By Paige Wearmouth
“Tada gan irracht,” Gaelic for “nothing without effort” is the motto of the women’s ultimate frisbee team at the Catholic University of America. The team prides itself on upholding that motto along with one other thing: finding joy in their sport. Although this may come naturally to the team at Catholic University, they have no choice, it is in the rulebook.
“The Spirit of the Game,” part of the Official Rules of Ultimate made by USA Ultimate, the sport’s authoritative governing body in the United States, enforces rules of player conduct that are unique to the sport and often earn it a reputation of being a friendly game. According to this rulebook, “highly competitive play is encouraged” but never at the expense of respect for other players, the rules, or “the basic joy of playing.”
This may be the reason the sport has seen rapid growth nationally in the last few years. According to a national report from USA Ultimate, ultimate frisbee had a national membership growth of over 18,000 players from 2011 to 2015. Since its start at Catholic University the women’s ultimate team says it has experienced a large amount of growth, which they say has helped them to gain success.
Bridget Finnell, co-captain of the women’s ultimate team said she “quickly fell in love with the spirit of the game, the game itself, and the spirit of the players.” The team has been around for about five years at Catholic University. Now, with about 25 members, the team is the largest it has ever been.
“The women’s team started out so small, and now we have grown so much that we are truly able to compete up to our full potential,” said Peggy Stevick, a junior nursing major who holds the position of “cutter” on the university’s women’s ultimate team.
The women’s ultimate team is a member of the USA Ultimate Division III Mid-Atlantic league. They rank number 141 of all Division III women’s ultimate teams nationally.
Blinne Finnegan, a Catholic University senior politics major who is also a “cutter” on the women’s ultimate team said that this is the highest the team has ever been ranked.
“We’ve been playing in much more competitive tournaments against teams that have a lot more players with a lot more experience than we do,” Finnegan said.
In the current season, the team experienced a win that Finnegan said was “a pretty big deal.” They beat American University on “universe point” meaning that the game was tied and the next team to score a point automatically won.
Ultimate frisbee is played with no referees. Players are depended on to call themselves on their own fouls. This honor system method is another aspect of “The Spirit of the Game.”
“This [the Spirit of the Game] creates a sense of community among all frisbee players no matter what team they are on,” said Sarah Abel, treasurer and president of the women’s ultimate club.
Members of Catholic University’s women’s ultimate team said they found that along with being a competitive team, they are also a very close-knit and social group. Stevick said the team, also referred to as “nun betta” by its members, is “the perfect amount of work and play.”
The unconventional rules of the sport and the friendly reputation of the team at Catholic University are what some team members say brought them into the women’s ultimate club.
Stevick said ultimate frisbee is an “underrated” sport, but that she sees a lot of merit in it as well as its players.
“There is so much to frisbee, and the people who play are some of the best people you’ll ever meet,” Stevick said.
Finnegan said she embraces the uniqueness of the sport and that her teammates are equally unique.
“We’re all kind of weird anyway,” Finnegan said. “You have to be a little different to find happiness in chasing a piece of plastic around.”