Ultimate Frisbee Is Hot In NC
Christian Schwoerke, one of the deans of the sport of ultimate disc in North Carolina, describes the game as two seven-person teams on a field “similar in size to a football field with as much running as soccer. The aim of each team is to score a goal in the opposite end zone by catching a pass from a teammate.”
Once he’s given potential players that description, complete with the implication that there’s a lot of running involved, Schwoerke pauses “to see if there’s a sign of further interest” says the Durham-based graphic designer and promotional writer.
Fortunately, there has been plenty of interest in North Carolina over the years for ultimate, or ultimate Frisbee, as it is also known. All the metro areas of the state sponsor leagues, casual pickup play, and many have long-standing mens, womens, and coed, or mixed, teams. North Carolina State’s men won the collegiate national championship in 1993 and 1998. And the Triangle’s most prominent mens and womens teams, Ring of Fire and Backhoe, respectively, are national powers.
Devised in the late 1960s by high school students in New Jersey, the game has grown with national and international organizations that sponsor competitions for high school, college, and adult men and women. In this decade, it has become one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. with well over 100,000 players.
At its core, ultimate is a competition that eschews some typical trappings of organized sports, stressing instead a socializing esprit de corps among players. That’s reflected in the fact there are no referees in ultimate – players call their own fouls and other violations. While this can result in lengthy in-game “discussions” regarding violations – most players still prefer that to a referee.
The overriding credo of ultimate is known as the Spirit of the Game, which stresses sportsmanship, fair play, and respect between players. Players often commend each others “good spirit” for making or agreeing with difficult calls that don’t benefit their team. Thanks to this atmosphere it is not surprising that ultimate players are as much social group as sports league.
“When I moved to Charlotte, it was through ultimate that I met a lot of great people,” says Lori Granath, a middle school math teacher. “It is one of the few sports that you can play and become good at without having played as a kid up through college.”
Charlotte’s Molly Hughes, an accountant, lists “competition, exercise, and the great people involved” as the reasons she plays. Likewise, Schwoerke savors “the positive vibe of the ultimate groups that I run into wherever I travel.”
Where to Look for Info
- The national Ultimate Players Association can help you find pickup games or leagues in your area – in addition to tournament information and rules and a wealth of other information.
- Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill. The Triangle has been famous for years for high level ultimate league play as well as regular casual pickup games. The area’s website for the Triangle Flying Disc Association is www.tfda.org
- Charlotte/Concord/Monroe. The Charlotte Area Ultimate Association helps host two Queen City Tune-Up tournaments. In addition the school, Charlotte Latin, hosts two tournaments for teams with fewer numbers of players: 3-on-3 or 5-on-5. There are also leagues and pickup play year round.
- Asheville/western North Carolina. The home base for the Asheville Ultimate Club can be found at www.ashevilleultimate.org. The organization features leagues for both experienced and beginner players and the group hosts a tournament, hoDown, in July for coed, or mixed teams on swanky new artificial turf fields.
- Wilmington sponsors several tournaments during the year such as Co-Egg, a competition for mixed teams.
- Students at Yale University had tossed around the tins from the nearby Frisbie Pie Co. in the early 20th century. The Frisbee, or Pluto Platter as it was originally known in 1951, was first mass-produced by the Wham-O toy company. A year after the Frisbie Pie Co. closed in 1958, Wham-O registered the name, Frisbee, for its flying disc.
- Joel Silver, who went on to produce such movies as 48 Hours, Commando, and The Matrix series, is one of the co-inventors of Ultimate where he and several buddies first played it at Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ in 1968.
- Ironically, very few discs used in official ultimate play are made by Wham-O. Most are made by Discraft, whose discs have a slightly different construction and weight than most Frisbees.
- The first UPA Nationals (Ultimate Players Association) were held in 1979 and won by Glassboro State College 19-18 over the Santa Barbara Condors. The Condors are still a powerhouse club team today.
- Ultimate was played at the World Games in Japan in 2001. Six teams were invited and Canada won the gold medal in an overtime victory over the U.S.
By Des Keller
added: December 23, 2008
updated: December 26, 2008
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