Q&A: Matt Harbaugh, president of the University of Tennessee’s Ultimate Frisbee club

Matt Harbaugh is president of the University of Tennessee’s Ultimate Frisbee club, which just won its second consecutive Ultimate Observers Association SEC tournament and was granted an invitation to the UOA national championships. The club will host its own Dave Baldwin Memorial Tournament XI, spectators admitted free, Nov. 12 and 13 at Victor Ashe Park.

How’d the club manage a second SEC win?

This is the second year that there’s been an SEC tournament for ultimate, and we competed in Alabama against other teams within the SEC.

Did you beat any SEC teams we have trouble with in football?

We beat LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas. Florida did not have a team there, neither did Georgia.

Is it a co-ed club?

We’re a men’s club.

Are you a player/coach?

Just a player. We have a coach and also have two captains, but I’m the club president.

Did any of your players come up from high school ultimate?

Some, but others mostly haven’t played before and have to learn how when they get in college.

Do all the players need to be able to throw a Frisbee really far?

Not necessarily. The younger a player is, the more their throws will need development. Most of the veterans have the ability to throw long distances, but that’s not necessary for every player.

What more traditional sport would you say ultimate is most like?

Hmmm. It’s most similar to soccer and football combined—it’s like soccer with the continuous running, and like football because you pass and catch.

Do people get tackled?

If they do, it’s a foul.

How long have you played?

Six years now.

Who taught you?

In high school, we just played around. That kind of ultimate is completely different than college. At UT, the members just take you under their wing—the whole team develops you as a player.

Did you already know how to throw?

Kind of. There are multiple throws in ultimate, apart from the easy backhand throw everyone knows, like when you throw the other way, which is called a flick.

Do you have a specialty?

I guess the hammer. It’s kind of an overhand throw, over your head, like throwing a baseball. I think I grasped it because I played baseball in high school—center and left field.

So is the hammer a long throw?

It can be short, or it can be long, depending on your strength.

Are most of your ultimate players non-traditional athletes?

I’d say 10 percent are non-traditional. The other 90 percent, people ran track in high school or played football or baseball or soccer.

Are you a pretty rowdy bunch?

Sometimes, when we win, we get pretty excited and can get rowdy. And apart from being a team, we’re also a social club. We practice three days a week, so there’s really not time to join a fraternity. Hanging out with the whole team supplements the experience.

For more information about the Nov. 12-13 Ultimate tournament in Knoxville: web.utk.edu/~ultimate/

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