This spring, Frisbees are flying for Oklahoma Christian University’s inaugural Ultimate team.
Head Coach Gabe Cabrera began open training sessions for any students interested in joining next year’s squad. Practices are currently running two to three times a week and, with about 12 to 13 people showing up for every session, Cabrera said he is focusing on teaching the fundamentals of Ultimate.
“We have guys who really have a good grasp of the game,” Cabrera said. “[I am] making sure we work the fundamentals and try to get everyone on the same page and at least the same level come evaluations in April, so everyone is on fair footing. We spend like 25 to 30 minutes each practice just throwing foreheads and backhands so everyone gets an idea.”
Sophomore Ben Helm has attended every practice so far. He said his limited experience in playing “legitimate” Ultimate has not hindered him from learning and having fun.
“[Practices] have been a lot of fun, pretty difficult—more difficult than I was expecting since it’s the first year of the sport,” Helm said. “It’s been fun learning how to perfect my skills.”
Cabrera said he is currently not focusing on cutting people from the team because he wants everyone to stay encouraged. At the end of their practice Jan. 26, Cabrera reiterated this fact and said he would personally give feedback to each player.
“I’m going to private message each of you and let you know what I saw today—what you did well and what you need to work on and, overall, give you morale boost,” Cabrera said. “I’m not judging whether or not you’re on the team right now. You’re here, and that’s an important first step. I’m not going to kick anyone off when the freshmen come in next year. That’s not my goal. My goal is to have a good cohesive group that we can bring into the fall and add people to it.”
Another potential player, sophomore Logan Henley, said he has enjoyed learning and being exposed to something new.
“I do enjoy it,” Henley said. “I’ve never played a sport before, but I feel like this is a sport I can challenge myself and jump into without destroying myself with something like football or baseball. I’m happy with learning a lot. I wish I was doing better, but I’m happy to be athletic now.”
Even though the team is just starting off, Cabrera said he set the tone and expectations of the team early on, so he can establish a solid foundation before next fall. According to Cabrera, he wants people to experience the game and be dedicated but always remember the most important things in life.
“This is a chance for them to experience the game, understand what they do and don’t know and also allow me to say, ‘Hey, don’t give up, no one is good at anything when they first start, so stick with it,’” Cabrera said. “It’s still coaching but letting them know—you’re doing all right. I tell all of them the hierarchy is mental health and God, your school, your family, your physical well-being and then Ultimate. Ultimate should be no higher than fifth on your priority list.”
Cabrera said he is impressed with performances so far despite the limited practices, and he looks forward to seeing his players improve as the semester unfolds.
“The guys that we have are at a pretty good level,” Cabrera said. “To be perfectly honest, I would feel comfortable taking the squad of guys we had out tonight to my previous university and having them play the team there and potentially beating them. The level of skill of guys who are coming out already—the baseline is far beyond anything I’ve seen from just a team deciding, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this.’”
Students interested in becoming a part of the Ultimate team can email Cabrera at firstname.lastname@example.org.