Garrett Bernstein is incredibly noticeable as an ultimate player. Not only is he skilled, but he has a great beard. Definitely was a huge force during the Metro East finals game that helped Cornell advanced to Boulder. A competitor who knows how to block the pressure out and get the job done on the offensive line. Bernstein,#6, a grad student, brings years of nationals experience to a much younger Cornell squad than in the past.
How were you introduced to Ultimate?
I played a bit at camp during middle school and started to like it there. In high school I was deciding between doing either do Cross Country Fall/Ultimate Spring or Ultimate Fall/Track Spring. I remembered how miserable running Cross Country was in middle school so I opted for the latter combo. I got hooked on the sport in the fall and never looked back.
What’s your sports background, how did that transition to Ultimate?
I played every sport I could get my hands on in elementary and middle school: Soccer, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Track, Cross Country, Tennis, European Handball. I was most drawn to the team sports so playing Ultimate all through high school made sense. I think all that experience in team sports is what has helped me so much for Ultimate. Knowing how all the pieces move on the field and being able to grow a rapport with my teammates such that we know what each other intends to do means we can play without thinking.
What was the journey to your current position on Buds Ultimate?
I knew I wanted to play on the Buds even before I got into Cornell. As soon as orientation began I was at pickup and throwing with future teammates, skipping an orientation event or three to do so. 8 freshman made the team that year (plus two transfers the next year) and that really defined both my Ultimate and college experience at Cornell. As corny as it sounds, having that kind of cohort to spend 4 straight years with made the team more of a tight-knit family.
Success didn’t come immediately for me. I didn’t get significant playing time until I began to start on the O-line my junior year. It took me a long time to get rid of bad habits I had picked up from 4 years of high school Ultimate. I still have plenty I’m sure. My freshman year captain, Ph.D. Doug Mitarotonda, became a father figure to all of us freshman on the team that year and really shaped our development as players. He gave some tough love and still does, but gelling under him made my cohort into the players we are today.
I play O-line so when I walk out to the line for each pull I try to completely zone everything out. Ignoring the crowds
and forgetting the score leads to nice, easy, boring offense, which what we try to run. My fellow O-line handlers occasionally get frustrated with me for not playing boring offense, but they’ve gotten good at reeling me back in when I get a bit too fired up. I’m a creature of habit, so going through the same routines for every point helps. Tweaking my hat and knee brace, saying the same thing when the pull goes up. We also don’t usually have much to talk about on the line when waiting for the pull so it’s always fun to talk and joke around with my teammates and keep our minds off the impending point. We can all run our offense on auto-pilot at this point so over-thinking it isn’t a good thing.
What do you do outside of Ultimate?
I majored in Applied & Engineering Physics and am currently getting a Masters in Computer Science. I’m certain my GPA would be higher if I hadn’t committed so much time to Ultimate over my 5 years here, but I don’t regret it at all. Being sequestered away in the library for 5 years does not sound appealing. I did have to take this past fall semester off for a demanding course load and job search but I locked up my dream job at MIT Lincoln Lab doing Artificial Intelligence for Counterterrorism early which let me focus much more on Ultimate this semester than I would have otherwise. Between school work and Ultimate there’s not a whole lot of free time to be had but we make the most of it. I’ve lived with teammates for the past three years so we always spend tons of time together. Those of us leaving for good are trying to take full advantage of our last few months here so we’re living it up with concerts and bucket lists.
What are the after college plans? Do they involve Ultimate?
I’m not sure what my future Ultimate plans look like. I’ve sorta been planning on crossing that bridge when I get to it. After 9 years of playing I may be due for an extended break, but so much of my social life stems from Ultimate I’m sure I’ll stay connected to it at least somewhat. There’s a huge network of great Cornell Ultimate alums in Boston which I plan on taking full advantage of.