By Boyd Baker, Lake Claire Resident.
When you think of really fun and interesting team sports, which ones come to mind? I’m guessing football, baseball, soccer, and hockey make the list. Well, there’s a new game in town (actually started in the 1960s by a group of high school students in N.J.) and it’s called Ultimate Frisbee. It could be the first sport your kid knows more about than you do.
This game combines the non-stop movement and endurance of soccer with the aerial passing skills and end zones of football. Differences include the fact that teams can go forward and backward when trying to score, players who catch the disc must stop running before throwing to a teammate, 7 players per side, no substitutes unless there’s an injury or point scored, and there are no officials. “What?! How can you have a sport without a referee?” you say. Yep, Spirit of the Game is integrated into all aspects of the game at every level. Competition is fun but sportsmanship comes first. Players call their own fouls and work out differences on the field. When you know you’ll have to defend your acts, it’s surprising how honesty rises to the top of our emotions.
Being a non-contact sport, having minimal equipment costs, and playing on either football or soccer fields has made this a growing sport within APS for both boys and girls. Whereas the Grady Boys’ team has had much success in recent years, the Girls’ program is just starting to really take off. Just eight years ago, Grady had a single co-ed team to now having Varsity and JV teams for both boys and girls. Last year, the Grady Girls Varsity team ranked third in state and the Grady Boys Varsity team ranked third in the country!
The growth of Ultimate at Inman Middle School has been insane. Being a co-ed sport in middle school has allowed both genders to get experience in this healthful sport. Last year, they had so many kids, they had 3 teams. This year, they had over 80 kids tryout so they had to form 4 teams, plus a girls’ team. The Inman Eagles won the city championship this fall. The number of schools fielding girls’ teams in middle and high school just continues to grow.
For my daughter, this was her first foray into organized sports and she’s definitely a convert. “It’s easy to learn and the Spirit of the Game makes it unique,” she says. The angry competitiveness of other sports never appealed to her. The fact that the teamwork and sportsmanship work in tandem within Spirit of the Game is appealing to her. She’s been surprised by the strategy and structure of the game when it looks so basic.
Much of Ultimate’s growth in Atlanta can be attributed to the hard work of George Li and the Atlanta Flying Disc Club’s spring and fall open workshops, as well as the emerging elementary school programs. This year a team of Morningside and Cliff Valley students have played a new Fernbank team, and Hope-Hill is beginning a program this spring. Interestingly enough, Paideia School has been a large factor as well. Their extremely competitive program has brought much attention to the sport. They also host a terrific summer camp that students from all over Atlanta attend.
And ultimate doesn’t end with the school year. The Youth Club Competition gathers students during the summer on U-20 and U-17 teams that can then play in a season ending championship in August in Minnesota. Of course, college programs abound but ultimate is still not an NCAA sport. In 2015, the International Olympic Committee recognized Ultimate as a sport. There are thousands of players in over 60 countries playing Ultimate today. Shouldn’t be too long before there are scholarships and even an Olympic team for a sport so strong as Ultimate.