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Devils' Advocate

The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

Ultimate frisbee gets no love

Wikimedia Commons
Players playing ultimate frisbee.

The International Olympic Committee has added several new sports to the Olympics set to be hosted in Los Angeles in 2028. Ultimate frisbee was silently removed from the short list of new sports set to be entered in. Perhaps the committee thinks the sport is not widespread enough, or perhaps the lack of referees in the sport is a deterrent for the International Olympic Committee.

“Ultimate’s biggest organizations — WFDF and USA Ultimate — have been pushing for Olympic inclusion for years. WFDF earned International Olympic Committee recognition in 2015, one year after USAU got recognition from the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee,” said Ultiworld, a highly accredited ultimate frisbee news and broadcasting website.

I am here to disprove any claims against the legitimacy of the sport and explain why the sport of ultimate frisbee not only deserves to make it into the Olympics, but also deserves to be regulated and sanctioned by the National College Athletic Association (NCAA).

A common opposition to the legitimacy of ultimate frisbee is the lack of referees in such an intensely rule specific game. The basics of the game are simple: don’t move while holding the frisbee and pass to your teammates until someone catches it in the endzone. If you drop it or the other team hits it out of the air, it is a turnover and the same aforementioned rules apply to the other team. However, when you broaden the game to a more competitive scene like high school nationals, or even the professional level, there are far more “nitpicky” rules and regulations you don’t see from a few kids playing frisbee on the playground.

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But, how can these rules be enforced if there is no referee? Wouldn’t the sport  not survive at an Olympic level with such high stakes? Wouldn’t teams be prone to cheating?

This is where the “observer” comes into play. At higher levels of ultimate frisbee, there are on-field observers who play a crucial role in the function of the game.

“[An observer is] a neutral, third-party, on-field official that helps resolve self-officiation disputes between players, keeps time and enforces player conduct…observers are empowered to make active calls related to objective elements of gameplay…as well as [making] binding rulings in the case of disputed foul or violation calls,” said the Ultiworld glossary.

With observers present, the game runs smoother and disputes between players lessen.

The self officiating aspect of ultimate frisbee is rooted deep within the games history, and it’s what makes the sport so special. Ultimate frisbee is able to connect players and promotes the value of interpersonal confrontation and problem solving in a way that so many other sports can’t. These values are important to building up society.

It is important to note that this sport is already thriving on a global level as there is a world championship yearly, the last of which was held in Nottingham. There, the U.S. men and women’s division took first place and are going into the 2024 world championships as defending world champs. 

The sport of ultimate frisbee doesn’t get the exposure it deserves because it is not NCAA regulated. The NCAA is the leading athletic body for college sports. The main value for a sport being NCAA regulated is the promotional and legitimacy aspects. Promotionally, the high level athletes that play for their college team would have broader access to school facilities and fields. For the legitimacy aspect, it is likely the most sought after.

With the NCAA comes high school recruitment, name image, likeness deals and tons more incredible benefits for the hard working athletes within the sport. What’s really interesting about ultimate frisbee is that despite the sport not being as widely known nationwide, many colleges actually have teams.

“Honestly there are times when I have been surprised that a school had a team, but I think that’s actually telling of something bigger: when Tennessee-Chattanooga has a high level team you think, ‘holy cow the widespread growth is nuts,’” said the Tulane Hullabaloo, a highly accredited school newspaper for Tulane University.

Along with this, ultimate frisbee is just as much a thriving men’s sport as it is a women’s sport. The women’s division of the college and club championships draws ultimate frisbee fans from around the country, and their level of play is equally if not more exciting to watch.

All this to say, the sport of ultimate frisbee is right on the brink of getting the exposure and audience it deserves. Hundreds upon thousands of videos exist on YouTube of incredible ultimate frisbee being played at all levels from middle school up through the professionals.

I had the privilege of joining a thriving middle school ultimate frisbee team, and, after six years with the sport and intent to continue playing through college, I am firm in my belief that ultimate frisbee deserves NCAA recognition. Ultimately, it deserves to be played worldwide at the Olympics.

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