If you’ve ever noticed the sweaty group of students out on Noyes Circle then you have stumbled across Vassar’s Ultimate Frisbee team. The players do it purely for fun and dedicate time and energy each week for their own enjoyment and passion for their sport. No one can quite attest to this other than Vassar’s very own Frisbee super-siblings, sophomore Ezra and senior Benno Orlinsky.
Frisbee has been a huge part of their lives and was popular in the town where they grew up. Benno began playing the sport at a young age, “I started playing ultimate Frisbee in elementary school. Ezra and I grew up in Amherst, MA, a strange town where Frisbee is the most popular sport, and you start playing much earlier than most places.” Like Benno, Ezra also began playing Frisbee when he was in elementary school along with other sports such as soccer and basketball. Ezra spoke about the how the two brothers got started with the sport, “There were lots of opportunities to play from an early age – at recess, in summer leagues, etc. It’s also a varsity sport at our high school as opposed to a club, which is super rare, so we both played very seriously at home. The high school program was pretty rigorous – we practiced every day, flew to tournaments around the country, and had an intense, professional coaching staff.”
The Frisbee team is a cohesive group of people that support one another on and off the field as fierce competitors and as friends, but the atmosphere associated with the Frisbee team is perhaps even more easy-going and mellow than the majority of varsity sports teams at Vassar. Ezra echoed these statements, “Probably my favorite thing about the Vassar team is that we manage to work hard and care about the Frisbee without taking ourselves too seriously or losing the fun. Even if we’re in an intense game, it never stops being a chill environment for long, which is a huge contrast from our ultra-serious high school team. Its less structured, more laid back, but the competition itself is still good. Everybody’s welcome at practices and we often do things as a whole team together, so your relationship to the team can pretty much be whatever you want it to be.”
Playing on a team with a sibling adds a whole other dimension to the sport for Benno and Ezra. Benno spoke about playing on a team with his younger brother, “Playing with Ezra has been incredibly fun and rewarding. We’ve been playing together for so many years now that I know what he’s going to do on the field before he does it. We have a pretty harmonious relationship, although things do get a little heated when we guard each other in practice.” Ezra felt the same way, but also mentioned how the two brothers have never been ones to compete with one another. “I don’t know if it’s a brother thing or because we learned the sport in the same system or a little of both, but Benno and I are on the same page on the field almost all the time. We score a lot of goals thrown from me to him. It’s also cool because we get to hang out at practice and Frisbee parties. I feel like we’re not really the type of personalities to have sibling rivalry – even when we were growing up we never really fought like a lot of siblings do.”
This harmonious relationship could be due to the fact that these brothers have different sets of skills on the field. Benno commented, “I’d say we’re both better at different aspects of the game (although I still beat him one-on-one because I’m the big brother.)” Ezra rebutted, “in terms of ‘who’s the better player?’ it’s not exactly comparable because we have different roles on the field. Benno’s more athletic than I am, and I have better throws. It’s like comparing a QB and a wide receiver.”
Both siblings have pushed each other to become better players as well as helped each other with various aspects of college life. Benno spoke about what he has learned from his younger brother, “In Frisbee, Ezra’s helped me to develop myself as a receiver, and has always impressed me with how hard he works every point. In life, he’s taught me a lot about Facebook rebranding, and has always impressed me with how scrubby he is all the time.” Ezra appreciates his brother’s calm and level-headed nature, “In everything he does, but especially on the field, Benno is super laid back. As a captain this year, he’s definitely a voice of reason and mental toughness, a voice of calm in intense moments. If I’m in a bad headspace in a game, Benno can chill me out. That sort of relaxed intensity is tough to have, but I think it’s super important in any competition.” Senior teammate Kiran Chapman affirmed this, saying “I think they are very much in sync. They both understand how one another plays and are very aware of developments taking place on the field. I think they’re both great players individually, but together their awareness of one another’s playing styles really allows them to see plays unfold.”
They will both leave Vassar with more than just a continued love for the game. Benno explained what he will take away from his experience of playing at Vassar, “Vassar Frisbee has taught me so much, especially this last year as a captain. I’ve learned that post-practice Deece is the best Deece (especially when it’s on Ezra’s guest-swipe), and that practicing at 6am isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I’ve learned a lot about Drake (almost too much), and that safety always comes first. Mostly, I’m just happy to take away the friendships of all the wonderful people I’ve met through this team.” Ezra maintained similar feelings, “I think what I will take away more than anything are the relationships that I’ve formed on the team. Last year’s Frisbee seniors were a huge influence socially on my freshman year, and I have really close, deep friendships with kids on this team. Those relationships are more important to me than the Frisbee.”