KLU Rabbits: A Story of an Ultimate Frisbee Team

You’re most likely used to reading success stories on these pages, such as broken records, won championships, brilliant trophies… For this time, you’ll be reading about a failure. However, it also depends on how you view success, since there are teams that statistically have more failures than successes, but they achieve many things. Today, we’ll be telling you the story of an Ultimate Frisbee team, which lost all the 6 matches they played, Kirklareli Rabbits. As the writers of this story, we are also part of the team, in fact, we are the two founders. 

“Frisbee… Frisbee… Are you talking about that circle thing that looks like a thin UFO, the ones that we play catch with dogs with,” we can hear you asking, since that was the only thing we knew and thought about the frisbee before we started doing this sport. When we were on the way to go to the 2018 Ultimate Frisbee Friendly Tournament at Tekirdag Namik Kemal University, the three of us thought to ourselves, “well, we’ll probably hit targets or something with the frisbee.” When we went there, we saw that Ultimate Frisbee had nothing to do with that, and after returning from the tournament, we’d become fans of the sport. After that point, founding our own team became our biggest dream. We started playing with our friends at first, but we didn’t have a team. Though, if we’d founded a team, we could’ve easily organized the games and play better. We took the first step to achieving this dream when the term started; however, we came across a big obstacle as soon as we set off. It was not possible to find a frisbee that complied with the Ultimate Frisbee standards within Turkey.  After many struggles, we finally got one. Then, we moved to the next and the more fun step, coming up with a name for our team. Upon some research, we realized that most team names were animals. We didn’t want to pick an animal that was too powerful for our team. Such as lions, tigers, dragons, etc. Those weren’t for us. We wanted to have a humbler name and we ended up settling on “rabbits”. That’s how the official name came to be, Kirklareli Rabbits. You might ask why we chose an English name for our team, instead of using the Turkish “tavşanlar” for “rabbits.” We were just following a tradition. After picking out the name for our team, we decided that our social media presence was crucial, so we made an Instagram account. We told our families, friends, and other loved ones to follow us on social media. We used our nonexistent budget to commission a friend of ours to create a logo for us. In the meantime, we also kept training and playing in public to introduce people to the sport of the frisbee.  That’s how we met one of our teammates.  We can go as far as to say that we’ve reached the ideal team composition.

As we kept training, the date of the first tournament drew closer.  The 6th TROYA CUP 2020. There were bureaucratic obstacles we had to overcome to enter the tournament. We were counting the days for our departure, but our school informed us that we didn’t have the budget to enter the tournament.  In return, we told them that we’d make it to the tournament no matter what, we’d even hitchhike and stay at hostels or government dorms if necessary.  They realized how serious we were, and then a budget was finally allocated for us. After facing all of this trouble, we finally had the money to enter the tournament. As our uniform, among the many different uniforms that our university didn’t provide us, we ended up choosing the soccer team’s uniform. To be frank, they weren’t the best looking uniforms but they were up for the task.  Before the tournament, it was on this website, https://happeningsport.com/, that they announced that they’d make uniforms for the team with the most impressions on Instagram. We were going to win the uniforms with this comment that you can see in the screenshot, and also realize how understanding our opponents were before meeting them.

If we look at the scoreboard, the tournament didn’t go well for us, obviously. As we said in the beginning, we lost all of the 6 matches that we played and we ended up last place in the tournament. The fact that we lost all 6 matches, got placed last and we’re sharing this story with you as the two founders of the team goes on to show how much fun we actually had in the tournament. What makes us especially motivated to write this story is our desire to introduce this sport and make it known to the masses. So, how is this sport, which made us redefine the word “loss” and made it fun for us, then? 

Let’s first talk about the essential differences that set Ultimate Frisbee aside. In this rare sport, matches are played against teams whose comprising members can be placed against each other regardless of gender.  An Ultimate Frisbee match is played in 100m long grass pitch with 7 members on each team, 3 of which have to be either all women or all men. As for the 7th player of each team, the team decides if they want a woman or a man as their player. However, since this game requires players to be substituted, 7 players are never enough to make up an entire team. For example, we had enough male players to compete in the tournament but we lacked the necessary number of female players. In the meantime, 3 female players joined our team and that’s how we made it to the tournament. In total, we participated as a team of 9, but it was far from ideal. Since there wasn’t a limit to player substitution, other teams kept changing players as they played. Especially the women of our team suffered much from the lack of other female players to be substituted in our team. When we went to the tournament, we were already scared when we saw that other teams had more players than us. It is important to mention that an Ultimate Frisbee match can be played in a smaller area, like in an indoor facility or on the beach. In a smaller match, teams consist of 5 players, 2 of which have to be both women or both men. Just like normal matches, the 5th player is chosen by the team regardless of gender.

