The ultimate sport: Robbins reflects on what frisbee teaches players

Julia Robbins

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Ultimate frisbee is a sport of core values and beliefs. And, although I’ve only played on the team for one season and am in no way an authority on the sport, I have come to really appreciate the honesty, good sportsmanship, and acceptance to that ultimate stands for and relies on.

Ultimate is played with seven people from each team who pass a frisbee up and down the field until a teammate catches it in the correct endzone. While the basic tenants of the sport are much like other team sports such as basketball or football, there are several distinguishing factors of ultimate.

One of the most noticeable aspects of the game is its absence of referees. The games are entirely self-refereed by the players. While this may sound a little unrealistic at first, it actually works out quite well. There’s a whole process in place for how players talk through foul calls or other rulings on the field, like traveling. The process involves conversation and cooperation between both teams.

This process teaches, and in some ways forces, players to act with integrity. Much like in business, politics, or relationships, players prefer dealing with people who are fair and honest. There are few better ways to test one’s honesty and character than during a competitive, unrefereed, sports game. Forcing yourself to cooperate with an opponent in the heat of the moment during a tough game can teach you how to work with people in other parts of life.

Another interesting aspect of the sport is that opposite teams will sometimes cheer on the other team after a great play. If you look up videos of people playing ultimate, even in a highly competitive game, it is not uncommon to see players high five their opponents after a great catch or play. While this level of good sportsmanship might make you think that ultimate is not a competitive sport, that is not the case. If you watched players diving out on the floor to make seemingly impossible catches or defenders jumping incredibly high to make interceptions, you would know that ultimate is tough.

The final aspect of the game that I’d like to mention is the co-ed nature of the sport. The three main types of ultimate teams that are offered at schools and higher levels are co-ed (fixed ratio of men to women), women’s, and open (open to anyone but consists primarily of men). At the school, unlike most of the other sports at school, ultimate is a co-ed team. Last year, I was the only girl on the team and this year there are five girls. None of the guys treat me or any of the girls differently because of our gender. I am only speaking from my own experience, but from the league and team that I have played on, I have found the sport to be incredibly accepting.

But possibly most notable is how genuinely fun the game is. Last year, one of my teammates successfully completed a move called “The Greatest.” He caught the disk in the air out of bounds, and without stepping down, threw a pass to someone in the endzone to score a point. I was excited when I dove for the disk once in the endzone and scored a point at the most picturesque park I’ve ever been in. More than just the plays themselves, it’s the reactions of our teammates that are so memorable. We get so excited for each other when someone makes a great catch or throw, and we don’t let bad plays get us down. The best part about the sport is that this optimistic ethos isn’t unique to the school team. ultimate is played for the fun of the sport, and it shows in almost every team and player.

I encourage everyone to consider playing ultimate in the future because you will not only have fun, but be surrounded by honest, kind, and accepting teammates and opponents.