On The Yard


    Spring Sports to See: Club Spotlight on USNA Ultimate Frisbee

    By Bill the Goat on April 4, 2022

    Spring Sports to See: Club Spotlight on USNA Ultimate Frisbee

    (Pictured: Men & Women’s Navy A (Blue) Team)

    Ultimate frisbee is a USNA club sport that often surprises spectators with its athleticism. It combines elements of football, rugby and basketball without tackling, a rugby football or baskets—but adding in the deft control of a plastic disc. If you think that throwing and catching a frisbee can be hard at the beach, try adding a team of blockers and an endzone. There is sprinting, diving, jumping and cutting. It’s quite a workout—and it’s a whole lot of fun!


    The Return of Ultimate

    At the Naval Academy, ultimate frisbee has been a part of the midshipmen experience for a number of years. Navy’s team was first founded as an ExtraCurricular activity (ECA) in 1988, but it didn’t last. Then in 2008, Warren Fisher, Class of 2012, re-started the team. From 2011-2013, Matthew “Prof” Foley also helped revitalize and “found” the team. It has again been recognized as an official ECA since 2017, and has come a long way since its second act.

    original team

    The first ECA in 1988, where they ”won at Sectionals but got creamed by the competitive teams in the Mid-Atlantic Regional.”


    Now helmed by President Anthony Armad, Class of 2022 and Captain Sam Little, Class of 2022, the club is experiencing tremendous interest and growth. In the spring of 2021, outgoing President Roscoe Gillum wrote, “In 2017 we were a team that could barely scrimmage and now after 5 years, Navy has a nationally ranked A Team, a new B Team (Navy B), and a new Women's Team (Navy Women’s Sirens). This sport and this community has changed my life for the better.”

    Poseidon and the Sirens: The Ultimate Teams

    Echoing the trend across the country, ultimate frisbee (or “ultimate,” to the players and fans) has taken off at the Naval Academy. Navy B and the women's team were founded in fall of 2021 as a response to the exponential growth they experienced when the team doubled in size from spring to fall. In the past, they only fielded enough players to build one team.

    men's b team

    Men’s Navy B (Gold) Team


    This year is different. “It would not be feasible to have one large team with the number of players we have right now because it would be hard to effectively develop people during practice and also have them play a significant amount of time during tournaments. Increasing interest has also led many more girls to commit themselves to the team, enough for the girls to form their own team,” explains Public Affairs Officer (PAO) Ryan Hogg. Navy A and B teams are called Poseidon, and the women’s team is the Navy Sirens. Newer players develop their skills on the B team so they can compete at the level of the A team. “Experienced and skilled leadership is required to operate the B team, which is why we also have players worthy of being on the A team leading the B team,” says Hogg. All three teams work toward the common goal of a strong ultimate program.

    sirens team

    Women’s Sirens Team


    Ultimate Frisbee Background: How It Works

    Amazingly, there are still those of us who aren’t familiar with the sport. If you haven’t been to a game of ultimate lately (or at all), you may be wondering, “What is ultimate frisbee, exactly?” Here’s a brief primer to bring you up to speed.

    The game is fast! This exciting sport is played on a rectangular field with two end zones, much like a football field but without the hash marks. There are usually seven players per team, although this can change. The game begins with both teams in their end zones. The starting team’s player starts the point by throwing the disc (also called frisbee or flatball) to the other team, like a kickoff in football. Here, it’s called a “pull.”

    The receiving team then tries to move the disc up the field by throwing it to their players. Once a player catches the disc, he has ten seconds before he must throw it to another player. Unlike in football, the recipient stops as soon as he receives the disc. He can then take one pivot step in any direction and pass the disc. Players can also move in any direction, and to score a point, they need to throw the disc to a player running into the end zone.

    Ultimate frisbee is a noncontact sport, but defenders can block the frisbee itself. Most teams play man-to-man defense but zone defense is also used. During the course of the game, teams can switch from offense to defense an unlimited amount of times, and there is no time limit or throw limit for them to work their way down the field.


    Spirit of the Game

    One big differentiator for the sport is the “Spirit of the Game,” which is a guiding set of principles that makes the players responsible for fair play. This maintains the competitiveness and also encourages mutual respect and adherence to the rules, or “the basic joy of play,” as noted by USA Ultimate. The Spirit of the Game encourages teamwork and self-regulation. Game officials are called “observers,” since they help facilitate the self-governing of the players. They watch carefully, help with communication, support self-officiating and the Spirit of the Game, help resolve calls as needed and perform other duties.

    Halftime is another concept where the game is unlike anything out there: USA Ultimate rules stipulate that the first team that makes it to eight goals will determine the half and the game will end when the first team makes it to fifteen goals. There are time caps that can affect both.


    Going for Nationals

    As you’ve seen, ultimate is certainly not your traditional sport, and it's inspired passionate followers for that reason. You can catch Navy A in action against Richmond, Mary Washington, and Christopher Newport. Since Navy B and the Sirens are just getting started, the rivalries are bound to take shape soon. While all teams practice year-round, the most important tournaments take place in the spring.

    The team must perform well at sectionals to advance to regionals, and perform well at regionals to advance to nationals. These three tournaments are the most important of the season. The team also travels to other tournaments to boost player and team development. After a lot of hard work last year, Navy A qualified for the DIII Nationals—but were unable to attend due to final exam conflicts. They ended the season ranked sixteenth last year and are hoping to get to the top five this year. “We want to prove that despite all the outside commitments we have at the Academy, we can be a successful program,” says Hogg.This year, the DIII nationals, the ultimate prize for Navy A, will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from May 21-23 and host 32 teams.


    Come Watch!

    Ultimate is a mix of fun, good sportsmanship, tough athleticism and fierce competition. Come out to support the teams and see what the fuss is about! You can also support the teams by purchasing REAL Navy gear at Navyonline, since every bit goes right back to the Brigade and the incredible activities it runs. Here’s hoping they make it to nationals this year!

    Bill the Goat
    Written by Bill the Goat | April 4, 2022


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