“Ultimate” Grows in RVA

Combining elements of basketball, American Football, and soccer, Ultimate Frisbee is a sport that’s quickly outgrown a casual, laidback reputation.  In fact, in the last few years, Ultimate Frisbee has become one of the fastest growing team sports in the nation. The driving force behind this growth in Central Virginia is a local organization, Richmond Ultimate.

How it’s played

  • Ultimate Frisbee is played on a field a little shorter and a little narrower than a football field with seven players on each team.
  • Teams can be co-ed or gender specific, and substitutions can be made at the conclusion of each point.
  • Possession is dynamic, like soccer, with teams sometimes trading possession several times over the course of a single point.
  • A goal is scored when a player catches the disc in their endzone, comparable to scoring a touchdown in football.
  • Similar to basketball, players are not allowed to run with the disc and must establish a pivot foot to avoid “traveling.”
  • Defensive strategies are similar to basketball or football; the two main approaches are “zone” and “man to man”.

Ultimate in RVA

Over the last twenty years, Richmond Ultimate has developed from a small group of friends who shared a love of the sport into a 501(c) non-profit organization and one of the region’s most impactful active communities. Richmond Ultimate’s local presence includes hosting multiple pickup games each week, delivering youth outreach programs, and organizing several annual leagues and tournaments.

Banner14-skinny“The purpose of Richmond Ultimate is to promote and facilitate the play of ultimate at all levels,” said Dan Hobgood, Richmond Ultimate’s current president. “Ultimate Frisbee is a sport that builds strength and endurance while promoting integrity through self-officiating and a spirit of sportsmanship shared between the players of both teams.”  The self-officiating aspect of Ultimate is a distinct quality that can’t be found in other major team sports. The players themselves call fouls and other violations, and disputes over calls are settled between competitors—without referees or umpires to intervene.

In recent years, youth outreach has become a larger component of Richmond Ultimate’s community presence.  This summer, Caitlin Newswanger, Coordinator of Youth Outreach and Development, organized programs with the Boys and Girls Club summer camps to teach the basics of Ultimate Frisbee to children ages 10-14. “We wanted to teach the kids basic ultimate skills,” said Caitlin. “But more importantly, we wanted to instill values like sportsmanship and personal responsibility that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”

With its origins as a collegiate club sport, Ultimate Frisbee has a way of bringing people of unique athletic, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds together on the playing field. “Richmond Ultimate has created a sense of camaraderie among people from vastly different walks of life,” said Dan.  The diversity is most evident in Richmond Ultimate’s principal event—its annual Summer League.

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This summer, over 200 players on 10 teams played a series of games through June and July that culminated in an end of season tournament. Teams were filled with lawyers, doctors, police officers, retirees, and even a few courageous children who took the field with the adults and held their own. “Summer League is probably our most important event,” said Dan. “Financially, it makes everything we do possible, and it allows members to join a team and grow as a player while also developing friendships with their teammates.”

As interest in Ultimate Frisbee rises, Richmond Ultimate continues to develop and expand as an organization and hopes to continue spreading the love of ultimate to new players in the area. “We plan on adding more seasonal leagues in the coming years,” said Dan. “We hope that anyone who thinks that Ultimate sounds like fun will join us on the field!”

For more information, visit www.richmondultimate.org