Ultimate Frisbee: a little-known but much-loved sportDublin, Spring 2010
Many of my favorite memories of my abroad experience have been since I joined my university’s Ultimate Frisbee team. The only reason I have refrained from mentioning it much in my posts is because, when I talk about how much I love playing, my enthusiasm is usually met with blank stares. Not many people have heard of Ultimate — it’s a fairly new sport, but one that, once you’re in, becomes addicting both on and off the playing field.
Ultimate is difficult to picture if you’ve never watched a game played. It’s a little like soccer, but with your hands on a disc instead of your feet on a ball. Basically, seven players per team have to get a Frisbee from one end of the pitch to another by throwing it to their teammates. Once a player catches the disc, they are only allowed three steps before they must throw to another player. Meanwhile, the defending team is trying to knock the disc away from the players without any actual contact. There are seven ways to call a foul, and all penalties are called by the players; we are all our own referees. Sounds simple, but there are many strategies to effectively scoring a point. And this is where Ultimate gets really competitive.
We train three times a week, running drills, practicing specific line formations and running plays that work to evade defense while keeping the disc moving. It involves an extreme amount of team coordination, communication and understanding of individuals’ tactics to have an effective line of players. With so much training and post-practice team bonding, we become close friends in a very short time. Then tournament weekends (usually every 3 weeks or so) come around, and we spend virtually the entire weekend together. Ultimate is the most social sport I’ve ever seen, and forms lasting friendships quickly.
Because the sport is still small, most of the tournaments we go to have many of the same teams and players playing. So even in the two months I’ve played in Ireland, I’ve made friends with my whole team, but also with people on other teams throughout the country. We compete against one another on the field, mercilessly defending (and sometimes calling fouls against) each other, but on the sidelines and after the games we are laughing, heckling, and joking together. I think this camaraderie must come from the fact that the sport is so small. We all have the same interests, and the fact that it’s a little-known interest makes us more grateful for those who understand it.
Ultimate is a great sport to get involved with, and isn’t just an Irish pastime. I played Ultimate for my home school in Iowa, and many schools all over the world are beginning to add Ultimate Frisbee to their list of clubs. Its likely your school may even have one, and you never knew about it. There are also club teams in many cities for those who aren’t in college but would still like to play, though usually clubs are a bit more serious/competitive than college teams. If you’re interested in the sport and would like to see how it’s played, here’s a video of one the tournaments I played in last month, shot by a friend from another team (our school is in the black and blue jerseys, called “Captain Huck”):
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