Ultimate Disc – a Fun, Spirited Sport for Anyone

I love the sport of ultimate disc.

Many people profess to love a sport, I know, but those are often people who love sports in general. They probably play two or three and avidly follow those plus a few others. I’m no sports fan. In fact, if you had told me that I’d be playing a field sport back in 1996 (when I was in the worst shape of my life), I would have laughed you out of the room. I’m a bookworm, not a lover of sports! But a lot happens in ten years. More precisely, it’s been five years since I was introduced to the sport of ultimate disc.

Ultimate disc is not disc golf and it only peripherally involves dogs. It is played with a 175gm plastic disc on a 40 by 70 yard field with 25 yard endzones. (Wham-O is the most visible makers of plastic discs, the Frisbee, although the sport has grown without the support of the toy maker.) Teams are made up of seven people. Play consists of throwing the disc from one player to the next until it is caught in the endzone. The defense tries to prevent that from happening by blocking throws and covering receivers. If the disc is dropped or intercepted, it’s a turnover and the defense become offense as play continues. While a player cannot run with the disc, running to catch the disc is the order of the day. Imagine sprinting up and down a soccer field a half a dozen times with short rests in between and you get some idea of ultimate disc’s physicality. It’s a lot of running.

So why did I, an out of shape bookworm, decide to try and come to love this sport?

Spirit of the Game

Ultimate disc is a non-contact sport. Jostling happens, but the official rules of the game state that it’s every player’s responsibility to play in a safe manner. The game is also self-officiating. Currently, even at the highest levels of play (college and club championships are held each year), it is the player who call the fouls. And amazingly, this system works. It does so due to an amorphous concept known as Spirit of the Game. Spirit of the Game is essential to “ultimate.”

In a nutshell, Spirit of the Game is mutual respect between all the players on the field, both players on your team and on the other team. When the very rules of the game are based upon this respect, it affects the entire atmosphere of the sport.

For me, it began on the sidelines. When my husband joined the local recreational league, I attended his first game. That night several female players asked me why I wasn’t playing too. I would have thought that one look at me would have been a sufficient answer. While I knew how to throw a disc, I was in no shape to run 20 yards once, much less do it over and over again. I could also see that there was a definite system to how the game was played that was beyond my grasp. “Everyone has to learn sometime,” I was told in answer to my objections. “You’ll get into shape by playing, don’t worry.”

I have to admit, while watching that first game, I was impressed by the diversity of players on the field. Co-ed games are common, with female players matched against other female players. And there were players of nearly every body type playing and being effective players. Some of the better players were not the stereotypical hard-bodies. I later found out that the age range of our local league is 16 to 55. Even on a recreational level, I’m not sure there are many sports that can support that kind of range.

“You’ll be playing by fall,” one of the lady players assured me.

I was dubious, but I eventually decided to give it a tryâÂ?¦after building up a little running stamina. My first game was with a “pick-up” group that plays every Wednesday at noon. The rules of the game were explained as we played and advice was generously doled out. And so was praise. Often that praise came from my opposition. Even now, after five years and several higher competition tournaments, I’m always amazed that someone on the opposite team can compliment a particularly good play. It isn’t incompatible with competitive play when you respect the other team. Truly, I can’t think of anything more satisfying in ultimate disc than playing hard against strong competition and being given an on-field compliment.

The Most Important Thing

At the end of that first game, a fellow player asked if I’d had fun. “That’s the most important thing,” he said. In any recreational endeavor, it’s important to have fun, and ultimate disc is one of the more fun things I do. Joking and heckling are standard during games, as is the strange practice of cheering the other team after a game. The more bawdy or pun-filled the cheer, the better. Family and pets are welcome on the sideline (as long as they’re well behaved) and it’s a rare team that doesn’t have a cooler full of cold post-game refreshments to be shared. I’ve played in a few different cities, and ultimate players are always a great group of people.

Five years later, I am in better shape. I’m not a “natural” at ultimate disc, so I’m still learning the subtleties of the game. I have great memories of tournaments, including wins and losses both. Through the community of ultimate disc, I’ve met a number of people I’d count as friends. All in all, there are worse things for an affirmed bookworm to do with her time.

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