New Strategies, New Goals, New Faces: Bronx Science’s Ultimate Frisbee Team Set to Soar to the Top

After last season’s second place finish, the Lone Wolves are in the hunt for the State Title.


Oscar de Swaan Aarons

Here are members of the ultimate frisbee team after their major 15-2 win against Stuyvesant High School.

Beyond the turf of Harris Field, spread out in the grass, a group of twenty-two players are tossing a plastic disc back and forth, warming up for an intense practice. They’re wearing cleats and unassuming athletic clothes. They’re the Lone Wolves, the official, yet unofficial ultimate frisbee team of Bronx Science. 

Previously known as “tossing the disc,” frisbee began at Yale University in the early 20th century. Close to the New Haven campus was Connecticut’s Frisbie Pie Company, whose metal pie tins held flight when thrown over short distances, thus becoming a popular pastime for Yale undergrads. It wasn’t until 1948 when American inventor Fred Morrison created the plastic flying disc that “tossing the disc” emerged from obscurity. The Wham-O toy company led the tide on mass production of plastic discs in 1951, naming their version the “Pluto Platter.” When the Frisbie Pie Company closed in 1958, Wham-O renamed their flying discs “Frisbees” as an ode to the game’s origins. 

While the game now known as ultimate frisbee began in 1968 in a parking lot in Maplewood, New Jersey by students from Columbia High School, the story of the Bronx Science ultimate frisbee team began just a few years later in 1975. Winning the East Coast Championship in 1979 and consistently defeating college teams from Columbia, Stony Brook, Yale, Princeton, and Wesleyan, Bronx Science quickly became an ultimate frisbee powerhouse. Even then, players on the team had a similar outlook to those playing now: “Sometimes you can feel pressure at this school; you can take it out playing frisbee. The day before the SAT exams, everyone was out playing. After we play, we go home and study,” said Lawrence Gardner ’83 in a New York Times feature article on the team.

Today, the team practices daily after school starting at 3:15 p.m., unless they have a tournament. “We’ll warm up, run around Harris Field, and then start throwing and cutting drills. From there, we sometimes work on specific skills like zone defense or learning a new play, and we always end with an hour-ish scrimmage,” said Roni Shaham ’23, who has been on the team since his ninth grade year. 

Last season, the Lone Wolves found themselves in the finals of the State Championship and clinched second place, the furthest the team has advanced in several years. “The State Championship last year was really an amazing experience. The whole team got much better and closer, and it was a ton of good competition,” said co-captain Vincent Harwood ’23, who has also been involved with the ultimate frisbee team since his ninth grade year.

However, this year the team is aiming even higher: the State Championship title. “We’re hungry to win,” said Shaham. “It’s going to take a lot of practice to get us there.” 

Shaham explained how the team is going to begin incorporating higher-level play into their practices, employing strategies like zone defense and lines, which are defined groups of players. Their biggest competition is Brooklyn Tech, the reigning state champions. 

Though Tech is now facing nationally-ranked teams, Science went head to head with them at the first tournament of the season, the DiscNY Youth Kickoff Tournament. “As teams we were much closer in skill last year and all our games were really close. This year they have bigger fish to fry, but we gave them a good fight in our first game,” said co-captain Oscar de Swaan Aarons ’23.

Some members of the ultimate frisbee team after a scrimmage to prepare for their match against Hunter College High School. (Oscar de Swaan Aarons)

Besides their ambitious goals for this season, there’s something else new about this team. For the first time in years, the ultimate frisbee team is co-ed. Though Bronx Science used to field an all-girls team along with the co-ed team (which was often dominated by male-identifying students, even if it was officially co-ed) and there were a few girls on the powerhouse 1970s team, the squad has been single-gender for a number of years. After this season’s tryouts, the team took four female-identifying players onto the squad. “It’s been great being on the team,” said Sabrina Tiger ’23, “There’s such a great sense of community, and I have so much fun playing with everyone.” 

Within Bronx Science and around the city, the ultimate frisbee team operates as a club, not an official PSAL sport. This is partly why they call themselves the Lone Wolves instead of the Wolverines. “Calling ourselves the Lone Wolves instead of the Wolverines is an homage to a student known as JRG who chose the name. He was a member of the team many years back and he died after playing a game due to an undiagnosed medical condition,” said Harwood.

Without official PSAL recognition, the team faces some challenges. The Lone Wolves can’t “officially” represent Bronx Science, they don’t receive Physical Education class opt-outs for their athletic commitment (which can sway potential players away from joining the team) and the coaches cannot be paid for their work. However, even with these drawbacks, players around the city and at Bronx Science are content with ultimate’s position as a club sport. 

“PSAL has a lot of gender exclusionary policies and the USAU, the organization that Beacon uses, is the total opposite, so becoming a PSAL sport would hinder us a lot,” said India Williams, a senior at The Beacon School who has been on their ultimate frisbee team since her ninth grade year. 

Shaham agrees with this sentiment. “I think the student-led aspect of the team really differentiates it from other sports and enables a much better community,” he said. This is what ultimate frisbee is ultimately all about: community. Ultimate has no referees during games, which places the responsibility of fair play on the athletes. This is referred to as “Spirit of the Game.” According to the USA Ultimate website, “Spirit of the Game places the obligation and expectation to play fairly on the players in order to maintain the integrity of the game. Whenever there is a disagreement about a call, players are expected to resolve the dispute on their own by expressing their perspective and listening to others.”

This year’s pack of Lone Wolves couldn’t embody this sentiment more. They’ve already started off their season strong, placing 4th at the DiscNY Kickoff Tournament, as well as wins over Hunter College High School and a blowout home victory against Stuyvesant High School, with a final score of 15-2. At a tournament in Middletown, CT, the team went 1-2 with  a 13-4 win over Westfield B, a close 10-9 loss to Middletown High School, and an 11-6 loss to Williston Northampton. 

“Our goals for the rest of the season include not only placing well in both city and state championships, but also coming together as a team both on and off the field,” said de Swaan Aarons. So while Bronx Science’s ultimate frisbee team may be on the hunt for the State Championship, their camaraderie remains the most important factor as they navigate through a season with new players, new strategies, and new goals.

“It’s been great being on the team,” said Sabrina Tiger ’23, “There’s such a great sense of community, and I have so much fun playing with everyone.”