Janesville84.1°

YMCA starts new Ultimate Frisbee league

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
June 3, 2011
— T.K. Jones of Beloit collapsed on the grass in a coughing, panting heap.

He’d just knocked the wind out of himself flopping headlong for a Frisbee at a YMCA sports field on Milton’s south side.


“I’m just trying to get my lungs back in shape for summer,” Jones said.


He heaved in a ragged breath and barked it out in a coughing fit.


In front of him, a crew of about a dozen men, women and teen boys trundled past in a spidery constellation.


Clad in soccer cleats, shorts and T-shirts, they ran, jumped, pivoted on one foot and chased an elusive Frisbee in circles, all while shouting phrases that seemed to make no sense at all: “D!D! Good huck! See the dump! See the dump! Nice Pull!”


Ultimate Frisbee: It might not be a sport you can learn overnight, but it’s addictive enough to keep guys such as Lars Freeman, 47, of Loves Park, Ill., coming back for 29 years. And for newbies such as Rob Lyke and Bret Bender, students at Milton High School, it’s a fun way to blow off steam after school.


Bender, Lyke and Freeman are all members of a new Ultimate Frisbee league organized by the YMCA of North Rock County. The league ran Tuesday and Thursday evenings in May at the Y’s “Field of Dreams” at Highway 26 and Townline Road in Milton. It had about 25 members, organizers said.


Thursday was the last night of the May league, but the Y is considering another league later in the summer.


League coordinator Rachel Joffe, youth activities director at the Y, said she decided to start Rock County’s first-ever Ultimate Frisbee league to offer organized play for area players of all ages and experience levels.


Larger communities such as Madison have had organized Ultimate Frisbee leagues for years, but in Rock County, the sport was available only through pickup games.


Kelly Gratz of Janesville, a 9-year Ultimate Frisbee veteran, usually plays in Madison-area leagues. She was pumped when she heard the Y was offering a local league. Gratz said it’s a step up from pickup games, and she’s enjoyed seeing new players learn the ropes.


“It’s been really great to actually have organized play around here. It gets new people playing Ultimate, just gets the disc in their hand. That’s key,” she said.


Rules of engagement

Ultimate Frisbee is like a cross between soccer and football. Its rules are simple: Two teams vie for a Frisbee—known in Ultimate Frisbee parlance as a “disc”—as teammates throw it, trying to advance it to one end of the field or the other.


A completed Frisbee pass in the opponent’s end zone earns a point. If the Frisbee hits the ground, you lose possession.


Two big rules: You can’t tackle anyone; and while you’re holding the Frisbee, you can’t move. But you can pivot on one foot, which makes it easier to throw—or as the sport’s players say, “huck”—the Frisbee to a teammate.


And it turns out there’s umpteen ways to throw a Frisbee: underhand, forehand, backhand, upside-down or the ever famous the “backwards dump.”


From there, it gets more complicated, as teams set up complex zone offenses and defenses and even use the wind to force opponents to mess up their throws.


Game for everybody

T.K. Jones got up off the sidelines to get back into the game. He talked about how people of all ages can play Ultimate Frisbee, from fleet-footed youngsters who zigzag all over the field to seasoned vets who lay back and finesse the competition with Frisbee pump-fakes and crazy trick throws.


“It’s a sport for all ages. You really don’t have to be the most athletic person in the world to do this. There can be a place for everybody on the field,” he said.


Jones ran on the field. Right away, he got a hand on the Frisbee and hucked it deep downfield, connecting with a teammate. The player skidded on the grass and flicked the disc forward into the end zone. Another teammate, a rookie, dove and snagged it.


Score.


YMCA Ultimate Frisbee League

The YMCA of North Rock County’s first ever Ultimate Frisbee league ends this week, but the Y plans to run another league later this summer.


The summer league is tentatively set to start in late July and run through August, with games twice weekly from 5:30 to dusk. Game will take place at the “Field of Dreams” at Highway 26 and Townline Road in Milton.


The league is for all ages and experience levels. Cost is $30, and it includes a Frisbee and a T-shirt.


In the coming weeks, the YMCA will post league updates and details about how to register at ymcajanesville.org. For more information, call (608) 754-6654.

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