Maybe you’ve heard of Ultimate Frisbee, maybe you haven’t. While not exactly mainstream yet, it’s certainly come a long way from the obscurity of its early days. It’s played in over 50 countries on every continent, with world championships held every 4 years. In Australia there are over 5,000 people who play, with established leagues in every capital and most regional centres. National championships are held annually, and get bigger and bigger every year.
‘So what the hell is it?’ you ask. Well it’s simple – it’s a team field sport, same as soccer or footy, but played with a Frisbee. The reason that this is awesome is that in every other sport, the ball is subject to the laws of gravity – you kick it up, it falls down, accelerating at a rate of nine point eight meters per second per second.
A Frisbee flies.
This means you get extended chases and dramatic dives, spectacular launches and latitudinal layouts. A player can throw the disc to an empty corner of the field, with ample time for his or her team mate to chase the bugger down and score the point. A game in full flight is a sight to behold.
I guess I should explain how the game works. It’s like a mix between AFL and American Football. You work the disc up the field with passes – you’re not allowed to run with the Frisbee, so every catch is like a mark in AFL, then ideally you look to throw it to a player cutting into open space. You score a point by passing it to a player in the end zone – like American Football. If it hits the ground or goes out (or is intercepted), it’s a turnover. Simple, easy to learn, and a hell of a lot of fun.
But what really sets it apart, the reason I and many other people hold it so dear to our hearts, is that the whole thing is self-refereed. Players on the field make all their own calls. If someone thinks they were fouled, they call foul. If a player catches it near the back of the end zone and they’re the only ones back there, it’s up to them to call in or out. If a call is contested, it just goes back to the thrower. It’s not exploited, and it makes for a far more beautiful sporting experience than soccer or rugby. No diving for the ref, no obviously stupid decisions to ruin the game.
“Pffft” some might say. “What a load of crap, that’d never work”. But the best thing is that it actually does. End of story. Even the grand finals of the world championships, it’s up to the players. The emphasis is always on sportsmanship and integrity. At most tournaments there is a prize for points (obviously), but also a prize for spirit. The entire enterprise really should be held up as a shining beacon of behaviour, not just in the sporting world, but society in general.
It’s not just on the field, either. When you go to a game, the drinks stand is more often than not un-manned. They have an esky full of beverages, a list of prices, a box of change, and leave the rest up to you. It’s the sort of thing that makes you feel good about being a human.
At the end of the day, playing a team sport is something that a lot of people don’t do once they finish school. But they forget just how healthy it is. Aside from the obvious fitness benefits, to regularly get out and work in a team dynamic does wonders for your general well-being. And Frisbee players are often the soundest people you’re likely to meet. Parties are just as much a part of the culture as the games.
Chances are there is a weekly league near you, we’ve got them listed on this page, so don’t be shy about going to check it out. It’s also one of the cheapest sports to play – all you need is a light and dark shirt. Most of the winter leagues are wrapping up around now, but the summer ones will be starting around September. Teams are mixed (boys and girls play together), and the emphasis is on having an honest good time, not winning at all costs. If you don’t want to play straight away, feel free just to come down for a look. Beginners are always encouraged and well looked after. And once you get the gist of the game, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
27th July 2008 , Mid Winter Solstice – Eric Mobbs Reserve – Castle Hill
2nd-9th August 2008, World Ultimate Championships 2008 – Vancouver, Canada
6th-7th September, 2008 NSW Mixed Championships 2008 – Newcastle University Fields
Winter leagues are coming towards their conclusion
Summer Leagues will commence in September
Hills Spring 2008 – Summer 2009 Leagues – Eric Mobbs Rsv Excelsior Ave Castle Hill
NSL Summer League 2009 – Gore Hill Oval St Leonards
For pickup games/Hat Tournaments check http://www.afda.com/tournamentcalendar.php
For contact info in Sydney http://ufnsw.com.au