1. The Founding Fathers
The Connecticut Ultimate Club owes its very existence to several players who remain active in the league to this day. Prior to the first CUC Summer League season in 1996, Scott Blankenburg, Frank Costello, Mark "Boz" Bozeman, and Kevin McHenry decided to organize a summer league. Being experienced as captain of a college and the local open club team, Huck Finn, Scott Blankenburg took the lead in recruiting players into the league. With the help of Jay Cohen, fields were secured, and a fledgling, four-team summer league was born. In its first season, teams played once a week at East Catholic High School in Manchester. Click here to read a detailed history of the inception of the Connecticut Ultimate Club.
2. Meanwhile, down south . . .
At the same time, organization in New Haven was also taking place. Big Richard began by organizing a group of both casual and experienced ultimate players into a true travelling club team that year. A small, "friendly" rivalry developed between the New Haven area players and the Hartford area players.
3. Season Two
Through the efforts of people like Scott Blankenburg, Hash, and Lynne Lewis, the New Haven and Hartford area crowds merged to form a larger, stronger Summer League. The league expanded to six teams, and began play at new, more centrally-located fields at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Middletown. Although this narrative makes it sound simple, getting all this to happen took a large amount of effort. The things we take for granted today, including email lists, websites, draft methodology, etc. were all conceived from scratch.
4. Creation of the Non-Profit Club
In the first two seasons, the "club" did not technically exist as it does today. While Scott Blankenburg was elected the club's President and Frank Costello was Treasurer, most league decisions were made informally by a group of captains. In the third season (1998), with the help of Lynne Lewis, Scott Blankenburg, Frank Costello and Dennis McCarthy, CUC was officially designated as a non-profit organization. The club created a set of official board positions, including Kevin McHenry as President, Trey McPherson as Competition Director, and Lynne as Treasurer. Through their leadership, several league improvements were made, including the establishment of a core set of competition rules, team shirts, and league discs. The first league discs were developed by Scott in memory of the late John Dixon.
5. Growth Continues . . .
In its third and fourth seasons, Summer League featured eight teams. In its fifth season (2000) it expanded to ten teams. Impressive growth by such a young organization! In its fourth season, a formalized set of by-laws were drafted by Scott Blankenburg and Frank Costello. In its fifth season, Jay Cohen was elected club president. Under Jay's leadership, a popular club tournament, Poacher's Delight was hosted in association with CUC at the Winding Brook Turf Farm. This was the beginning of our relationship with this facility. By the sixth season (2001), Summer League had grown to 12 teams.
6. Our First Winter League
In the winter of 2002, thanks to the help of Sue Farquharson, Noel Petra, Dennis Cronin, and John Lind, the first winter league was organized at the CT Sportsplex in North Branford. Eight teams of 10 players played there for eight weeks. Building on the success of this first season, the North Branford winter league is active to this day.
7. With Growth Come Challenges
In 2002-03, under the leadership of John Lind as President, Summer League continued to witness phenomenal growth. By the 2003 season, the league had grown to 20 teams. The first pre-season skills clinics were held at this time. While this growth is exciting and rewarding to organizers, it presented new challenges in terms of acquiring field space, setting schedules and shirts (we ran short on team colors - 2003 featured some colors such as "pebble" as well as grey, and "moss" as well as green!) Captains were also challenged to draft from an increasingly large crop of new players- in 2003, captain Don Corson aptly "scouted" players ahead of the draft at pickup games and at the clinics, setting a standard for drafting at the time. Since this time, draft methodology, headed by experts Scott Blankenburg and Ed Avery, has been given much attention by the league, in an effort to achieve maximum competitive balance across the league.
Following the 2003 season, the club was presented with its biggest challenge to-date. The expansive field space the club had used at Woodrow Wilson Middle School (upwards of 8 fields) was being lost forever to school construction. With a 20 team league, the club scrambled prior to the 2004 season to obtain more field space. As the summer approached, things were looking grim, until we finally secured usage of the fields at Winding Brook Turf Farm. The season went on!
8. The Blankenburg Era
Although he helped found the club and has had influence over it since its inception, Scott Blankenburg was re-elected CUC president in 2003. He served in this stint for five seasons. Through that time, CUC continued to establish its tradition of providing an excellent venue for ultimate players all year round. Two more winter leagues were formed, a corporate-style league in Glastonbury, and another draft league in East Windsor. The New Britain Fall League was also begun over this timespan. Improved social activities, including Assassin, Rocky Hill Lighted Pickup and Photo Contests were all conducted by the club, and the fabled "Ask Boz" web site was created by our own Mark "Boz" Bozeman in loose association with CUC. Also during this time, many modernizations to the club were made, including a new website with online registrations, drafting, and payment. Scott stepped down as CUC president in 2008.
9. The Organization Continues to Mature
In 2008 after many years of service, Scott and many of the past board members retired from the painstaking work of organizing our leagues. As any good organization does, this leadership has been replaced by new, enthusiastic members, many who were not here at the inception of the club. In the past few years we have focused energies on both running our leagues as effectively as possible and on improving our web infrastructure (new website & draft software) and relationships to field sites (improved, larger sites in Cromwell and Cheshire). In 2010, in an effort to improve the experience of our women members, we made a major change to our summer league structure, shifting it to two side-by-side 4:3 coed and men's divisions. So far, this experiment has turned out very well, and we have seen increasing numbers in our league and satisfaction from the bulk of our membership.
10. Today: USAU Affiliate, CTUL Merger
2013 continues to bring exciting change to our club. In 2013 we are pursuing two major initiatives, both aimed at expanding our involvement in youth Ultimate. First, we are working to become a full "affiliate" of USA Ultimate, which increases our support from this national organization. Second, we have merged the Connecticut High School Ultimate League (CTUL) into the CUC organization, and we are already increasing our administrative support. These two efforts, over time, will both increase the number of high school teams in the state and feed a growing number of members into our adult rec leagues.
Although many of us were not here in 1996, it is worthwhile to realize how the club grew, and to recognize the traditions that have been built up over the years. CUC is now 17 years old and is a strong club that features hundreds of members, a healthy financial position and healthy relationships with local towns, facilities (i.e. fields), and the national governing body for Ultimate, USA Ultimate. As we move forward, the club's primary goal remains to provide a place for anyone interested in the sport of ultimate, be it a new player or a nationals-level club player, to spend a happy summer, fall or winter chasing plastic.