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New Frisbee members subject to Ultimate tradition

Freshman John Roorbach had his head shaved in the style of a monk.
Freshman John Roorbach had his head shaved in the style of a monk.

Initiation practices are common among school sports as a way for the older and younger players to bond as well as show their commitment to the team. The Grady Ultimate Gauntlet Frisbee team is no exception.

Every year before the Deep Freeze tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn., the team gathers for a sleepover at one of the players’ houses.

The sleepover began as a fun way for the team to spend the night before making the long ride to the tournament, but things got interesting in 2011 as some members of the team showed up with their heads shaved that morning, much to the surprise of head coach and literature teacher Susie Mercer.

The players who get shaved by their teammates are traditionally first-year varsity members.

Mercer does not know how the tradition came about, but she made it clear that no player should be forced to shave his head if he doesn’t want to.

“It’s cool as long as it’s voluntary,” Mercer said. “As soon as someone is forced I’m going to cancel the sleepover.”

While Mercer doesn’t supervise the activity, she relies on her team to respect boundaries. Players can refuse to have their head shaved. One such member, freshman Harrison Tweet, did not want to have his head shaved because he had a golf tournament.

“They don’t force you to do it, they ask you,” Tweet said. “You are frowned upon for not doing it, though.”

While Tweet opted not to have his head shaved before Deep Freeze, he said he was going to get it cut before the team’s next tournament, Terminus.

Although a few newbees refused to be shaved. most new members are happy to comply. Oftentimes, older members will carve designs into the younger members’ hair, as in the case of sophomore Alex Cameli.

“I got really lucky because my design was cool,” said Cameli, whose shave made him look like the central character from Avatar: The Last Airbender. “Some of the other ones are pretty bad.”

One of those designs belonged to sophomore Kiran Potula, who made varsity in his freshman year.

“I got a double reverse mohawk last year from [then-senior] Rashard Byrd,” Potula said. “Mine is pretty much regarded as the worst of all. I was nervous because I couldn’t see what they were doing, and it was pretty surprising when I got to look.”

Despite the haircut he was given, Potula acknowledged that the tradition serves as a way for the younger and older members to bond.

The older members, like the young, also know the value of shaving heads as not only a rite of passage but as a way for the first year varsity members to feel like a part of the team. Senior captain Michael Dillard remembers the first time his head was shaved as a sophomore.

“My freshman year we didn’t have an actual razor, just safety scissors, so I decided not to do it,” Dillard said. “I got shaved my second year. It was just a really bad haircut, a buzz cut where the guy went straight across my bangs with clippers. It looked terrible.”

While the players may not like their haircuts at first, Dillard still knows the importance of the initiation process.

“The younger players are the future of the team, so we have to make sure they come out of every season with the right skills and attitudes,” Dillard said.

After the story was reported, Mercer said that she was going to put an end to the head shaving tradition. “I’m all for team bonding, but when kids feel like they have to do it, it’s one step too close to hazing,” she said. “Some parents had already voiced their concerns, and I’ve been debating about it before that. I would never forgive myself if something bad happened so I can’t afford to take that risk”

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New Frisbee members subject to Ultimate tradition