Davenport University launches barrier-breaking ultimate program

Davenport University has embarked on an exciting new journey in collegiate athletics with the introduction of its men’s and women’s ultimate programs. Spearheaded by an experienced coaching staff, this initiative has the potential to revolutionize the landscape of ultimate (formerly ultimate Frisbee) in the collegiate sphere.

“Ultimate is a sport that’s taking off across the country right now, and we’re excited to be the first university in Michigan to offer a women’s team,” said Paul Lowden, executive director of Athletics. “Recruiting is underway and exhibition games are taking place this fall. We encourage everyone to come out and view the sport.”

Ultimate is a non-contact, self-refereed team sport. It is often described as a combination of soccer and basketball. It is played with a Frisbee on a football-like field with the goal of throwing the disc to someone standing in the end zone for a goal.

USA Ultimate, the national governing body, offers a college division with more than 18,000 student- athletes competing on more than 800 teams.

Davenport will compete against men’s and women’s teams across the nation as well as locally, including Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University and the University of Michigan.

Ultimate was introduced to Davenport’s athletics department initially by a student. This student, who has a passion for the sport, introduced Lowden to Mike Zaagman, owner of Zig Zag Ultimate, an organization that provides team competition in ultimate for players of all ages. Zaagman later became the program’s full-time head coach.

“Mike helped me better understand ultimate as a sport, but more importantly, the resources needed to develop it as a collegiate athletic program,” said Lowden. “Ultimate took a backseat when the pandemic hit, but once we moved away from COVID-19, Mike and I reconnected and started to put together the makings of a proforma. This proforma was used as a guideline to put an official strategic initiative together to add ultimate to the plethora of athletic programs Davenport currently offers.”

Zaagman was hired in November 2022 and began establishing the current teams — both men and women — for the 2023-24 academic year. He recruited Jessica Creamer to his staff in July 2023, making her the first full-time collegiate women’s ultimate coach in the U.S.

“Davenport is leading the way as the first university to fully embrace ultimate,” said Zaagman. “While some others might have bits and pieces of what we offer, none can match our all-inclusive approach. We provide a complete package that includes athletic scholarships, full-time coaches, top-notch team gear and so much more. I am humbled and grateful to be a part of this program.”

As the newly appointed overseer of the women’s program, Creamer brings an impressive track record of advancing the sport. Her focus is on both growing the women’s team of recruits and building awareness and support for ultimate in the Davenport and West Michigan communities. 

“We have an incredible group of women committed for the fall, and we are just starting to get practices off the ground. Plus, through online recruiting efforts, we’ve connected with five players from Kenya who will hopefully be joining our women’s team this spring,” said Creamer. “It’s a sport almost anyone can play, especially athletes with soccer or basketball experience, and it’s incredibly fun to watch.”

This fall, Creamer and the current women’s team hosted numerous community learn-to-play events, exposing both potential players and fans to the sport.

Ryan McCosky, director of Non-Varsity Sports and Programming, said: “Our goal is for our athletes — and our fans — to have a great experience here at DU. Ultimate is an exciting addition to our sports lineup.”

For more information, visit dupanthers.com/sports/ultimate-frisbee.

From NASA to ultimate coach

Jessica Creamer’s career has run parallel paths — one within the world of science and technology as a technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the second focusing on the development of women’s ultimate.

Creamer’s journey into the world of ultimate started in her hometown of Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the sport during high school. With a background in soccer, she found the transition to ultimate remarkably smooth due to the similarities between the two sports.

While obtaining her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Northern Arizona University, Creamer established and captained the women’s ultimate team. She then went on to serve as head coach for the women’s club team at the University of Kansas for one year while she earned her master’s, before going on to get her doctorate degree in pharmaceutical chemistry.

During her graduate work, she devised methods to secure pharmaceutical supply chains by creating analytical methods for portable instrumentation that could be used in developing countries where resources are limited. After graduating, she moved to California to work with NASA, finding that the space program had connections to her previous work.

While at NASA, though, her passion for ultimate didn’t wane. She continued to play, and established and still co-owns Los Angeles Astra, a professional ultimate team.

Then, in the spring of 2023, Creamer made a significant career shift — she joined Davenport, becoming the first full-time woman ultimate coach at the university level in the United States.

“For now, science is paused,” said Creamer. “I love science. I love research. I’ve sort of turned that to Frisbee, and I’m excited to bring a more rigorous, analytical approach to this sport. I’m thrilled to be a part of a new chapter in ultimate history.”


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