Both of my boys, upon going away to college and after spending a childhood filled with soccer, decided to join Ultimate Frisbee teams. My older son played for one semester and then stopped. This is my younger son’s first semester at college and he’s enjoying it. We’ll see if he lasts longer at the sport. That’s him on the far left of the front row.
Count me as a skeptic converted about Ultimate Frisbee and here’s why.
These are not official intercollegiate teams representing their universities, but some hybrid form. Not intramural either. They play in tournaments against teams representing other universities. It’s recreational, not officially sanctioned like a lot of other sports — football, baseball, volleyball, etc.
A few weeks ago, my son’s team played in its first tournament of the year and won the thing. It was in Humboldt and there were something like 20 universities with teams at that tournament. This weekend my son’s team hosted a tournament. With teams from all over California and a few from Oregon, there were games all day long, filling about seven or eight fields. Men’s and women’s team. And it was all basically done without an adult in sight. Yes, there were a few present — somebody to keep track of results, some university officials present to make sure nothing horrible happened, some EMTs in case of injury — but for the most part, this was a tournament run by the kids. No officials or referees present. It is a sport with a culture of compete, but have fun. Every team dresses in a theme. One team had tie-dye. Another team, men’s team that is, dressed in skirts for the entire tournament. My son’s team as you can see from the picture above dressed in business casual this weekend.
During just about every game I watched there were moments when a team would call a timeout for a strategy discussion. Every time this happened all of the players from both teams who weren’t on the field at the time of the timeout would join at the middle of the field and form a circle and play a game. At the end of each game, the teams shouted cheers at each other. Yes, some of them were pretty raunchy. These are college kids after all. After one of the women’s games, both teams got together in a large circle with a boom box in the middle and danced together for the next 15-20 minutes.
After my son’s team had sealed a victory in their third game, the two teams decided to play a rookie point — with the players on the field all rookies.
As I discussed it with my son afterwards, after the last few years of soccer where all too frequently teenage boys take recreational soccer far too seriously in their testosterone fueled delusions of grandeur, it was great to see this sport with a culture of collaborative competition. There were numerous hard plays and I never saw a player get mad at another player, although I’m sure it does happen. Players call their own fouls and there was relatively any argument. It’s a pretty stunning thing. Literally, hundreds and hundreds of players playing a tough, physical sport (yes, Ultimate Frisbee is tough and physical) and doing it cooperatively with the opponents in a fun, positive environment.
Call me an unexpected convert.