TCU Ultimate Frisbee captain earns a spot on the No.1 team in the nation

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    TCU Ultimate Frisbee captain Michael Matthis has earned a place on the Doublewide Ultimate team based in Austin.

    Matthis, a senior criminal justice major at TCU, has been playing competitive ultimate frisbee for the past five years and has been a captain for the TCU ultimate team for the past three years.

    “I first got into ultimate in eighth grade,” Matthis said. “I was a competitive gymnast in Austin and we would play ultimate during the summer for conditioning. When I got into high school, my school had a team so I decided to join that for fun. I have been playing as much as I can ever since.”

    After graduating from McCallum High School in Austin in 2010, Matthis chose to become a TCU Horned Frog and made his way to Fort Worth. Once here, he joined the TCU Ultimate Frisbee Club team and became a captain by the end his freshman year.

    “I joined the TCU team because I had loved playing with my high school team and wanted to continue playing,” Matthis said.

    According to the TCU Ultimate Frisbee Club profile, Ultimate Frisbee is a limited-contact team sport played with a 175 gram flying disc. The object of the game is to pass the disc along the 70 yard field in order to score points by passing the disc successfully to a player in the opposing team’s end zone; similar to an end zone in rugby or American football or rugby. The more intricate rules of the game can be explained here.

    However, ultimate frisbee is about more than scoring points for your team. USA Ultimate, the governing body for the sport of ultimate, states the sport also relies on the Spirit of the Game, something that sets it apart from other competitive team sports.

    The Spirit of the Game is what binds the players together in ultimate and keeps them playing fair without the use of referees, according to USA Ultimate. For over 30 years it has allowed ultimate to prosper as a sport by relying on each player’s sense of honor.

    According to USA Ultimate, “The Spirit of the Game relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate unsportsmanlike conduct from the Ultimate field.”

    “My favorite part about playing ultimate is the great community it has," said Matthis. “You can play an incredibly intense or heated game, but when that game is over everybody is still friends.”

    Matthis will play in five tournaments around the country this year with Doublewide. With any luck the team will be heading to the national championships held in Frisco this October.

    Even with his already busy schedule, Matthis said he does not plan to give up on playing for TCU. When TCU ultimate practices begin in the fall, Matthis will again take up his position as a team captain. Even though he will be driving back and forth between Fort Worth and Austin every other weekend to participate in Doublewide practices, he said he refuses to let that stop him from being part of the TCU team.

    “Michael is driven to make the team successful in so many ways. He takes the time to reach out to the players individually on both our men’s and women’s teams outside of practice to form meaningful friendships,” Camille McDonald, recent TCU graduate and former captain of the TCU ultimate team, said.

    Matthis said mixing both teams’ schedules, along with school, will be a challenge for his senior year.

    “To put it simply, the beginning of my fall semester will be ridiculous, but obviously school comes first,” he said.

    This year Matthis said he hopes the TCU ultimate team will be able to continue expanding. After gaining a good freshman class this past year, he hopes the team will be able to start forming a solid foundation for the program by attaining a similar class this year. Matthis said the TCU ultimate frisbee's main goal throughout this year’s season will be to have both the men’s and the women’s teams make it to regionals and possibly the national championships.

    “His natural enthusiasm and skill keeps the players interested and motivated to be better everyday,” McDonald said. “He is a great role model by always being fair and having great sportsmanship.”

    The Doublewide and TCU teams have their differences as they pertain to Matthis. He will be going from student to teacher as he moves between the two teams this coming fall.

    Matthis said the main difference between the TCU ultimate team and Doublewide Ultimate is the level of play and intensity. After playing competitive ultimate for the past five years he admits that he is still one of the least experienced players on the Doublewide team. However, when it comes to the TCU team he is considered an advanced player, he said.

    “Every year the TCU teams get players who have never played before. We teach the basics every year, which I think is awesome. On Doublewide, however, everyone already has those basics, so the level of play is much higher,” Matthis said.

    When trying out for the Doublewide ultimate team, Matthis said he and the other prospective candidates for the team had to go through the two step process of both the open and closed tryouts. Each tryout lasted for two days.

    Matthis said the first tryout was open to anyone wanting to go out for the team. The tryout focused mainly on the defensive aspects of ultimate, which is what the Doublewide ultimate team is known for. They were drilled with one-on-one match ups before ending in a scrimmage.

    The second closed tryout was only open to people who had been invited back from the first, Matthis said. It was less focused on techniques and more focused on seeing how the candidates played.

    “Tryouts were definitely challenging. Some of the returning players that were there are some of the best in the world. Having never played anyone at that level before, I wasn’t sure how I would match up against them,” Matthis said when he recalled the process. “Honestly I was kind of nervous, but I was pleased with how I played that day.”

    Matthis said when he originally tried out for the Doublewide team he was not expecting to make the cut, but he still wanted to see where his skills stacked up against those who have been playing at the highest level.

    “I was just there to test and challenge myself,” he said when asked why he tried out.

    However, Matthis said when he found out he made the team he was as ecstatic as a kid on Christmas. He had wanted to be a part of for a long time.

    Matthis has set many goals for the upcoming season with Doublewide.

    “For Doublewide my personal goal is simply to play my role to make us the best team in the nation. I know I am not going in to be the star on the team. I made the team because I can play hard defense, so that will be my main focus while playing with them.”

    Throughout his whole experience with ultimate Matthis said that his parents have been the most supportive of him.

    “I can’t say enough about my parents’ support. They have driven to tournaments to watch even when they may not know what is going on,” Matthis said. “They have even housed myself and my entire team at times on tournament weekends.”

    Matthis said he has one simple goal for his future in ultimate.

    “My goal concerning ultimate is to simply play at a high level for as long as I can. It is the most fun I have ever had. I will continue to play ultimate after I graduate, and seeing as most of the players on Doublewide are already out of college, I will actually fit in better.”

    Matthis said he also wants people to know that ultimate is no longer a simple pastime game it used to be, but rather a sport that is quickly becoming something more.

    The hardest part about ultimate is the level of competency required of the players, Matthis said.

    “Unlike some sports, where you can play at the elite level by mastering one position while having basic knowledge of the others, ultimate requires you to be able to play every position well, while still specializing in one,” he said.

    “People should know that ultimate is the next sport to look out for. It is a much more intense and exciting sport than many people perceive it to be. Already you are seeing ultimate plays on Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays, and USA Ultimate just signed a deal with ESPN for them to cover the highest profile ultimate tournaments,” Matthis said.