Looking for the ‘ultimate’ thrill

Senior Terry Sullivan leaps for the disc in a game against Cal Poly. The Ultimate Frisbee club has a tournament in Fresno on April 26.
Kyle Lazarus / The Collegian

Members of the Fresno State Ultimate Frisbee Club will head to Long Beach this weekend to compete with 15 other university teams in this sport that combines the non-stop movement of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football.

Ultimate Frisbee is a club sport that has been steadily growing on campus since it began two years ago. Senior Chris Maloney had the idea of starting the team on campus after playing it for fun with a local Fresno team.

“It is an interesting sport and it isn’t really like any sports that involve a ball,” Maloney said. “You can’t throw a ball like you can a Frisbee.”

Faculty adviser Andrew Fiala pointed out that ultimate Frisbee has two key elements that set it apart from other conventional sports: there are no referees and it can be played by both men and women simultaneously.

“It is so unique because no other sport has international and national competitions without referees,” Fiala said.

The game relies on the players to make their own foul and line calls, who sometimes get observers on the field to help settle disputes.

The other differentiating factor is that ultimate Frisbee is a non-contact sport so men and women can play together, making it possible for the Fresno State team to be co-ed.

Maloney said the team has grown to include 20 players who practice three times each week, and it is constantly growing as more students become involved.

Though it is a co-ed team, only about four players are female, one of them being senior Courtney Hoffman who has played on the team since it began.

“I love all sports, but when I first started I sucked,” Hoffman said. “But everyone was really positive and made it fun.”

The upcoming competition in Long Beach will be a men’s only competition but other events are planned throughout the year that vary between being co-ed or just for men or women.

Ultimate Frisbee became recognized as an official club sport on campus two years ago and now receives funding from Associated Students, Inc. to pay for competition’s registration fees, equipment and other expenses.

The sport began in 1968 by Columbia High School students in Maplewood, NJ, though the first rules of the game were not recorded until 1970. Fiala said that part of the draw in the sport comes from its reputation for being countercultural and anti-authority and the fact that there are no star players on the team like in football.

“I love it because everyone gets to be a quarterback and a wide receiver,” Fiala said. “No one has to be a lineman and everyone gets to throw the touchdowns.”

The Ultimate Players Association (UPA) is the national governing body for the sport of ultimate Frisbee. Fresno State’s team has not been nationally ranked by UPA yet, but Fiala hopes the team will play in a competition later this year that will get them on the board.

Senior Terry Sullivan began playing on the team two years ago, when he heard about it while living in the dorms.

“I played a lot of sports in high school and I was missing the competition but ultimate is very competitive,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said though it has become fairly widespread a lot of students still don’t know what the game is and get it confused with Frisbee golf.

Anyone can join the team and it is an affordable sport with the only costs being a team jersey and cleats, that most players opt to wear.

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