Brett Matzuka

Written by Baritsa on . Posted in Coaches

Ring of Fire #45


Russian Kate (??

If you took part in Ironside Camp in Kiev and Sockeye Camp in Moscow in 2012, you should remember brisk funny shaggy-haired guy with the broken hand – Brett Matzuka. He is the only one from last year squad who decided to returned to Russia. We met about two years ago and became good friends since that time. In spite of many people think that Brett was the main power who knocked out Sockeye from the medal run in USA Ultimate Championship, I will be very happy to meet him in Russia again. (note: Ring of Fire beat Sockeye in quarterfinal 15:10, mostly thanks to Brett’s accurate hucks in strong wind) 

Oh! By the way! Brett also made Team USA for World Games 2013. Brett and 5 other All Stars Camp coaches were chosen from over 500 players and will represent USA in Cali, Colombia in August 2013.   

Biography info: 

  • Date of birth: April 30th, 1985
  • Place of birth: Morris, Illinois, United States
  • Height: 5’8” (173 cm) [yep, I am short]
  • Weight: 130 lbs (59 kg)
  • School: Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Kamuela, HI
  • University" University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  • Graduate school: North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA 

When and why did you start playing ultimate? 

I had played many sports growing up and am very competitive.  Had been on the high school varsity tennis team and enjoyed the sportsmanship and respect that tennis offered.  Had played pick up games of ultimate frisbee at Bible camp as a kid and around Hawaii during high school, and again enjoyed the respect and sportsmanship ultimate also garnered.  When I went to Australia in 2004 for university, I found a league near my accommodation and decided to join it as something fun to do to challenge myself.  Fell in love and haven’t stopped playing since.  

I haven’t found many games that engage in such an extremely high level of competition with such heavy demands in terms of the mental and physical game while maintaining an utmost requirement on camaraderie and respect for the game and opposition.  

When did you join Ring of Fire? 

В first joined Ring of Fire in August ’08, the middle of the 2008 UPA Series/USA Ultimate Series.  Joined late as I had made the Australian National Open team, the Dingoes, and flew back to Australia to train and prepare for Worlds in Vancouver.  

What number do you wear? And why? 


Hehehe, this is a good question.  I apologize for the long answer, but there is actually a story to this.  I currently wear number 45, but started with number 00.  


When I first fell in love with frisbee, I sought out any means to learn more about it and take it in.  I turned immediately to video to learn more as there is a decent amount online and on dvd.  I have a rather small and pathetic stature and build compared to most athletes so usually hard to find someone to look up to or mold my game around; at the very least, learn some tips and tricks to compete with the taller players.  In most places I have played ultimate, and any sport for that matter whether basketball or tennis or volleyball and so on, the players have a rather large make up in terms of height and physical prowess which always put me at a disadvantage.  


My favorite video that I had found, sadly, was I Bleed Black.  It is a documentary about the 2001 University of California-Santa Barbara club ultimate team’s season and their pursuit for another national championship.  There is a great showcase of their game against Carleton College and there was a key player for Carleton who was short and squirrely who had a huge impact, even throwing a greatest for a crucial goal.  He wore number 00 and so I decided this would be a good number to wear.  It would always remind me of his play and motivate me to become a great player just as he was.  Funny enough, a few years ago, I got the opportunity to play with 00 from Carleton, his name is Alex Masulis and plays for PoNY now. It was a great experience to have the opportunity to meet and play alongside someone I admired as a player learning the game.  



As I continued playing and improving, I started to make better and more competitive teams.  

As most teams have a hierarchy as to who gets first choice of number, as a rookie, I would always be last pick.  One of the captains in Brisbane was 00, so I knew I would never get my number again while I played there.  This led me to realize I had become at least a good player and would need to find a number to call my own.  As I am a mathematician and Christian, I wanted to find something that could tie those together while being rare enough no one would ever have it so I could maintain it on any team.  I was looking at 44, 47 and 45 as each had important mathematical features (see Wikipedia) and some had religious context while still being rare enough that no player ever had it.  

This was occurring in 2006 for the lead up for World Clubs, so was watching motivation sports movies to stay pumped up.  I watched Rudy one night and found a large number of parallels between him and me and was really touched.  He was born in Joliet, IL, and I was born the town over in Morris, IL.  He was short and constantly had to overcome adversities placed in his way.  I was usually told I didn’t have the necessary skills or attributes to succeed at what I set out for and had to work to overcome those adversities. For example, I was cut from recreational tennis my freshman year of high school, and that same year made the varsity team as the top doubles player through constant practice.    He was a rather devote Catholic and I am a strong protestant.  At the end of the movie, I noticed he wore number 45 at Notre Dame and so have worn that number myself ever since.  It may seem lame, but means something to me and always helps me remember where I came from and why I play the game.  

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in ultimate? Have you ever get any MVP awards? (most valuable player)

  • MVP: Australian National Championships in 2007.
  • All-Region: Mid-Atlantic 2009 
  • Green and Gold Team: 2006 and 2007


I have won a number of individual honors and awards in frisbee, but personally do not take much stock in such achievements as it is a team sport and where would I be without the hard work and support of my teammates. Each throw I have put up was only caught because of the desire, passion, and determination they have on the field.  I give my all and work hard for them, and honestly don’t believe any accolade associated with my name is merited as it was my teammates who got me where I am.  


