UI frisbee team puts on “hat tournament” to raise money for Africa

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The following article (excluding pictures), written by Emily Bayci, appeared in the University of Illinois independent student newspaper, The Daily Illini March 28th, 2011…

To play Ultimate Frisbee, all it takes is one disc, about 11 inches wide. Some supplies can be added, such as cones or cleats, but the sport’s simplicity is what creates the worldwide draw.

During Peter Butzen’s time in the Peace Corps, he realized how easy it was to introduce the game to teenagers in foreign countries. Specifically, when he began working with the Teen Club — a psychological peer support group for young HIV-positive teenagers — in Gaborone, Botswana, he saw the simple sport could give the teenagers something positive to focus on.

“The game takes even less equipment than soccer and no ref is needed,” Butzen said. “Anyone can play it anywhere. It is great exercise and teaches sportsmanship better than any game I can think of.”

Butzen eventually came up with an idea: introduce Ultimate to the Teen Club. Needing more funding to support his goals, he decided to contact his friends in the U.S. who played the game.

He spoke to Pavan Sarguru, a member of Prion (the co-ed club Ultimate team at Illinois) and an alumnus of the men’s club team. Sarguru instantly thought of a tournament Ultimate teams used to put on, the Illinois Hat Tournament. He introduced the idea of bringing back the tournament, making it a combined effort with Prion and the Illinois men’s team to raise money for the Teen Club in Botswana and the men’s club team. The “hat tournament” concept means teams are comprised randomly, or drawn from a hat. The way the Illini will do this is by organizing the participants in categories of experienced Ultimate players and newcomers.

“There’s a camaraderie that comes from Ultimate that everybody who plays just understands,” Sarguru said. “There’s something about having the common understanding of playing a sport that’s different and fun, not because there’s any sort of recognition or because there’s any sustainable future in playing the game.”

The players were enthusiastic to help with the tournament and spread the word about the sport.

“I wish I could have been involved with Ultimate sooner, and to be able to help people who need something to care about would be great,” said Jonathan Hatcher, tournament director from the men’s club team.

Anyone can sign up to participate in the tournament. The funds raised from the $15 entry fee will be split between the men’s club team and purchasing rule books, discs and cones for the Teen Club. The goal is to give every participant in the Teen Club their own disc.

It’s not only money the groups want to raise, but awareness about how a simple disc can bring people together from different countries and help people grow in many different aspects.

“Playing Ultimate in Teen Club will make them part of a team, and encourage socialization rather than reinforce self-stigmatization,” Butzen said. “And having the connection with University of Illinois will show them a world beyond Gabs (Gaborone) and HIV.”

Tournament Website: http://www.illinoishat.com/

Original Article can be found at:  http://www.dailyillini.com/sports/2011/03/28/ui-frisbee-team-puts-on-hat-tournament-to-raise-money-for-africa