In between searching for a job like many other college graduates, Michael Fairley has something different to look forward to after graduation: Competing with the U.S. national Ultimate Frisbee team at a world championship tournament.
Fairley, an accounting major graduating Aug. 5, recently was selected for the men’s Under 24 Ultimate Frisbee team that will compete Jan. 7-13 in the World Flying Disc Federation’s world championship tournament in Australia. Fairley was one of about 500 applicants who competed for a spot on the 24-player team.
He got the good news while in one of his final classes at UCF.
“I’m sitting there and I go into my email and click the in-box to reload it and the email pops up: ‘We’d like to offer you an invitation to the U.S. National Men’s Team.’ I wanted to scream out in the middle of class, ‘Yes!’” Fairley said.
This summer was Fairley’s second time trying out for the team. In 2014 he tried out with two friends and former teammates from Ultimate Frisbee at UCF. His friends made the team but he didn’t. The motivation to redeem himself came in handy his second time around, as on the first day of tryouts in Columbus, Ohio, he injured his knee.
“I felt like I was playing out there at about 80 percent,” he said. “I didn’t know if that was going to be enough to make the team because there were tremendous people out there.”
Fairley’s love for the sport began in St. Augustine – his home – while competing in high school track and field. On off days, the team would get together to play Ultimate Frisbee. What drew him to the game was how it combines aspects of so many others sports: Traveling rules like in basketball, end zones like in football, and constant running like in soccer. He struggled to throw the Frisbee at first, but his commitment to practice up to four days a week – a routine he continues today – led to his passion for the sport and a desire to continue it competitively in college.
In fact, UCF’s strong Ultimate Frisbee club team is what convinced Fairley to become a Knight. His senior year in high school he tried out for Florida United, a club team made up of the best players in the state, and that’s when he met UCF alumnus Andrew Roca. Roca was head coach of Dogs of War, the Ultimate Frisbee club team at UCF, and he invited Fairley to Orlando to check out the campus and team.
“He really sold me on what UCF had to offer. Plus, it was a little bit further from home so it would give me the chance to be more on my own,” said Fairley, who originally planned to attend the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. He went on to become the Dogs of War team president.
“I saw the future of our program in him and he delivered,” said Roca. “He picked up the game, ran with it, continued to excel and more importantly, pushed others to excel. I couldn’t describe a leader better than that.”
Off the field, Fairley developed leadership skills while working as a sport clubs supervisor at the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center. He managed a team of 70 people, a budget of $40,000, community service events, fundraising efforts and more. He aspires to work in accounting or as a data analyst.
“Being able to provide that leadership experience that not a lot of kids have – it’s something that sets you apart immediately,” Fairley said. “Leadership is an aspect Team USA really looks for.”