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Bobcats in the Mist

The Orange Whip ultimate team practices under the lights on a wet night in March

Story by Bates College March 31st, 2016

First, the Bates Lore

The sport of ultimate is claimed by Yalies as their game, invented in New Haven in the 1970s.

Not so fast, say Bates alumni circa 1960. “I arrived at Bates in the fall of 1956 and clearly recall playing what became known as ultimate on the lawn of John Bertram,” wrote Jim Hall ’60 in a letter to Bates Magazine.

Clark Whelton ’59 pinpoints a defining moment. “We were practicing on the lawn between Roger Bill and Chase when bursar Norm Ross ’22 opened his office window and yelled to Dick Pierce ’57, captain of our squad, ‘Hey, Dick, will you please take your team someplace else?!’” To Whelton’s thinking, Ross’ “use of the word ‘team’ clearly implies the existence of an organized sport.”

Q.E.D, and so we proceed.

The Bates ultimate team practices under the lights on Garcelon Field.

Warmth in numbers

Especially at night, “winter practices are hard,” says team captain Emmett Shipway ’16 of Avon, Conn. “It’s cold and it’s kind of a grind.”

This year has been different, and not only because of the unseasonable warmth. “Especially this year, everyone who is out there loves it so much,” says Shipway. We’ve had more numbers this year than we’ve had in my four years, so the cold doesn’t seem to bother anyone. People are really crazy about it.”

With quantity comes quality. For example, the captain of Cold Front, the Bates women’s ultimate team, is Josie Gillett ’19 of Seattle, who recently earned a spot on the U.S. women’s team that will compete at the World Junior Ultimate Championships in Poland this summer.

Orange Whip practices three nights a week outside..

A gear-free attitude

Ultimate players try not to fixate about gear, but then there are the gloves, whether ultimate-specific friction gloves or football-style receiver gloves. Shipway says he’s been wearing a glove on his non-throwing left hand to help him catch the disc in the cold.

But since throwing both lefty and righty is the mark of a talented player, and throwing with a glove is tricky, he’s stopped wearing a glove at all. “A lot of guys on the team are ambidextrous, but gloves are all personal preference.”

Henry Simon '16 of Chappaqua N.Y., leaps high for the disc as James Pardo '18 of South Salem, N.Y., defends.

Spirit of the game

Ultimate devotees exult in the purity and sportsmanship of their calling. One expression of that ideal that it is self-refereed under a code of conduct called “the spirit of the game.”

“All you need is a field and a disc and some sort of cones,” says Shipway. “It’s accessible to people all around the world.”

Randy Peralta '17 of New York City secures the disc.
Defended by Adam Auerbach '16 of Silver Spring, Md., Jacob Freedman '18 of Chestnut Hill, Mass., looks for an open teammate.
Nathaniel Wells '16 of Charlotte, Vt., defends Nathaniel Frederick '19 of Orono, Maine.

The F word

And about that disc. Here, we won’t call it by that trademarked F name that Wham-O owns. And the Orange Whip doesn’t use that brand of disc, anyway. “You don’t really see Wham-O discs in the competitive world,” says Shipway.

“We use the 175-gram Discraft.” (In fact, a custom Orange Whip version is available for purchase.) “Using any other size, weight, or proportion would seriously throw off our throws.”

And about that name, Orange Whip? I’ll have three of them, in memory of John Candy and his oft-quoted line from The Blues Brothers.

Captain Emmet Shipway '16 of Avon, Conn., shields himself from the rain while addressing the team.

NickName that Player

Everyone gets a nickname. Some are “just random sounds that we thought worked,” says Shipway. Other nicknames have real backstories.

For example, “Mama” is Henry Simon ’16 of Chappaqua, N.Y. His mom, Vassar alumna Judy Horowitz Simon, won the 1981 women’s World Flying Disc championship, for which she received a few thousand dollars in prize money and endorsement deals, including her name being inscribed on some Wham-O Frisbees.

“She was really, really good,” says Shipway. “They have those old signed Frisbees at their house and other stuff. It’s really cool.”

After Simon arrived at Bates, “someone found out about it, then we just kept talking about it, and the upperclassmen eventually decided on ‘Mama.’”

Samuel Hastings '19 of Hanover, N.H. leads the sprints.

Ultimate and NESCAC

The Bates ultimate team seeks to meld NESCAC competitiveness with the spirit of the game. To that end, the Orange Whip culture is “fun, competitive, progressing, community, family,” says Shipway.

Despite differences in the scale and abilities of individual club teams in NESCAC, “we all try to share the spirit of the game,” he says.

Bates plays in the North New England Division III of USA Ultimate’s college division. “It’s a really strong section,” he says, the top rivals being the usual suspects, Bowdoin and Middlebury. Amherst and Williams, in the South New England Division, “are also always good,” he adds.

This weekend they’ll find out who’s good, better, and best as the Orange Whip head to Hamilton, Mass., for the Open New England tournament, April 2–3.

Will McPherson '18 of Berwyn, Pa., is ready to catch the disc on the run.
rev-160315_Ultimate_Frisbee_146 copy.jpg
Jake Atwood '19 of Natick, Mass., sends a pass through the rain.
Footnote: Photographs and reporting by Josh Kuckens and text by Jay Burns of the Bates Communications Office.