Ultimate teams overcome disease, enlarge notability

Within the ultimate frisbee community, there are two camps.  “There is the camp of hippy ultimate players from the 70s, long hair, smoking weed and just having fun and there is a shift towards a camp of real athletes,” said Grinnellephants player Adam Weil ’11. While the Grinnellephants and the Sticky Tongue Frogs, Grinnell’s male and female ultimate frisbee teams, respectively, are highly spirited and fun loving, they are certainly representative of this shift towards the latter camp identified by Weil. Their athleticism, competitive drive and passion for the sport has led them to grow significantly both in popularity on campus and in success rate at tournaments. The seriousness of the Grinnell ultimate frisbee teams became evident over the past weekend, as teams from across the Midwest gathered on our very own Mac Field for the ultimate tournament called Elephantitis.
The first tournament of the fall season, Elephantitis took place last weekend and featured two days packed with games played between more than 30 colleges from Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska. Arriving in buses, cars and vans, the majority of these teams were camping in Lyle’s farm, before the heavy rain hit.
“’In addition to letting us throw our raucous tournament party on his farm, [Lyle] lets teams camp out on his property.” said one of the two Sticky Tongue Frog’s captains, Christine Grummon ’11. “It was kind of stressful having that many teams since Grinnell doesn’t have that much field space to offer.”
“The captains plan Elephantitis,” Grummon said. “Me and Sarah Ervin [’11] and the two men’s captains, Tom Elliot [’11] and Casey Fergus [’13], bought all of the food, fronted money, rented the fields and reserved the tent space.”
In spite of the poor weather, which threatened to turn carefully organized matches into impromptu mud fights, this year’s Elephantitis went off really well. “We even beat Luther this year. We always lose to them and as a split squad we beat them,” Weil said. Grummon echoed those sentiments.
“This year Elephantitis was bigger than I think it has ever been before.” she said.
In addition to securing Grinnell College’s place within the competitive ultimate frisbee community and providing the Grinnellephants and the Sticky Tongue Frogs with the chance to play teams from various schools, Elephantitis also presents a valuable opportunity for fundraising, since ultimate frisbee does not receive the funding and benefits, such as access to the school trainer, that varsity sports receive.
“A lot of schools like us throw tournaments as a fundraiser. Teams pay entry fees, so that we can pay for field space, buy everyone food and water and throw a really great party on Lyle’s farm,” Grummon said. “In turn we hope that we can make some money so that we can subsidize the cost of going to tournaments later in the season.”
A significant portion of these profits go towards the ultimate frisbee team’s spring break trip to High Tide, a week-long tournament in Savannah, Georgia, and a highlight for many team members.
For upperclassmen on ultimate frisbee, this weekend’s tournament also marked an important shift in the incorporation of first-years into the team.
“Both as a captain and as a senior, I am way more involved in training new players and that has been our focus so far. We have just been trying to catch them up and teach them how to play, and this tournament is a great chance to see the progress,” Grummon said.
With everyone on the team working together, they have become closer.
“Everyone is very positive and encouraging on the team. We don’t turn anyone away from playing and experienced players work really hard to help out those who are less experienced,” said Kelly Helbach ’13. “We really try to integrate the new players so that everyone can get field time.”
It was with this inclusive attitude in mind and a disc in hand, that Grinnell’s ultimate frisbee teams reached success in this weekend’s tournament, established a positive foundation for the coming season and proved, once again, that frisbee is no longer a sport just for stoners.