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The Scarlet & Black

Elephantitis improves skills: Continuing tradition of strengthening players

By Lily Bohlke

Elephantitis is the first Ultimate Frisbee tournament of the season. For 14 years, the tournament has been hosted by the College each fall and is open to any school in the Midwest, regardless of division. 

“The focus of the tournament — and this has been from the beginning — has been on new player development for all the teams involved,” said men’s Team Captain Jack Graen ’17. “Once the spring semester rolls around, it’s when the competitive season starts up. … It’s supposed to be a fun tournament — fun, player development, [and] team chemistry building.”

The Grinnell men’s split-squad teams tied for 13th place out of the 18 teams in attendance. The women’s team got 11th place, second-to-last out of the 12 teams. First place for men’s was awarded to a team from the University of Mississippi, and first place for women’s went to a team from Iowa State. 

Although neither the men’s nor women’s teams finished outstandingly, they recognized that Elephantitis is not about winning. 

“We did terribly, we almost got last, but we didn’t, we beat one team. That’s not something we were really worried about,” said women’s Team Captain Annie Ramey ’17. “Elephantitis is a teaching tournament more than anything and teams come with the expectation everyone has new players and we’re all trying to figure out how to play.”

Ultimate is completely student-run without coaches, so students plan the tournament by themselves under guidance from Graen, Ramey and women’s team President Julia Dornbusch ’17. 

“It was communicating with a lot of different people, … the athletic department here, someone who’s in charge of club sports, … the Fairgrounds, Hy-vee and all the teams and their captains,” Dorn busch said. “Most other teams are also organized by students, so it’s a lot of communication between them, [and] some disorganization on behalf of everyone.”

In the middle of the tournament, Dornbusch and the other organizers faced a challenge — losing one third of the playing fields on Sunday. To resolve the issue, the organizers had to squeeze an extra field onto Mac Field and rearrange the brackets and the number of games each team played. However, despite the hiccup, everything ran smoothly. 

“I haven’t been involved in the planning before, so it always appears to be pulled off really smoothly. I’m sure there’s a lot more behind the scenes I never saw,” Dornbusch said. “I think it went well — we had a big turnout of teams, [and] we got really good weather.”

Another one of the many things to be planned includes coordinating a camp site at the Poweshiek County Fairgrounds and a catered meal from Hy-vee. Although many teams at Elephantitis are from nearby, they are not close enough to go home for the night. The College provides lodging and food for the teams at the Fairgrounds, which is said to be a fun, bonding experience and an opportunity to talk with Ultimate players from other schools.

“Ultimate is a pretty big community sport, so after day one of planning we’re all exhausted, but we’re all at the Fairgrounds hanging out, chatting, [and] making friends with people we don’t know,” Ramey said. “I had a lot of really interesting conversations with students from other universities, and that was really cool.”

The most important parts of Elephantitis are the learning experience and the fun. The College, as well as other teams, treats Elephantitis mainly as a way to allow the teams to experience a competitive Ultimate environment together. 

“Watching the rookies play is the most fun part because it’s their first experience actually getting to see what Ultimate is like,” Dornbusch said. “We really could see them grow from the first game on Saturday to the last game on Sunday and just become comfortable with the disc and on the field and with the team. It’s only two days, but you see a huge improvement and comfort.”

Because Elephantitis is a well-known learning experience, many teams want to participate. 

“We were full with teams from all divisions in like a day or two [after announcing the tournament],” Graen said.

This year, Elephantitis lived up to expectations. There was positive feedback all around from Grinnellians and from other schools. Of course there were challenges, but the organizers and the participants were able to work through them and have a fun, successful and informative tournament. 

“It’s unique, and that’s what makes it a Grinnell tournament,” Graen said.

A frisbee player prepares for his match.
A frisbee player prepares for his match.
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