Joe Freund has already reached great heights in his young and blossoming career.
In 2015 alone, he practiced with the Washington D.C. Current (At 17, Freund was age ineligible for MLU play), won a Virginia High School State Championship with Yorktown High School, won the U-19 mixed national title with D.C. Swing Vote at Youth Club Championships and competed with D.C.’s elite open club team, Truck Stop, at the USA Ultimate National Championships.
For 2016, Freund has his sights set even higher.
His most significant personal accomplishment to date, the 18-year-old Virginia Tech freshman recently earned a coveted spot on the U.S. men’s national team that will compete at the World Junior Ultimate Championships this summer.
“To put it bluntly, I was ecstatic,” said Freund. “Especially after being rejected when I was 16, this was such an amazing moment, and just another obstacle that I had worked to overcome. I freaked out, told my Frisbee friends I was with at the time, and then immediately called my parents.”
Those who have helped Freund along the way and saw his dedication emphasize that he did not just deservedly receive, but rather he rightfully earned his place on the U.S. team.
“I was happy he got something he has earned,” said Head Coach Will Smolinski. “He and I had worked so hard in making sure his mental game was growing just as much as his physical game, so my first thought was reminding him that he earned this through hard work and he hasn’t reached his peak yet.”
Freund himself knows that he cannot rest on this laurel. In fact, his work has just begun.
“As far as training goes, let’s just say I’ve never worked harder,” Freund said. “Lifting, running, stretching, chalk talk, you name it. Frisbee has definitely consumed my life.”
Previously a soccer and basketball player, Freund was in sixth grade when Smolinski first introduced him to Ultimate at the Capital Ultimate Camp. It was clear early on that Freund and Ultimate were an excellent fit.
“It was such a fun camp, getting to run around and learn the basics of the sport, and I fell in love with Ultimate very quickly,” said Freund. “I love the competitiveness of the sport but even more so the spirit. I am constantly in awe of how games can be so incredibly intense, yet so fun and spirited at the same time.”
Freund began to play competitive Ultimate and further developed his talents under Smolinski at Yorktown in Arlington. Before long, Freund started to catch the attention of the D.C. area Ultimate community and to make a name for himself in youth Ultimate.
“Joe’s desire to improve and being able to find fun, joy, satisfaction in the process of improving is second to none,” said Smolinski. “He has some really big advantages over lots of other players [because] he is big, his body type is very suitable, [and] he has played lots of other sports. His throws came naturally.”
“Joe has great size, it helps him box out and sky people, which I hope we will get to see a lot of this season,” added handler and former Yorktown teammate Zach Norrbom. “He also has strong throws, which allows him to be flexible position-wise.”
Freund is not only thrilled to be one of nine players presently on the Current roster, but is also eager to finally make his Dojo debut with his teammates this year after he spent last season on the practice squad.
“To hear that I was going to be a signed player felt amazing,” said Freund. “Being a practice player last year definitely helped my skills, but I wanted to be on the field and, to be honest, I was very disheartened when I heard that wasn’t a possibility. Practicing with the team was invaluable, but I can’t wait to get on the field with the people that I worked so hard with last season. It makes all the work I put in last season worth it.”
Both physically and mentally, Freund expects to have to play the game differently than he has before and is ready to deliver upon the high expectations the team has for all players.
“So far, preparation has been a combination of both physical and mental exercises in an attempt to get myself in peak condition at the start of the season,” Freund said. “Hopefully, with this training, I will be able to bring a level of athleticism and knowledge that will really help the team grow and develop. I think the team and coaches are looking for me to bring a positive energy and relentless spirit that I was able to bring on the sidelines last year.”
Freund and the Current will begin their 2016 campaign on April 9 when they face off against the Boston Whitecaps at Cardinal Stadium in Washington, D.C.
“[Joe] has all the talent,” said General Manager Matt Dewhurst. “You saw that during practices last season and flashes of it in the club year with Truck and now at Virginia Tech. I’m really excited to see him play this year. I think he will quickly be a Dojo favorite.”