Ever wondered what it would feel like to be an excited dog and a competitive athlete at the same time? Then we’ve got exactly the article for you. Welcome to the world of ultimate frisbee!
The origins of the ultimate sport
Ultimate frisbee, as we know it today, began to come into existence in the 1960s in the schools and colleges of North America. It developed from a tongue-in-cheek school yard game into an internationally renowned sport played across 42 different countries with over 100,000 players.
Initially played with very few rules or limits, the game could consist of upwards of 20 players per team. It including running with the frisbee, and fouls were defined only by “any action sufficient to arouse the ire of your opponent.”*
Naturally, this couldn’t last, and slowly the rules began to filter in, taking inspiration from other well-known team sports such as football, basketball, netball, and hockey. The rules became better-established and the game began to take on its modern, recognisable form. Due to its laid-back origins, the game is known for attracting a wide mix of players and opening up the field to those perhaps less stereotypically suited to the athletic lifestyle. With its strong emphasis on movement and team spirit, ultimate frisbee is a game for anyone and everyone.
The first rules
As mentioned already, there were often up to 30 players in a team, but it was decided early on that an ideal team would be seven players strong. Players may wear any additional wearable aids – for example, gloves and hats within safety guidelines. However, all items of a bat- or racket-like nature are banned.
You may choose a referee to make any final decisions; however, it is not necessary to the structure of the game. The game has no set boundaries, but most players choose locations that provided them with natural ones; parking lots, fields, etc.
There is only one way to gain points and that is to score against the other team; one point per goal.
Variations: If you wish to up the challenge, you could attempt the “one-handed frisbee challenge.” If you mess up and use both hands to catch, you surrender your possession to the other team.
There have been many re-editions of the rules, and the most recent of these was released earlier this year by the World Flying Disc Federation. For those of you already hooked, I’ve added a link to the full rules document below, but in case you’ve not got time to read the whole 16 pages of it, here’s a quick summary.
- 7-player teams have become the set standard for competitive frisbee.
- The size and dimensions of an official ultimate frisbee ground are standardized to a rectangular field roughly half the width of a soccer pitch. Each end has a specific “End Zone” – one for each team.
- The ultimate objective of the sport is to get into your opponent’s “End Zone” and catch a pass from a player on your team. Doing so successfully will score you one point.
- Taken from netball, no player may move forward, run, or travel while holding the disc; instead, they can pivot on the spot and pass the disc in any direction to their teammates.
- Games often last around 100 minutes and are played to 15 points.
- The players, and the sport in general, rely on what’s commonly referred to as the “Spirit of the Game.” As a self-refereed non-contact sport, the game relies heavily on the moral grounding of each player, expecting you to play honestly, fairly, and without aggression. The link below goes into more detail about the expectations and responsibilities of players with respect to proper “spirit.”
You may be surprised to know that ultimate frisbee has come a long way from its parking lot origins; in 2015, it was awarded recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In fact, you can watch, and take part in (if you want to work towards it) high-level ultimate frisbee championships every couple of months. These take place across the world and attract hundreds and even thousands of fans.
Although it missed out on a spot for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, enthusiasts are hopeful that in time we’ll see this fantastic sport up there on the big screens!
Where can you find a team to join?
Hopefully by now you’re ready to jump straight in and find your very own ultimate frisbee team. Here’s some tips on where to find other players and associations which might be able to help.
One of the best places is online at the ultimate frisbee website, where you can narrow down your search for a team by location, team type, and the division in which they play competitively. It’ll also tell you whether or not that team accepts beginners, so you can gauge if the atmosphere will be right for you.
If you’re still a student, a great place to check is at your student union, as ultimate frisbee is becoming more and more popular as an extra-curricular activity at campuses across the world. It’s also a great way to make friends in a new environment – and, due to the Spirit of the Game emphasis on fairness and team spirit, there’s a good chance that they’ll be great people to hang out with, too! If neither of these work and nobody’s advertising in your area, I’ve given you the basics and the rules – why not set up your own team!
Have you got started yet?