To the reader, whomever and wherever you may be.
I hope I can make you appreciate how weird it is, sitting here, trying to write this.
I’ve been wanting to write an article about Ultimate Frisbee for a while now. It forms such a central point in my life. It is the reason countless weekends and hours are spent travelling the UK, the reason I can keep fit and the reason why I’ve met many of my friends.
Yet still, trying to explain exactly why I’m so in love with it is difficult.
Recently, there has been a post making the rounds in the Ultimate community. It’s written by a guy who’s watching his first Ultimate Frisbee tournament, and it’s a reminding a lot of us why we do our sport in the first place.
Ultimate has always been notable for its inclusiveness and diversity. Anyone can and does play. From the distinguished mega-athlete able to do swimming in the English channel, to the kid who was scared of PE at school and never thought he’d do sport in his life. And both have come to love it.
The game itself is fairly simple. You throw a Frisbee around, moving like netball (no running with disc), scoring like American football (catch a disc in an endzone to score a point), and all the while being non-contact. Doesn’t seem that exciting, engaging or revolutionary. In fact, you probably drifted off while reading this bit.
That’s understandable. Let me backtrack and try to grab your attention again.
The thing that really separates Ultimate from other sports is that it is self-refereed. There’s no pleading to an anonymous official, there’s no acting all innocent and blaming the luck of who you get to watch over your game. In Ultimate, you have to knuckle up and accept responsibility. And accept that sometimes you’re on the wrong side of the discussion. It all seems idealistic and fanciful, until you actually see it work, and work well.
On another level, it has amazing community spirit, is incredibly friendly, and contains some truly awesome people. Ultimate Frisbee has two sides, its competitive side and its fun side, and it does both to the limits.
I know people who can jump ridiculous heights, run unbelievably fast and throw discs with impeccable (and quite frankly irritating) accuracy. People who push a sport to the best it can be.
I also know people prepared to dress in ridiculous fancy dress (Margaret Thatcher, Big Bird and the entire Jamaican bobsleigh team, with bobsleigh, are not uncommon sights), do 3 pint challenges, then play the next morning hung over, still in their costumes.
I also also know that these can be the same people. There’s none of the top level people sacrificing social lives in Ultimate, as in many other sports. I know fun people, young people, old and parent people, all bound by a love of Ultimate. People of every ability, age and background. People who are strange, surreal and some of the greatest guys and girls I’ve ever had the fortune to meet.
Ultimate can yields amazing photos, is more fun than almost any other sport that I know to watch, and has a community that encourages individuality, is unfailingly supportive, and is more willing to ignore the advice of trained professional physiotherapist than any other I know, purely so they can play one extra game.
Now I think I’m starting to understand why it is I play this sport.
Ultimate, for me, is just a world away from anything else. I do acting, poetry, charity work, CU stuff and even occasionally work on my degree. I’ve done countless other sports in the past, yet nothing else can come close to how Ultimate makes me feel.
Ultimate Frisbee isn’t for everyone. Some just never understand it, some insist they’ll never be any good and some just can’t get around the concept of being nice to people on the pitch. However, I beg you to at least give it a try.
For those that do persevere, they’ll tell you that picking up a disc and starting to play was the best choice they’ve ever made.
It certainly was for me.
Yours in conclusion,
Harry is an avid Ultimate fan and the somehow President of the Oxford University Ultimate Frisbee team (aka OW!). He’s willing to answer any questions you may have, and will almost certainly be able to link you to a local player at your university, if you ask nicely. Otherwise, check out your local stall at freshers’ fair.