Ultimate Frisbee: History - present - future

Seminar Paper, 2000

18 Pages, Grade: 2



List of Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 Ultimate Frisbee
2.1 The Game of Ultimate
2.2 Spirit of the Game

3 History
3.1 Invention of the Flying Disc
3.2 Invention of Disc Sports
3.3 Invention of Ultimate Frisbee

4 Present
4.1 Associations
4.2 The typical Ultimate Player

5 Future

6 Conclusion


List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1 Introduction

The most common disc sport[1], Ultimate, spreads all over the world. About 1,400 sportsmen from 23 nations took part in the 10th World Ultimate & Guts Championships held in Heilbronn, Germany, in August 2000. These were the biggest World Championships that ever took place in the history of disc sports. And it was also a big step forward for the game of Ultimate. The top six nations are qualified to take part at the World Games 2001 in Akita, Japan. Ultimate and Disc Golf will be official part of these Games of non-Olympic sports for the first time ever.

As a matter of fact, not everybody in the Ultimate community is happy about how things developed. Many of the “old-school”-players are afraid of the growth of their beloved sport. They fear that the “Spirit of the Game” will be destroyed if the sport becomes more and more popular. But there are also a lot of players and officials that welcome the future and hope that Ultimate will lose its shadowy existence.

This paper will pick up the discussion and show how the future of Ultimate may look like. Therefore the game of Ultimate will be presented to the reader shortly. In the second part the history of Ultimate and Frisbee in general will be told. Afterwards there will be a look at the present situation of Ultimate in the World, the United States and Europe. Therefore the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) and the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) will be presented. There will also be a short look at a survey of the typical Ultimate player. At the last step there will be a look at the future. What may happen to the sport and why may these things happen.

2 Ultimate Frisbee

2.1 The Game of Ultimate

Ultimate is a team sport played by two teams of seven players on nearly American-Football-sized field with two zones on the opposite ends of the field. The game starts with a throw-off which is similar to a kick-off in American Football. The offense attempts to advance the disc by throwing and catching it, while the pulling team (the team that had the throw-off) covers the offense in either man-to-man or zone defense. A player who catches the disc is allowed up to three steps and must then establish a pivot foot before throwing. There is no running with the disc.

A turnover occurs anytime the disc is dropped by an offense player, hits the ground, goes out of bounds, is intercepted or is knocked down away by the defense. A touchdown is scored when the offensive team catches the disc in the opponent endzone. This is worth one point. The defensive team then returns to the opposite side of the field to receive the throw-off.

Regulation games are up to 21 points or a certain time limit.

2.2 Spirit of the Game

“Spirit of the Game ... is the underlying philosophy of Ultimate.”[2] It is the most important rule in every kind of disc sport. The reason for this is, that the sport is played on a self-officiated basis so there are no referees. All line violation, possession and foul calls are made by the players on the playing field. The background of Spirit of the Game was the problem of the “inventors” of Ultimate to define a foul. The first definition of a foul said, “that a foul constituted ‘any action sufficient to arouse the ire of your opponent’.”[3] Nowadays Spirit of the Game is the first part of the official WFDF Ultimate rules.[4]

But Spirit of the Game means more than a rule. An Ultimate player will always praise and support successful actions on both teams. It is a normal thing to introduce yourself to the opponent player at the beginning of every point and to wish him a good game. And after the game both teams stand in a circle talking about the game and singing a song for the opponent team. So it is a lot more than just a short handshake after a game. The rules say that “It is assumed that no Ultimate player will intentionally violate the rules; there are no harsh penalties for inadvertent infractions...”[5]. In fact there are no penalties at all. The founding fathers trusted in the players and their sense of responsibility and “in ultimate-land, it works.”[6] That is what Spirit of the Game is about.

3 History

3.1 Invention of the Flying Disc

The invention of the Flying Disc is connected mainly with four different names: The Frisbie Pie Company, Walter Frederick Morrison, Warren Franscioni and Wham-O.

The Frisbie Pie Company

In 1871 William Russell Frisbie moved from Bransford, Connecticut, to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he opened a branch of the Old Baking Company of New Haven. After a short while he bought it and named it Frisbie Pie Company. The bakery offered a variety of bakery goodies, including pies and cookies, that were packed in round tins.

By 1920 the tin lids were used by school kids at the beaches of Long Island Sound, Connecticut, in a way, a sport disc is used today.[7] The lids were also used as a plaything by Yale students who shouted “Frisbie!” to “warn people of incoming pie tins.”[8]


[1] The name Frisbee is a Trademark of the Wham-O toy Company from San Francisco, CA., so the correct terms are disc sports and sport disc.

[2] www.ultimatehandbook.com, “Ultimate for beginners”, p. 4

[3] Zagoria, A., “Ultimate Spreads from Maplewood to the World”, http://www.upa.org/upa/30anniv/30.html

[4] WFDF Rule 401 Spirit of the Game: “Ultimate has traditionally relied upon a spirit of sportsmanship which places the responsibility for fair play on the individual player himself. Highly competitive play is encouraged but never at the expense of mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game or the basic joy of play. The purpose of the rules of Ultimate is to provide a guideline which describes the way the game is played. It is assumed that no Ultimate player will intentionally violate the rules; there are no harsh penalties for inadvertent infractions but, rather, a method for resuming play in a manner which simulates what would most likely have occurred had there been no infraction.” WFDF, “WFDF Rulebook Article IV – Ultimate”, http://www.wfdf.org/art4.htm.

[5] WFDF Rule 401

[6] www.ultimatehandbook.com, http://www.ultimatehandbook.com/Webpages/Beginner/spiritofgame.html

[7] Johnson, S. E. D. (1975): “Frisbee - A practitioner’s manual and definitive treatise.” New York: Workman Publishing Company, pp. 17 – 18.

[8] McMahon, J. (1997), “Where the Frisbee first flew. The Untold Story of the Flying Disc’s Origin 50 Years Ago in SLO”, http://www.frisbee.com/network/victor.html.

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Ultimate Frisbee: History - present - future
University of Bayreuth  (FB American Studies)
Seminar Applied Geography
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
468 KB
Ultimate, Frisbee, Sport
Quote paper
Jörg Bahl (Author), 2000, Ultimate Frisbee: History - present - future, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1954


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