The Ultimate Professor
By Suzanne Buzek
There are a couple of evenings during the week when Michael Rimler is more than happy to get out of the office. On those nights, the professor of economics in the Williams College of Business locks his door and heads straight to the soccer field for Ultimate Frisbee practice, as head coach of Xavier’s Ultimate Frisbee team.
“I had been playing ultimate for a while before I came to Xavier,” says Rimler. “When I accepted the teaching position, I went online to see if Xavier had an ultimate team. Turns out they did, I e-mailed the captain, came to practices and played.”
Rimler joined Xavier’s Ultimate Frisbee team in the fall of 2005. The only faculty member on the team, he had quite a unique role: one of a matured player with abundant playing experience to share, yet also one of a friend and fellow teammate. The faculty member-teammate combination contributed to his nickname on the team, “the professor.”
“I started with the Xavier team as an outlet because I didn’t know where else to play when I first moved to Cincinnati,” says Rimler. “I knew that I was a faculty member among students, and the team already had a coach, so I wasn’t trying to coach them. After a year or so of involvement, I took on more of a leadership role as an assistant coach.”
Since last season, Rimler and the now-assistant coach, Scott Oswald—affectionately known by everyone as ‘Oz,’—flipped positions, and Rimler became head coach. Rimler competes in other arenas as well. He recently joined a Greater Cincinnati ultimate team, Steamboat.
“Now, I don’t even consider coaching as an aspect of my job; it’s an aspect of my life” he explains. “It’s tough to coach the team because we have a lot of constraints: It isn't a varsity sport, everyone has class, jobs, work, internships, family, tough schedules and service. We have small student body in ratio to our team, and we get the field with lights only on certain nights.”
Rimler’s skills as an instructor are key in developing—and keeping—promising young players. “When freshmen first come out, they don’t know how to throw,” he says. “I mean, everyone’s thrown a disc, but not everyone’s thrown a disc competitively. And it’s very awkward the first time someone teaches you, but you start training yourself and it becomes a behavioral thing.
“We make sure that players want to stay with us,” Rimler continues. “We spend the fall trying to get people to really enjoy the sport and teach them. Then, in the spring, we amp up the competitive nature of the sport so that we’re in a position to do well at sectionals.”
Despite multiple obstacles associated with being a club sport, Xavier's ultimate team has coalesced into a dedicated, highly-motivated group. “This year we have two goals for ourselves,” says Rimler. “One goal is to win our first tournament in Xavier history, which we did in early October. Our second goal is to earn a bid to the regional tournament.”
Although he acknowledges the inherent challenges—“We’re always going to be building a team from the ground up”—Rimler sees success on the horizon. “This year, I see Xavier being able to compete with the top four teams in our section—Ohio State, Miami, Dayton and Ohio University. I’m not saying we’re going to beat them, but we should be competitive with those teams.”