Ultimate gaining credibility
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Ultimate, better known to many as ultimate Frisbee, has been steadily growing in popularity over the last few years. Yes, those ignorant to the sport still throw around the cliché lines such as, “Isn’t that for dogs?,” “Don’t you have to be a hippie to play?,” and “Wait, that’s a sport?”—but ultimate has come a long way since its pie plate hucking hippie creators in the ‘70s. Ultimate is finally getting some recognition.
Ultimate, mainly over the last decade or so, has taken a firm place at the high school, college, and recreational level. Using British Columbia as an example, there have been annual high school ultimate championships for some time now. Public and private schools alike compete tooth and nail to take home the top prize, and, having actually been one of those kids, I can tell you that the competition can get rather fierce. BC also has several recreational leagues, with the largest being the Vancouver Ultimate League which currently has over 4,000 members. Moving on to the countrywide stage, the Canadian Ultimate Championships take place every August with teams (junior and adult) coming from all over our great nation to strut their stuff. Canada is also a contender on the world circuit, regularly sending top squads to compete, such as at this year’s World Junior Ultimate Championships held in Dublin, Ireland. And just when you thought the future couldn’t get brighter for ultimate in Canada, Ultimate Canada currently has full eligibility status under Sport Canada, a major step towards securing future funding for the sport.
As evidenced by the mention of world championships, ultimate’s status has not only been on the rise in Canada. Despite the ever increasing worldwide love of the game, detractors of the sport always had a trump card to play. No longer.
Generally a strong indicator of the legitimacy of a sport is whether or not it has a professional league. I’m happy to report, that as of this year, ultimate has just that. Thanks to the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL), the game can now dismiss the most common charge against it. The AUDL currently has eight teams established, and its inaugural season is well underway. To top it off, one of the league’s highlights, a gorgeous catch by Brent Anderson of the Connecticut Constitution (go look it up!), found its way onto a TSN broadcast last month.
Along with establishing a professional presence, ultimate is pushing easily recognizable figures into the spotlight. That’s right. Ultimate has faces you can associate with it now. Practically every player has heard of Brodie Smith and his ridiculous trick shots on YouTube. He’s not exactly Wayne Gretzky, but he is a face. Something/someone to rally around.
In conclusion, ultimate is a legitimate sport. It has large numbers of participants across a variety of levels, international tournaments, devoted athletes, its own emerging icons, and a professional league. It may not produce college scholarships yet, but with the strides the sport has made over the last few years I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question. Play on.