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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Jeff Ratajczak, the organizer of the Fort Wayne Ultimate Frisbee League, says he has seen it grow to about 300 players in two years.

Sunday, August 27, 2017 1:00 am

Ultimate grows here

Players keep sport expanding beyond playing in college

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

The story is the same for many: “I started playing pickup games in college.”

“I played in college, at Ball State. It was just pickup behind the dorms,” Fort Wayne Ultimate Frisbee organizer Jeff Ratajczak said. “I played competitively in Orlando before we moved here. We moved back here 14 years ago, almost. I played pickup and leagues and all that ever since then.”

Ultimate Frisbee, or simply Ultimate, is a combination of soccer, a little bit of hockey and some football played with a disc.

The aim is to throw the disc to a teammate inside the defense's end zone. The player with possession of the disc cannot take any steps and must find a way to throw the disc to a teammate to advance.

If a pass is not successfully completed, whether due to an incomplete pass, block or interception, the disc switches possession.

Players are often drawn to the game because of the lack of intense competition that other sports have.

“I played a lot of rec sports (growing up), I played soccer in high school and I did a lot of intramurals in college,” said Peter Schweitzer, 30. “I really enjoy the people I play with, I enjoy that it's competitive but it's just a really good group of people. I guess that's the biggest thing. It's very competitive but, yet, it's great attitudes.”

For Bridget Bol, who played four years with mixed club teams at Purdue, the Fort Wayne league provided a perfect opportunity for her and husband, Ryan, to make friends.

“I have an older brother, Michael Wellman, and he played in college at Marquette and he would come home in the summer and we would throw around the Frisbee,” Bol said. “When I went to college, I sought it out right away. I know he had a lot of fun. I did track and cross country when I was in high school and I love the sport. I love Frisbee. I love how competitive it is as well as spirited. I think a lot of other sports, they get too much into the game.

“I played a summer in Fort Wayne since my parents live here. I played a summer here before I got married so we wanted to get involved again, not only just to make friends but to get in shape.”

Ultimate was brought to Fort Wayne by Mike Miller in the early 1980s after he played the game at Dayton University. He organized pickup games with co-workers at Magnavox and organized tournaments.

The Fort Wayne Ultimate Frisbee league started in the mid-1990s and has grown to be the largest Ultimate league in the state with 20 teams and almost 300 players the past two years, according to Ratajczak. There are also leagues in Decatur, Goshen and Indianapolis.

“When I first moved here (in 1999), we struggled to get 4-6 teams.” Andy Temple, 41, said. “When I first moved here, most people who played started in college but didn't necessarily pickup. Now, a lot of these guys started playing pickup in high school or just with their friends.

“It's physically active game. You're not necessarily limited because of age. As long as you understand how the game flows, you can still play and be competitive with younger people.”

Tournaments in Fort Wayne began in the 1980s, with memorable occurrences: crabgrass on the playing field, 98-degree heat with humidity and cooling off in nearby ponds.

Currently, the league hosts pickup games every Saturday at 2 p.m. at The Summit on West Rudisill Boulevard. With league spots filling quickly, pickup games are encouraged to get introduced to the game and the group.

“The pickup is where you can get a good introduction,” Temple said. “Pickup is a little less stressful. It's a good time to come out and see what the game's like without feeling too intimidated.”

More information can be found at Fort Wayne Ultimate Frisbee on Facebook.