Who The Folk?! Ben Feldman

Is Ulitmate Frisbee a Jewish sport? Ben Feldman wouldn’t go that far. But as the co-owner, general manager and head coach of the Minnesota Wind Chill, the professional team in the American Ultimate Disc League that plays at Sea Foam Stadium at Concordia University in St. Paul. On this week’s podcast, we talk about the growth of the game in Minnesota, and how youth teams have an opportunity to play on the field at a Wind Chill game, on this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.

New for this year: You can read a lot of the interview below, but for the full interview, please listen or subscribe to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher, with more to come later soon. Please subscribe, rate, and review. And of course, if you have suggestions of others who would be great subjects, let us know!

How did you get involved with the Wind Chill?

I’ve been playing Ultimate for a long time – all the way back started in Hopkins High School I got brought to practice by my good friend Adam Reinhardt. It was my sophomore year and that progressed into playing in college at UW-Madison and I continued to play after I graduated and came back home. I knew some of the organizers at the AUDL (American Ultimate Disc League) at the league level, and there was an opportunity to get involved managing the team about three seasons ago for the league after they took over ownership temporarily. That blossomed after that season into putting together an ownership group and was one of the owners in that group who decided to buy the team. So owner, manager, and now coaching this year as well.

Who else is in the ownership group?

There are three of us as majority owners. Omar Ansari, who is the founder and majority owner of Surly Brewing Company. Omar has always been a big supporter of the ultimate community: sponsoring teams, running events and tournaments Omar played way back and he’s really passionate about it. The other is Jim Mott, who’s been at Surly for a long time, and he’s kind of driven and ultimate side of Surly and the partnerships that they do.

What’s it like coaching a team at this level – the pinnacle of the Ultimate world?

I’ve played on the Wind Chill for several seasons so I’m very familiar with the league and how it operates, and obviously as a manager and owner how that works. I’ve coached at the high school level, coached a little bit at the college level, so it’s exciting. A lot of the people on my team are good friends and I’m not that old – I’m 30 going on 31 – but was excited to kind of jump into more of a coaching role this year. It’s obviously a lot of work that happens behind the scenes with the set-up of the team on game day and all the work that goes there. There’s a lot of footage available, so film study is a lot easier at the pro level because every game is streamed online. We’ve been practicing every weekend since for the last couple months in the lead up to the season.

Are you going to play this year too?

I decided to retire to become a coach. Personally, outside Ultimate with work and building a new home and moving in the summer, and I’m married. It’s tough with all the work itself to stay in shape. So I’m coaching this year and putting the cleats on hold for the betterment of the organization.

I’m very familiar with Ultimate having grown up in the Midwest, and Herzl Camp has their Herzl Ultimate Clinic that the Wind Chill is involved in. It sort of feels like a Jewish sport; is that the perception nationwide or is that just my own myopic Minnesota-centric view of it?

I think it’s the latter. If you look at Minnesota Ultimate, the high school league in general it’s one of the biggest high school leagues in the country. I mean there’s 80 or 90 teams that play at the state tournament every year. There’s a blossoming middle school program. Both the open division and the girl’s division in middle school is taking off.

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