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October 1, 2013

COB students take a spin across the country promoting Ultimate Frisbee

Written by Chris Schasse, senior entrepreneurship major

The Break Side

Who says that summer classes at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have to take place on campus? For Chris Schasse, a College of Business student majoring in entrepreneurship, it’s just the opposite. In fact, he spent his summer traveling the western United States with his friend and College of Business alumnus, James Wagner.

Their mission—to create a web-series profiling the Ultimate Frisbee subculture. Schasse chronicled this experience as part of an independent study course. Schlasse and Wagner left Eau Claire with just an idea and a plan, but they came back with countless stories and experiences they hope to share.

“We were looking to make connections with players who are fun both on and off the field,” says Schasse. “With that idea, we found some really high level players who are also active in their communities away from them game. These people and their communities are what we are profiling in our web series.”

The duo kept a blog all summer that they updated with stories, photos, and videos they accumulated along the way. Now that they have returned, they are creating 10–12 web episodes to be released once a week during the spring semester on their website, thebreakside.com.

"We're hoping the episodes will increase awareness about how awesome the Ultimate Frisbee community really is," explains Schasse. “And maybe they will excite people enough where we can take The Break Side on the road again next summer..."

Q & A with James Wagner and Chris Schasse

An interview with Gretchen Hutterli, College of Business assistant dean

James Wagner and Chris SchasseHow did you come up with the idea for the trip and the concept?

Chris: James originally presented the idea of taking a road trip over a scotch and a cigarette on our front porch. We both agreed we wanted to get out and travel for an extended period of time, but also agreed we wanted to have some type of purpose to the road trip. The idea morphed from teaching Ultimate Frisbee at high schools to creating a web-series about the Ultimate subculture.

James: The final concept for the trip wasn’t really developed until well after we left for the summer, but the idea was formed months earlier. We knew we wanted to travel, play Ultimate, and do something meaningful that combined the two. The final result was a product of a lot of brainstorming, conversations, and eventually trial and error.

How did you raise sponsors for your trip? How difficult was it to raise money?

James: Raising the money through Kickstarter.com wasn’t nearly as difficult as we thought it would be. We put together a video that explained a little bit about our project and were very surprised by the support we received from our family and friends. The Kickstarter goal was originally $1000, but our hope was to raise $2000 to cover gas expenses for the whole trip. We ended up hitting this goal as well, when you add in donations that were made in person.

Chris: Once the Kickstarter was up, our friends, family, and the Ultimate Frisbee community really pitched in. We reached our initial goal of $1,000 within the first 5 days.

How difficult was it to travel around the U.S. on $2,000? Any tips for traveling on a small budget?

James: To be frank, the trip cost more than $2,000. As mentioned, we wanted our donations to cover the cost of gas, which they did. That limited us to only having to fund the “controllable” expenses: food, lodging, and entertainment.

We cut down on food costs by going to grocery stores and cooking our own meals whenever possible. We kept a cooler and small propane grill in the trunk so we could save some money by not going out to eat all the time.

Chris: We didn’t spend any money on lodging (apart from one night). Instead, we would contact Ultimate players in the area we were going through, and we were always offered a place to stay. If we were in a more remote area, we would search for free campgrounds, or just pull off to the side somewhere and pitch a tent. If we were too lazy to pitch a tent, we would search for the nearest Wal-Mart and sleep in the car (once, I even pitched a tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot).

James: We also contacted family and friends in advance and stayed with them whenever possible. To fill in the gaps, we stayed with people we met. You’d be amazed how spread out your network is when you actually sit down and think about it.

Lastly, we tried our best to make our own fun everywhere we went. Instead of paying $22 to go to the top of the Space Needle, we walked around Seattle and threw a disc wherever we went. We hiked mountains, swam in lakes, and spent a lot of our time just meeting new people. We tried our best not to fall into tourist traps and spend money where we’d regret it. Turns out, most fun things you can do are totally free. Oh, and get a National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into any national park in the country. It pays for itself after a few visits.

What was your most memorable experience?

Chris: That question is unfair. Trying to pick my most memorable experience is like trying to pick my favorite child.

James: After a lot of thought, I’ve decided that I can’t pin this down to one experience. What does stick out in my mind, however, are hundreds of moments of incredible generosity from almost complete strangers. I can’t count the number of times that someone we barely knew bought us a drink, fed our parking meter, or just spent some time showing us around. It was these small acts of kindness that really made the trip special. One of the most important things I’ll take from this trip is how easy it is to make someone’s day with very little effort.

What did you learn from the experience? Any surprises? Any disappointments? Anything you would change for your next trip?

Chris: Wow, I’m not even sure I want to start attempting to answer this question. I could write a book about what I learned from this trip. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about the people around me, about the Ultimate community, and certainly how to create a web-series on the road with no equipment and a very small budget.

One thing I do want to mention is what I learned about the Ultimate community. I’ve always loved Ultimate and the people who play it, but I never realized until this road trip how rich the culture really is. In every community we visited, whether it was a small pickup game or a house full of professional players, we were welcomed with open arms. People would go out of their way to show us around town and make our time there meaningful.

James: Every day there was a surprise and a disappointment, and some days there were several. I guess the biggest thing I learned from our travels is to just keep an open mind. If something you had planned on doing falls through, don’t sit and sulk. Spend that time doing something that might turn out to be even more fun. Then make a plan to come back and do all the things you might have missed the first time. You should also try everything (within reason, of course) while you’re traveling. You never know what new people you’ll meet, what new foods you’ll enjoy, what new experiences you’ll fall in love with unless you try everything. And listen to the locals, they know the best spots.

What advice do you have for students who might want to do what you did?

James: Do it. Now. Finish reading this and then start making a plan. If you don’t you’re going to spend a lot of time down the road wishing you had. I’m going to look back on this summer as the one that changed my life. You don’t have to travel across the country or even leave your own home, but come up with a plan that you think could change your life and go for it. Whether it succeeds or fails, it will change your life and you’ll be happier for it.

Chris: James quit his job to do this, and I turned down a decent internship for it. Each of us sacrificed a lot and put a lot of work into this project (and are still putting a lot of work into it), and I can’t say things have always worked out perfectly, but I can say one thing, it was worth it.

If you’re in the place where you feel the desire to travel, you need to travel. If you’re in the place where you feel the desire to take a risk, you need to take a risk. If you’re in the place where you desire something different, you need something different. It’s very easy to settle with complacency; don’t settle.

You don’t need to go on a three month road trip to stretch yourself. Maybe taking an internship is something that will stretch you. Maybe studying abroad. My advice would be to do something that stretches you as a person. Don’t take the same summer job you hate. Try something new.

Tell us about your next project? Do you have something planned?

James: As of right now, there are no concrete plans for the next Break Side trip. We will be releasing weekly web-episodes in the spring semester that will give our viewers a better understanding of our experiences. If the series becomes popular, we’re open to taking The Break Side in any direction in the future.

Chris: After the web-series, there are rumors that The Break Side may go to Europe next summer, but I guess we will just have to see what happens.

If you’re creative and would like to help us market The Break Side, shoot us an email! I can be reached at chris@thebreakside.com. You can reach James at james@thebreakside.com.

Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.