Ultimate frisbee is the sport for nearly everyone. Membership ranges from those who played sports in high school but didn't make the cut for the university varsity teams, former college players who want to give a new sport a try and to those who just want to get involved in a new extracurricular activity and maybe meet some new friends.
The sport combines aspects from many disciplines of athletics, including soccer, basketball, football and netball. Ultimate itself consists of two 7-person teams, played on a rectangular pitch with an end zone for each team which forms the goal-scoring area. Like football, the goal is completed when a complete pass is made to a player standing or running inside the end zone. Like netball, the player can't run when they are in possession of the disc and must pass it to another member of the team to further the play.
Positions are divided into handlers and cutters. Handlers are the players who are more skilled at throwing the disc while the cutters are responsible for resetting the disc and throwing it to a handler as soon as possible to advance the disc down the field. Experienced teams often have very skilled members who are good at handling despite not being a handler.
Ultimate relies greatly on an honour system and code of conduct players call, "the Spirit of the Game." Surrounding the code is the philosophy that one team will never purposely hurt the other team. The game is self-refereed, even at the highest competitive levels of play, meaning players can't rely on a referee to make a call or foul a player. The trust is in the players to maintain order and call fouls on themselves or other players where fouls are due. This mentality not only fosters honesty, but also promotes a great sense of community within the ultimate world.
"It's all about personal accountability," explained 2008 Ultimate Championship coordinator and former Calgary Ultimate Association president Dave McLean. "If you're on the field, you [may have to] foul somebody--you don't have to call your own foul, but you have to know that's what you did. It's just sort of a culture."
McLean added that though ultimate is a non-contact sport, there is inevitably going to be contact even at the highest levels of play but people know that they're responsible for their own bodies and what goes on during the game.
While ultimate is a great way to meet new people, McLean cautions that it's not a dating service or a singles club.
"We've had stories done on us where we were advertised as a great place for singles to meet others," he said. "Ultimate is a sport, just like any other. While you can meet people here--I met my wife through ultimate--it's just like any other place or activity where you can meet others. The singles registering here are single players without a team."
McLean's organization, CUA, is the governing body for ultimate in Calgary. Last year, the league fielded over 110 teams in 17 divisions. The group also has a lot of ties to Dinos athletics. Many Dinos have looked at ultimate as an alternative to the sports they played with the University of Calgary.
"One of the best players in the city played Dinos volleyball and a girl brought him out and he thought it was awesome," said McLean. "He's been playing for 12 years now."
Sue Hunter played for the Dinos women's soccer team in the early 2000s.
"[Ultimate] is one of the few sports that you can play at a high level and play co-ed," she said. "There are not many sports were you can play with guys and the women are actually playing a key role. Most of the good teams win because of their good women because the guys balance each other out but there's more of a difference in [the skill level of] the women."
Talking to some of the players proves just how varied the membership is and why every member got involved in the sport.
"I [became involved in ultimate] through U of C intramurals," explained McLean. "I had a soccer team before that and the team was so bad. The only time we ever won a game was by default. Anyway, this same group of people decided to start an ultimate team. So we started by just being players but now my wife is a full-time employee for Calgary Ultimate and I've been the president and the communications director."
Sean Peacock has been involved with ultimate for many years.
"[I got into ultimate] just playing with my friends in high school and I just kept playing after that," he said. "I personally like the running the most."
After Hunter's time with the Dinos, she wanted a change.
"[I started] through a friend," said Hunter. "One of my friends dragged me out to a women's learn-to-throw clinic and from there I just started playing on the competitive team right away. And after two knee surgeries and playing at a high level of soccer, I just wanted to try to get into other sports. I've been playing for about four years now."
Ultimate seems to be the sport for pretty much anyone.