Make friends in a new city with Ultimate Frisbee

Photo by Chris Wolfgang.
I stumbled into Ultimate Frisbee when I moved to a new city last fall. I knew some of the players and started playing once a week just because it was my best option to hang out with people. Though I'm a pleasant likeable person (bows), I'm slow to make friends and needed the social push of a weekly meet-up. Ultimate is usually a male-dominated sport, so the fact that a couple other girls usually played helped ease the intimidation for this not-very-athletic, late-20s woman.

Not to be confused with Frolf (Frisbee golf), Ultimate was described to me as "soccer with a Frisbee." In its most basic form, a game involves two teams facing each other from opposite end zones. The offensive team attempts to work the Frisbee down the field and score a touchdown in the other team's end zone. The defensive team, understandably, attempts to keep this from happening. Despite the use of terms like touchdown and end zone, Ultimate really is more like soccer than American football because there are no long pauses. With the exception of stopping to throw the disc, players are running the entire time.

After playing for not quite a year now, I can say that's a very, very basic synopsis indeed. But there are more technical sites out there where you'll get better info about defense, types of throws (I'm so proud that I can throw three now: backhand, forehand, and hammer), the disc weight you need (175g), which cleats are best (soccer, not football), and so on, so I won't get into all that.

What I want to let my Offbeat Homies know are the physical and emotional rewards I've gotten from this sport…

Ultimate has bit me so hard, I'm out on the field three days a week now year 'round. I've played in 105-degree (F) heat and I've played on eight inches of snow. On several occasions, I've been the only girl playing. I can't tell you how badass it makes me feel that I'm an asset to a team and no one gives a crap about my gender.

When I first started, I could barely last a complete game. Ultimate involves a hella lot of sprinting and cutting, a fact that surprises even quite athletic people who aren't used to how exacting the sport can be. I'm pleased to say I can stick it out with the big boys now and play four, sometimes five, matches in a day. My heart and my lungs feel powerful and capable. Just for results measurement, I can tell you it keeps me ten pounds lighter than my previous lifestyle of doing nothing at all. I see hints of a six-pack, my husband loves my new triceps, and my thighs are capable of taking me up and down the field for hours without burning.

But beyond that (way beyond that), Ultimate has given me a core group of friends that I value so much more than a healthy body. And because health is a very valuable thing, I hope that conveys how much I think of these people. We help each other move, we share meals together after games, we house sit for each other, we pass on work (a few of us are freelancers), we motivate each other to try new things. I'm biking around town now because a few friends do, even though city biking still scares the crap out of me sometimes.

At the risk of sounding like a college commercial, I've discovered that there's just not much that beats the joy of accomplishing something rewarding with a team of people you respect. Even if it's just a hammer throw into the end zone for the match point.

Hope this encourages some of you to check out Ultimate Frisbee! Scour Facebook and Twitter, and I'll bet you'll find a group in your own city, no problem.

  1. Omg An Offbeat Home article on Ultimate! YESSS!!!!!! And yeah, I completely agree with you- it is THE easiest way to get a core group of friends as an adult who no longer lives in a dorm or takes classes. I have a large, close-knit community of Ultimate-playing friends who I couldn't live without, thanks to joining a local league. For anyone in the Philly, DE, or south Jersey area, I recommend joining PADA (pada.org). These are the people I play Ultimate with, rely on, party with, and invited to my wedding!

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  2. I never even thought of looking for an Ultimate team! I played it in some of my classes in college (gotta love being a PE major) I play on a kickball and softball team and have made some friends from those. Sports are awesome!

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    • I have to point out WHY Ultimate is awesome.
      1. It's cheap. You don't need pads, equipment, goals, ice, sticks, helmets, etc. You need a disc, an open field, shoes, and 8 plastic cones.
      2. Spirit of the game. There aren't any referees! Players are responsible for calling themselves in or out of bounds, fouls, etc. It takes certain a level of honesty and sportsmanship to be able to do this.
      3. It's co-ed. Granted, there are leagues with no gender ratio, but normally there is a defined ratio of 4-6 men to 3-1 women. You do feel like a badass when you are the only woman playing, but often there are plenty of other women around!

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  3. Ultimate really is the ultimate friend-maker. I don't actually play Ultimate myself, but one of my friends does, and now most of my friends are friends HE met through Ultimate. Go figure.

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  4. I'm new to this site but I am NOT new to ultimate. I started playing in college when I couldn't find an adequate soccer scene. I've met so many awesome people playing and this will be my 8th year. I'm confident there is an ultimate scene for every level of play. If you are looking for friends a good place to start is http://pickupultimate.com/

    You can find everything else disc at http://www.usaultimate.org/index.html

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    • There is absolutely a group out there for everyone, from beginners to hardcore leagues. If you find yourself at first in a group that doesn't quite fit, keep your ears open for another group but don't be afraid to keep showing up in the meantime. You can learn a lot really fast!

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  5. I LOVE playing ultimate. Some cities have a big enough ultimate scene to have community leagues ranging from Recreational to Intermediate to Advanced. There are also weekly organized "pick up" games and sporadic hat tournaments. It has helped me meet a much larger range of people than if I had just stuck to school or work friends. Most of the time there are dogs, spouses, and kids on the sidelines. It's especially great for busy people, since you can cross off exercise AND time with friends. I am in the best shape I've ever been, and I have gained many fitness role models, like the women in their 40s who just had babies and were back on the field a month later! Ultimate is my ticket to lifelong friends and fitness. :-)

    There are also some professional ultimate frisbee teams. It's really fun to go watch the game you love with your friends, so ultimate players at all levels should check it out!

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