Breaking News
More () »

Minnesota's ultimate frisbee teams work to expand the sport

Ultimate frisbee may be a mainstay in schoolyards, but two semi-professional leagues are finding a home in the Twin Cities and trying to grow and expand the sport.

Devin Ramey

Play Video

Close Video

Published: 3:07 PM CDT July 3, 2022
Updated: 8:31 AM CDT July 9, 2022

Editor's Note: The video above originally aired on July 9, 2022.

With a 2-year-old daughter at home, his own insurance firm and a budding semi-professional team to coach and manage, Ben Feldman says his summers are chaotic. But the chaos of operating a fledgling sports team and expanding it for the next generation of fans and players is worth the chaotic summer months.

In the middle of a hot Minnesota June, Feldman leads the Minnesota Wind Chill's practice at Robbinsdale Middle School as they prepare for their upcoming home game at Concordia University, St. Paul's Sea Foam Stadium. For players on the team's 30-man roster, who practice in 100-degree heat, playing semi-professional ultimate disc isn't about the money - it's about continuing to play the game that they love, even if others question its legitimacy.

Ultimate frisbee, which is called ultimate disc in semi-pro leagues, is a staple of schoolyards and college campuses but has grown and matured as a sport over the last few years. For those who have never played ultimate disc, a frisbee is a simple dog toy, mostly seen at dog parks with pups flying through the air to snag it.

The American Ultimate Disc League was founded in 2010 and launched in 2012. Now, the AUDL stretches coast-to-coast, across the United States and Canada, with 25 teams. The Wind Chill joined the league in 2013 and has made the playoffs three times in the seasons since.

'There's something unique about a disc floating and flying in the air'

For Feldman, his love of the game stems from the same love that many football fans have.

"There's something unique about a disc floating and flying in the air," Feldman said. "In football, you get the same excitement for a few seconds; in ultimate, it's triple that amount of time. The anticipation, I think that's what makes our sport so exciting, you got people laying out, diving for the disc."

Credit: Devin Ramey/KARE 11
During practice at Robbinsdale Middle School on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, a Wind Chill player jumps into the air to catch a disc.

Before becoming a co-owner of the Minnesota Wind Chill, Feldman played at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"I played and am really close with a lot of guys on the team so that always makes it even more motivating when you got close friends," he said.

While the Wind Chill looks toward the rest of its 12-game regular season with their sights on the playoffs, the Twin Cities' other semi-professional ultimate disc team is looking ahead to their off-season.

The Minnesota Strike, which is a part of the 12-team Premier Ultimate League, ended their six-game regular season on June 4 with a 7-20 home loss to the Raleigh Radiance. The team ended the season seventh in league standings with a 2-4 overall record.

The league launched in 2019 with eight teams and grew in 2020 with four expansion teams, which included the Strike.

Leslie Boey, the co-owner and operations manager for the Strike and a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota, said the team had just finished its first official season after it was founded in 2020, just before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Wind Chill serves as the men's ultimate disc league, the PUL focuses on providing cis/trans women, non-binary, genderqueer and genderfluid folks a place to play ultimate, according to Boey.

"There had yet to be a team for women and non-binary folks," she said. "The need was there, the talent is here, my gosh, the talent is here. It's been really exciting to see people come out."

With leagues open to everyone across the gender spectrum, ultimate disc is poised for wider growth as a sport, a goal both the AUDL and PUL aim for.

Before You Leave, Check This Out