The basketball courts in Memorial Auditorium are normally filled with Cobbers spending their nights playing pickup basketball with friends to pass the time, but on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, an entirely different group plies their trade in another sport: ultimate frisbee.
The Valhalla Ultimate club is Concordia’s ultimate frisbee club. Ultimate is a fast-paced sport developed in 1968 that involves players competing on a team of seven to pass a flying disc down a football-sized field to reach the end zone. The game arose from the counter- culture movements of the 1960s, and as a result the sport is self-policed. There are no referees on the field at any level of competition.
Concordia’s Ultimate club is organized and led by team captain Erick Knudson. The junior says the sport is fun because it allows for each person to bring their own athletic abilities into the fold.
“It’s like a mix of soccer, football, and a little bit of basketball,” Knudson said. “It’s great for athletes from lots of sports because they all kind of bring their own thing into the game.”
Knudson, Stillwater, Minn. native, has been playing ultimate since high school. He played with Valhalla during his freshman and sophomore years before becoming captain as a junior this year.
“I was lucky enough to be on the first team there [Stillwater High School], and then when I came here I was able to continue playing,” Knudson said. “Now, three years later, I’m the captain.”
Ultimate has been around Concordia for nearly a decade. The club was founded in 2007 under a different name, and it has functioned at various levels of competition and club size throughout its history. Valhalla is a member of the USA Ultimate Division III conference. This year, the club has anywhere from 10 to 25 players that show up for each practice on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Of the 12 par- ticipants on March 15, seven were freshman.
“I played ultimate in high school in Bemidji,” said freshman Ian Kruse. “This is my fourth year now, so it’s fun to get a chance to keep playing here at Concordia.”
Although some of the players do have experience, Valhalla is open to all participants. The difference in skill level is evident at the group’s meetings. Some players throw perfect backhand passes with seemingly no effort, others do not. According to Knudson, any skill level is welcome.
“We’ve got some people that have played for awhile, but it’s always fun to get more in and make the games a little more interesting,” Knudson said. “At the end of the day, we want enough people for each time so we can play a full game.”
For freshman Keith Sullivan, ultimate practice provides another chance each week to get out of his dorm and run around with friends. More than half of the participants on March 15 were from Sullivan’s floor in Livedalen.
“I play on the soccer team and just like any chance to get out and run around,” Sullivan said. “For me, ultimate is a fun way to get a little more exercise during the week.”
Valhalla has been practicing inside this winter while the outdoor fields are frozen, but soon the group will move back out to the soccer fields for practice. Starting within a few weeks, if the warmer weather holds, the club wants to move practice from Olson Forum and Memorial to the fields by the Crooked Tree behind Erickson and Hallett Hall. Because the squad practices on basketball courts in the winter, Knudson says it’ll be a wake up call once they they get back outside.
“When we get outside and realize again how big the fields are, we realize how out of shape we all are,” Knudson said. “It’ll take a couple of weeks to get used to that, but it’s always fun to get back outside and start playing for real.”
The game has grown in recent years as a result of its inexpensive nature and appeal to athletes from many sports. Although the running and agility of the game might be more conducive to some sports than others, the game has boomed in the last decade as a result of an influx of new players. USA Ultimate, the national governing body for the sport, says ultimate is played in more than 80 countries by an estimated 7 million players.
Valhalla Ultimate has more than 100 members, and they expect more people to come out once the group moves back outside. For more information on ultimate at Concordia, contact Erick Knudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the group’s online page by searching “Valhalla Ultimate Frisbee” on Facebook.