Middleton High School Ultimate Frisbee Returns (As Does Its Spirit)


Mia Burkholder

Members of the boys’ Ultimate team practice drills on the MHS football field. Currently, players practice on Sundays, but once the league starts, they will practice 3-5 times a week.

In April, both Middleton High School Ultimate Frisbee teams will return to the field. Due to COVID-19, this will be the first time in two years that they will be able to play against other teams in the league.

“The actual energy of Ultimate has gone way down since we haven’t been able to play with other teams and experience what other people are experiencing around the state, so it will be really nice to have the experience,” senior Zack Bliss, one of the boys’ captains, said.

Many people have misconceptions when it comes to Ultimate, believing it is disc golf or “just a casual thing you do with your dad,” Bliss said. “If you don’t know about frisbee, it’s kind of a joke.”

Ultimate Frisbee is a game played with two teams, often described as a mix of football and soccer, but with a frisbee. It was created in 1968 by high school students in New Jersey and has since become a worldwide phenomenon, with more than 100,000 players in over 30 countries.

“I think when most people think of [Ultimate], you’re just casually playing, which is a lot of fun, but like when we get out there in the spring, it’s just like any other sport. You’re giving it everything you got out on the field,” said boys’ captain Aaron Stettner, a senior. 

Some claim it is no’t a sport, to which female-matching captain and senior Lily Schintgen said, “If you watch one singular game, you would understand.” Requiring hand-eye coordination, strategy, and immense stamina, Ultimate is far from a casual game.

While in other sports like football, there are pauses to reset the ball, Ultimate is constantly moving, Bliss pointed out. Its fast pace makes it exciting, but also poses a challenge. 

“The hardest thing is not getting in your own head about what you’ve done wrong and stuff, cause you gotta keep moving on to the next game, the next weekend,” said Stettner. 

Stettner and senior female-matching captain Alli Smith’s (12) experiences with the high school Ultimate teams led them to participate in the Madison Ultimate Frisbee Association (MUFA) and proceed to Nationals. 

“The MHS team kind of encouraged me to be the best player you can and… take advantage of the other opportunities you can get,” said Stettner.

Ultimate mainly differs from other sports in spirit, Schintgen and Smith said. At the end of each game, a spirit award is offered to a member of the other team who demonstrated great sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is essential because there aren’t referees, so players reconcile disputes themselves. 

“Spirit is…a game mechanic, right, that’s built into [Ultimate], that is sportsmanship, and that to me was always a big thing,” Smith said.

This spirit of sportsmanship cultivates a strong sense of community. 

“Ultimate gave me like all of my best friends… it gave me a community in high school, and kind of always encouraged me to be the best person in terms of like who I am and what my body can do… and beyond that, I just wanna keep playing in college just to find that community,” said Stettner.

Participation in Ultimate has been increasing steadily in the United States in the last decade, with many pushing for the sport to be added to the 2024 or 2028 Olympics. Smith accounted for this growth with Ultimate’s unique support system.

“It’s different than anything I’ve ever done. I think high school for me has been really hard, and so frisbee has just made it so much easier… it’s just a place where nothing else matters except for frisbee, except for the community you’re in,” said Smith. “I started frisbee before I came out as non-binary, and… I didn’t have to worry about coming out to frisbee people, cause I know that they’re gonna be cool.”

Students who are interested in playing Ultimate can sign up until March 20 for the boys’ team and any time for the female-matching team. Female-matching team members can attend practices without participating in league games, but “I have a feeling you’ll want to participate in league games once you’re here,” said Smith.

 More information can be found on their website here, by visiting their Instagrams (@middleton_ultimate and @mhsgirlsultimate), or by reaching out to a captain or [email protected].