Frequent readers of The Gryphon sports section – and I know there must be a few of you out there, will have seen the success of our Ultimate Frisbee teams over the course of this year. They have put in strong performances at the Indoor Nationals for both men and women this year and claimed first prize in both in Outdoor Regionals. The team are as good as any side university in the country. So I joined them up at Weetwood for a training session to see what makes this frisbee so ultimate after all.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a bit of recreational disc throwing every now and then; on a beach in the height of summer or in Hyde Park as you clamber over the hordes of picnickers and sunbathers to retrieve an errant throw. There’s nothing quite like a frisbee landing on a strangers freshly made cheese and pickle sandwich to break the ice.
So to be told to bring football boots and plenty of water with me obviously meant this was no place for a barbecue, and the flip flops had to be put away.
F0r those unfamiliar with ultimate, it’s a high-octane and hugely entertaining sport which can be played inside and outdoors. With teams of seven playing – which can be mixed or single gender – 0n a football pitch sized arena, it can be quite tiring if you’re not up to the mark, trust me. The aim of the game is to keep the disc from touching the ground as you attempt to pass to your teammate in the opposition’s end-zone, which earns your side a point.
It almost sounds easy when written down, but as the training began, and the tactics come out, the game took on a whole new side. With cuts and pulls and all sorts of other names being thrown around, the jargon is definitely something to get your head around. The players would seamlessly perform renditions of different moves over and over again; no wonder they are one of the country’s best teams.
As the training drills came to a close, I was getting compliments for my throwing technique; those hours spent trying to avoid knocking down sandcastles and sabotaging barbecues had obviously paid off. With confidence sky high we moved on to playing some real games, where I could really test my mettle.
This is where the experienced players really come into their own, with international players in the team like Alice Beeching pulling out every trick in the book. Backhand, forehand, overhead, upside down, whatever which way the disc would end up in a teammates hands – and there was me going over the moon with being able to get it going in a straight line.
You can pull out all the tricks you like with the disc but if your defence isn’t up to scratch you are never going to get anywhere in this game. In ultimate it’s all about concentration, as you man-mark a player each and keep track of their every move. One quick slip and they’re away to the end-zone, leaving you chasing their shadow, so you’ve got to be on guard at all times.
This is where I got my moment to shine. As one elusive runner stormed clear of the defence and, with my delegated attacker also lurking, a pass got thrown forwards. It was down to this novice to stop what looked like an easy point for the opposition, and boy did I. A full-stretched leap, like a bearded ginger gazelle wearing a Plymouth Argyle shirt, saw me get fingertips to the disc and cut out the move. For all of three seconds I was the hero – caked in mud, but it was worth it – what an experience.
I was expecting to be carried off the pitch on my teams shoulders after such a move, but that’s just the norm for these guys. Plenty of verve, plenty of skill and a great bunch of characters to boot. It’s a great sport that anyone can enjoy, and mixing with such quality players makes it all the more better.
Image courtesy of twitter.com