Photo by John Powell

Across the campus of George Mason University, visitors and students alike find groups of people throwing a flying disc around. The groups wander from Presidents Park, to the Quad in front of Student Union Building I and to the grassy areas around Southside. But a few days a week, a group of students are dedicated to the subtleties and technicalities of the sport.

Mason’s Ultimate team is that group. Five years old with about 25 players, 10 of whom are rookies, these guys take the field for two practices a week, in addition to their weekend tournaments. They play in seven-on-seven games against teams mostly from the Virginia area, often competing in out-of-state tournaments.

“We’re in a conference with teams such as UVA, Virginia Tech, VCU,” said sophomore team captain David Berg. “Virginia Tech is a good team. They will probably be at the top of the region. UVA has gone to nationals in the past. VCU is towards the bottom of the pack. We’re in the middle. We’re working towards our first regionals.”

Students at Columbia University are often credited with creating the sport during the late 1960s. While there was not much significant growth in the sport’s infancy, there has been a boom in recent years.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association (SGMA) has reported that 60 percent of players are less than 25 years old. CNBC reported that between the years of 2006 and 2008, the sport picked up one million new members, bringing those playing to 4.9 million people. That upward trend has continued.

The governing body used to be called the Ultimate Players Association, but has since undergone a reorganization. Now, the United States governing body is called USA Ultimate, and the world governing body is the World Flying Disc Federation.

“In the fall, you can go to any tournament you want to,” said Berg. “But [in the spring] there’s a series, which is structured much like college basketball. We have conferences, we go compete in a region, [and] then you play in a bracket-style tournament for the national championship. They have not named the conferences. They just went through a restructuring program. Our region used to be the Metro East, which ran through Fairfax to the north.”

The team has been getting some new players in the 10 rookies, and practice hard. Even in the practices, it seems like the players play their heart out. During last Thursday’s practice, the players, and especially Berg, thought they did not practice well, so they ended up playing two scrimmages to three points to prepare for the weekend tournament in Edinboro, Pa.

“Our whole team comes through,” said Berg when asked if anyone particular contributes more than the others. “But, I know there are some guys on the team who go to the gym five or six days a week, who run on their own and work out on their own.”
The team is always looking for more dedicated players, so they can have depth as they look to move up in their conference in the future.

“We’re always looking for new players. My personal goal is that I would like to have a ‘B’ team and use it for developmental program,” said Berg.