Ultimate – An Excellent Sport (no parents! no refs!)

My son plays the sport called Ultimate. He got involved in college when he lost interest in soccer and baseball — his two high school sports. I had heard about it, but didn’t know a thing about the sport. It was some sort of game that involved a frisbee and was like soccer, basketball, and football.

Photo from Wikipedia: Adam Ginsburg Pictures from an Ultimate Tournament in Dallas

Naturally, I expressed interest in seeing one of his games. His response was clear: “No parents.”

Hmmm. Well, he was a freshman in college, leaving home and all that. Clearly son was sending dad a message. Message received.

As the years went by, I learned more about the sport. There were several attributes that I really liked.

First, the aforementioned “No Parents”. Actually, there is no actual rule about forbidding parents (yes, the college freshman didn’t want his dad around, surprise surprise). But Ultimate, at all ages, has managed to avoid the parental involvement that has caused so much trouble in the current set of youth and school sports.

I hated sitting on the sidelines and listening to other parents yell at the kids playing or the refs, who were kids themselves. Saying it is part of the game and the kids needs to get used to it is a load of crap. If you yell negative stuff specifically at a kid ref or player from the sidelines, you are an ass.

Second, there are no refs on the field. From the above Wikipedia link: Ultimate “has resisted empowering any referee with rule enforcement. Instead it relies on the sportsmanship of players and invokes “Spirit of the Game” to maintain fair play. Players call their own fouls, and dispute a foul only when they genuinely believe it did not occur. 

The spirit of the game in written into the rules and forces the players, from the very beginning, to figure things out on their own and not rely on an external ref to make a call. No blaming the refs. Deal with it yourself and move on. It teaches a ‘call your own foul’ mentality instead of the ‘I got away with that cause the ref didn’t call it.’ Anyone wonder where, in part, the ‘well, I didn’t get caught so it is ok” mentality came from?

<start ‘get off my lawn!’ old man rant> At least in my city, kids don’t play pickup baseball or soccer or anything. Everything is organized within an inch of its life. The things that kids sports should teach is love of the game and respect for others. Some get it right, many don’t. Ultimate seems to get it right.<end rant>

The sidelines are a mass of players with no designated bench areas. Teams spread all around the field, frequently interacting with each other. Even the most intense weekend tournaments have fun and partying (the older ages, of course) between the teams. Hat tournaments have individuals show up, not teams, and names get drawn out of a hat to make up the teams.

And lastly, these are just really good athletes. They run all over the place, at least as much as soccer. Watch the video below and think about the skills involved in throwing the disc and some of the catches.

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