Ultimate Frisbee: ultimate game

IUS Horizon

I enjoy sports. I like to play them. I like to watch them. I like pulling down rebounds on the court and racking up the YAC on the football field. I embarrass myself every time I step onto a volleyball court, but I enjoy that, too. All of these sports, however, pale in comparison to a little sport called ultimate frisbee.

Ultimate is a different kind of sport.  It is best in its pickup form.  Some schools have teams, and Louisville has a fairly large league, but organized ultimate lacks what makes ultimate truly great — openness and accessibility.

I’ve played many different kinds of pickup sports. But they always seem to be cliquey and a bit exclusive between groups. It’s often difficult to jump in with a group, especially when you aren’t really at their skill level.

But ultimate is governed by something called “Spirit of the Game.” Not everyone who plays ultimate is familiar with the term, but we all get the benefit of it. Spirit of the Game basically calls players to be fair to one another, open the game to anyone who wants to play, and not take the game too seriously. It’s OK to get into the game, but keep in mind it is just a game.

Even in tournament play, teams usually referee themselves.

But one of the biggest things that makes the Spirit of the Game work is that ultimate is easy to pick up and play. There are really only four rules. First, don’t run with the Frisbee. Second, keep contact to a minimum. In order to score, throw to your teammates in the direction of your end zone (ultimate is played on a football-style field) until a member of your team catches the disc in the end zone. Finally, if the disc is not caught, whether it is dropped, intercepted, blocked, or caught out of bounds, it is a turnover and the other team immediately takes possession.

These rules can be tweaked and changed for the group you’re with, like not worrying about side boundaries, playing a more physical game or using more advanced rules like stall counts, but those are the basics.

I know it’s a little abstract just reading it, but most people get it after seeing one or two points.

It’s not like football or soccer where new players get bogged down by the complexity of the game’s rules or volleyball where a team can take advantage of less-skilled players and hit to them repeatedly to rack up the points.

It does take some practice to bomb passes down field or figure out a defensive strategy, but people can immediately jump in and rely on short passes and start getting the hang of the game.

I try to play as much as I can. You may have noticed from the What’s Happening page that there are games every Tuesday and Thursday at IU Southeast on the field next to McCullough Plaza at high noon.

I play before and after my physics class and it is usually a great time. It’s kind of interesting to see the people who play.

People typically come and go, except for a small base of a few players who advertise for more players by throwing it back and forth.

Those who are tempted by the flying disc are all different. They vary from the quiet, churchey types who speak with their actions on field to stereotypical frat guys. People who are obviously athletic types who could play on the school basketball team play side-by-side with the kinds of guys and girls who would just as soon play World of Warcraft. Country boys chat between points with women with skull tattoos across their chests and surprisingly good throwing arms. We even get the occasional professor who can’t resist the call of the disc.

It sometimes amazes me that people of vastly different lifestyles come together for Frisbee.

It’s difficult to think of another place on campus, or elsewhere for that matter, where these people choose to come together and share something at the social level.

At Louisville’s waterfront, another one of my favorite Frisbee locations, the variety is even greater, but for the relative homogeneity of IU Southeast, we do all right.

So no matter the type of people you usually hang out with, your athletic ability, or especially your experience with ultimate, you should give my favorite game a try.

Just walk up and jump in, if only for a few minutes. I think you’ll soon be back for more.

Zach Hester