PSU news by
Penn State's student blog

Topics

About

Get To Know SPANK: The Penn State Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Team

At Penn State, ultimate frisbee isn’t just some game people play as a leisure activity on a sunny day. Playing on the official Penn State ultimate frisbee team takes some talent, dedication, and hard work.

The team’s official name, SPANK, represents the aggressive, in-your-face playing style the team takes on during games. The members of SPANK treat their conditioning and training like they’re D1, sometimes spending hours in the rain and mud until no one can walk anymore. Working so hard at a sport that gives them no financial benefit or really any career aspirations might seem ridiculous — that’s the magical thing about it. These guys aren’t doing it for themselves, they’re doing it for each other.

The history of Penn State ultimate is one of legend. With no official source of documentation, history of the club sport has been passed down through word of mouth. Coach Jacob Smith and previous captain Jack Kelly gave us a glimpse.

Penn State ultimate started back in the late 70s. At the time, the team’s name was the Penn State Ducks and it played a game during the ’78 Rose Bowl. Upon its return, it decided to change its name to the Highly Enlightened Lords of the Valley — Lords for short. At some point in the 80s, this trend of goofy names continued and the group coined itself the Unwed Fathers. The goofiness was part of the ultimae community and was a hard identity to escape from. It’s no surprise the game is often associated with hippies and dogs.

At some point, however, ultimate at Penn State started to get serious. In the 90s it left behind the Unwed Father’s moniker and called themselves SPANK. The name still isn’t gravely serious, but why should it be? Since then, the sport in general has grown to new heights with competition improving every year on the youth, college, and club levels. For Penn State, major success came in the 2003-2004 season when the team made it to nationals. That was the last time SPANK made it to the big show, but it’s been extremely close a few times since.

It hasn’t been all smooth frisbeeing, though. Blatant miscommunication between Penn State Club Sports and SPANK resulted in the team being suspended for the 2005 and 2006 competitive seasons. Essentially, SPANK caused some damages to community fields while hosting a tournament in Spring 2005. This resulted in a major long term suspension. When the suspension was finally lifted, the program struggled to get back on its feet.

Since then, the team has almost worked its way back up to the national level. Coming one game short of qualifying on multiple occasions, SPANK is back on the right track. By the 2013 season, it cultivated enough talent to compete with other teams across the country, yet mental collapses caused it to repeatedly collapse during key moments.

“We lost many big games — not because we weren’t as skilled as the other team — but because we got in our own heads and didn’t fully play as a team,” captain Codi Graham said.

The team focused heavily on two things in 2014: improving its mental toughness and beating top tier teams. With an increased training regimen (lifting and conditioning twice a week throughout the winter), the team improved a bit, but youth held them back. 2015 was a different story. The younger players stepped up to the plate and concentrated on learning the team system. Everyone began playing for each other rather than for individual glory. These adjustments translated into results on the field.

“The brotherhood formed during this season was one of the most incredible team experiences that I’ve ever been a part of,” Graham said. “This brotherhood shared between the players helped us to reach new levels as a team.”

The upcoming 2016-2017 season has the team geared up to finish what it started last year. Many players return in hopes to continue the team’s legacy and elevate it. The members know Penn State ultimate is more than just a regional contender — it can compete nationally with the best of the best.

Whether it crosses that plateau and makes it to nationals this year doesn’t really matter, though. The members of SPANK are in it for the brotherly compassion. The pride of playing with one another is their main motivation, not trophies and medals.

“Somewhere along the line I think we realized that playing just to win isn’t enough because every team in the country wants to win. Now we train hard because it allows us to come together and accomplish something that we can’t do on our own,” captain Graham Walker, said. “I think that’s the idea behind amateur athletics that so many teams (in any sport) have gotten away from. It can’t all be about wins and losses.”

Ultimate helps teach these young men lessons they can carry with them for the rest of their lives — things that can’t be learned in a classroom. Some people like to spend their time in fraternities, sororities, THON Orgs, and other university run clubs. SPANK members like to spend it chasing around a piece of plastic with their best friends.

If you want to get involved or learn more about SPANK you can visit its website here.

About the Author

Ben Rappaport

is a junior English and Journalism major at Penn State. He loves spending way too much money on concerts and music festivals. Ben can usually be found walking around campus listening to Kanye West. A fun fact about him is he once was resuscitated from unconsciousness by Pusha T's verse on the song "Mercy." Feel free to contact him at [email protected] or follow him on twitter at @Benrappp.

Comments

More by Ben

Five Penn State Women’s Soccer Stars Named To U.S. U-20 National Team World Cup Roster

Rose Chandler, Maddie Elliston, Ellie Jean, Emily Ogle, and Kaleigh Riehl have all been named to the U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team for the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

Penn State To Receive $20 Million Grant For Medical Discoveries

Kanye West Conquers Penn State Once Again

Athletics

Incoming Penn State Track & Field Athlete Kristian Marche Shot To Death In Philadelphia

The incident surrounding Marche’s death is “under investigation,” according to the Philadelphia police department.

Former Women’s Gymnastics Coach Files Lawsuit Against Penn State Over Handling Of Abuse Allegations

Men’s Soccer Trio, Reading United Win PDL Eastern Conference Title, Fall Short Of National Championship

Penn State Hockey’s Evan Barratt, Aarne Talvitie Participate In World Junior Summer Showcase

Ally McHugh Wins 400 Medley National Championship

Student Life

Girirajan Lab Seeks To Bridge The Gap Between Fly And Human Genomes

The lab uses a combination of human genomics, computational biology, and functional studies, using Drosophila and human cell lines, to understand the risks caused by genetic mutations and to grasp how gene disruption leads to altered neurodevelopment.

Join Onward State: Fall 2018 Application

Pennharmonics To Hold 25th Anniversary Reunion Concert

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

Join Onward State: Fall 2018 Application

Onward State is hiring for the fall semester and we’d love to have you join us.

Incoming Penn State Track & Field Athlete Kristian Marche Shot To Death In Philadelphia

The incident surrounding Marche’s death is “under investigation,” according to the Philadelphia police department.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Madden NFL 19 Ratings For Nittany Lions

For the second consecutive year, Sean Lee is the highest-rated Nittany Lion in the Madden video game.

Send this to a friend