Newly Hired Frisbee Coach Helps Horsecows Fly
Students may have spotted them demonstrating their skill and prowess on a snowy field. These students weren’t watching some highly endangered species, but members of one of Oberlin’s most popular club sports, the Flying Horsecows ultimate Frisbee team.
The men’s team, led by seniors and co-captains Dan Lesser and Henry Schneider, looks to become even more skilled this season after hiring a coach, Darden Pitts.
Pitts, a former member of the United States ultimate Frisbee men’s national team, is 21 years old and has come to Oberlin to coach for two months. Schneider said, “He played on the national team. He also played on a good Boston team, Death or Glory [a semi-pro elite club team].”
Prior to his high school graduation, Pitts competed on the Amherst Regional High School team alongside Lesser. “I played with him in high school for a couple of years and convinced him to move to Oberlin,” said Lesser. He also noted that Pitts has participated in competitive Frisbee since seventh grade.
Although Pitts agreed to spend a two-month stint in Ohio, he is not receiving his salary through the Student Finance Committee. “We are paying him. We are fundraising,” said Lesser.
Schneider added, “Our fundraising comes from merchandise,” with Lesser noting that Horsecows apparel is available at the Oberlin College Bookstore.
The team also throws parties and hosts annual tournaments to raise cash. Schneider said that “each team has to pay 200 dollars” to compete within the tournament.
With a notable athletic legacy, Lesser said that the Oberlin ultimate team “started in 1976. It was a powerhouse in the Great Lakes region in the 1990s. We made it into the national championships. Darden is helping us to get to nationals again.”
Pitts has been in Oberlin for just over a week, but Schneider believes that he will prove extremely beneficial to the team as well. He said, “Darden is someone who will be able to manage the team, and step away on an observational level,” noting that without a coach “things can get a bit hectic, very unclean.”
In terms of improving team skill, the Horsecows look to receive an ‘edge’ from Pitts. Schneider speaks highly of the new coach. “He can donate more of his time to individual players and improve their skill, but he can also bring in new ideas and a fresh perspective.”
Schneider believes that Pitts will help the team in terms of organization as well. “Any person who comes to practice with an attendance sheet or drills for the day helps for logistical planning,” he said.
Because Frisbee teams compete with only seven players on the field, and the Horsecows have approximately 15 players on each of their two teams, there is “a lot of subbing,” according to Schneider.
As for choosing Pitts as a coach, Schneider said, “It’s been a really long and thoughtful process for the team.” Certain concerns were raised, such as the fact that Pitts had never been to Oberlin and didn’t share the Oberlin experience, along with the possibility that Pitts’ presence would change the social dynamic because he is an outsider the same age as the players.
Because the Horsecows are a club team, they hold high regard for their self-sufficient legacy: “Self-dependency is a really important part of our team, so we were really concerned with preserving our identity as a club sport and as the Horsecows,” said Schneider. “But at the same time, [hiring a coach] was a deliberate conscious decision.”
Although the Horsecows are not allowed on North Fields until Director of Oberlin College Recreation Center Betsy Bruce gives the okay, they are already gearing up outside for the college championships; the sectional champions (which, if the Horsecows shine, may lead the team to regionals and nationals) will be played April 5-6, and the team competes in three regular spring tournaments before that time. Schneider noted that “we have a very good defense” entering into these matches. Darden-Pitts could not be reached for comment.