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Move Over Longhorns: Ultimate Frisbee On the Rise in Austin
Maybe it’s time to drop the idea that only hippies play Frisbee.
Far afield from the Frisbee golf crowd, Ultimate Frisbee has grown into a collegiate sport, catching the attention of athletic students who aren’t scholarship athletes. And after college, players can go on to club teams. Doublewide is one of the nation’s best, and it’s based right here in Austin.
Doublewide plays teams from all over the nation. Its traditional rival is Chain Lightning, based in Atlanta, but USA Ultimate (basically the MLB or NFL of Ultimate Frisbee) has recently shifted the region. Now they play in a region that stretches from Colorado all the way into Mexico. The elite of teams from this region will face off this weekend – right here in Austin.
Michael Natenberg is one of Doublewide’s three team captains (Jeff Loskorn and Valley Renshaw are the others.) In college, Natenberg played for the University of Texas, where he learned the game.
Natenberg started playing when he was 20, but he says as the game grows, it attracts younger players. “And now I feel that it’s not surprising to find someone who is 18, a freshman in college, with four years experience,” he says. And that prior experience ramps up the team’s overall level of play.
Ultimate Frisbee is a non-contact sport played, on a field that’s 40 yards by 110 yards. There are seven members of each team on the field at once. The goal is get the disc into the other team’s end-zone. The catch is, once a player has the disc, they cannot move forward, and must pass it to another player within ten seconds.
And there’s another twist. “There are no referees,” Natenberg says. “So you have to call your own fouls. The ‘spirit of the game’ can easily be defined as good sportsmanship. You want to play as competitively as you can while at the same time respecting your own teammates as well as the team you are playing.”
That’s not so hard when college students are playing pick-up after class, but on the national level?
“I think that’s one of the unique things about spirit of the game – that everyone has their own interpretation of it,” Natenberg says. “I think what some people confuse for competitiveness can be misunderstand as bending the rules in order to win. With that, I think teammates are responsible for watching each other to make sure the right calls are made. I mean, there are mistakes, but you need to have accountability. It’s not just one person making a bad call. It’s a team making a bad call.”