Young, prolific Detox team continues Occidental Ultimate traditions on, off the field

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With a young team and an enthusiastic coach, the Occidental College men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, Detox, continues to succeed nationally. The leadership of second-year head coach and Occidental alumnus Ben Potash ’98, has been instrumental to the team’s growth.

“Ben is awesome,” Detox co-captain Spencer Goldman (junior) said. “He gives so much to our team that it’s hard to even comprehend. He knows more about Ultimate than any of us really hope to know.”

Detox members said that Potash’s experience and attitude have resulted in tremendous growth of the team, giving them insight into many aspects of the game they may not have had without him. Goldman also added that Potash has changed the team’s mentality about competition, trying to focus on positivity throughout tournaments by eliminating emotionality from games.

“He is super knowledgable about the game and is very influential on the sidelines,” co-captain Adam Grammer (sophomore) said. “He switches up our defenses when he sees stuff, or makes key substitutions at the right time. Without him, we would be a lot worse. I really like having Ben out there.”

Potash became involved with Ultimate Frisbee during his sophomore year at Occidental in 1992. As the popularity of Ultimate Frisbee was on the rise nationwide, Potash was able to participate in competitive co-ed pickup games at CalTech. He helped restart the Occidental College Ultimate team, rebranding it as Westward Ho. The team enjoyed success in its early years, finishing the 1997 season ranked No. 21 in the country. Potash’s involvement with Ultimate at Occidental continued even after graduation.

“After graduating from Oxy, I intermittently would come back and informally coach or assist, with the men’s and women’s teams,” Potash said via email. “In 2008, I joined two other Oxy alumni (Mark Hartford and Midori Niikura) in coaching WAC, the women’s team. I coached that team for about six years, and after taking a year off of coaching, came back and started working with the men. This is the end of my second year with Detox, and the club is going strong and on an upward trajectory,”

Over the years, Detox has begun to focus on broadening the skill set of the team across the board by supporting young players and diversifying their captaincy among class years.

“When I joined freshman year, we had four seniors at the time that were all very good players, but the team was really built around them, whereas now it is much more of a team-oriented dynamic, and we really try to develop our younger players more and use a system,” captain Spencer Goldman (junior) said.

Team members say that Detox this year has focused on team building both on and off the field, leading to better performance all around. They are currently ranked No. 27 in Division III, and their record as they approach their final season event is 20-14 in sanctioned tournaments, making them the most active D-III team in the country.

Luis Robles (junior), commented on this trend as being a reflection of diversification of leadership and skill development of the roster. He said that moving away from senior-centered leadership has created a more equal distribution of responsibilities, as well improving the culture of the team as a whole.

“We usually had a core group of players that really did most of the heavy work and were the all-stars of the team, and now we have grown into a team that is really diverse and versatile,” Robles said.

Grammer echoed that while they have been developing bonds on the field, they have been enjoying their time off the field as well. He said that the chemistry on the team has improved over the course of the season.

“We have been a tight-knit group, having played more games than any other D-III team in the country,” Goldman said.

They often spend Thursday nights playing a secret on-campus disc golf course that is passed down through the team captains over the years.

“Disc golf is a sport where you try to throw a disc in a basket, and you have 18 holes,” Goldman said. “We modify it to fit the campus using various landmarks as holes, for instance on our 18th hole you have to get a disc in the water of the main fountain at the front of campus from the steps of the AGC.”

Many Detox alums and other members of the Occidental community have participated in the tradition of disc golf on campus.

“It’s been around since the 1990s — a long-running tradition passed down through the generations. Even President Veitch has played the course,” Goldman said.

The team is excited to compete for their bid to nationals at Southwest Conference Championships on April 16 and 17 of this year.