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When Discs Fly

June 30, 2009

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Wins are few, but that won't stop Zissou

By Jim Oldfield

Losing doesn't bother General Leung.

"We're no good," says Leung of his "ultimate" team, with a note of pride. The team finished second-last in their division in 2008; expectations for this year are low.

But then, life in the sportsmanlike Toronto Ultimate Club (TUC) league, where games are played without referees, and opponents congratulate each other on good "pulls" (throws of the disc formerly known as Frisbee), is not just about winning.

Other social activities at SRI

Soccer (or football, depending on your frame of reference)
Wednesdays, McLean House field at 5:30 p.m.

Sunnybrook Bicycle User Group

Molecular and cellular biology coffee group
Mondays, S wing, second-floor lounge at 2:30 p.m.
Fridays, A wing, third floor, suite 31 at 2:30 p.m.

Medical biophysics coffee group
Thursdays, S wing, sixth-floor lounge at 3:00 p.m.

Indeed, for team Zissou—named after the questionably skilled crew from Wes Anderson's movie, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou—it's not at all about winning. "It's purely a social outing," says Leung, a research physicist and University of Toronto medical biophysics student in the lab of Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) investigator Dr. Alan Moody. "I make that very clear whenever someone joins. And we always go out for dinner and beer afterwards."

Socially, Zissou is on a winning streak. After years of afternoon pickup games on a lush field behind Sunnybrook's McLean House that he calls a "hidden gem," Leung paid to enter a team in the TUC league last year and started collecting a small fee from SRI players to boost flagging attendance. "I thought people would show up if they put money down," says Leung.

He was right. Attendance has never been better (it's a team of 16, more than enough for subs in a seven-per-side ultimate match), and the roster boasts a range of staff: graduate students, postdocs, technicians and even a few scientists. The team plays Tuesday evenings at venues all over Toronto, from May to September.

It's proven a good way to get researchers with disparate social and clinical interests to chat. Often people don't know what others are doing at work, says Leung, even those within the same discipline or department; so, the outings offer a chance to learn about new research. And in keeping with the generous ultimate spirit, Leung says the players encourage new people to come out and love showing them the game.

Now in the final year of his PhD studies at SRI, Leung will soon be moving on. He's not worried about the future of the team, however. "I'm sure when I leave, someone will take it over," he says. "It's one of those things that has an energy and life of its own."

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