Did you know NDSU has an Ultimate Frisbee club? If you didn’t, I’m not here to criticize – neither did I, until I was approached by the team and asked if I’d be interested in covering their recent win at the High Tide Ultimate Tournament in South Carolina. So we do, in fact, have an Ultimate Frisbee club – and they’re pretty good, too.
If you’re unfamiliar with Ultimate Frisbee, it’s similar to football in that each team is trying to get the disc into their respective end zones in order to score. However, the rules then take a turn closer to soccer given that players aren’t able to run while carrying the frisbee. The frisbee’s travel has to happen exclusively in the air, passed from player to player.
The NDSU team – the Windbreak – competes in multiple tournaments over each academic year, but High Tide in Myrtle Beach is “the big one.” This year, the team took home the trophy in the men’s division, but the club is open to players of all gender identities. Tournaments generally divide into men’s/open, women’s, and mixed brackets; and the makeup of each year’s team decides where the team competes.
The NDSU team is all men this year, but both President Josh “JCarl” Carlson and the players I spoke with assured me that everyone is welcome, and they’d love to have more diversity on the team next year.
If only based on the people I spoke with, Ultimate seems to be an extremely welcoming and laid-back community. This appeals a lot to me personally as someone who doesn’t really do sports, so if anyone else who only did arts in high school is looking for an athletic outlet, this may be the way to go. Fellow ex-theatre-kid Carlson himself started playing Ultimate in the summer of 2019, hoping to meet new people and make friends and is still going strong four years later.
In fact, the inclusivity of Ultimate is one of player Diego Price’s favorite aspects of the club. For him, Ultimate is as much a sport as it is an opportunity to play and have fun with “a great group of guys,” and he encourages anyone interested to check out the club. Price describes Ultimate as something of “a sport for nerds,” in that it’s more about playing smart than getting ripped. A frisbee is in the air for a long time between point A and point B, and this makes strategy a key part of the game.
No one is expected to join the club and already be particularly athletic or skilled at Ultimate. The rules are simple, the starting equipment is limited – just a frisbee and a pair of cleats – and everyone is welcome as long as they’re ready to play hard and have fun.
Another thing that makes Ultimate really unique as a sport is the total lack of a referee. There are rules and bounds, but there’s no ref on the field calling shots. Rather, any player can call a foul and if an agreement can’t be reached between teams, the disc is just taken back to the last throw, and the point proceeds from there.
This sounded kind of wild to me, especially with the only sport I’ve ever really competed in being tennis, where the word of the line judges is final. However, Price assures me that it’s not a problem. People aren’t at Ultimate tournaments to catch their opponents slipping on technicalities; the community is driven by pure love for the game and the genuine fun of playing a team sport.
At the Myrtle Beach tournament, which takes place every year over spring break, almost 90 teams from different colleges and clubs across the country gathered to compete. There were 31 teams in the men’s/open division and three straight days of play with three matches per day. Our very own Windbreak came out on top with a final score of 7 wins and 2 losses. Although there are three days of play, the team was in Myrtle Beach for a week, which left plenty of time for beach visits and as Price described it, “just chilling with the homies.”
While there are only ever 7 people on the field per team, at least 14 players travel to each tournament, and 20 total players traveled to Myrtle Beach this year. Players can be subbed in and out between every point, making it a quick rotation, and players on the sidelines are still part of the game. Those not currently on the field help out by watching the action and calling advice or plays to their teammates, meaning everyone stays involved.
Ultimate is a great sport for people who might be hesitant about the commitment level or entry requirements of other sports. There are no tryouts – students need only register as club members on MyNDSU, and show up to practice because anyone is welcome. Although it’s a little too late to get involved this year, practices this fall will be twice a week outdoors as weather permits, with location and time TBA.