Ultimate is one of the fastest-growing club sports in the country, according to the 2009 Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association survey. The Grinnellephants and the Sticky Tongue Frogs, Grinnell’s men’s and women’s Ultimate teams respectively, had great seasons in this growing Frisbee-throwing noncontact team sport. Their efforts culminated in both teams qualifying for the USA Ultimate Division III National Championships, held in May 2011 in Buffalo, N.Y.. As one of only three schools with both men’s and women’s teams represented (the other two being Claremont and Occidental), Grinnell finished in the top 10 with both teams — the women placed seventh and the men placed third.
It’s no wonder that Grinnell has a growing and successful program. In Ultimate, two teams of seven players each compete and score points by completing passes up the field into the opponent’s end zone. Where Ultimate strays from many other sports, however, is in its cornerstone: the unifying idea of the “spirit of the game.” Players are responsible for calling infringements and resolving disputes. Similar to Grinnell’s own policy of self-governance, Ultimate’s “spirit of the game” relies on mutual respect, adherence to agreed-upon rules, and love of the community.
The future of the program is bright. As a club team with no coach, leadership comes from within, and players see each other as a family. While leading peers and friends is a challenge, Grinnell Ultimate has created a model that can be emulated by many teams in the future. As Keeler, captain for the 2011-12 year, put it: “It’s like we’re putting hieroglyphics on the walls. We are participating in the development of what in 20 years people will call the history of D-IIIs. Our men’s and women’s teams are spearheading that movement.”