Frisbee preps for annual Elephantitis tournament

The+Grinnellephants+and+Womens+Ultimate+pose+after+a+game

The Grinnellephants and Women’s Ultimate pose after a game

By Chloe Wray

wraychlo@grinnell.edu

This Saturday, Sept. 15, marks the 16th annual Elephantitis Frisbee Tournament. Elephantitis, or Titis. Grinnell’s ultimate frisbee teams’ first tournament of the year is also the only frisbee competition hosted on the College’s campus. The tournament will take place on the recently reopened MacEachron Field for a competition that has earned a reputation for its relaxed nature. Grinnell’s two teams, the Grinnellephants and Grinnell Women’s Ultimate, will be facing off against 20 teams from across the Midwest.   

In years past, Titis was completely organized, funded and run by the frisbee teams themselves. Through bid fees and the sale of frisbees — on sale this year, they will feature an elephant themed design — the team was self-sufficient with covering the costs of the event. Since 2015, however, both frisbee teams have transitioned to become part of the Athletic Department.

This supervision from administration and a College-funded budget has made logistics for the team easier. Last year was the first year the women’s frisbee team had a SAM, or a Student-Athlete Mentor. A program through the athletic department, SAMs parallel the work that a Community Advisor (CA) does in the dorm, but in the context of a team.

Without coaches for the frisbee teams, SAMs have been a great resource to all players, aiding the team captains in their responsibilities. This year, both the women’s and open teams will have SAMs who contribute to fostering the team culture by being receptive to and inclusive of all team members, and offering support and guidance as a role-model. Frisbee captains and SAMs tag-team these efforts, but the presence of SAMs on the teams also gives captains the space to focus more on planning practices.

In addition to the SAMs, Frisbee players now have access to the athletic training room, a development that contrasts with past years. 

However, guidance from the College has not deterred the teams’ fun-loving and independent spirit. Captains of the open team Michael Sundby ’19 and Liam Niehus-Staab ’20, and Cecilia Bergman ’19 of the women’s team, spoke on how not having a coach allows the members to maintain a self-sufficient and enjoyable culture.

“Frisbee was founded off of spirit of the game and playing for fun and it’s all self-ref[ereed],” said Niehus-Staab. According to him, the encouraging nature of the team — players of any and all skill sets and experience levels are encouraged to join — contributes to a deliberate autonomy, an essential characteristic of the team. For Sundby, the team executes this balance well.

“We’re sort of the old guard of frisbee in terms of culture, Grinnell,” Sundby said.

Fall is the frisbee off-season, so captains primarily focus on introducing new members to the team and teaching these players skills, while also refreshing those of veterans. The emphasis of the semester is learning rather than fierce competition, a factor that contributes to Titis’ casual nature.

“We do things in our Grinnell way… nothing is official,” said Bergman, adding that Titis will not be sanctioned or count towards teams’ rankings and the fields will be smaller. Niehaus-Staab added that “relaxed, fun, people usually don’t take it seriously the same way they do with other fall and certainly not spring tournaments.”

The frisbee teams welcome those interested to join them for a practice at any point throughout the year. Practice runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week, starting at 4:15pm on Mac Field.

The Grinnellephants and Women’s Ultimate pose after a game