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The Yellow and Blue teams pose for a picture at the 7th Annual Jax Hat Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

The seventh annual Jax Hat Ultimate Frisbee Tournament was held this past weekend in Jacksonville, Ill. Ninety players from all over Illinois met at an elementary school’s soccer fields and were broken into six teams by “hat draw.” The “hat” process ensures that teams are evenly matched by taking into account each player’s experience and skill level, and then randomly assigning and mixing players into balanced teams.

The Highlighters tossing the disc off for the beginning of another team's possession. This is a lot like a kickoff in football.

My team was called “The Highlighters.” The name was picked for two reasons: First, our assigned shirt colors were a shade of yellow that can only be emulated by a florescent marker. Second, we were bound and determined to make our every play look like it belonged on an ESPN highlight reel.

For those unfamiliar with Ultimate Frisbee, think of it a bit like soccer or football but played with a Frisbee. Two teams of seven players try to move the disc toward the end zone of a field by passing the disc to their teammates. The other team tries to block the disc from being passed. Once a person has caught the Frisbee, they cannot move and must pass the disc to advance. If a disc hits the ground, it is a “turn” and possession goes to the other team. Players on offense have positions on the field called handler, cut and deep which correspond roughly to backfield, midfield and forward positions in soccer. Defensive players can either play man-coverage or zone defense. In this tournament, games were played to 15 points or until a time limit was reached.

Quincy natives Mat Duesdieker and Mike Erwin (with the disc) at Jax Hat.

Each team in the tourney played five games. For our team, the first game was probably the most difficult. At the beginning, you’re just getting used to your teammates’ playing style and learning who is best suited for which position. I started in the “cut” position. My main goal as a cutter was to run routes and try to get open for short and medium distance passes. The Highlighters started the first game on fire and we were moving the disc well and scoring points all the way until half-time. That’s when the opposing team made a run and eventually took the lead away from us. We played well even though we lost that first game, so we were excited to get on with the tournament.

Later in the day, I was moved to the “handler” position. The handlers (usually three players at a time) are responsible for moving the disc forward in short crisp passes at the beginning of an offensive possession. I actually don’t normally play handler on the Quincy Ultimate pick-up teams, but I really enjoyed the position, and I think I’ll try and play there more often in the future.

The Highlighters had a fun day in the hot sun, but we ended the tourney in last place with a record of 1-4. That didn’t matter to any of us really though. We’d played well and lived up to our goal of making some great plays. My personal best moment in the tournament was made off a pass that had ricocheted off of its intended target and ended up in my arms. I tossed the disc a few yards from there to another player who made a beautiful “put” or pass to the endzone for a point. It felt great!

Jax Hat wasn’t about our win/loss record or even the highlights though. It was about being able to get out with some other Ultimate Frisbee enthusiasts, make some new friends and have a bunch of new stories to tell. I had a terrific time and learned a lot from all of the players on the field.

I saved the best news of all for last though: YOU can still  try an Ultimate Frisbee Hat Tournament this year. Sign up is going on now for the Third Annual Quincy Hat Tournament. It will be held Saturday, Aug. 20, at the soccer fields behind Baldwin School. Registrations must be received by this Sunday. You can call Corey Miller at (217) 242-2424, email him at sukmydisc@hotmail.com and find the tournament on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=227901753898174&ref=ts

Also, join in the Quincy Ultimate Frisbee pick-up games. These informal games are wonderful for all players regardless of skill-level. The group meets at South Park’s lower fields every Wednesday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. There is no cost to participate — just bring your running shoes, some water and lots of enthusiasm.

Original Post August 3, 2011

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