Ultimately unique and unconventional

Ultimate Frisbee flies through UT Austin

Texas Ultimate's TUFF player prepare for the match the Men's Centex Tournament at Whitake Fields Saturday, March 14. 

Photo Credit: Kelly Coles


Over the last decade the sport Ultimate Frisbee has gained recognition across the world. Players and spectators are drawn to unique nature of the sport, and are captivated by the intensity and competitiveness of play.

How it works

Ultimate Frisbee requires seven players per team on the field. The object of the game is to score in one of the 25-yard end zones. The twist: You can’t run when you have possession of the Frisbee, and you can’t hold on to it for more than 10 consecutive seconds. The result is a fast-paced game of throws, vertical jumps and dives.

The two basic positions are known as handlers and cutters. The handlers are in charge of passing the disc and calling plays. The cutters run to get open and catch the disc.

What many find to be the most intriguing aspect of Ultimate Frisbee is the lack of referees. The game is entirely self-governed by the players on the field who make the calls themselves. In games with high stakes, such as collegiate nationals, an observer is present to help make decisions, but for the most part the players are in charge of the outcome. This self-governance is known as the “Spirit of the Game.”

Ultimate Frisbee on campus

Texas Ultimate was established as early as the 80’s, and has grown into a large program with four teams—Men’s A and B teams and Women’s A and B teams.

The A team has gone through various names, like “SLUT,” and the B team, formed in 2001, was originally named “Virgins.”When UT Rec Sports threatened the teams with funding cuts, the teams were renamed to TUFF, or Texas Ultimate Frisbee Friends and Graze.

The women’s program began in 2000 with around ten consistent members who went by the team name Lady Marmalade. Since then, the team has been redubbed Melee and has adopted a B team by the name of Mayhem.

Ultimate as a professional sport

Ultimate got its start in 1968 when a high school student in New Jersey proposed the sport to the student council at his school; four years later the first collegiate game took place in 1972. By 1973, 23 collegiate teams participated in the US, and Ultimate continued to spread across the country.

Today there are two professional Ultimate leagues: the American Ultimate Disc League and the Major Ultimate League, both formed in 2012. The two leagues together make up 34 franchised teams across the United States and Canada. Both leagues dedicate themselves to the growth of Ultimate across the country and the world.

Ultimate around the world

According to USA Ultimate, more than seven million players take part in more than 80 countries. Because the only thing needed to play the game is a plastic disc, Ultimate culture has spread to many impoverished and under-privileged societies.

Last February a short film entitled “175-Grams,” referring to the regulation size of a disc, became one of the five winners of the Sundance Short Film Festival. The film conveys the impacts that Ultimate brings on the lives of teens living in the slums of India. The film illustrates how the culture of Ultimate Frisbee can be used to inspire lives across the globe, forming a common tie among diverse cultures.