If you’re not familiar with the world of high-level Ultimate Frisbee as it stands in 2012, have a quick look at this highlight reel. At the upper rungs of competition, Ultimate involves near-constant sprinting and a fearless desire to grab the disc whenever it comes nearby, and if that requires a player to jump over his opponent or make a full-extension, horizontal dive (or layout, as it’s referred to in the game) to make the catch, then so be it.
The field of play in Ultimate is similar to football—the basic goal is to get the disc into the other teams’ end zone through a series of passes; running with the disc is not allowed. The sport has grown very quickly in recent years, so much so that its first professional league, the American Ultimate Disc League, is set to begin play in April and will include eight teams located in the Northeast and Midwest.
According to John Korber—player, coach and general manager of the Connecticut Constitution—the goal for his team, aside from winning the title, is to provide a viable, affordable entertainment option for the local area that gets people to come out of curiosity the first time, then draws them back in for more. “Most of the people who are playing in this league are among the best players in their community, and I think that lots of fans are gonna watch games and say, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of work,’” he says.
Korber compares the Ultimate that will be played in the AUDL to lacrosse and hockey due to its quick shifts—he says players will give all they’ve got for a couple minutes then give way to subs and prepare for their next turn on the field. Brodie Smith, a member of the Indianapolis Alleycats team and a two-time college Ultimate champion at Florida University (as well as a viral success making frisbee trick shot videos), generally agrees with Korber. He also contrasts playing in the AUDL to the competitive Ultimate tournaments that have existed up until now. Teams play several games over the course of a weekend in such tournaments, as opposed to one game per week in the AUDL.
“Before the AUDL I would have said long distance running [required similar fitness to Ultimate],” Smith says. “Playing all weekend was always a challenge on the body and having great endurance was always the most important thing regarding physical fitness. In the AUDL we will be having only one game a week so endurance is less of a priority and explosiveness becomes more important. With that being said, I would say it’s in between basketball and football.”