Ultimate frisbee: a sport for all

frisbee

Credit: Megan Brass

Megan Brass
Writer

“Ultimate frisbee – is that like what I play with my dog in the park?” I hear you ask. A common misconception, and one which ultimate players everywhere are keen to challenge. Although it is a rapidly growing sport, many people have still never played, seen or even heard of ultimate frisbee in all its misunderstood glory. So here’s to setting the record straight.

Ultimate frisbee is a very fast paced, limited-contact sport played with a flying disc. The aim is to move the disc up the field and catch it in the opposing endzone to score a point. Travelling with the disc is not allowed, so this is achieved through passing it from player to player. Dropping the disc, catching it out of bounds, or getting a defensive block result in a turnover of possession. With no referees, the game relies on the ‘spirit’ of the teams to ensure the rules are kept.

The sport is played both outdoors (7 a-side) and indoors (5 a-side), and Glasgow University Ultimate – fondly known as FarFlung – proudly compete in men’s, women’s and mixed divisions at regional and national levels throughout both indoor and outdoor seasons. The nature of ultimate means that club trainings are mixed, which is fairly unique for sport at university, and as a result FarFlung boasts to be a very sociable club.

Perhaps the biggest appeal of the club is their strong focus on the development of beginners at the start of each season. Ultimate frisbee is rarely played in schools, and most people have no experience of it prior to university. This is yet another unique part of ultimate – everyone starts with a level playing field. Each season begins with a handful of beginner tournaments to give newbies a chance to learn the ropes, allowing them to get a real taste for the game during what even more experienced players would call the highlights of the year. Head coaches Shaun and Phil Webb, both of whom have competed for Great Britain at World Championships, work hard to train up the entire club.
Recent years have seen a massive increase in membership of the club, and with their growing list of achievements this is sure to continue. Following on from the success of last year, Glasgow University Ultimate have big boots to fill. The 2015/16 indoor season saw them champion both mixed and women’s Scottish indoor regionals, and qualify for Division 1 nationals from a 3rd place finish at men’s. When nationals came around their successes grew, with the men finishing 5th, women finishing 3rd and the mixed team finishing 4th. But still it didn’t end there, continuing into the outdoor season where both men’s and women’s teams came 2nd at regional level and the men and mixed teams coming 2nd, and women 12th at nationals.
Despite the graduation of a few key first team players this year, Axel Ahmala, the Club Captain, does not seem too concerned about the future of the club. As he revealed after University Mixed Indoor Regionals (UXIR):
“I don’t feel there was pressure because of the huge turnover in personnel because of graduation, but as our final opponents said we did something new and we did it well. The mixed powerhouse of Glasgow rolls on. I’m so proud of our freshers as well for finishing in the top 16 of Scotland! Huge development through the weekend.”
Farflung’s win at UXIR this weekend sets them in good stead for a repeat of last year, with both men’s and women’s regionals coming up in the next few weeks. The men’s team also enjoyed their first outdoor BUCS league win of the season on Wednesday, beating Dundee 14-13. It’s already shaping up to be a good year for Glasgow University Ultimate, and in Axel’s words – “The future is black and gold!”

National qualification sealed in style kicking off the 2016/17 season, last weekend saw even more success for FarFlung as they arrived en masse at Oriam, Heriot Watt to compete at the University Mixed Indoor Regionals (UXIR). A whopping total of six teams made them not only the biggest club in Scotland, but the biggest in the whole of the UK at this regional level for the second year running.

But this only scratched the surface of the success Glasgow was to enjoy over the weekend, as each team gave the club another reason to celebrate. The seconds dominated games against first teams, jumping up two seeds to finish in the top 8 and just narrowly missing out on securing a spot at Division 2 nationals.

The third and fourth teams exceeded expectations, both enjoying wins over second teams throughout the weekend. They met head-to-head in their most intense pool game on Saturday, which ended in a 5-5 draw. When they met again on Sunday, in their last game to determine the final seedings, both teams were riled up for a competitive rematch. Just as close to call as their previous stand-off, Glasgow 4 managed to snag the win in the end. “I think it was the most intense game I’ve ever played and the adrenaline after was incredible!” Team member Miles Lockhart reflected.
The win allowed the thirds to jump from their starting position of 17th seed to end in 13th, with Glasgow 3 holding on to their 14th position.

Just one of the many highlights of the weekend for the club was the success of Glasgow 6, otherwise known as FarFlung Futures. A team made up entirely of beginners, they used the tournament to develop their skills and knowledge of the game. Despite their lack of experience they did the club immensely proud, soaring from their original 24th seed to finish in 16th and beating 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams from all over Scotland along the way.
But finishing in the top 16 in Scotland wasn’t even the icing on the cake for the Futures; when the Spirit results were announced, it was revealed that they had claimed the top spot. All in all a fantastic achievement and the future looks bright for Glasgow University ultimate!

As the games came to a close on Sunday, all 42 members of the 2nd- 6th teams flooded to the sideline to support the firsts in the final against the University of St Andrews. And they did not disappoint: after a nerve-wracking start conceding 2 points to St Andrews, Glasgow brought it back to win 7-4 and claim the title of UXIR champions, comfortably qualifying for Division 1 nationals later in the year.