You may not have considered… #1 – Ultimate (Frisbee)
I harp on a lot here about everyone being able to — and owing it to themselves to — find at least one physically demanding activity that they can enjoy. In line with that, I thought I might start periodically highlighting a few good physical pursuits people can try.
Today’s activity, and the inaugural activity of the series, will be… Ultimate (Frisbee)!
Great! What is it?
Ultimate is a cross between American football, Netball and being awesome. The aim of the game is to pass the frisbee/disc to one of your players who is standing in the opposition team’s endzone. This results in a “goal” (the only part of the sport’s vocabulary that grates on me, so far). The team with the most goals at the end of the match wins.
You cannot run while holding the frisbee (bar a step or two if you catch it at a run and need to slow down), nor tackle someone holding it. Instead, possession flips if and when the disc is dropped or intercepted. This results in a fast, free-flowing game that manages to be massively exciting without the physical violence many sports have. Instead of referees, at most levels of the game you are encouraged to self-regulate and referee each other and yourselves. This makes for a very friendly game, with a strong spirit of fair play.
Another feather in the Ultimate cap is that it’s frequently played as a mixed sport — meaning that men and women can play alongside each other, much like in tag rugby or flag football. It’s very inclusive, and due to the lack of a real strength component in frisbee-throwing (it’s mostly technique) and the lack of physicality as well as the fair-play emphasis, it really does work as a unisex sport.
It’s also bloody good fun, and makes for some absolutely show-stopping highlight reel plays. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
Bullet point me some benefits – why should I care?
You mean that video didn’t get your juices flowing!? Alright, here goes:
- It’s a fantastic source of exciting exercise – you’ll be running, jumping, changing direction quickly, catching and throwing and barely even notice how tired it’s making you. Every element of fitness will be touched upon in the game.
- You’ll improve all aspects of athleticism, including your hand-eye coordination — throwing and catching a frisbee isn’t as straightforward as you think!
- But that said, it is an extremely beginner-friendly game. When I started I hadn’t thrown or caught a frisbee in years, and it showed. The community are lovely and helpful and in no time me and the other raw recruits were hucking the disc around with the… well, not quite best of them, but a lot better than before. And more importantly, we had a blast the whole time.
- It’s not age-specific. Due to the lack of physicality and the openness towards genders, Ultimate is also very friendly to people of all different ages. I played alongside kids as young as 14 and adults who were closer to 50 (of both sexes), and it never really felt unbalanced.
- There’s a surprisingly large community of people who play. I’m in Gran Canaria at the moment, and met a group of German Erasmus students on the beach one day who play – cue hours of unexpected frisbee throwing fun and a good opportunity to meet new people!
- If you want to, there are high levels of play you can progress to and get involved in. And even if you don’t but still fancy developing a local casual community in work or wherever, it’s a very easy sell. Just get a few people to try it once and they’ll be hooked.
- It takes almost no equipment – a frisbee, some friends and space to run around in is all you need (bar other obvious essentials like oxygen, and an awesome array of brightly coloured bandanas).
Alright, I’m sold! How much? Where can I play?
Ultimate costs next to nothing! You can pick up a good frisbee yourself for a tenner and grab some willing friends, or, sign up to some of the wonderful low-cost (€20 for 5 weeks, paying for hall rental) leagues organised by Conor Casey and others, like their currently ongoing Winter League in Dublin, or other similar initiatives that I’m sure you can find by Googling around in your town.
You’re going to have an absolute blast, I promise. Get out and get playing now, and if you’ve any off-the-beaten-path suggestions for the next edition of this series, let me know!