THUNDER BAY -- If you’re looking to get some exercise playing a friendly game, ultimate (originally known as ultimate Frisbee) might just be the thing for you.
Alicia Todd, a member of the board of Thunder Bay Ultimate, and the coach of the competitive touring team Giants Ultimate Club, says it’s a sport that many people enjoy not just for exercise, but also for the friendly community that places a high value on good sportsmanship.
Ultimate is a unique sport in that there are no referees. Instead, it relies on the “Spirit of the Game,” often abbreviated SOTG. The golden rule of SOTG is that you must treat others as you would want to be treated - with respect, integrity and generosity. The responsibility of fair play is on each player, even at the most competitive levels.
Points are scored when the disc is caught in the opposing team’s end zone. Players must stop running when they catch the disc, or they must pass it to someone else within three steps. The honour-system plays an important role in self-officiating games.
In Thunder Bay, ultimate season typically runs from the end of May until the end of August. The games are 7 on 7 (seven players on each team) and are played on grass fields at one of four locations in the city: Bora Laskin Fields, CJ Sanders Fieldhouse Fields, Grandview and Jumbo Gardens North.
Players who don’t want to stop playing ultimate in the fall can continue playing indoors at the Lakehead University Hangar, where the field is smaller and the teams are smaller; 5 on 5.
Todd says what she enjoys most about ultimate is the community. “It’s all about the players calling their own calls, and really respecting the rules of the game, so that you can respect each other. It’s the only sport I’ve ever played that really, really relies on sportsmanship,” she explains.
Originally from Southern Ontario where the ultimate scene is much bigger, Todd had played in high school and enjoyed the sport. She came to Thunder Bay to attend Lakehead University, and when a couple of friends asked if she wanted to play ultimate with them, she “really stuck to the sport,” she says. She has been playing for almost a decade now, and is a coach and board member of Thunder Bay Ultimate, which currently has about 150 members.
There are equal numbers of men and women in the sport, and most are in their mid 20s and older, she says. “People who have moved out of more competitive sport, and are looking for a hobby to get some exercise - most people start around 25,” she says. “They’re just having fun with the sport, not being super competitive.”
As coach of the Giants, Todd has taken the team as far away as Winnipeg to the west, and Grand Marais and Duluth to the south. She says the team has a reputation as being remarkably friendly and spirited, and feels the Thunder Bay ultimate community is special. “It’s just one big fun group of folks that just love the sport, love teaching people, and it’s not an intimidating sport at all.”
It is also a sport that is easy on the wallet - all you need is a frisbee, some cones for marking end zones, and some friends. Cleats are recommended, but some people play in running.