Ultimate Debuts as Varsity Sport; Team is Young but Talented

Phillips Academy’s newest varsity sport has arrived. The athletes can be seen sweating, running, jumping, and throwing on the fields. No, this is not football, but Ultimate Frisbee. Not many people are very familiar with the sport, having not quite reached the recognition of soccer or lacrosse. It began in the 1960’s and is now played at all levels, from middle school to the world championships. One of the more surprising things about Ultimate that sets it apart from other sports is the lack of refs. The players are responsible for knowing the rules of the game and calling out when one has been broken, even if it puts their own team at a disadvantage. The three R’s, rules, respect, and responsibility, are stressed not only by the coaches, but also by the players, who have come to respect and appreciate fair play above all else. Instead of lining up and slapping high fives at the end of the game, the teams will congregate for several minutes to invent a creative cheer, which is recited, sung, or rapped to the other team. However, this awareness of the rules does not dull the players’ competitive streaks in the least. The sport of Ultimate came to PA over ten years ago, but it wasn’t until Coach Scott Hoenig arrived in 1998 that the program truly began to develop. Coach Hoenig played Ultimate at Bowdoin College, and, when he came to Andover as a mathematics teaching fellow, he brought his knowledge of the sport with him. The very year he came, he set out to build an interscholastic schedule of ten play dates, including games and tournaments. Andover competes annually in tournaments such as the Amherst Invitational Tournament, hosted by the powerhouse Amherst Regional High which attracts teams from California to Georgia. This year, as with the past two years, Phillips Academy will host the New England Prep School Ultimate League (NEPSUL) tournament. Last year, the team pulled off a proud third place finish in the tournament. Annual Ultimate powerhouses typically include Northfield Mount Hermon, Hotchkiss, and Milton Academy. With the solid captains, Peter Kalmakis ’06 and Jonah Guerin ’07, PA looks promising. As for this year’s performance in the tournament, Coach Hoenig is confident. When asked for his predictions for the season, he said, “I expect us to be competitive within NEPSUL. Last year we tied for third in that league. I expect we will probably be right around the same. We’ll be in the fighting for one of the top four spots again.” The Ultimate program is large and coed. Everyday, two practices, the “A practice” and the “B practice” are run. The varsity players practice in the “A practice.” Sixteen or seventeen kids will be chosen to play for the varsity team and are in the process of trying out right now. Although the Ultimate team is new, Coach Hoenig insists that it is just like any other varsity team, practicing five days a week and playing games. There are lots of other high schools in the area with teams. The team will be largely full of new players as most of last year’s squad graduated. Still, Coach Hoenig remarked, “There is a good core of about six to seven players from last year’s team that are going to be on varsity this year. We have lots of good athletic kids who are new and younger kids who have played before.”