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Volume 91, Issue 12
Wednesday, September 17, 1997
Ultimately anybody can play
By Liam Birch
Let's get ultimate for a moment.
Frisbee, that fantastic flying plastic, can no longer be considered just your normal disk. Now, after years of recreational thinking and tossing, the average game of frisbee has entered the world of extreme sports challenging thousands of men and women to the ultimate frisbee experience.
It is coined as 'ultimate' frisbee because it is as demanding and exhilarating as any other sport exhibiting a combination of professionalism, prowess and sportsmanship.
Western's Intramural Sports league for ultimate (the name given for ultimate frisbee) opens in September, encompassing competitive and recreational leagues for any interested player. Rookies find themselves immersed in a sport with intermediates and amateurs playing at the same level of excitement.
During the summer, the league continued its reign on the Huron Flats where Western's best strutted their stuff.
"Everybody gets to know everyone else," IMS summer convenor Andy Sit says about the swelter-season activity. "The hardcores stick around in the summer which makes it more competitive." He adds the summer league is small compared to the fall league when students are back in town.
With rules reminiscent of football, soccer and basketball, the gist of ultimate is simple: the offensive team passes the disc down a 70-metre field and scores a point if the disk is caught in the endzone. At each point, the scoring team remains on the achieved endzone line, while the other team jogs back to the other end.
A typical game is constantly reverting from defence to offence. "The University of New Mexico ranked ultimate to be the most demanding sport for a cardiovascular workout," Sit says. In an average full-length game, a player could easily run "the equivalent of up to 10 kilometres," he added.
When calling fouls, players utilize the sportsmanship ideal of only calling serious offenses. If a foul causes a turnover or a scoring opportunity, it is unfair. If it is incidental, it is wise to let the foul go and keep playing. The team "as a unit is responsible for how the game is played," regular Western ultimate player, Jill Beuermann, stressed.
As a female player, Beuermann believes in the equality shown by players on the field "the skill needed to play the game is universal," she comments. Together men and women can "raise the level from recreational to competitive."
Strategy is equally important if offensive players run all over the field, they draw their defenders with them, creating a muddle of characters. For example, a "stack" draws offensive players in a line stretching from the thrower towards the sought endzone. Usually, the experienced players recognize these maneuvers, but even rookies are getting much better at spotting strategic plays.
One of the best facets of ultimate, and especially the teams playing in the Western IMS leagues, is the willingness to assist rookie teams and players. "It's easy to pick up. The lack of referees puts the onus on players to learn faster," Sit said.
Another veteran ultimate player, Devin Hanes, revealed that the presence of new players on the field is exciting. "The more players there are, the more we get to play," he added. With rules/strategy clinics offered this fall, newcomers will not only learn to throw, but to throw harder, faster and further.
"Pick-up nights exist also, for anyone interested to come out and learn how to play or play better," Sit said. The league started out with four teams in its first year. This is the fifth official year at Western and Sit revealed that they'll be "shooting for 30 teams."
Ultimate can be a way of life. For Hanes, it is the "feeling of running down the disk where you could never put a ball." Although the ultimate scene is certainly growing, it is dwarfed by other city leagues. North Bay boasts a huge ultimate following, with its own Northern Flights tournament each summer. But North Bay pales in comparison to leagues in Toronto, which in turn are dwarfed by Ottawa's massive ultimate infrastructure.
Beuermann and other Londoners traveled to North Bay to play with some northlanders in a tournament. "We weren't just competing against them, we were there to have a good time," she recalled. Hanes thinks of the tournament as a "huge learning experience." Maybe even the ultimate experience.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997