That being said, my greatest achievements in ultimate are each and every time I have been so blessed, fortunate, and lucky enough to be selected to represent a country on a national team.  There is no greater achievement than to give back to the community you grew up in then for them to select you to play on their behalf.  I was selected for the 2007 Australian nationals beach team, the 2008 Australian national open team, and the 2011 US National beach team.  Each one was an amazing honor and nothing will ever top those experiences.  



What is your position on the field?


Up until this year, I have always been a defensive handler for every team I have ever played on.  This year, I made the switch to offensive handler for Ring and will probably remain there indefinitely 


Why? Not sure how to answer this without sounding slightly arrogant, lol.  I have been a handler as I have always pushed myself to fully utilize every possible throw I could.  I can’t control my height or speed, was genetically made the way I am, but I can maximize the number of throws, release points, different weightings and such.  Much like any sport, I figured it couldn’t hurt to learn every possible facet.  Sure, a half court shot in basketball is not super practical, but it has won teams games so why not learn it?  I have always played defense because though I am small, I am quick and can play good defense on handlers.  

Also, because I have handled my whole life, I can see the field well and therefore have good awareness on D and have been told I poach well, so teams keep putting me on D.  I played O this year for Ring as we wanted a more possession based offense which focused on breaking the mark and moving the disc quickly, which is my style of play. 


What is your favorite throw?

This is a very hard question.  My favorite throw is probably the high release flick or scoober.  My most effective throw is probably my hammer.

What else do you do (if anything!) apart from playing ultimate? 

There are other things to do?!?!?! Hehehe, joke


I was a music major before switching to applied mathematics, so play guitar and bass and write music.  Have been in a few bands, but now compose songs myself and record them and so forth.  Used to be a professional tennis instructor, and still play tennis whenever available.  I love strategy board games! (Carcassonne, Risk, Settlers of Catan, Powergrid, etc.)  I play a lot of video games, not sure that is a hobby…I am not a cool kid, I know.  From Hawaii, so whenever I can, I go scuba diving, snorkeling, playing in the ocean, and some beach volleyball.  Used to play paintball and airsoft.  I pretty much love being active and hanging out with friends, however that may happen, I like it!


Where do you work?

I am currently getting my doctorate from NC State University in Biomathematics with my research focus on estimating hidden markov states for complex biological systems in real time.  I also work at Pharsight Corporation, a pharmaceutical software company, as a functional analyst.

Do your colleagues know that you play ultimate? What do they think about it? 

My graduate school colleagues know and mainly make fun of me for it; however, my work colleagues know and support and encourage it.  Sites like have helped make our sport more respectable through outsiders eyes

Does ultimate help you in other aspects of your life? 

Very much yes!  I love ultimate frisbee more than the average person probably loves anything.  Yet, I know that it is just a game.  It helps keep things in perspective, keep my focus on helping those around me rather myself, and spread the love I have for frisbee to others in any facet of life.  Anecdotes, adventures, and friendships I have gained through frisbee are what make life worth living!




Why do you want to take part in All Stars Camp? 

Growing up playing in Australia, and then getting a chance to play for a highly respected US club team, I feel like I have a much different perspective on ultimate frisbee not just strategically, but also culturally and socially.  

I love sharing my love of the game with others and witnessing other’s love of this game, it is the most rewarding and encouraging aspect of ultimate to me!  I would love to share some of the tips and tricks I have learned over the years to people who want nothing more than learn, and share tactics, strategy, sports psychology, and philosophy that could help not just individuals learn and improve, but frisbee communities.

The fine details from attitude and mentality of a successful team and individual, to the thumb positioning for a high release flick. These details are what make a difference and help people to think about the game differently which spawns new, interesting perspectives, which is always good! 

Plus, I have never been to eastern Europe and have always wanted to visit and partake in such an interesting culture and environment!  Maybe get myself a wife, ;)  

Hehehe, jk

Do you have any teaching/coaching experience? 


I was a professional tennis instructor for 4 years at a top ranked resort.  I was a instructor and coach at the Brisbane Beginners league for frisbee.  I was a Teaching Assistant for calculus and differential equations at the university.  Most recently, I was the offensive coordinator for Ring of Fire in the 2010 season.

Do you ever learn anything new yourself at such training camps? 

They are as much a learning experience as a teaching experience.  Always learning something new and always exciting to work with people and see what they find effective, what they see and think, and bringing different ideas and perspectives together.  

Is there anything specific you want to do/try during your visit to Russia?

See the Kremlin and some of the other extremely cool and interesting architecture.

What do you already know about Russia? :)

That Kate and Brilliance are from there, so it must be awesome!  Is there anything else to know?

Play hard, work hard, and enjoy every minute you are lucky enough to partake in our amazing sport!  Enjoy the people, the game, and always place respect above results!