The Wellesley Ultimate Team (WUT) team got its start during the summer of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing and parents were looking for socially-distanced ways for their masked elementary school kids to have fun and get exercise. Now three years later, as the ultimate frisbee team preps for the state’s championship on June 3, it remains to be seen how things will be play out out as most of the team heads to high school in the fall.
Longtime ultimate player Jim Chen got the team going with his kids and other Schofield Elementary School students, and has been trying to get formal support through the public school system for the sport, with a grand vision of seeing the popular disc sport eventually go varsity at Wellesley High.
“Ultimate is a great alternative sport for kids no longer interested in traditional sports like basketball, baseball, and football. It’s a non-contact, outdoor team sport. The cost to playing the game is low—just cones, plastic frisbees, and field space,” Chen says. “The sport of Ultimate allows youths to develop their game as they choose. Ultimate can be a casual pick-up game, or it can be as competitive as you want it. Massachusetts high schools already have three divisions of play.”
As of now, the team is not formally affiliated with the public school system. “It is maddening to see middle school programs in Newton and Needham that have garnered such popularity that they had to restrict participation to tryouts,” said Chen, who says he has been unable to get the team officially recognized through Wellesley Public Schools or to work out anything on the liability forms front.
There’s a process to get sports on the varsity track at Wellesley High, usually starting at the club level. Teams such as cheerleading, girls’ golf, and boys’ volleyball have taken this path over the past decade or so in becoming varsity programs.
Wellesley High actually does have a Frisbee Club, which includes weekly ultimate games and weekend disc golf matches. Though Chen says it’s much more casual than what most of the kids on Wellesley Youth Ultimate are looking for. Assistant Athletic Director Chris McGrath says maybe a more formal team will develop in the future, but that there’s nothing immediately happening.
At other area schools, ultimate has become more formalized and co-ed teams are thriving. Natick High Ultimate was formed in 2010, and last year the varsity team won the Division 2 state title. Weston High has a new spring club team, and a program for little kids have emerged in that neighboring town as well.
The Wellesley Ultimate Team, which has a brand new website, has cobbled together a schedule of games that began at the end of March, with home games played at Sprague Fields. WUT has reeled off wins vs. middle school teams from Shady Hill, Belmont Day, Needham, and Newton, and games against a couple of high school junior varsity teams have been added to the schedule “to keep our kids on their toes,” Chen says.
“Our program is in the air for next year where we have not had the support from the school to grow the middle school team, and there is currently no Wellesley High School Ultimate,” says Chen, who played the sport in high school in California, as well as at college and in leagues like BUDA.
Chen says Boston has one of the most vibrant ultimate scenes in the country, and even points to a couple of Wellesley Ultimate Frisbee team members from the 1970’s and 1980’s who were inducted into the USA Ultimate Hall of Fame.
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