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Ultimate Frisbee : Brief History

A Rough History
A Rough History
Today's Ultimate News
College Ultimate As A Whole
Michael Richardson, CIC
In December of 2012, West Point Ultimate was recognized by the Directorate of Cadet Activities as an official West Point Hobby Club. Four months later, our first official season is in the books. Here’s our story from my point of view.
The earliest sighting of flying discs at West Point came in the early 2000s, when current OICs reported their being some sort of group of kids who threw on occasion. My first experience with Ultimate at West Point came on a candidate visit in April of 2010, where I met my future Captain, now-2LT Ivan Cho, Class of 2011.
The club comes from a troubled past. I came to West Point with the Class of 2014 in 2010 and found the Ultimate club pretty quickly once the academic year started. It was a rag-tag bunch of guys tossing a disc around with no discernible offensive or defensive schemes and little to no refined fundamentals. One noticeable thing was that they, like most Ultimate players, were having a great deal of fun despite the low level of competitiveness in their play.
Ivan Cho was our Captain my plebe year. He was respected by everybody on the team. Though he wasn’t the most skilled player we had, he organized practices, got us into tournaments, and kept everybody on the team motivated to get better. I didn’t understand how hard he worked until I started planning my first trips. His free time was consumed by West Point Ultimate with the mission of making our club a reality. Ivan doesn’t know it, but I was so inspired by the example he set. Without it, I wouldn’t be writing this.
Through a loophole in the system, our club had taken trip sections before to play in tournaments. That included a club tournament in the fall and a college tournament in Virginia in the spring. After a player was injured at a tournament, our club was investigated and ultimately found guilty of some pretty serious violations, including missing class without Dean approval and taking trip sections despite the fact that we were not an official club. Any hopes we had of getting approved for recognition were destroyed by this incident. Ivan continued to give his best efforts throughout the year-end, but was denied. MAJ Doug Willig of DFL took a lot of heat for the club for allowing us to take the trip.
The team leadership that Ivan left in place was sub-standard, and the first semester without him was a rough one. In the spring of the following year, I took over as Captain because those in place weren’t doing their jobs. We brought in new faces, most of them having never played the sport in an organized manner before. The recruiting we did in that spring allowed us to build a young roster; the team from that season composed 75% of the team that we played this season with. In March, I went through the USAU rostering process for the first time to get our team officially registered with the National governing body of Ultimate. Four weeks later, 14 players took a weekend pass to drive up to Wesleyan University and play in the conference tournament. We didn’t win a single game when it mattered, but we learned a lot from the experience. Three months of consistent practicing had brought us pretty close together.
During January and February of that season, I went to a few people with one question: What do we have to do to become a club? I ran into COL Lieb who told me to talk to LTC John Nawoichyk. I had basketball class with Dr. Ralph Pim, and we ended up talking about Ultimate one day before class, leading to a sit-down conversation in his office about the competitive club system here. Ms. Carol Miller told me exactly what I needed to do and who I needed to give it to and gave me the most realistic vision of how we would have to proceed. So I did what they told me to do, constructing a Club Standard Operating Procedure using other clubs’ for examples and compiling a presentation about why Ultimate needed to be a club at West Point. USA Ultimate hooked me up with a cover letter on our behalf about Ultimate as a sport in the United States as well as a New Program grant which included new equipment (discs and cones) and instructional material to get our program going. In May, our proposal went up for approval. This was the third time (to my knowledge) since I had been at West Point that we had sent up an application.
Fall rolled around and I was greeted with the news that we would not be a club, but that we would be kept in mind for future consideration. Dismayed, we continued to have regular practices. However, an influx of freshman talent, including a plebe in my own company, reinvigorated my hope for the team. Alec Chosewood came to the academy from active duty, but prior that, he had played for one of the finest club teams in the country as well as in college. He immediately wanted to go to work getting another proposal up. He had so many ideas and so much drive and he immediately became a leader on the team.
In November, I was asked by MAJ Clint Tisserand to organize a team of intramural Ultimate players to face off against Air Force. So I got a team together after watching some IM games, had a two-hour practice to teach offensive and defensive schemes, organized lines for offense and defense, and had my coach come out for the game. We won a tough game 15-13, and the Commandant and BTO stopped by. I approached them and said, “Gentlemen, can we talk about Ultimate Frisbee as a club sport?” The BTO responded with something along the lines of “win this game and we’ll talk.” We won a hard-fought game 15-13. Air Force had been preparing hard; a few members of their own club team made the trip. If we hadn’t practiced, we would have been blown out and I wouldn’t be writing this today.
Near the end of November, we started receiving indication that good things were coming. MAJ Tisserand let slip a rumor that our club was receiving favorable attention and we were told “not to hold [our] breath, but to lean forward with anticipation.” On December 13th, Carol Miller emailed me asking who was slated to be our OIC. This was the first time I really allowed myself to get excited. Less than three hours later, I got this:
“Mike,
Congratulations. All your hard work paid off. We are now an official DCA sponsored club... almost. We are missing a few documents and some other stuff, but the commandant has signed off on us becoming official. I am meeting with DCA tomorrow to see what else we have to do.

Congrats and thanks for all the hard work

MAJ Wade”
Now, I know it’s just an email, but I actually screamed at my desk when I read it. I screamed, ran down the hall to Alec’s room, and yelled “IT HAPPENED” at which point we embraced for about ten seconds.
Planning for the season began immediately. We appointed a staff, refined our practice schedule, and began planning trips to tournaments. Every week, our attendance grew. We ordered uniforms and reserved hotels and even to this day, it’s all surreal. I thought I was giving up on my dream of playing College Ultimate when I got here. But a few of us stuck it out and rode it through the hard times to get here. Three tournaments later, our season is over with a final record of 9-10. A year ago, we would not have been able to win nine games, and this team has worked tirelessly to improve.
Without MAJ Brian Wade, our first OIC, none of this would be possible. He jumped in as soon as Ms. Miller sent that email and he departs this season with the title of first-ever OIC of Ultimate Frisbee at West Point. This season would not be possible without his willingness to take on the growing pains of being a new club, and we can’t thank him enough.
Dr. Stephen Finn probably loves Ultimate more than anybody on post, having played his whole life and having played on some of the nation’s finest teams in Seattle and New York. His willingness to teach us despite the frustrations of coaching has made us into a competitive team in this conference in a very short period of time. We look forward to having him on board in the years to come.
Without COL Daniels, COL Lieb, LTC Nawoichyk, MAJ Tisserand, MAJ Wade, MAJ Willig, MAJ Wright, 2LT Cho, Dr. Pim, Ms. Miller, all of DCA and all of our other OICs, this would not be possible.
Here’s to next season!