The Ultimate Experience

Thursday, December 13, 2012 by Sam

Somehow I can’t believe December is almost done even as my deadlines are piling up, with Finals on the horizon and a smattering of projects due before then. My Magic Eight Ball seems to be afraid of telling me anything more concrete than “better not tell you now” whenever I ask it about getting to bed before midnight. Although, to be honest, I don’t find myself minding much when I spend those hours after the sun goes down relaxing with my suitemates, puzzling out our Probability and Statistics homework with others, and making impromptu trips to Jay’s, our late night pizza and snack haven.

But it’s not all homework (and more homework, and attending classes, and more homework) at Mudd. There’s no denying the workload is pretty hefty—we learn not only while watching lecture slides go by or taking notes, but battling it out on our Chemistry assignments and debugging our mistakes for CS, and there is always something more to learn—but we’re also pretty big on having fun outside of our homework as well. (Okay, so maybe it might be a bit of a stretch to say homework is necessarily “fun”, although I won’t deny that I that our assignments can be really, really cool, like writing an AI Connect 4 Player for my intro CS course.)

Every Mudder is different, and we all choose to spend our free time in different ways (I’d say “spend wisely,” but I sometimes find it hard to justify how making accessories out of painter’s tape constitutes as a “wise” decision. Yes, that was a personal experience). Some of my fellow Mudders have tackled the subject of fun at Mudd before, but I thought I would contribute by discussing one of the best decisions I’ve made since coming to Mudd: joining the Claremont Greenshirts, the women’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

Ultimate Frisbee in itself is an amazing sport (and no, it’s not the same thing as Disc Golf, although I have serious respect for that sport as well); I started playing in high school–shout out to my Centerville Outsiders!– and I knew coming to college I would want to continue lining up on the end zone and chasing down Frisbees. While visiting in the spring for the Admitted Students Program weekend, I heard about the Greenshirts, and got excited about the possibility of playing if I came to Mudd. Fast forward to this semester, where being a part of the team is even better than I imagined. Why, you might ask?

It’s a Fun Thing

Ultimate is intense. It’s more than just lazily throwing a Frisbee around with your friends at the park: it requires strategy and athleticism, and in my opinion, is dramatic like any of the major sports. (No, seriously, there’s no way to not get excited by watching highlight reels like this one or this one or…you get the point.) I have yet to find a better feeling than when I grab a disc out of the air, plastic solidly in my hands, a defender hot on my heels (or, preferably, not paying attention and drifting elsewhere). And as strange as it might sound, going to practice is a great study/work break for me. If I’m frustrated with my chemistry assignment or dragging my feet on revising a paper for Writ, I can put it aside for the two hours we have practice and put my focus into drills and scrimmaging, giving my brain something to focus and work on outside of solid state structures and meta-discussion. My academic stress gets used up with each flick of the wrist and sprint down the field. Coming back to my dorm exhausted after a practice is a great way to reset; with some food and a shower I’m ready to get back to tackling my homework (or taking a quick nap first).

It’s a Responsibility Thing

Being on a team, regardless of sport, also brings a lot of responsibility with it (this is a good thing, I promise). There’s the responsibility to my schoolwork: I have to make sure I have my math homework done and turned in before practice on Tuesdays, otherwise I’ll miss the deadline—time management has definitely come into play (haha, play) in order for me to make sure everything keeps getting accomplished like it should. There’s the responsibility to the rest of the team: going to practice isn’t just a matter of having fun, it’s also one of being where you say you’ll be, when you’ll say you’ll be there, because without it we won’t get better as a collective whole. Each person is responsible for helping make the team better, and without doing my share, I’d be letting others down. Having a team commitment, regardless of the sport, makes me work hard to be both a better player and person, and learn much more than just the rules and gameplay of my sport, as this really great article (Ultimate specific) discusses.

Because it’s not *just* a Mudd thing, it’s a 5Cs thing

I love Mudd (in case you haven’t noticed), and one of the cool things that makes Mudd so easy to love is its place in the Claremont Consortium. That means a ton of benefits as discussed by Ji Su that you wouldn’t think a school with enrollment under a 1000 would have. As the men’s Ultimate team, the Braineaters, and the Greenshirts are 5C-wide club sports, I get to meet lots of great people from beyond Mudd.

In fact, one of the seniors from Scripps and I were recently discussing how each of the Claremont Colleges draw different kind of people, based on what each college’s strength and offerings are. But with a 5C team and more largely among the 5Cs in general, we get a kind of diversity that comes from the unity of the five schools. I’ve gotten to hang out with a biology major from Pomona and chat about politics with a senior from Pitzer. When we’re not on the field practicing or playing together, we commiserate over homework, or ask for advice on what classes to take on each campus. Much like Mudd and our mixing of grade levels within dorms, we benefit from having players across the spectrum from freshmen to seniors, picking up advice on and off the field. I feel that over the course of the semester I’ve gained a fuller view of how great being part of the Consortium is.

I also get to actually see the Consortium as well, because of our diversity. We use a field on Scripps to practice; we have team dinners down on Claremont McKenna or up at Mudd; next semester we’ll also be down on Pomona each week. Every time I step of campus I come to appreciate the offerings of the other schools (although I will always argue that Mudd’s dining hall is definitely one of the best food options around). I also love the fact that we get to go off campus as well, getting a break from what some people call the “Claremont Bubble,” reentering a world that doesn’t necessarily revolve around due dates and class schedules. Getting to go to a tournament in Santa Cruz in early November was a great experience in terms of both the game play, and the companionship. The six hour car rides (!) were a great way to hang out and really get to know the awesome people my fellow Greenshirts are as more than just Ultimate players, and completely worth the 2-hour shift I served in the middle seat of the car. :)

Now that the team is looking towards next semester, I can’t help but get excited. More practices and tournaments are coming our way with a look towards making it to the DIII national championship (did I mention the Greenshirts are the DIII women’s defending national champions? Our returning players are awesome!) and having as much fun as possible doing so. While I’ll no longer be on Pass/Fail *mournful pause*, having had the limited pressure of this semester has helped me fit Ultimate into my schedule, and I will definitely remain invested in and a part of the Greenshirts. I wouldn’t want to have my experience as a Mudder and 5C student be any other way.

The ever amazing Greenshirts
A photo of the team after a first long day of competition in Santa Cruz. Go Greens! Photo by Jaz Zehner CMC ’15