Tag Archives: Ron Kaufman

Ultimately, 50 Years

2018 marks the 60th anniversary of some legendary Westport institutions:

Mitchells. Earthplace. Staples Orphenians. And the Staples High School boys soccer program (click here for details on this Saturday’s Wreckers event!).

Checking in at a mere 50 years old is Ultimate Frisbee. But — like those other local icons — it too has a special Westport connection.

Ultimate began in 1968 at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. A 1960 alum was teaching math at Staples. When Al Jolley heard of the game — non-contact, free-flowing, like a traditional “goal” sport but with a unique culture — he vowed to bring it to Westport.

The group played on an unkempt field behind the old 9 Building, at the east end of Staples. (Field hockey players chased them away, with sticks.) With no other teams in the area, they scrimmaged themselves.

An early Ultimate team. Alan Jolley is at far left.

They encouraged Weston High to form a team, and played them on April 5, 1973. Staples won 24-9, in the 1st interscholastic Frisbee game in Connecticut. It was also the 1st known coed interscholastic sports event. 

On April 14, Staples hosted Columbia High, in the 1st known interstate coed match. Staples beat the sport’s inventors, 18-8. (To be fair, the guests were missing several players.)

But Staples — in fun — declared themselves “National Champions.” The  National Observer sent a reporter from Washington to write about the team.

The Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame has honored 29″Johnny Appleseeds” of the sport. Four — Jolley and 1974 graduates Ed Davis, Ron Kaufman and Dan Buckley — are among them.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion several years ago.

From October 18-21, a grand celebration of Ultimate will be held in San Diego. Kaufman will fly in from Singapore.

The following month, Columbia High honors Jolley as a “Hometown Ultimate Hero.” For the 49th year in a row, the school will play a Thanksgiving reunion game, at the site of that very first one.

Unfortunately, they can’t get revenge for that loss to Staples, all those years ago. Jolley disbanded his team in the late 1970s, after issues with school administrators over things like insurance.

What an untimely, Ultimate end.

Alan Jolley’s Ultimate Adventure

In his 49 years as a Staples math teacher, Alan Jolley has earned tremendous respect and admiration. Future engineers and mathphobes alike look forward to his “Jolley calls” — phone messages to parents saying their kids have done well.

At last, he’s been inducted into a Hall of Fame.

For Frisbee.

Ultimate Frisbee is Jolley’s 2nd love. He founded Staples’ team — the 2nd in the nation — and coached it to national renown. Now he, and 1974 graduates Ed Davis, Ron Kaufman and Dan Buckley, have been recognized for their contributions, as members of the Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame. They’re honored as “Johnny Appleseeds,” for helping grow the sport following its founding at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion several years ago.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion in 2009.

Columbia High was Jolley’s alma mater, in 1960. Six years later, he arrived at Staples. In 1970 his sister sent him rules for a new sport being played at Columbia.

Some of Jolley’s students — and other teenagers he knew from his work with Boy Scouts and a church youth group — loved tossing Frisbees. He told them about this new “Ultimate Frisbee.”

The group played on an unkempt field behind the old 9 Building, at the east end of Staples. (Field hockey players chased them away, with sticks.) With no other teams in the area, they scrimmaged themselves.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

They created a “uniform” of blue jeans and a light blue turtleneck, with a Staples monogram on the front and “FriSbee” on the back (get it?). Many guys — and girls — wore red bandannas.

They encouraged Weston High to form a team, and played them on April 5, 1973. Staples won 24-9, in the 1st interscholastic Frisbee game in Connecticut. It was also the 1st known coed interscholastic sports event.

On April 14, Staples hosted Columbia High, in the 1st known interstate coed match. Staples beat the sport’s inventors, 18-8. (To be fair, the guests were missing several players.)

But Staples — in fun — declared themselves “National Champions.” The National Observer sent a reporter from Washington to write about the team. His article appeared on May 12, 1973.

Ron Kaufman today.

Ron Kaufman today.

After graduation, the 3 players inducted recently with Jolley continued to evangelize for the sport.

Kaufman has been particularly active. He founded the Ultimate team at Brown University, then sold “flying disc” equipment by mail, through a California store and online.

Kaufman organized a national series of Frisbee festivals (with Wham-O sponsorship), and created World Peace Tours to China and the Soviet Union featuring Frisbee demonstrations, festivals and tournaments.

He asked, “How can you drop a bomb on somebody you’ve played Frisbee with in Red Square?”

By that time, though, Staples’ Ultimate Frisbee team was just a memory. Jolley disbanded it in the late 1970s, after issues with school administrators over issues like insurance.

What a buzzkill.

1973 frisbee team

Staples’ 1973 Ultimate Frisbee team. Alan Jolley is at far left.