On a sunny September morning on Randall’s Island, 30 young women in mesh pinnies and athletic shorts run around on a large grassy field, flicking and catching a white frisbee. The Violet Femmes, NYU’s women’s ultimate frisbee team, can be found here every Saturday for three hours.
“Oh man, this is the best part of college,” Tisch sophomore Sophia Wang said. “I’m paying 70k to play frisbee. Go write that down!”
The team was founded in 2001 and chose its name as a nod to folk-punk band the Violent Femmes. Steinhardt senior Rachel Arbacher played ultimate in high school and immediately found a home on the Violet Femmes when she first came to NYU.
“Because [frisbee’s] so focused on community and spirit of the game, you have to feel comfortable enough to communicate with your teammates,” Arbacher said. “So we all make an effort to at least once a week, people are getting coffee or tossing a frisbee in the park or hanging out.”
Ultimate frisbee is played by two teams of seven people, and there are only two positions: handlers, whose primary role is to toss the frisbee, and cutters, who run around trying to catch it.
The essence of ultimate frisbee lies in the principle of the “spirit of the game,” which means that the expectations and responsibility of fair play lie in the hands of the players. This doctrine has been passed down from coaches and players throughout the years, which differentiates it from other sports.
Head Coach Anna Membrino is entering her seventh year in charge of the team and has witnessed firsthand the bonds that the Violet Femmes have formed.
“They’re a really strong community, they’re really smart kids and they’re really willing to learn,” Membrino said. “And they love each other a lot, which sort of can be said of all teams but it’s definitely true in this case.”
“Last year, we thought we’d make it to regionals, but our season got cut short and we just sat in this circle and we talked,” Wang said. “Everyone was crying partly because our season was over, but I think I was crying because I realized what frisbee meant to me.”
The Violet Femmes practice outside three times a week and try to schedule workout sessions at 404 Fitness at least once a week. The team competes in three regional tournaments during the fall season — the first of which will take place during the weekend of Oct. 4th in Vineland City, New Jersey.
Stern senior Teddy Le Nguyen and CAS senior Isabel Moroney are in their fourth and final year on the team. As team captains, their responsibilities include organizing tryouts, running practice and workout sessions and establishing a welcoming environment.
“In addition to being very strong players, they really care about the team and their teammates,” Membrino said. “Bringing rookies into the fold and making this a warm and positive community that can be hard to find at NYU, they work really hard to ensure that that is the experience that everyone on the team has.”
“You want to give back to them and give them the same experience that you had,” Moroney said. “I want this team to keep being as great as it has been for me for years to come.”
As a registered club team, the Violet Femmes receive funding and support from NYU Athletics in order to attend regional tournaments and reserve practice space throughout the semester. NYU Athletics declined to disclose how much funding it provides the team, but the department did state that the Violet Femmes receive the same support as all other club sports.
In recent years, ultimate frisbee has grown from being a casual pastime to a universally-recognized competitive sport. In 2015, the International Olympics Committee recognized ultimate frisbee’s governing body and is considering including the sport in the 2024 Olympics.
The Violet Femmes held tryouts in early September and saw a solid turnout of around 25 people, 11 of whom were accepted to the squad.
“We’ve definitely see an increase in incoming players who have played in high school which is on track with the growth of the sport across the country,” Membrino said. “So that makes sense and it makes for a stronger rookie class every year, so we’re slowly getting better and better and better. And then we have people who started last month. So it’s still going to be a range, but the top of the talent is definitely getting better.”
No matter how difficult it is to balance academics, having a social life and being on the Violet Femmes, everyone on the team has found a home that they would never give up.
“It’s like therapy, and college is so stressful,” Wang said. “None of us have time to do frisbee, but we do it because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to do college.”
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Sept. 30, print edition. Email Bela Kirpalani at [email protected]