Remember the giddy feeling you'd get as a kid when you launched a Frisbee through the air? Spin that disc again in a game of Ultimate Frisbee, a heart-pounding and sometimes comical sport that you and your kids can play just about anywhere.
Ultimate first emerged as an organized team sport in 1968. Since then, leagues have sprouted all over the country. Ultimate players don't toss Frisbees leisurely back and forth; instead, two teams of players compete to advance the disc down a field. They score points by catching a throw in the end zone.
Ultimate is a simple, fun game that requires agility, stamina and strategic thinking. It's a great family activity because it's easily adapted to accommodate any size group, age of children or available field space. I recently met up with two families — the Savages and the Gamaches — at the Collins Perley Sports Complex in St. Albans to give it a try.
While Ultimate teams can include as many as seven players, these two families were well-matched: four Savages — Sean, Jennifer, Zachary and Hailey versus four Gamaches — Ted, Liz, Robert and Gabrielle. Though the regulation field is normally a lengthy 70 by 40 yards with 25-yard end zones, we picked a much smaller space with loosely defined boundaries.
At the start of the half-hour game, the two teams lined up in their respective end zones and the Savages launched the Frisbee to the Gamaches. Once the Gamaches started their offensive strike, they had to adhere to the one "catch" of the game: Players can't move their feet once they've snagged the Frisbee. You can make the game easier for small kids — and easier on your knees — by allowing two steps after a catch, but we stuck with the original version of the game.
Players on offense can run up and down the field in any direction, opening themselves up for a pass. If the Frisbee goes out of bounds or hits the ground, the opposing team gets the disc and starts from that pick-up spot.
Defensive players can block and intercept the Frisbee to change possession. When someone scores a point, the teams line up again and restart play.
This was the first time the Savages and Gamaches had played Ultimate, but after a few minutes, everyone got used to the rules. At just six months, my own daughter is a bit too young to play, so I observed from the sidelines as possession changed quickly, and everyone flew by. I got tired just watching. And it wasn't long before everyone was laughing, whether it was at a fumble by Mom Liz, a diving catch by 12-year-old Zach, or just a wild throw grabbed by the wind.
Another advantage to Ultimate: Any player contact is a foul. Kids can run, leap and dive, but aren't allowed to elbow, push or grab. Sometimes crashes occur, as Robert and Zach learned while going head-to-head for a catch. For that reason, it's a good idea to direct kids to cover opposing players who are about the same size.
As your kids get older, you can alter the game to make it more challenging. Use stricter rules, try playing on a larger field or schedule longer matches.
Both teams were out of breath at the end of their game in St. Albans; the Savages eked out a 3-2 win. But Zach said he'd like to play again, so a rematch may be in order.