Why Play Ultimate?

If you aren’t familiar with the sport of Ultimate; you should read this post on understanding the sport. There are many reasons why you should consider playing my favorite sport. I’ll try to outline a few compelling ones here and see if I can get you to try it. Once you try it you’re going to be hooked! (I can already hear you mumbling about how you have played cricket, basketball or football for years now and there is no reason to pick up another sport!) Ultimate is fun Ultimate is an immensely enjoyable sport, regardless of the level of play. Every year, thousands of people try out this sport and have fun playing it because it is truly uplifting. It is currently played in over 80 countries and is already a part of the World Games and is looking good to be included in the Olympics soon!

Chennai Heat Beach Ultimate tournament draws huge crowds to the Elliots Beach in Chennai every year  Photo: Chennai Ultimate Frisbee

Chennai Heat Beach Ultimate tournament draws huge crowds to the Elliots Beach in Chennai every year Photo: Chennai Ultimate Frisbee Just watching the action unfold in an Ultimate game can be almost as exciting as being out there in the middle. Spectators witness full field throws, acrobatic diving plays, and regular instances of amazing athleticism. Ultimate is a sport that meets the expectations of today’s athletes and spectators. (According to my not so unbiased view: Its thrill-a-minute game play can take on the hit and giggle of Twenty20 cricket, any day.) There is a reason Ultimate drew a crowd of nearly 50,000 spectators at the last World Games in Taiwan. Check out this short video clip. A great option to stay active and healthy Ultimate is intensely physical and includes a mix of measured teamwork and bursts of individual athleticism. It’s fluid in the way basketball and hockey are fluid — fast-paced and constantly evolving between offense and defense.

Jason Lopez chases down a floating disc at Singapore Ultimate Open 2010 Photo: Narayanan Krishnan (Mama)

Jason Lopez chases down a floating disc at Singapore Ultimate Open 2010. Photo: Narayanan Krishnan (Mama) Ultimate is a fun way to trick yourself into getting a lot of exercise. During the game, you will run and jump without realizing that you’re getting an awesome workout. Within several weeks of regular playing, you will notice that you have improved muscular endurance and possess excellent cardio-respiratory health. There is also a noticeable increase in athletes from other sports using Ultimate as their ‘second sport’ for cross-training. It uses all the same skills and gives them something different to do in their ‘off season’. It is truly inclusive You can show up to your first game and be a passable player by the end of an hour, making it a highly inclusive leisure activity. The nature of the game makes it co-ed friendly, as well as allowing for young kids and even parents to join in on the fun. Schools readily accept the sport as it is easy to learn, inclusive, based on mutual respect and fair play and the equipment needed are incredibly few (and inexpensive). In the community where I play, Chennai Ultimate Frisbee, we often have players who are more than forty years old, playing shoulder to shoulder with some really young kids who are yet to reach their teens! Players from different backgrounds and socio-economic conditions are never limited in their participation as there are no costly equipment to be purchased or expensive membership fees to be paid as a precondition to play.

Ultimate is for everyone! (Photo by Boon) There is mutual respect between everyone who plays. “You get to actually view them as people and competitors, rather than just someone to be beaten.” – Gwen Ambler, one of the most influential and successful female Ultimate players in the world. National and international tournaments host a mixed division to encourage not only equivalent participation between the sexes, but actual co-ed play, even at the highest levels. The co-mingling of sexes, on a level playing field, is a huge part of the sport’s appeal.

Co-ed team (Mixed division) ‘Cabs Are Here’ warming up at the Australian Mixed Ultimate Championships 2012 Photo: Narayanan Krishnan (Mama) As one player puts it, “The level of athleticism in elite women Ultimate players relative to the general population, or even other sports, is higher than it is with men.” Proof: Check out this athletic play in a recent women’s division game. Ultimate instills values Ultimate is a microcosm of life and the values learnt in this environment will carry the athlete through the sport and out the other side into life. The values include self belief, how to abide by rules, how to persevere and develop a will to win, how to get up after being knocked down and how to set shared goals with their teammates. (This is far from the ‘win at all costs’ mentality that most of the world is used to.) Many schools, colleges and social groups use this fun sport to promote good sportsmanship and help participants develop conflict resolution skills. The on-field behavior slowly becomes a way of life and permeates into the players’ decision making in all aspects of their lives – Ultimate was designed to promote not only athleticism, but also character.

Stall 7 (India’s first all student Ultimate team) get pumped up for their first ever tournament in 2009. Ultimate Peace says this most lucidly –  “When the responsibility of how to resolve a difference is placed solely upon the players, they must learn many new and important skills. Listening to another point of view, finding common ground, and resolving differences amicably are all core competencies of a great Ultimate player. These are interpersonal abilities that can have extraordinary impact on the field and well beyond. Imagine the advantages youth from different backgrounds will have in their adult lives as they work together to resolve some of the world’s most difficult challenges. In many ways, Ultimate strives to revolutionize sports. Since it’s infancy, a common and powerful dynamic has emerged–players literally grow up as a result of playing this game.” Make new friends Ultimate is great way to make new friends. Ultimate Players love feeling that they are a part of this unique community of like-minded people! Teammates spend hours playing together, developing their skills and teaching each other about skills relevant to life.  Through these experiences, teams feel like a family and many players find lifelong friends. Also unique to the sport is the innate friendly dynamic between teammates and opposing teams that is facilitated by the Spirit of the Game. The camaraderie shared not just between teammates but rivals is unparalleled in the sporting world. Some of my best friends across the world are fellow Ultimate players. (Both teammates and rivals!)

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Post game photo: India Vs Ireland, World Championships of Beach Ultimate 2011. We were having so much fun, its hard to pick out the winning team! Photo: Chetan Padia It is believed that Plato once said – “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” This holds good, especially, in the case of Ultimate, because your character is on display every moment you are on the field. Give this sport a chance and you’ll find your reasons to love it. P.S: For the record, Ireland beat India in that game at the World Championships.

About Abhinav Vinayakh Shankar

Indian player on a personal mission to keep Ultimate fun and Spirited, his proudest moment in the sport, justifiably, came at The World Championships of Beach Ultimate 2011 (WCBU '11) in Italy, where he represented India in the open division and they won the Spirit Award. Abhinav serves as the Secretary at Chennai Ultimate Frisbee Club, the largest club in the country. Every October, he helps conceptualize and run BULA certified tournament Chennai Heat (A 7v7 co-ed Beach tournament on full size flood-lit fields that draws crowds of over 5000 people!) He trains with fitness coach Arvind Ashok (co-founder of The Quad).

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