Monday, August 08, 2011

Made to Play in Madison

UW ultimate
Wisconsin Ultimate is all about the Hodags, but Madison has crossover players on the summer scene.

A surprising secret to Wisconsin’s success: Ultimate Frisbee [Y!sports . 7.20.11]

The first time Brian Butch heard about Wisconsin's unusual approach to offseason conditioning, the former Badgers big man admits he was baffled.

"I was happy we didn't have to run sprints, but I remember thinking, 'We must be the only basketball team in the country that plays Ultimate Frisbee," Butch recalled. "I thought everybody was nuts."

A month-long intrasquad ultimate Frisbee competition may seem like a silly summer ritual to the average wide-eyed freshman, but Wisconsin players who have participated in the July tradition often cite it as a key to their trademark team chemistry.

Newcomers build instant camaraderie with teammates through the friendly trash talk and banter that has become a staple of the competition. A new set of team leaders naturally emerges based on which players take charge of their respective squads. And every player endures a fun yet surprisingly intense workout sprinting up and down a campus soccer field during the fiercely contested games....

The annual ultimate Frisbee competition began 16 years ago when Hettenbach concocted it as a way to break up the monotony of the basketball team's daily summer weightlifting and conditioning sessions. Hettenbach chose ultimate Frisbee because he enjoyed the game and he believed it could improve players' hand-eye coordination and test their ability to fight through fatigue....

What amazes Hettenbach about the competition each year is the correlation he typically sees between ultimate Frisbee and basketball. Hettenbach says he spotted Taylor's natural leadership skills, Gasser's ability to thread passes into tight spaces or Mike Bruesewitz's willingness to sacrifice his body long before any of them displayed those traits on the basketball floor.

Much like most newcomers to Wisconsin basketball, it took Butch just one summer to appreciate the change of pace Wisconsin's annual ultimate Frisbee competition provides. Butch still recalls the pride and excitement he felt in July 2003 after his teammates mobbed him for making a game-winning diving catch in the end zone as time expired.

"That was one of the better times my freshman year," Butch recalled. "To have the whole team jump on you like you'd hit a game-winning shot, it was a pretty cool thing for me as a freshman. Every year after that, I always looked at ultimate Frisbee a little differently.

"Our team chemistry is the reason we've won all these years, and that starts in the summer time. It starts by hanging out and it starts by doing the goofy ultimate Frisbee."

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