Winds put spin on Ultimate Disc League tryouts

Miguel Hector, left, and Mateo Dominguez, right, jump to catch the frisbee in a scrimmage for the Los Angeles Aviators of the American Ultimate Disc League at Central Park in Saugus, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Chris Torres/The Signal

Over the weekend, the Santa Ana winds logged speeds at 20 mph, but that wouldn’t keep the Los Angeles Aviators from hosting tryouts for their upcoming season in the American Ultimate Disc League. 

The L.A. Aviators are the 22nd team to join the American Ultimate Disc League and compete in the Western Division. The league is comprised of four divisions and 25 teams throughout the United States and Canada.  

The league is semiprofessional, with compensation and stipends given to players. Sonja Roden, general manager for the Aviators, said the players make enough to cover costs, but the players do it for the love of ultimate disc.  

“It’s definitely a professional league, but we are not at the point where these folks are making money,” Roden said during the tryouts at Santa Clarita Central Park. “So they all still have full-time jobs.” 

The team competes in 12 games in a 14-week season, with home and away games against division rivals in Portland, Salt Lake City, Denver, San Diego, Seattle and San Jose, according to Roden. 

Sam Cook, a Santa Clarita resident and player for the Los Angeles Aviators of the American Ultimate Disc League, threads a pass between defenders during team tryouts at Central Park in Saugus, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. In his first season with the Aviators, Cook finished top four on the team in assists, goals, completions, throwing yards, and receiving yards in 2021. Chris Torres/The Signal

The league is competitive, with many athletes having years of experience playing on high school and college club teams. However, even with many players experienced in the sport, Roden said they still host tryouts for the majority of players. 

“We’re really just looking for the best athletes with skill but also attitude is very important to us.” Roden added. “We have a group of players who are out here because they love the game, period.” 

Roden said besides skill and ability, the most important reason for trying out for the Aviators is a love of the sport and a spirit for the game. The spirit of the game is having integrity as a player, team and business, and acts of competitive spirit, sportsmanship and fair play are key to the spirit of the sport. 

Aviators head coach Jeff Landesman is excited to coach for the upcoming season and said he has played for more than 45 years and in every level since high school.  

Landesman said that it will be a more competitive and exciting season since the Western Division acquired new teams. He plans to focus on a “red zone offense” by capitalizing and scoring when the team gets the disc in a match.  

“Offensively we looked pretty good last year,” Landesman said. “Defensively we looked good but we want to make sure we score when we get the disc.” 

During tryouts, a tall man with a baby strapped to his back monitored and watched the progression of tryouts. His name is Devin Miller, and he is co-owner of the team.  

“The last 20 years, I’ve met most of my friends playing ultimate, most of my free social time has been around ultimate and now my professional life is built around ultimate being a part owner of this team,” Miller said. 

Miller loves the sport and will work to continue to grow the league as co-owner. He said the first step is getting the right athletes with skills, integrity and passion for the sport. 

Christopher Cogswell is a Santa Clarita resident trying out for the Aviators, but he’s not a rookie to the sport. He played in college and competed on a team in San Francisco over the past eight years. 

Competing and practicing drills with the Aviators has been a fun experience for Cogswell. 

“These guys out here are awesome, they’re great players and great guys,” Cogswell said. “It’s fun to come out and play against them and challenge yourself against them.” 

Cogswell quickly pointed out the highlight of the sport that separates it from others is the integrity rule. You can self-officiate and call a foul on yourself if it went unnoticed.  

When asked about what his family thinks of the sport, Cogswell said, “I just know that they love to watch the game.” 

A returning player, Sam Cook, has played on rival team Seattle Cascades but enjoys his new team. Growing up, he played every sport and when in middle school, he joined an ultimate disc game — choosing ultimate over football.  

“It’s probably one of my favorite hobbies, but getting at least a little bit of compensation is great,” Cook said. “Compensation comes in the form of our team traveling, going to places like Austin, Texas, and it’s all paid for by the team.” 

You can find more information about the team and league at: 

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