June in the Indianapolis metro area typically brings a flurry of high school graduation parties and a collective hangover from Memorial Day weekend. For one group of educators and students in suburban Johnson County, it also means another season of Ultimate Frisbee.
Center Grove High School social studies teacher Eric Howe established the Center Grove Ultimate League (CGUL) in 2004. What began as a four-team league with 60 individuals has exploded into this summer’s outfit of two six-team divisions comprised of 12 adult captains and nearly 200 teenagers and young adults. Howe is pleased but not surprised by the growth of the league.
“Ultimate is exciting,” Howe said. “Anyone can play and it really sells itself. People are excited about it.”
Howe has been involved with Ultimate on a statewide level for six years as a member of the Indianapolis Ultimate Association (IUA) and the Ultimate Players Association (UPA), the sport’s national governing body. UPA sanctions leagues for all age groups and sends its top teams to semi-annual world championship events.
Purdue freshman Allysa Zych is a 2007 graduate of CGHS and recently began her second CGUL season. Zych was a member of her school’s cross country, track and cheerleading teams, and likened the physical workload of an Ultimate match to that of a cross country race.
“I learned to play three years ago at a camp in Georgia and knew it was a good workout,” Zych said. “It involves constant running, so most players need to be in good shape.”
What sets Ultimate apart from mainstream counterparts such as basketball and football is the distinctive concept of “Spirit of the Game,” which was adopted by UPA as a set of moral guidelines for all Ultimate players. “Spirit” emphasizes individual responsibility for fair play and preservation of the joy of competition. In keeping with these principles, Ultimate matches are self-refereed, a trademark that Howe finds tremendously important.
“Ultimate gives the players a chance to learn valuable communication skills, as well as a sense of respect for one’s opponent and something that is larger than them,” Howe said.
Howe has been amazed by the camaraderie that has developed amongst a diverse set of participants, as seasoned athletes, members of the marching band and couch potatoes alike have joined to form successful teams. This year’s roster includes multiple members of each CGHS graduating class from 2004 through 2011. Zych is looking forward to becoming familiar with a new team.
“Last summer, we all got along great and had so much fun together! Since you are with your team all summer you really grow close to each other,” Zych said. “I look forward every week to playing on Monday night.”
Because of the incredible growth CGUL has experienced, the league may have to consider a change of venue or an expansion of its weekly schedule. Matches are currently held in pairs of three at 5:30 and 7 p.m. on Monday nights at the CGHS soccer complex. Howe is willing to do whatever it takes to continue the league’s grass-roots success.
“Other than running a week-long announcement at the high school, we recruit by word of mouth,” Howe said. “I hope we will continue to grow, and I don’t see Ultimate slowing down any time soon.”
Howe's Center Grove team is currently in third place in the 2007 Summer League.
For more information on local Ultimate leagues, visit the Indianapolis Ultimate Association Web site at http://indyultimate.danconia.org.
The Ultimate Players Association's Web site can be found at www.upa.org. The Web site contains a database of links to local Ultimate associations all around the nation and hundreds of college and university programs.