Since the early 1980’s, Ultimate (Frisbee) has been a part of Ashland’s wide-ranging alternative sports scene, but has remained relatively underground. In 2007 the Southern Oregon Ultimate Players Association (SOUPA) was enthusiastically formed to increase the sport’s visibility throughout the valley and to encourage new players. Ultimate is a unique, community-minded sport, which brings together friends, families, spirited competition, high levels of athleticism, and camaraderie on and off the field.
Ultimate is a fast-moving game, which combines elements of many traditional sports, including the field movement, cutting and sprinting of soccer. Unlike ball-oriented sports, Ultimate is played with a Frisbee and many players cross over from competitive soccer. “What I love about ultimate is that I can fly even though I’m not a bird,” said Santiago Requejo of Ashland. Launching one’s body after a disc either in pursuit of a lay-out catch or defensive play is common. Once the disc is caught, players must establish a pivot foot, like basketball, and throw the disc–a backhand, forehand, or overhand throw–from that stationary position. Scoring is similar to football, when a thrower hits a receiver over the goal line in the end zone.
“Ultimate is great because everyone can be a thrower, a defender and a receiver in the same point, and there’s a continuous flow,” explained Tony Crane of Ashland. Dropping the disc, or throwing it out of bounds results in a turnover, which makes for quick transitions between offense and defense. The dynamic nature of the game draws many of the valley’s best all-around athletes.
Something for Everyone
At the same time, the Ultimate community welcomes folks new to the sport by providing weekly co-ed open pick-up games in Ashland, Medford and Phoenix. SOUPA also sponsors competitive and non-competitive leagues in the spring and fall.
Many members of the Rogue Valley Ultimate community have competed at regional, national and world championship levels and play an active role in mentoring players who are new to the sport. Crane added, “A lot of people who never really shined in a traditional sport all of a sudden find themselves as athletes through playing Ultimate.” “I love seeing people reach their potential, rise and grow with the game,” said Jen Yockey of Phoenix.
Ultimate is a sport that demands good physical conditioning, but also a high level of honesty, integrity and mutual respect between players. “Spirit of the Game” informally governs player conduct. Ultimate is self-officiated even at the highest levels of play, there are no referees. It is a non-contact sport. Players on the field call fouls, travels, and picks (which, unlike basketball, are violations in Ultimate) and the rules are designed to encourage reasonably peaceful resolution and a quick return to the action. Respect and sportsmanship are valued above the cut-throat competition present in some other sports when the ref’s not looking.
“I love that ultimate is really a family sport,” said Tyler Maddox of Jacksonville. “It’s so great because couples can play on the field together, and there’s always someone watching the kids,” added Haley Maddox. On any given day on the Ultimate field there may be 15-20 kids between the ages of 6 months and 12 years playing on the sidelines together.
The Lure of the Ultimate Community
The early casual pick-up games of the 80’s inspired a community 60 members strong (and counting), that has hosted a widely-attended tournament for nearly 2 decades and has established a growing recreational league. What have remained consistent are the long-term friendships that are developed and maintained through Ultimate, a community that extends well beyond the Rogue Valley. “I’ve moved around a lot, and Ultimate is where I’ve always started and made my friends,” said Ian Nelson of Medford. “People visiting town that play ultimate start meeting people right away.” Anthony Olegario of Ashland agreed. “When I’m travelling for work, I can usually find a pick-up game and feel welcome wherever I go, whether that’s in Reno or Oahu.”
SOUPA emerged in 2007 to promote the growth of the sport, as well as the valley’s first ultimate league, which is now held in spring and fall. This year SOUPA hopes to expand the league from four to six teams. “The SOUPA League is more focused on teaching the game and bringing people in from the greater community. There’s a championship tournament at the end of the league series, and because we form teams with a draft, you get to play with people you wouldn’t normally play with. You form bonds with them over the course of 6 weeks, just like you would with any team,” said Marisa Dunbrasky of Talent.
Rogue Valley Ultimate players will host the 17th annual Cramp Up Tournament May 1 and 2 at the Ashland Middle School and Southern Oregon University fields. The tournament draws about 300 athletes and their families from throughout the Northwest and California to Ashland, and is a great opportunity to discover Ultimate as a spectator. This year the Cramp Up will honor long-time Ultimate player/tournament director extraordinaire Troy Hemmerling, who was diagnosed with a very rare form of appendix cancer in November of 2009. He is not currently a surgical candidate, which means extending his chemotherapy treatments indefinitely. There has been a tremendous show of support by Troy’s friends and family, but the medical bills have begun to accumulate and the expenses will continue. All tournament proceeds will benefit Hemmerling’s family and a fund has been set up in his name at U.S. Bank. If you would like to donate, please make checks payable to the Troy Hemmerling Fund and mail to US Bank, Attn: Craig Pisors, 30 N. 2nd Street, Ashland, OR 97520.
Visit www.medfordultimate.org for information about pick-up game times and locations, SOUPA Spring League 2010, and the Cramp Up Tournament.