Rochester’s ultimate frisbee champions say they live by the game’s cooperative and empathetic values

The worst place for an Ultimate Frisbee Championship might be somewhere with heavy rain and high winds.

Yet these conditions made quite a spectacle at a World Flying Disc Federation event this summer in Ireland.

Before the match, the weather was unusually hot and sunny in Limerick. This lasted until the start of the Masters Ultimate Club World Championships, when with almost comical timing, just as the teams approached the pitches, a gust of cold rain and vicious winds did the same.

More than 2,700 athletes representing 28 countries faced the challenge of battling through sideways raindrops and deafening gusts point after point for eight days until one team was finally crowned champion.

Marisa Wilson throws a backhand in a match against Canadian team, Happy Campers, at the WFDF Ultimate Club World Championship in Limerick, Ireland.

For Rochesterian Marisa Wilson, that dream has come true.

His team – Molasses Disaster, from the Northeast region of the United States – took first place in the Mixed Grandmasters Division, a unique category where teams are made up of men and women over the age of 37. .

“Their offense got it, we got the rounds and we scored,” Wilson, 39, said. “And that got us a point ahead before half-time. And we just kept that one point gap and that’s what got us the win.

Wilson’s teammate Angela Dana, also of Rochester, said she was “shocked” by the win.

“Because it’s like winning a game like a knife edge, like it’s a really close game,” Dana said.

“We’ve worked very hard all our lives to play the best we can and learn as much as we can. And you know, as an adult, I’ll be 39 this month, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for (older) athletes and I feel so lucky to be able to push my mind and my body at this level and compete with other people who want the same thing.

The Ultimate Frisbee is like a combination of football, soccer and basketball. Except the ball is flat and the attacker can’t let it touch the ground. You cannot run with the disc, so players must throw and catch with their teammates to advance to their end zone.

But in Limerick, the rain makes the frisbee slippery and difficult to control. The swirling winds threaten to invade each disc or send it far from its target.

“The wind would pick up and you would see a hold that someone would normally do and it would just bounce out of their hands,” Wilson said. “And it’s like I hate to see that for the other team too.”

Empathy is intrinsic to Ultimate, no matter how competitive it is. The first rule is called “spirit of the game” and is part of what makes this sport different from others. Instead of the referees, the players on the field are responsible for calling fouls and rule violations.

“Everyone has their own definition of the spirit of the game,” said Brian Gisel, vice president of the World Flying Disc Federation, the organizing body for international tournaments like this.

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Angela Dana of the Mixed Grandmasters team Molasses Disaster throws a disc between two defenders from the Canadian team Happy Campers at the Ultimate Club World Championships in Limerick, Ireland.

“The idea is that it’s a culture of acceptance, and knowing that we’re playing with other players, not against other players… We want to play competitively, but we’re not winning at all costs. “, Giselle said as he stood in the pouring rain next to the pitch where Wilson and Dana’s team had just won. “Someone once said that if you win the game, but you lose the respect of your opponents, you haven’t won anything. And that’s absolutely true for Ultimate.

Those values ​​show up elsewhere too, Dana said, whether coaching the Brighton High School team at home, as she does, or in life outside of Ultimate.

“I feel good teaching the sport to young people because you have to know the rules,” Dana said. “You have to respect your opponent. You must play as fairly as possible. And I’m definitely at my best when I’m playing Ultimate. That’s all for me.

Wilson said the ultimate Frisbee community has also transformed his life.

“I’ve moved to many places in my life, and like ultimate frisbee, that’s how I’ve always found my people. That’s how I’ve found my family…my husband,” Wilson said. “So that’s been such a big part of my life.

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Angela Dana holds the frisbee as she looks for an open option from her teammates in the semi-finals against the Colorado Grandmasters’ mixed team, Hijinx.

This sense of integrity and belonging almost disappeared with the arrival of COVID-19.

Ultimate is a relatively young sport that has grown rapidly over the past 20 years. And that progress seemed to stop when team sports competitions ceased. This was to prevent the risk of spreading COVID-19.

But Gisel said looking at the numbers today, the sport has come back strong for players of all ages – and there are rumors of a new division starting for older players. Players eligible for senior discounts; older players than the sport itself.

“There are even people talking about what the next level is, and they call it ‘Legends,'” Gisel said. “So that could be the next division we come up with.”

It’s possible. When Gisel first got involved with the World Flying Disc Federation in the late 90s, the mixed division in which Dana and Wilson competed did not exist.

Now, the gender-neutral style of ultimate – featuring athletes in their 20s, 30s and 40s – is featured at the World Games, an event supported by the International Olympic Committee.

Editor’s note: WXXI reporter Noelle EC Evans competed in the women’s masters division of the Ultimate Masters World Championships.

Virginia S. Braud