DC Breeze: DC’s Ultimate Frisbee Pros

Hill Fitness

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Group effort, May 26 vs Montréal. Leonardo Troconis Photo

Washington has a professional Frisbee team, called DC Breeze. And they are good. Since the team started play in 2013, the Breeze has been in the playoffs four of the past five seasons. When going to a game of a DC pro team can cost the price of a week’s worth of groceries, it’s refreshing to be able to watch good competitive game for a mere $12.

I had never heard of Ultimate Frisbee. I certainly didn’t know about DC’s professional team, The Breeze, until this spring when my managing editor, Andrew Lightman, suggested I write this story. It’s a sport he’s passionate about, having played Ultimate Frisbee most of his life. He started playing in high school in New Jersey where the sport had its origins in the late 1960s. He continued playing in college and grad school. In DC Andrew has been playing on the masters amateur team as part of the Washington Area Frisbee Club (WAFC).

“Ultimate Frisbee is an intensely physical field sport. It’s a great sport to watch. It’s fun. It’s a blast to play and the community is really strong,” Andrew said. “At 57, it forces me to think things through and not make mistakes. I love it even though when I’m finished a game I have to take a nap afterwards.”

The Breeze’s Max Cassell outduels a Montréal defender for the disc, May 26 vs Montréal. Photo: Rob Gilmor Photo

What is Ultimate Frisbee?
Ultimate Frisbee, better known as Ultimate, is a fast-paced, non-contact sport played in 90 countries. It mixes the best features of sports such as soccer, basketball, American football into a highly-skilled, simple yet fascinating and demanding game. High schools in the metro area now have competitive teams providing parents and students an alternative to traditional sports programs.

Ultimate went pro in DC in 2013. Players on DC Breeze range in age from 18 to the mid 30s. “Our players are paid, but most of them not enough to make a living so most have other jobs as well,” said Don Grage, managing partner of DC Breeze. “They train hard. Preseason training starts in March with minicamp weekends, then during the season we have long Wednesday night practices plus warmup/practice/strategy sessions before games.”

DC Breeze and the league of which it’s a member is composed of all-male players. However, Don said a new women’s professional league, the Premier Ultimate League (PUL) began play this year.

How is Ultimate Played
When I attended a home game this spring, I was impressed by the diversity of its fans. Entire families including grandparents and little children came out on a very hot, unseasonably humid Sunday in May to watch the Breeze win their game over Montreal. In fact, the family with whom I was sharing a seat was at the game because their son (who plays for the DC International school team) was volunteering with DC Breeze.

I think it’s appropriate that the sport’s first rule encompasses the “spirit of the game.” It stresses sportsmanship and fair play. Competition is encouraged but never at the expense of respect between players, adherence to the rules, and the basic joy of play.

Ultimate is played on a rectangular-shaped field (110 by 40 yards) including two end zones that are 20 yards deep. Each point begins with both teams lining up on their end zone line. The defense throws the disc to the offense.

The disc, which is heavier than the Frisbee you are used to playing with recreationally, may be advanced in any direction by completing a pass to a teammate; however, players may not run with the disc. A player has 10 seconds to throw the disc.

When a person catches the disc in the opposing endzone, that person’s team scores a point. Non-incidental contact is not allowed between players. Pro Ultimate uses referees, but amateur Ultimate is self-officiating.

Matthew “Rowan” McDonnell celebrates the opening day victory with fans, April 20 vs Philadelphia. Hunter McKay Photo

Catching a Game
The last home game of the season was played last week. However, the final regular season game is in Toronto on July 6. If you’d like to watch the game, it is available with a 10-dollar/month subscription on AUDL.tv. “We are highly likely to make the playoffs, which begin July 20,” said Don Grage. “We don’t know yet if we will earn a home playoff game. Championship weekend with the top four teams will take place Aug. 10-11 in San Jose, CA.”

For information on the team or Ultimate Frisbee log onto: www.theaudl.com or www.thedcbreeze.com.

Amateur Play
There are multiple adult and youth leagues throughout the DMV. The Washington Area Frisbee Club (WAFC) manages adult leagues as well as a junior league. It offers leagues of varying levels, a women’s development program as well as mixed league play and an adult learn-to-play program. To learn more log onto: www.wafc.org.

Pattie Cinelli is a health/fitness professional who offers information about subjects on the leading edge of health and fitness thought. She has been writing her column for more than 25 years and welcomes column suggestions and fitness questions.

 

Pattie is a certified functional aging specialist who works with baby boomers. She also can provide lectures, private sessions and group classes in stretch, yoga, Pilates and her specialty, Balance and Mobility, for your church, home or office. She is also producing a podcast that highlights choices we have in addition to traditional western medicine that help us stay well. You can contact Pattie at: fitmiss44@aol.com.