The fastest-growing team sport? It may be “ultimate’
It looks like a game of team “keep away,’ but it’s
actually called “ultimate,’ “ultimate Frisbee,’ or
more affectionately, “ulty.’ You can play it at any park or
playing field, on a fall picnic or a beach outing.
Ultimate is a great family game–easy to learn, with the bonus of
lots of exercise. Best of all, it’s a noncontact sport; you may
get tired, but you probably won’t get bruised.
If you’ve visited a college campus in the last few years, you
may have seen it played–a melee of people zigzagging up and down a
field, blending the rules and skills of football, basketball, and
The game could possibly be the country’s fastest-growing team
sport. Since 1968, when the first recorded game of ultimate was played
on a New Jersey high school field, players have put together hundreds of
collegiate and noncollegiate teams.
Where you can watch
College campuses are good places to see ultimate played on a weekly
basis; several Western schools have clubs. Like lacrosse and rugby
teams, teams are considered sports clubs by athletic departments, but
the department office can usually tell you where and when teams play.
Many schools also have intramural ultimate leagues. UC Santa
Barbara, for instance, had 72 intramural teams this past spring.
Most teams, collegiate and noncollegiate, belong to the Ultimate
Players Association (UPA). Beginning in mid-October, the western region
of UPA will hold a series of tournaments leading up to the regional
championships at UC Santa Cruz on November 3 and 4. Finalists will go on
to play in the national championships, to be held on Thanksgiving
weekend –November 22 through 25–at UC Santa Barbara.
For full schedule details, write or call one of the groups listed
on page 84.
Rules of the game
Here are the basics of play, which we’ve adapted from the
eighth edition of UPA’s Ultimate Official Rules.
The object is to score goals by passing the Frisbee (disk) to
players in the end zone. You can only pass it–not run with it– and
hand-offs are not allowed. The game ends when you’re either too
tired to continue or you reach a predetermined number of goals.
To start, you “throw off’: teams line up on their goal
line and one player throws the disk to the opponents. If it goes
out-of-bounds (OB), the receiving team can start where it went out or
ask for another throw. If it goes out beyond the goal line, play starts
from the nearest front corner of the end zone. If a receiver touches
the disk before it hits the ground, the throwing team takes possession.
After the throw-off, the saucer-tossing march downfield begins.
Players can go anywhere on the field at any time–no offsides–and can
throw in any direction. When you catch the disk in flight, you have to
stop as soon as you can, establish a pivot foot, and not change your
pivot until you throw.
Teammates run around, trying to get open for a pass–thus the
mad-scramble look of the game. The defense guards the thrower and
covers receivers as in basketball or soccer, but defenders can’t
touch opponents or steal the disk from the thrower’s hand.
Any undue physical contact is a foul, and it’s up to the two
players involved to decide who fouled whom. The fouled player gets the
disk where the call was made; if the foul occurs in the end zone, play
resumes at the goal line.
Whenever a pass is incomplete, intercepted, knocked down, or flies
OB, possession changes. After a goal, teams defend the opposite goal,
and the scoring team throws off.
Ultimate book, newsletter, clubs
The best book on the game is Ultimate: Fundamentals of the Sport,
by Irv Kalb and Tom Kennedy (Revolutionary Publications, Box 4787, Santa
Barbara, Calif. 93103). In California send $9.48 for a copy, $8.48
out-of-state; prices include postage, handling, and tax.
To join UPA and get their rule book and a quarterly newsletter,
send $7 to UPA, Box 2600, Mesa, Ariz. 85204.
To find out when teams are playing, call or send a stamped,
self-addressed envelope to one of these UPA coordinators: Western
region: Ken Foote, 761 Grace Court, Livermore, Calif. 94550; (415)
443-5213. Pacific Northwest: Dennis Clements, 980 Hampden N.E., Salem,
Ore. 97301; (305) 585-8001. Rocky Mountains: Matt Westfield, 126 E.
McKinley St., Tempe, Ariz. 85281; (602) 946-6378. Northern California:
Chris Johnson, 945 Kennard Way, Sunnyvale 94087; (408) 730-8751.
Southern California: David Clacomb, 4602 Natalie Dr., San Diego 92115;
Photo: Young beachgoers converge on a pass in a friendly pickup
game of ultimate
Photo: Eyes riveted on disk, balletic collegians tune up for Santa
Photo: You can play official ultimate Frisbee with seven players on
the size of field shown here, or use a smaller field and fewer players