Ultimate Frisbee is so popular with Mercer Island High School (MIHS) students that it’s cemented on the sports schedule for all three seasons. Boys engage in the club sport in the fall, there’s a coed squad in the winter and the girls hit the field in the spring.
This winter, there’s about 40 players involved in the sport of ultimate, which features Islander handlers and cutters firing a disc up and down the field to each other en route to try and score points in the end zone, according to senior co-captain Ryan Hsi.
“I’ve learned a lot just about working together as a team. Just being able to communicate with each other,” said Hsi, who became involved with the no-cut sport in middle school and has played a total of five years.
Games, which feature seven players on each side, take place through the Disc NW – Northwest Ultimate Association and feature teams from Seattle, the Eastside and as distant as Bainbridge Island. For the MIHS Larry Bencivengo-coached team, known as the TRIBE squad, about 15-20 players consistently participate in winter competitions while the rest choose to just attend practices to stay active.
Hsi said that it’s interesting that no referees are present during matches, so the players call fouls and discuss each scenario politely while possessing a positive demeanor.
“The game and the rules are kind of dependent on the players to kind of have this honor system and to be able to have civil conversations and have good spirit about everything,” he added.
Another senior co-captain this winter, May Tran, latched onto ultimate when a friend suggested she check it out during her freshman year.
“I think the biggest thing for me was the sportsmanship. I think it’s really admirable how everyone in this league is really friendly toward each other,” said Tran, who added that players unleash some solid competition during matches and practices.
When all is said and done on the field, teams often participate in a spirit circle and give shout-outs to who they feel are the top players of the contest. Tran noted that at one tournament, some opponents crafted gifts on the way to the event and presented them to the MIHS players.
Tran’s leadership skills have grown during her time in the captain’s spot, “Learning how to encourage (teammates) and make sure they’re playing well and also teaching them” about sportsmanship. She hopes to continue applying those captain skills on the ultimate field during her college years.