Gagan Chatha with the Vancouver Riptide Ultimate Frisbee team lays out during a meeting of the home Vancouver Riptide and the San Diego Growlers.

Ultimate frisbee takes flight

After Jeffrey Pozin, the president of the Victoria Ultimate Players Society, played his first game of ultimate frisbee, he was hooked.

After Jeffrey Pozin, the president of the Victoria Ultimate Players Society, played his first game of ultimate frisbee, he was hooked.

Not that Pozin was a stranger to competitive sport as he had competed in football, basketball, rugby, martial arts and mogul skiing. But it was ultimate frisbee that captured his passion in a way other sports couldn’t.

“There’s something that dominates the game…the spirit of the game…often talked about in other sports and rarely achieved,” said Pozin, adding ultimate is all about a high level of athleticism within a framework of fair play and mutual respect. “That leads to a very strong social aspect and sense of camaraderie amongst players you just don’t see as much in some other sports.”

The game is very much an amalgamation of other sports, incorporating some of the same strategies employed in basketball, football and soccer. Teams are generally made up of seven players aside (often co-ed) and play takes place on a turf field measuring about 40 metres wide, 70 metres long with additional 25 metre end zones.

Teams advance a frisbee up the field with the intent of passing it to one of their team-mates in the end zones on either end of the field. You can’t run with the frisbee. Once it is caught the player with possession establishes a pivot foot (much like basketball) and has to pass the disc to one of his teammates.

The defending team tries to mark those players and does their best to intercept the disc or knock it to the ground, causing a turnover.

Play is continuous unless the frisbee is dropped or a foul is committed (body contact, for example) when the frisbee’s possession is turned over to the other team.

It’s a fluid game and at the more competitive levels there are positions assigned. But Pozin explained these positions are flexible and can change during the course of the contest.

Ultimate frisbee is played by hundreds of athletes (and sometimes the not-so-athletic) in leagues across the city and around the world.

“There are two teams at the University of Victoria, a men’s and women’s team, and they compete against other universities,” said Pozin. “In fact, just about every university across North America has a team and competition can be very spirited.”

There is also a professional league, although Pozin explained that it has only been in existence for about five years and the players, while superb athletes, are not the highly paid individuals one might expect in other professional sports.

“It’s not a ticket to riches, and no one is getting a Ferrari as a signing bonus in ultimate, but in many ways it’s like what other sports were like when they started out and people played for the love of the game and not just for the money they could make. These guys are still amazing athletes, and some of the things they can do with that frisbee are just unbelievable,” said Pozin.

Victorians will have a chance to witness that athleticism first hand when, on May 14 when two teams from the American Ultimate Disc League, the Vancouver Riptide and the San Francisco Flame Throwers, will meet at Royal Athletic Park for an exhibition game designed to promote participation.

“I’m hoping that people will come to the game and be inspired to try out the sport for themselves,” said Pozin. He stressed that ultimate is an ideal sport for young people, with no early morning practices and no high cost equipment, but added one of the beauties of the sport is that it’s possible to play it well into senior years.

“We have a ‘hat league’ where every week we just divide up players and enjoy the game. It’s a perfect sport for people who want to take part in a competitive sport without all the baggage that sometimes goes along with it,” Pozin said.

Ticket information for the professional game, and general information on how to get involved with the sport is available at vup.bc.ca.