Ultimate clinic soars into the Basin
July 26, 2016
Michael Affleck is a University of Utah student who plays for the school's ultimate club team, Zion Curtain Ultimate. This year, for the first time in the team's history, Zion Curtain made it to the college national championships. Affleck started playing in 2007 but he said he never set out to reach the sport's highest levels.
"It was my sophomore year of high school, 2007, and my friend and I were bored," he said. "We had a Frisbee, so we were just, like, yeah, OK, let's do this. And we started our high school team."
For fellow Zion Curtain player Nathan Mikulski, the story is similar.
"I had been playing for fun, not the official rules or anything, back home in Michigan before I came to college here," he said. "And then after my freshman year of college I went home for the summer and my friend said there was a summer league if I wanted to play. That was 2013, and the first organized Frisbee I had ever played."
For the uninitiated, ultimate (originally known as ultimate Frisbee) is a sport similar to soccer or football, where two teams take to a field and try to advance the disc to the other end of the field to score. Players cannot move while holding the disc, meaning precision throws and tactical movement from teammates are key to success.
"The game is a mix of different sports and it's a lot of fun," Mikulski said. "It's pretty unique how the Frisbee flies. You can angle it and fly it different ways, go around people. I like that. It's different from traditional sports."
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Neither Affleck nor Mikulski played the game until high school or college, and that is common in ultimate — most don't play until college. Patrick Saucier, a recreation coordinator with Basin Recreation, is out to change that.
"I grew up as a soccer player, got to the collegiate level and didn't make the soccer team, so I turned to look for some other competition and ultimate was a great fit for me," he said. "I see that being the case and really fitting a lot of the athletes here in town, because we have some extreme athletes and some who aren't going to play their high school sport throughout college. Ultimate is a sport you can play competitively."
That desire to bring ultimate Frisbee to the masses is why Saucier started an adult league last year. This summer, Basin Recreation is taking it a step further with Zion Curtain Ultimate Skills n' Drills, a series of three clinics for teens 16-19 run by players from Zion Curtain. The first of the clinics was held July 25 at Willow Creek Park, with two more to come Aug. 1 and Aug. 8, from 6-8 p.m. at the same location.
"This will be a lot of fundamentals," Affleck said. "So just basic throwing, a little bit of understanding how to cut and move, and then how to put those things together. So, how to catch while moving, how to throw after moving. Really fundamental stuff and the rules of the game."
Saucier said as someone who did not come to the game until later in life himself, he wanted to hold these clinics to give kids the opportunity to play the game sooner.
"We want to bring ultimate to the younger generation," he said. "Our hope is to give people an early introduction to it and hopefully there is a desire to continue to grow and learn more. I know there is interest in organizing a club team at Park City High School. So we would love to introduce the game to some high school players and let them take ownership of it and go start a team themselves."
Saucier said those who missed the first clinic but want to check either or both of the remaining sessions can do so for $15 per clinic. He said the hope is to have enough people to hold a scrimmage at the end of each evening.
"The ratio of instructor to player we have is a huge benefit. It's going to allow them to improve exponentially," he said.
Affleck said one of his favorite things about ultimate Frisbee, and something he hopes to impart to the next generation of players, is the sense of community. Ultimate, he said, draws people from all walks of life.
"On our college team, for example, we have the absolute nerdiest kid you could imagine. And then we have another guy who was the rebounding leader at his D-III college basketball team. So just the diversity of the sport is really cool," Affleck said. "You don't usually see that kind of diversity. We take anybody and everybody."
Saucier said it's the same story at Basin Rec's adult league.
"When we come out here on Wednesdays to play with the adult league we have everything from 60-year-old guys to 13-year-old kids," he said. "All on the same field. And everyone is at the same level because we're all learning together."