You see them everywhere. Not just in every U.S. state – but across the world. The circular, plastic 175-gram “Sportdisc” (more commonly known as the “Frisbee”) has become ubiquitous with relaxing summer fun: on the beach, in the park, and as a part of lawn games everywhere. What many don’t know is that the sportdisc’s corresponding use, Ultimate, has become one of the country’s fastest growing team sports.
Once considered a “hippie sport,” Ultimate began at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey in 1968. After its conception, it began to grow rapidly on college campuses across the country, developing a reputation as an alternative sport. Because of its focus on sportsmanship, fun, and partying, it gained a stigma it perhaps didn’t deserve. Most people don’t know that the sport has an international governing body, WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation), or that national and world championships have been held for over three decades, and the sport is now played in over 80 countries worldwide.
Often incorrectly referred to as “Ultimate Frisbee,” Ultimate is an eclectic mix of basketball, soccer, and football played with a sportdisc (“Frisbee” specifically refers Wham-O’s trademarked name for their Sportdisc. Wham-O’s were used for a long time as the sport’s official disc, but it has since been replaced by the Discraft Ultrastar 175-gram). Functionally, it combines the endurance and general movement of Soccer, with the multi-positionality and athletic skills of basketball, and the general field structure of football. Played 7 on 7, a point is scored when the disc is caught in the opponent’s end zone, but in between the game is free flowing. The only stoppage where subs are allowed are at the end of points and in the case of injury.
Because of the constant sprinting, jumping, diving, stopping, and starting, Ultimate has gained a reputation as one of the most physically demanding team sports. It’s propensity for highlight reel plays has led to its growth nationally; there are now two different pro leagues (MLU and the AUDL), and both College and Club National Championships are broadcast on ESPN3. Split into three divisions – Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed (with both genders sharing the field) – Ultimate is one of the most equalized sports between the sexes, where even at the highest level men and women share the field and coexist in a beautiful way.
As a noncontact sport that requires only a $10 disc to play, Ultimate is even more accessible than soccer. As it has spread around the world, it has found footholds as a source of humanitarianism, most notably the “Ultimate Peace” movement, which seeks to bring peace to embattled areas through the spread of the sport.
Currently, the U23 World Championships are under way in London, England. Take an opportunity to watch some high level ultimate! As a sport that is fun, simple, and easy to learn, it’s no wonder that it’s growing so fast. Most areas have local leagues or pick-up games for people of all skill levels. Get out and have some fun this summer!