If you can picture American football crossed with netball being played with a disc on a football field you might be getting close to imagining what Ultimate looks like. Seven players from each team start a point from the front line of their respective end zones. If you are on offence, the aim of the game is for one of your players to catch the disc in the opposing team’s end zone thereby scoring one point. You can’t run with the disc and must stop and establish a pivot foot upon catching a pass from another player. A member of the opposite team will then mark you while counting to ten.
Dan Young is one of five runners-up in the Staminade Go Harder competition, his goal being to prepare for the Australian Ultimate Disc National Championships in April 2014. Our first question for Dan was: what is Ultimate Disc? Here’s what he told us about his sport.
I started playing Ultimate Disc (‘disc’ being a non-trademarked substitute term for Frisbee) seven years ago while at university. It’s called ‘Ultimate’ because there are no independent referees – all disputes are resolved by the players thus requiring ‘ultimate’ honour amongst participants. For example, if someone feels they have been fouled by another player, the two players involved basically have a bit of a chat to try and reach agreement on what actually happened. The outcome of their quick discussion determines whether possession of the disc changes to the other team, the play gets repeated, or the play continues from where the foul occurred.
You need to pass the disc to one of your teammates within ten seconds otherwise it’s a ‘stall’ and a turnover. If your pass is intercepted by an opposing player it is a turnover and if the disc touches the ground, it’s a turnover. When a point is scored teams swap directions and it’s the other team’s turn to try and score. (Have a look at these videos if you want to see how it works: Brodie Smith, the poster boy of Ultimate and a USA Nationals promo video.)
The pinnacle of Ultimate Disc in Australia is the Australian Ultimate Championships which takes place over four days in a different Australian city each year. Incidentally, Staminade has been at almost all of the five AUCs I’ve participated in as the sports drink supplied by the tournament to teams in their lunch packs. There are many local leagues and tournaments in most cities throughout the year as well and there is also the Australian Mixed Ultimate Championships (mixed male and female teams) each year.
I play for a team called Bench and provided we qualify, this coming AUC will be the third consecutive National Championships we have played in. While perhaps not title contenders we have a lot of talented players on the team with a handful having represented Australia in the past at the Ultimate World Championships.
Bench (a.k.a ‘Dench’ and ‘French’ ), trains twice a week: one three-hour skills training session and another two-hour fitness/plyometrics session. Ultimate is a fast game requiring a lot of stamina and fitness. Broadly speaking, good levels of agility, hand-eye coordination, speed, and vertical leap are the hallmarks of a great Ultimate Disc player. Being unafraid of leaping fully outstretched through the air, landing and sliding along the ground on your front in order to catch an otherwise out-of-reach disc is another highly valued attribute in Ultimate. This is called ‘laying out’.
Ultimate is a lifestyle sport with a strong sense of community and general frivolity amongst players. Ultimate players regularly get married, date each other (a pass between a boyfriend and girlfriend on the frisbee field is called a ‘honey pass’), form life-long friendships and drink beer out of each other’s football boots.
There is a themed party on the penultimate night of every national championship and teams who have made the final on the last day but don’t party hard enough the night before are generally thought less of by players whose teams didn’t make the final. I’ve played at tournaments where my team’s uniform was op shop clothes while I’ve also played on teams where the expected commitment was two team skills sessions, one team fitness session, and one personal fitness session per week for the five months leading up to the tournament.
The Australian Flying Disc Association’s website has details on how to join and get involved in Ultimate tournaments and leagues in every part of Australia. It’s open to everyone, even complete newcomers.
Sounds like a whole heap of fun, thanks Dan.