Frisbee more fun than in the sun

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Joe McLean

I have to admit my sporting knowledge of Frisbee amounted to memories of playing it during lazy summers in Kelvingrove Park and on California’s sandy beaches. But guzzling cold beers, and avoiding tenacious dogs while doing so, didn’t exactly take a lot of exertion. So I was slightly cynical about the “sport” of Ultimate Frisbee as I joined the Ultimate team, (dropping the frisbee element as there are issues over copyright), at one of their weekly training sessions in the Kelvin Hall.

After the warm-up I joined Coach Phil Webb in some throwing practice and he explained a bit more about the game to me. The object is to score points by passing the disc to a player in the opposing end zone, similar to an end zone in American football. But unlike football, players may not run while holding the disc, so it’s more similar to netball in that respect. This fusion of sports is also complemented by the fact that they play mixed teams.

It was all sounding very liberal to me. So it was no surprise to learn it all started in 1960’s America, where it was described as being the “ultimate game experience”. The rules governing movement and scoring have not changed over the decades, with gentlemanly behaviour the order of the day. A foul was originally defined as contact “sufficient to arouse the ire of the player fouled”. All Ultimate matches (even at World Championship events) are self-officiated. How noble and refreshing, especially after the recent Thierry Henry ‘Hand of Gaul’ incident, that here we have an honest way to play sport. “No referees,” I hear you cry, “surely anarchy will ensue!” But in speaking with Phil, he says it is surprising just how honest players are over incidents. Ultimate’s self-officiated nature demands a strong spirit of sportsmanship and respect. But cast aside any idea that this is just a game of pleasantries — from what I saw it is just as vigorous and arduous as football or basketball.

Indoor Ultimate evolved as a variant of the standard outdoor game and is more popular in the UK due to our climate. I watched some practice games, and I was astounded at how frantic and action-packed they were. As a regular five-a-side football player, I was blown away by how fast this game is and how much of the pitch the players cover. Phil explained that games run for twenty minutes and they are virtually non-stop. With that you can dispel any notion of a leisurely game in the park, this is lung bursting stuff! For me it ticks all the boxes for a sport: it’s a team game; it has technique and skill; it’s competitive; and above all else, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. My eyes were well and truly opened to this unique game and I recommend everyone to try it, it’s a great work out!

With around fifty members, they are a bigger club than most people would give them credit for. They train up to three times a week, and attend regular tournaments all over the UK, and with an emphasis on everyone being involved, I think a lot of mainstream sports at Glasgow could learn a thing or two from this club. Ultimate has been going for around ten years and has produced players who have represented Britain and Sweden at the European Championships. For all you cynics who didn’t give them a second look at the Freshers’ Fair, get down to the Kelvin Hall and, who knows, you may find yourself representing Glasgow at a tournament in the not too distant future!