PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Team Sports: Ultimate Frisbee

You're running through a big field of grass, trying to catch a flying disc that a whole bunch of people are trying to keep away from you.

Are you:

  • Stealing pizza from an outdoor Italian banquet?
  • Breaking up a day of skeet shooting?
  • Trying to smuggle a UFO out of Area 51?

NO! You're playing Ultimate Frisbee!

Ultimate Frisbee (sometimes just called Ultimate) is an outdoor sport played by two teams, usually of seven players each. The game is played on a big rectangular field similar to those used in football, with end zones at either end. The object is to keep passing the Frisbee forward to your teammates and ultimately get it to a player who's in the end zone.

Physically, and in terms of teamwork, the sport is a lot like football, soccer, hockey, or basketball. One thing that makes it truly unique is that you're throwing a Frisbee (or flying disc) instead of kicking, hitting, or throwing a ball.

Ultimate Frisbee requires players to work for the benefit of the whole team by setting up passes and plays, and coordinating an effort to move the disc downfield. Quickness, stamina, a good eye, and accurate aim are also key.

Ultimate Frisbee Basics:

  • Play begins with the teams lining up facing each other. The defense throws the disc to the offense, and the game is on.

  • Unlike many similar sports, players in Ultimate Frisbee can't move the disc forward by running with it. As soon as a player catches the disc, he or she must stop running, and pass the disc to a teammate. The disc can be passed forward, backwards, or sideways.

  • This means that the disc is constantly moving from player to player, rather than having one good player hog it all the time. In this way, Ultimate is the ultimate team sport!

  • When a pass is incomplete (meaning it's dropped, hits the ground, or flies out of bounds) or the defense blocks or intercepts a pass, possession changes, and the team on defense is now suddenly the offense.

Cool Ultimate Frisbee Facts:

  • The origins of the Frisbee flying disc are in New Haven Connecticut, where long ago, people began tossing and catching the pie tins from the Frisbie Pie Company.

  • The game of Ultimate Frisbee was invented in 1968 at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, by students who adapted the rules of a game called Frisbee Football.

  • Ultimate is a completely non-contact sport, so any contact between players can be considered a foul.

  • Most games of Ultimate are self-refereed, meaning that it's up to the players to make decisions about rules and fouls, and to settle disagreements.

  • Most Ultimate players value fair play, sportsmanship, and having a good time over competitive or aggressive play.

What Kids Are Saying About Ultimate Frisbee:

"My friends and I started playing Ultimate in the backyard, and then we started an after-school league at our school. I think it's a lot more fun than football or soccer!"
--Ryan, 11

"I love catching the Frisbee, I really enjoy that. I think that I need to practice a little in order to perfect my throwing, but I think I've pretty much mastered catching."
--Amanda, 12

Get Involved!

  • It's easy to spot people who are playing Ultimate because it looks like no other game out there. If kids are playing at the local park, wait for a break in the game and ask how you can start.

  • You might also try asking your gym teacher or coach if you can work Ultimate into the gym curriculum in the warm weather, as a nice change from soccer or filed hockey. If the school lacks the equipment, just show up with a Frisbee from home and tell the coach that's all you need to play!

  • A great Web resource for Ultimate is Ultilinks at http://www.ultilinks.com/links.html. They have listings for countries and states, and may have information about Ultimate Frisbee teams or clubs in your area.

  • If all else fails, get a bunch of your friends or classmates together and start a couple of Ultimate teams on your own. Play in your local park, or somebody's big backyard, or on the school's football or soccer field.

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