Organizers of Missouri Loves Company Ultimate Frisbee tournament keep busy

Saturday, November 12, 2011 | 8:11 p.m. CST; updated 12:24 p.m. CST, Monday, November 14, 2011
Alex McNamara, left, throws the flying disc while Will St. Charles tries to stop him during the Missouri vs. Colorado Ultimate Frisbee game at the Missouri Loves Company flying disc tournament on Saturday at Cosmopolitan Park.

COLUMBIA — Twenty-four fields, 330 gallons of water, 62 cans of paint, 325 pizzas and 550 pounds of fruit.

Two men.

If you go ...

  • WHAT: Ultimate Frisbee club tournament
  • WHERE: Cosmopolitan Park
  • WHEN: Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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This is what it takes to run the Missouri Loves Company Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

The MU Ultimate Frisbee club team will host 40 men’s teams and 16 women’s teams from across the country this weekend at Cosmopolitan Park in one of the largest tournaments of the fall season.

The team’s co-presidents, Spencer Hollenbach and Steve Stallis, have the sole responsibility of organizing the tournament. The job includes accepting bids, reserving fields, purchasing amenities for each team and solving any other miscellaneous problems that might arise throughout the process.

As a club sport, teams have no choice but to organize and run tournaments themselves. In a way, it’s like if Frank Haith and Kim English had to call Bill Self personally to organize a game and then rent and clean a basketball court for the teams to play on.

Hollenbach, a sixth-year graduate student and head coach of the team, has been working steadily on organizing the tournament since early August. Setting up Missouri Loves Company, as he described, is closer to a job than a hobby.

“I don’t think I could even put a number on how much work it’s been. It’s sort of like a part time job, where every day I’m putting in an hour or two hours of work. Obviously, this past week I’ve been working full time on it,” Hollenbach said. His voice is tinged with exasperation. “It’s a lot of hours.”

Those hours are mostly filled with sending and receiving emails. Hollenbach must establish which teams are attending, how they will deliver their entry fees and how the various brackets will be organized. Hollenbach estimates that, in the past few months, he has sent nearly 1,000 emails related to the event.

Stallis has his own set of responsibilities that includes reserving fields and buying enough food and drinks to feed 56 teams.

If each team requires six gallons of water for the two-day tournament, Stallis must have 330 gallons ready to go. Obviously, you can’t just stroll into Walmart and buy that massive a quantity.

Or maybe you can.

“I went to two Walmarts today, and I’m going to a third one tomorrow. I just went right in and got it. You should have seen how low my car was riding,” Stallis said, laughing quietly to himself. “There was 26 gallons of water in my car alone.”

As for food, it’s typical for the tournament hosts to provide fruit or other healthy choices to teams throughout the day. For Stallis, this meant a trip to Sam’s Club and a rather unusual order.

“I have a membership at Sam’s Club, so I went there about three and a half weeks ago and said, ‘Hey, I need 200 pounds of apples, 200 pounds of oranges, and 150 pounds of bananas.’ They just stared at me and then were like, ‘OK …’”

Of course, while fruit and snacks go a long way, Hollenbach and Stallis decided to take their hospitality one step further. They will be providing 325 Domino’s pizzas for the event, to be delivered at two different times on Saturday.

As it turns out, this tournament is almost as much work for the restaurant as it is for Missouri Loves Company’s organizers.

“We normally, on a Saturday day shift, have about five people working,” said Brian Brown, Domino’s district manager. “For this, we’re going to need at least 10.” He paused and then reiterated his point. “At least.”

Stallis also purchased 62 bottles of white spray paint, which he and the other members of MU’s team used to line the fields at Cosmopolitan Park on Friday.

As Hollenbach described, many of the tournaments he has competed in have featured relatively poor conditions, with games being played on poorly kept lawns or fields intended for other sports. Rarely are the fields lined according to Ultimate Frisbee regulations.

The efforts of the MU club team are one thing that separates its tournament from other competitions they’ve been to.

"You’ll go to tournaments as a team and be playing on sort of like mowed farms — not really professional ground or anything like that,” Hollenbach said. “Cosmo Park is really premier, and that’s the image that we want.”

Obviously, a lot more goes into running a tournament than just showing up and competing. Stallis and Hollenbach know that better than most.

“You see all these cool events and you go to them, but now that we’re running it, it’s like … wow, it takes so much to run a tournament,” Stallis said, shaking his head. He seems visibly overwhelmed. “There’s just so much you have to do.”

Lost in the shuffle of all this preparation is that fact that the MU club team will also play on Saturday. The five hours per week the team spends practicing pales in comparison to the workload Hollenbach and Stallis have undertaken in putting Missouri Loves Company together.

The team, which is an all-time best 26-1 going into the tournament, is looking to establish itself as an elite team and score victories against some of the sport’s traditional powerhouses. Hollenbach, on the other hand, hopes that organizing one of the season’s best Frisbee tournaments will gain him something greater.

“Glory, I guess,” he said, laughing loudly.

The graduate student, former player and coach smiled for a second, before explaining what makes all the countless hours of preparation worth it.

“I’ve benefited from this tournament every year I’ve played," he said. "I’ve seen what it takes to run it. It’s certainly a lot of work, but it feels good to give something back.”

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spencer hollenbach November 13, 2011 | 10:00 p.m.

Mike, great article. I waited to read it until after the tournament today and it was a great pick-me-up after the exhaustion set-in. Steve said that he laughed while reading it. It will be something I aim to keep around for some time, so thank you.
I do have a few 'real' comments though. The headline is a bit wordy. Some readers may have never even gotten to your lead because of the length and complexity of the headline phrase. I am aware that normally this is not the reporter's responsibility, so I am not faulting you.
Keep up the good work!

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