assigned Morfe as the girl’s team captain, he explained “we just set off to recruiting and got a very positive response from this year’s freshman class of women, which made this a great year to start!” Like Morfe, Wilson has played frisbee for years, but did not play on JAXX until his sophomore year at Union.
“The group of people that play ultimate at Union are the best kind of people,” Wilson said. “We keep each other accountable on and off the field.” Wilson further explained. “Ultimate gives us a chance to give glory to our creator, to represent our school and our savior at tournaments to other schools who may not necessarily hold to our values.”
The scrimmage ended after thirty minutes, and it was clear that the players were exhausted. As I looked up from my camera, across the field it was also clear that everyone was happy. Winning or losing, this practice brought these students together, all who shared a common goal: to play the sport they loved with other people.
As I headed for my backpack, Morfe pointed to Wilson who was shouting commands, and jokingly asked if I wanted to participate in their cool-down sprints, to which I said no thank you. As I watched the players sprinting, I was amazed. Even after their grueling scrimmage and numerous drills, they were still giving it all they had.