When asked to describe McGill’s ultimate frisbee team in ten words or less, Alexander Stange, who has been a member of the team for three years, responded: “[It’s] like a group of friends but we actually have a purpose. To win. This weekend. Nationals.” Despite such a blatant disregard for word count, Stange’s remarks reflect the sentiments of any sports team’s: friendship, competition, some vague thing called “nationals.” But in spite of often being scrutinized by more established university and professional athletes and the public alike for not really being a “real sport,” what sets the McGill ultimate frisbee team apart is their status as a sports team that treat the game with the utmost dedication and effort.
Ultimate frisbee was invented at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey in 1968, and went on to become popular amongst college and university students in the United States and Canada. By 1980, the Ultimate Players Association was formed, and the sport quickly built a reputation for being a free-spirited alternative to traditional organized sports. The object of the game is to score points by passing the disc to a player in the opposing end zone, similar to an end zone in American football or rugby. In line with its lax attitude and free-spiritedness, the game has no referee and is self-officiated. Today, a number of variations to the sport exist, including indoor ultimate, beach ultimate, street ultimate, and the appropriately named intense ultimate, which is played on a smaller field.
McGill’s Men’s A-Squad Ultimate Team, with its 22 members, travels to various colleges and universities within eastern Canada to compete against other teams in tournaments during the first six weeks of the semester. However, this was made difficult recently when the team lost its position as a McGill Varsity Club.
Ex-president Danji Buck-Moore sat down with The Daily to discuss how losing this status has affected the team. Along with restricting the team’s access to funding, denying them access to the varsity gym, and removing the team members’ eligibility for being on the student athlete honour roll, the loss of varsity status has had a great impact on the team’s travel policy. “The only thing you’re allowed to do for travel is to charter a bus,” noted Buck-Moore. “You have to have a driver who is not on the team, and you aren’t allowed to travel past a certain time of night. When it comes down to feasibility for a team like us who doesn’t receive funding from the school, it’s really difficult.”
The loss of varsity status has been a major issue for many of McGill’s teams this year as part of the ongoing budget cuts and regulations by the administration over student life on campus. In order to be affiliated with McGill athletics, which basically affords the team field time to practice (although for the ultimate team, this is usually at 6 a.m.), the team must raise $100 to pay McGill Athletics. The team collects $500 from each player to cover fees such as the uniform and travel expenses. “Another pro is that we get to call ourselves ‘McGill.’ That’s the big thing, really,” added Buck-Moore. “We have to adhere to very strict uniform policies, like we can’t do anything with our jerseys. They have to say ‘McGill’ in the McGill font and ‘Redman Ultimate’ is the only thing that we can have on it.”
Despite these many challenges, the McGill ultimate frisbee team continues to play, and enthusiastically promote their game with feverous devotion, but without taking themselves too seriously (the Facebook event for a recent game against Concordia claimed, “fact: the drunker you get, the more intense the game becomes”). With growing popularity and a sportsmanship that emphasizes the “spirit of the game,” McGill’s ultimate frisbee team maintains itself as an important and refreshingly casual part of our campus’s sport culture.