Another quality that sets Ultimate Frisbee apart from other sports is that there isn’t a referee that monitors and manages the match. Every player is responsible of themselves. When a mistake is made, the player responsible owns up to it. Though, some positions can be interpreted differently. If that’s the case, the two opponent members who were involved in the position come together to analyze and examine the position to reach a conclusion. If a conclusion isn’t reached, the flying disc is returned to the previous position where it was last before the position in question, and the game keeps on after that. If we think about how discussions in some sports are very referee-dependent, we realize the hardships of coming to a conclusion when a controversial position is observed.

Although these are not rules, there are some practices that are carried out in tournaments.One of which is the meetings that are conducted to evaluate the match when it’s over. Team players assess the match with each other first. They try to figure out if they complied with the rules, if they made any mistakes. When each team finishes their meeting, 2 members from each team come together to assess the match together. Team captains and spirit captains deliver short but constructive speeches. Yes, each team has two captains: the Spirit captain and the team captain. One of them deals with the technical aspects of the game, meanwhile the other handles sportsmanship related issues. Another practice is where teams give other teams scores based on the “spirit of the game”. These grades are given under 5 main categories. “Game knowledge and compliance to rules,” “foul play and contact,” “impartiality,” “positive attitude and self-control,” and “communication.” In short, this practice grades the opponent team’s commitment to the game’s spirit. At the end of the tournament, a scoreboard is made with these grades in mind and a team with the highest positive spirit grade is chosen.

https://www.oyununruhudernegi.org.tr/spirit-kagidi/

Now, let’s talk about how the Ultimate Frisbee is played. Ultimate Frisbee is played with a flying disc that’s 27 cm wide in diameter and 175 grams in weight.  A match takes up 40 minutes in total, with two halves that consist of 20 minutes each. Before a match begins, both teams have to wait in their own line, ready to play. The team that is to commence the match with the first throw has to get the permission of the opponent team. When the flying disc leaves the hand of the player that’s making the first throw, players in both teams are free to move. It is important for players to position themselves as long as the disc is in the air, and that’s why it is important for the disc to fly as long as possible. The opponent team can wait for the disc to hit the ground or catch it in the air. However, if the opponent team makes contact with the disk during the first throw, they lose their permission to offense. The team that makes the first throw attacks from where the disk lands. It is not allowed to walk around or run while holding the disc in hand, and the disc has to be thrown within 10 seconds. Otherwise, the other team gets offensive chance. The 10 seconds allowed for the player to hold the disc in their hands have to be counted by the defending player closest to them. If there’s no such defending player to count seconds, then this rule cannot be applied. Players aim to pass the disc to carry it to the opposing end zone. The offense score if they can hold the disc in the opposing end zone. After each score, teams change place.

These are the main rules by which Ultimate Frisbee is played. To read further on the rules and gameplay (in Turkish), you can visit the Oyunun Ruhu Dernegi website at https://www.oyununruhudernegi.org.tr/ultimate-frizbi-hakkinda/.  If you want to see it rather than reading it, then you can watch this video:

As long as you don’t play this game yourself, no matter how much we talk about the rules, the gameplay of this game and praise it, it won’t feel the same as playing it, believe me.  You need to play in a team, breathe in the tournament atmosphere. For example, tournament parties are a custom for this sport. These parties exemplify the beauty of this sport for us, since they also provide an environment for teams to have fun together outside of the game. 

One of the matches we played in the tournament reminded us of the sketch by Sahan Gokbakar, “10 Maçta 107 Gol Yiyen Takımın Teknik Direktörü.”  The opponent team was Frostbite Ultimate. They scored 26 points in that match, and that wasn’t something that happened every day. In this match, we only scored once but when we did, we could hear the audience cheering. Everyone was happy. Seeing the opponent team congratulate us was also a sight to behold.  We finally understood that this sport was very competitive but also it was played with great sincerity. They didn’t make our time any easier but they wanted us to play better. One can only experience something like this firsthand.

Ultimate Frisbee is such a sport that it makes one dream about the next tournament even after not winning a single match and placing last. In our journey going back, we had lots of fun. We talked about how fun the atmosphere was. We felt the beauty of Ultimate Frisbee even on the way back home, although we were the players that placed last. Now, we’re writing this text in October 2021, while dreaming that one day we may win a match or even a tournament. We went back to university with the same motivation after the one-and-a-half-year break because of the pandemic.  We want the students of Kirklareli University to get to know this sport as well, and we work to make Ultimate Frisbee become more widespread. We invite everyone who reads this text to try out Ultimate Frisbee, a rare sport.  Not only because we want to increase the number of people that know the sport, but because in its essence, we want to remind people of how much of a fun pastime it can be.

Source: https://www.plasedergi.com/bir-ultimate-frizbi-hikayesi-kirklareli-rabbits-2/

There may be updates to the source article that are not reflected in the translated text. This text is not final and therefore is subject to change.

Translated by Lara Yildirim on April 20th, 2022.

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