After many tournaments and countless hours of practice, the Western men’s Ultimate Frisbee team is headed to nationals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the first time in team history.
The club team, DIRT, was undefeated in their last tournament in Walla Walla and is hoping for that same success as they compete in nationals.
Seth Kotzman, nicknamed “Kansas,” is a senior kinesiology student. He has been playing for DIRT ever since his freshman year and is one of the team captains.
“It’s awesome and it’s the first time in our team history so we were all super stoked when it happened,” Kotzman said. “Of my four years, this team definitely had the highest potential to make it.”
Aaron Haddeland, a junior environmental science student, serves as president of the team. While Haddeland has played on the team for three years, his role for the current season deals with paperwork and logistical aspects. Haddeland expressed the excitement and shock that came with finding out the team was headed to nationals.
“We’ve worked hard all three years I’ve been on [the team], especially this season, and it’s finally paid off,” Haddeland said. “It’s a cherry on top of the season.”
Matt Russell also serves as a team captain alongside Kotzman.
But because of their success, the men are confident in their skills and the way they compete as a team.
“We’re not changing anything. We’re gonna play the way that we’re gonna play,” Kotzman said.
Kotzman’s goal as team captain this year has been teaching successful habits to the other players.
Some of those habits include goal-setting, mental states before games, good imagery and out-of-practice workouts as a team.
“We had a lot of players that were new last year or maybe a first or second year player and this year they’ve just stepped up and become leaders on the team and on the field,” Kotzman said.
Kotzman recognized that having the younger players experience high-level games at nationals will prepare them for future seasons when the seniors are gone.
While the men are feeling prepared for the journey ahead, they are facing some obstacles along the way.
“Our biggest issue has been trying to fundraise. As a club sport, most of our money comes from ourselves,” Kotzman said.
Flights, transportation and hotels all bring costs the team is working to fulfill, but it has not been easy, Russell said.
The team is trying to raise $4,000-$5,000 to fund the trip.
The club sports office has been helpful in working out some of the financial costs and logistics of the trip, but the team is still looking for more outlets of support.
The team has a GoFundMe account for people to support the team financially as they prepare for the journey to nationals that is quickly approaching. They have currently raised $3,000.
“We’re going in as a blank slate…our goal is to go out and play and have fun,” Kotzman said.
While Russell enjoys all the different ways ultimate frisbee is connected to other sports, the community his team brings makes it that much greater to be a part of.
“This year especially, we’ve had a lot of injuries, so that was tough early in the season,” Haddeland said. “But I think it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it forced us to throw younger guys into situations they normally wouldn’t be in and they all did really well.”
Team positivity is huge for the team. They want players to learn from their mistakes and continually grow, Russell said.
The team works to utilize each player’s strengths whether they are throwing or moving quickly up the field to score points and they want the men to grow in all areas and build their strong points, Russell said.
With Kotzman and Russell leading the team to nationals, the players have examples of athletic skill and support as the journey continues.
Haddeland said the captains are good about keeping things light-hearted and fun while also demanding the best out of everyone.
“You have to work hard but you don’t notice because you’re having a lot of fun with your friends,” Haddeland said. “Matt is pretty quiet and it’s nice to have a guy that just leads by example. Kansas is the most athletic Frisbee player I’ve ever seen and they’re both amazing on the field and they’re great off the field too in the leadership role.”
What keeps the game so unique is the honesty and integrity players must have. The games cannot advance until everyone agrees, Haddeland said.
“The Frisbee community is really fun and accepting,” Haddeland said.
Spirit of the Game is a universal motto the team lives by to keep the game of Frisbee an honest and fun game, Haddeland said.
The men are preparing for their trip to the national tournament over Memorial Day weekend and are making final arrangements to continue their success.