What is Ultimate and Why Should You (and Your Family & Friends) Play?
If you’re interested in a great workout and having fun at the same time, you can’t go wrong with a game of Ultimate. Ultimate is a dynamic running game that combines the endurance of soccer with the passing skills of football and the fast-paced, quick-transition nature of basketball, using a plastic flying disc, or Frisbee® with two teams of seven. So what does that mean, really?
1. Ultimate is like a game of keep-away with a flying disc (we use the term “flying disc” because Frisbee® is trademarked).
2. Although an official game of Ultimate involves two teams of seven, more informal pick-up games can be played by teams with fewer players.
3. Ultimate is played on a field that’s the same length as a soccer field, but narrower.
4. You can’t run with the disc.
5. In theory, it’s a non-contact sport; so while incidental contact may occur, there is no tackling or intentional bumping, grabbing or hitting.
6. The object of the game is to catch the disc in the end zone.
7. Ultimate can be played by gender or as a co-ed game.
How is Ultimate Different From Other Sports?
There are no referees. What? Yeah, that’s right, no referees or umpires. Ultimate is governed by a tradition of sportsmanship called Spirit of the Game™. Here is how USA Ultimate explains Spirit of the Game™ (often abbreviated SOTG):
Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate unsportsmanlike conduct from the Ultimate field. Such actions as taunting opposing players, dangerous aggression, belligerent intimidation, intentional infractions, or other 'win-at-all-costs' behavior are contrary to the Spirit of the Game™ and must be avoided by all players."
It is this responsibility for fair play and lack of referees that make Ultimate unique among sports, and one of the ways in which Ultimate builds character in those who play. Rather than relying on an “authority” to govern the game, players have to learn how to govern themselves, call fouls and respect one another as players. It is not uncommon for a casual pickup game of Ultimate to go on for an hour or more without anyone keeping score. The point is to be able to play the game because it’s so much fun.
Are there people who don’t follow Spirit of the Game™? It happens, yes. But there are consequences for those who don’t abide by the principles of SOTG. In my experience, people who don’t show respect for other players, or exhibit a “win at all costs” attitude often find that when it’s time to choose teams, no one wants to choose them.
Why Play Ultimate?
I’ve heard many Ultimate players claim they hate running, but they will spend all day doing just that to play in an Ultimate tournament. Why?
It’s fun. Serious fun. I believe that one of the main reasons Ultimate is fun is because of the emphasis on good sportsmanship. The innate friendly dynamic between teammates and opposing teams facilitated by the Spirit of the Game makes Ultimate fun.
But that is not the only reason. At its most elementary level, Ultimate is fun because it’s an incredibly dynamic team game that cannot rely on one star player. The unique flying options of the disc mean that no two throws look alike, making play options limitless and offering challenges regardless of your level of play. With Ultimate, there is always something to learn and something to improve upon.
Compared to other sports, the Ultimate community is relatively small, and those who play Ultimate find themselves part of a close knit family and social network that thrives on respect and good humor.
Ultimate combines the athletic skills of running, catching and throwing, and is a physically demanding sport. A flying disc travels quickly in the air, and since throwing is the only way to move the disc on a field, the game requires a fair amount of running. For people looking for an interactive, social sport that is also a great workout, Ultimate is good option.
Playing Ultimate with Kids
Because Ultimate is flexible and relatively cheap, it’s a great sport to introduce to kids. Essentially, you need a disc and players should wear cleats. You can try playing in other types of athletic shoes, but you will tend to slip. With low equipment costs, Ultimate is an easy sport for school districts to introduce, whether through gym class, an after-school activity, an intramural sport or as a varsity school sport. The athletic skills, endurance and group dynamics that Ultimate teaches are fundamentals for being successful in all walks of life.
More importantly, Ultimate develops acceptance of responsibility for one's own behavior. Participation truly builds character, self-reliance, listening and negotiating skills and leadership qualities due to the sport's official rules of Spirit of the Game.