Two players with Brown ties have earned an invitation to ultimate frisbee's biggest stage — the 2010 World Ultimate Club Championships.
Hana Kawai's '10.5 and Josh Ziperstein's '05 teams both earned spots in the tournament after success at this year's Ultimate Players Association Club Championship, where Ziperstein's team won the tournament's open division and Kawai's finished second in the women's division.
Kawai's Boston-based club Brute Squad lost to a team from San Francisco in the finals of the tournament, which took place from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1. Chain Lightning, Ziperstein's Atlanta-based team, beat a team from the San Francisco Bay Area to win its first national championship.
"It's a pretty huge deal to win the national championship," Ziperstein said.
The world championships will be held in Prague, Czech Republic, in July.
Ultimate frisbee, a limited-contact team sport invented in the late 1960s by a high school student from Maplewood, N.J., has grown in popularity in recent years, especially on college campuses. The sport, played seven-a-side at the club level, combines features of frisbee, football and soccer.
Kawai's interest in ultimate frisbee started in high school, and she played for the U.S. junior national team before coming to Brown. Kawai, who is also a member of Brown's women's club frisbee team, "Disco Inferno," played for Brute Squad this fall and will compete for Brown in the spring, she said.
Ziperstein, who played soccer in high school, decided to switch to frisbee after he was admitted to Brown and heard it had a good ultimate team.
"Most people chose colleges based on the sport," he said, "but I ended up choosing the sport based on the college."
Besides playing for the Brown team, Ziperstein started playing with a club team in Boston his sophomore year. Now living in Atlanta, he has played with Chain Lightning for the last three years.
Because there is no professional ultimate frisbee league, the club championship is where the best players meet each year.
"It's the best frisbee there is — much more competitive and fast than college frisbee," Kawai said.
Ziperstein, who plays as a downfield cutter, said on-field positions are much more specialized in club ultimate.
"Socially, it's very different," Ziperstein said. "With the Brown team you're playing with your best friends. You play, then go to the Ratty together — it's the best thing imaginable."
At the club level, "most players are people with real jobs with time commitments, and this is their way of having fun," Kawai said. "People always recognize each other at tournaments, and the fact that many people don't consider it a real sport adds on to its cult-ish image."
Since graduating from Brown in 2005, Ziperstein has kept in close touch with many of friends from the Brown team, he said. Playing club frisbee even brought him his first post-college job at Massachusetts General Hospital — a doctor with whom Ziperstein played offered him a position.
Because club teams do not usually have a coach, team members have to take care of the logistics on their own, including fundraising, publicity, practices and transportation.
Practices take place every weekend, and Brown students playing for Boston teams must learn to work out their academic and social responsibilities accordingly.
Kawai travels to Boston every Friday, staying at a friend's for the night, and then returns to Brown, where she is double-concentrating in education and ethnic studies and currently working on a thesis.
Ziperstein graduated from Brown with a degree in bio-engineering and now attends medical school at Emory University.
"Sports is a microcosm of life," he said. "All the skills you need to play at this level are useful time and again for life, medical school and friends."
Though Kawai and Ziperstein are excited about qualifying for the world championship, both are unsure whether they will attend. The time of the tournament may clash with medical research Ziperstein will be performing abroad, while Kawai's team will need to raise a substantial amount of money and take care of other logistics in order to travel to the tournament.