On a Sunday morning in November, Abigail Tobin '09 runs beneath a white disc hanging in a cloudless blue sky. Tracking the disc's curve, Tobin leaps up and grabs it away from two other pairs of hands, lands, pivots, fakes a flip to a teammate and then backhands the disc to Nikko Gangnon '11 in the end zone. Gangnon kneels and taps the disc on the green turf. UNH: 1, Wellesley College: 0.
Meet the newest club sport in Durham—UNH Ultimate Frisbee, a game that combines the nonstop action of soccer with the aerial passing and end-zone scoring of football. But what sets "Ultimate" apart from most sports and inspires passionate devotion among enthusiasts is what's known as the "spirit of the game," a commitment to sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play squarely on the players. Simply put: there are no officials or referees at any level of Ultimate competition, which is played all the way up to international competition.
"We want to be the kind of people who you really like, even while we're beating you," says Scott Gatto '09, co-captain of the men's team. "That's our team culture."
Until it achieved club status in 2009, UNH Ultimate was the consummate grassroots sport—a weekly pick-up game drawing students and alumni to Boulder Field for late Friday afternoon scrimmages. As a club sport, Ultimate receives guaranteed field time for practices and games and, best of all, coaching.
Matt Packard '05 played men's Ultimate at UNH while studying mechanical engineering. Now an engineer at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, he serves as one of five UNH Ultimate coaches who are grooming the next generation of Wildcat "handlers" (i.e., the skillful throwers) and "cutters" (the acrobatic receivers).
"When people tell me that Ultimate isn't a 'real' sport, I remind them that my players do two hours of training three times a week and have two full-team practices," says Packard. "On top of that, we travel twice a month to other universities to play the entire weekend."
Gatto and Tobin say Packard was instrumental in advocating for club status and for elevating UNH players' ambitions. "Today, the college game is probably still dominated by private colleges like Dartmouth," says Packard. But he adds, "UNH is closing in."Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents