Despite playing lacrosse all throughout middle school, Andover Ultimate Frisbee (Ultimate) Co-Captain Sam Elliott ’22 had other plans in high school. After watching a group of Seniors, including two-year captain Isaiah Lee ’19, toss around a frisbee on the Great Lawn, Elliott decided to take on the sport. Beginning his Ultimate career as a Junior on JV, Elliott now serves as a leader, defenseman, and playmaker for the team.
Elliot fell in love with Ultimate in great part due to its self-officiated element that has its foundations in the sport’s philosophy of Spirit of the Game. With the players on the field holding the responsibility of maintaining fair play and making calls in place of referees, Spirit of the Game forces trust, respect, and communication between both teammates and opponents alike.
“One of the main differences is that ultimate is a self-officiated sport, so there’s no refs or anything. Everything is played under the umbrella of what is called Spirit of the Game, which basically just means that everyone is doing their best, and everyone is trying to make the right calls, and everyone is playing to uphold their knowledge of the sport. And it makes it really fun because it’s the first sport where I feel like I can play as hard as I can, and I can make it as competitive as I want because I’m a competitive person, but it never gets mean or ugly. So it’s great because you can have intense play but also be really respectful of your opponents,” said Elliott.
In cooperation with the other field captain, Ben Rowland ’22, Elliott hopes to nurture a fair and comfortable team environment. Whereas Rowland is the captain with thorough knowledge of the rules, Elliott believes he contributes to the team environment by constantly maintaining an optimistic and encouraging mindset.
“Ben is super knowledgeable of the rules. He’s read through the entire rulebook multiple times I’m pretty sure. He knows what’s up in every situation, so he’s just very knowledgeable about the sport in general, and obviously he’s super nice and a great leader and everything. I would say I’m not as well versed in the rules–Coach Hoenig would be disappointed in me for saying so–but I think that the best thing I can do is to make sure that everyone is genuinely enjoying themselves, feeling respected by their teammates, and just feeling comfortable in a space where you can play and work hard, and work hard for your teammates,” said Elliott.
According to Kei Obata ’23, Elliott’s actions speak louder than his words. Rather than a captain who hypes up the team or gives pep talks, Elliott leads by example through his focus and drive both on and off the field. His work ethic inspires other team members to do the same.
“Sam is a really good leader because I think that his leadership is defined by his work ethic on and off the field. I guess he’s not the most talkative or the vocal guy on the team, but I think what he does during practice is very representative of how a lot of people view him as a leader. He’s very focused, very driven, and he always treats every practice like a game. So when you see someone like that on your team giving it his all every single day–even during water breaks he’s still really focused–I think that goes to show a lot about what kind of person he is, what kind of leader he is. And then during games, he’s always working his ass off. Whether it’s a big layout or just trying to get the team together, he’s always the one hustling the most in my opinion,” said Obata.
According to Head Coach Scott Hoenig, Elliott is a valuable player on defense. Not only can he prevent his opponents from scoring, but he can also capitalize on turnovers through smart plays, big or small.
“Sam brings like this incredible enthusiasm and athleticism and just intensity to the sport that is just inspiring when you watch him play defense. The way that he is in the right place at the right time, the way he can make big plays and just make small plays too, but the way that he can cause turnovers. It’s inspiring, and it’s also really effective for our defense,” said Hoenig.
Despite not being the loudest or most vocal on the team, Elliott still provides constant communication with all his teammates, whether in the form of compliments or suggestions. For new players like Obata, Elliott’s attention gives them a sense of confidence in their skills.
“He’s very inclusive of the new players. It’s a very subtle thing, but he’ll compliment you or push you to do certain things better I guess specifically towards the newer players. You don’t really notice that when you’re playing or practicing because a lot of people are shouting, the atmosphere is really intense. Then you realize after looking back that it was Sam or Ben, the two captains, pushing you when you maybe made a mistake or calling out your name, complimenting you, small things like that,” said Obata.
Elliott’s favorite Ultimate memory is being pulled up from JV to play in a Varsity tournament. That weekend was when he first experienced Andover Ultimate’s team culture.
“I was just this little [Junior] amongst all these cool upperclassmen at a tournament at NMH. And it was a really fun environment, and people were so friendly and just wanted to see each other get better and play some good Ultimate Frisbee. And Coach Cormier also has this thing where on our way back from tournaments, we’ll stop at Wendy’s, and anyone who has a layout, which just basically means you dive for the disc on defense, she’ll buy you a frosty on the way home. So that’s always something that’s fun, and I will [always] strive to do–get some frosties,” said Elliott.