Ultimate Needs a Name Change

Ultimate frisbee. Ultimate. Frisbee. For those of us who play the sport, we know what it’s all about. But for someone who has never heard of it, what will they think when we ask if they play “ultimate” or if they’ve ever watched “ultimate”. There’s no reason they should think anything but “the ultimate what”? The issue with ultimate is that it was named on how it made the inventor feel while he was playing it.

If you’ve read my post about How It All Began, where I share an interview between Willie Herndon and Jared Kass (who invented ultimate and introduced it to Joel Silver), you’ll know that the name for the sport came from how it made Jared feel while he was playing.

My background is in marketing so I see several issues with naming a sport based on how it makes you feel. The biggest issue is that it doesn’t tell you anything about the sport itself. Just because a sport makes one person feel a certain way, someone else might feel differently – awesome, free, amazing, etc. So the name of our sport has been flawed since its inception and as such I feel limits our ability to gain wider spread recognition including bigger sponsorship dollars.

I propose that we change the name of our sport.

In order to have the general public (ie those people who have never seen a “real” ultimate game) understand the sport and give it more respect, we need to change the name.

When I first started playing ultimate, I would get offended when someone would ask me if ultimate was played with dogs. I used to get offended and reply with a rude comment which not only meant that they would probably never ask me about ultimate again but it also didn’t help inform them about the sport. Later on, once I started competing in other disc sports, I realized that it wasn’t that people were being ignorant or insulting – they simply didn’t know any better and that’s because we have a name that doesn’t tell a person new to the sport anything about what it actually is.

I’ve been privy to many discussions related to alternate for ultimate but there are only really 2 names that I feel would work. One because it’s just a really cool name and the other because it would work really well in the future if we were to ever make the olympics but it also serves to rectify the issue of the name not saying anything about the sport itself.

Flatball.

The first one has been used before sort of as a tongue in cheek mention up until Flatball Radio was born and the documentary Flatball Film was announced and so it’s become more accepted by the ultimate community. Flatball to me describes an object that is round and flat – which you could say describes how a frisbee looks in it’s most simplest of terms.

Team Disc.

The other name, Team Disc, to me works really for multi disc sport competitions.

For example, check out the names of some other disc sports which are growing communities and have been tied into ultimate (most before the inception of ultimate):

  • Disc golf
  • Dog disc
  • Double Disc Court (DDC)
  • Discathon
  • Guts

Adding Team Disc to this list would simply make more sense than Ultimate Disc (which is what the AUDL calls it – American Ultimate Disc League).

Do you think we need to change the name of our sport? Do you agree that it’s a limiting factor both in marketability and having new people get it?

Of the 2 names, Flatball or Team Disc, which one do you prefer? Do you have another name you think would be a better alternative?

About Ultimate Rob

Rob McLeod is a disc sports competitor, a 12 time World Record holder (including 6 Guinness World Records), 10-time World Champion, 2 time Quadruped title holder and currently holds the Canadian Distance Record. He created ultimaterob.com in 2009.

11 thoughts on “Ultimate Needs a Name Change

  1. I love the name Ultimate, because that is what it is.  It’s not intuitive, it is descriptive without being obvious.  It demands exploration.  I love the name ultimate, because everyone who hears the name wonders what it is.  Just the same as Cricket or Soccer or Hockey or Korfball.  

    I think the name is intriguing,  The name has been the starting point for so many new players.  I have convinced at least half a dozen people to try the game just based on my enthusiasm for it and their piqued curiosity from hearing it’s name, and a few of them still play to this day!  I know when I first heard the word Ultimate I understood it was something different.  It is one of the many reasons I fell in love with the game.  It isn’t football.  It isn’t basketball.  It isn’t Team Disc.  It is so much more ultimate than that.  Why does it need to conform to some name standardization?  Everything that makes this sport what it is both lives up to it’s namesake and is regardless of it. 

    So my vote is no, the name i awesomesauce.

  2. I think ultimate is perfect. I don’t think you need an explanation directly in the name for the sport to be successful. What does “hockey” mean exactly? Where does it come from? Who cares? They never changed it to “frozenball” and it caught on.
    Plus, you have to think other languages. Ultimate is a word that fits in many languages. In calling it “flatball” or “teamdisc” you are going to target only the English speaking community. Many people don’t know what “flat” or “team” means. I think a universal name is better. Let’s keep it like that.

  3. “I propose that we change the name of our sport.
    In order to have the general public
    (ie those people who have never seen a “real” ultimate game) understand
    the sport and give it more respect, we need to change the name.”
    Every time i hear a player pining for “more respect” for ultimate I assume:
    1. They have been involved in the sport for less than a decade
    2. Ultimate isn’t their favorite sport
    3. They’ve spent a far too much time watching pro sports on television

  4. Two things I have thought of regarding the name:

    1. Why can we not call it Ultimate Frisbie? (notice the spelling) That is how the original name was spelled when flying discs were sold as “Frisbie’s Pie Tins” I have no Idea how copyright law works, is that just too close to Whammo’s “Frisbee” to be used, spelled different but pronounced the same. If not I feel like that is an easy fix.

    2. I like Flatball, its the greatest second alternative to Ultimate. But I don’t think that people not recognizing ultimate is solely because of the name. Imagine we somehow convince the whole community to embrace Flatball as the new official name of Ultimate. Now you go to a family reunion and tell Uncle Steve that you play Flatball, he says “What?” and you have to explain that its frisbee. Exactly like you do now. Getting a definition tied to a word is going to be just as hard no matter the word, whether that word be Flatball or Ultimate.

    TL;DR People don’t recognize football because its played with a football, they recognize a football because of the high profile of the NFL. The name of the sport doesn’t matter as much as the amount of exposure.

  5. PeterMcCarthy  Thanks for the mention of Warren…without him, it wouldn’t have been possible and it’s unfortunate he’s not mentioned more. I’ve heard his name from frisbee historians like Jim Palmeri so the guys in the know definitely know.
    To respond to your points…
    1. I’ve been playing ultimate since 2001 and running Ultimate Rob since 2009
    2. Frisbee is my favourite sport and although I haven’t played a ton of ultimate in the last few years, the core of ultimate and what makes it so amazing is the frisbee.
    3. I never watch pro sports on tv

    My background is in marketing and my goal is to market frisbee (all disc sports) the right way. That’s where the idea for this post was born.

  6. robmcleod PeterMcCarthy  
     

    Rob, 
    Thanks for the reply. Didn’t mean too come off as tooo snarky

    1.
    I’ve been playin’ since 1980 and have been curator of the largest public
    disc sports collection in the world since 1997 (MDSC,State Historical
    Society of Mo.).

    2. Have also had the honor of communicating with Jim P. occasionally through the years. He knows the stuff…inside & out.

    3.My foreground is marketing (Inspired by the bodhisattva of disc sports marketing, Mr. Harvey J. Kukuk).

    Peter Mc
    Midwest Disc Sports CollectionColumbia, MO

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