The Slow Rise of Ultimate Frisbee

Anvi Kasargod, Sports Editor/Reporter

Most of us remember playing ultimate frisbee in elementary or middle school PE class: being forced to toss around the disc until your team reached the end zone. 

However, the game has progressed far past that of simply being a PE activity — it is now a competitive sport that is played all over the world. 

The premise is simple: Two teams of seven players compete on a playing field that is about as long as a football field, but narrower. The ends of the field have end zones, which are defended by each team, and players score goals when they catch the frisbee in the opposing end zone. The player with the disc, referred to as the thrower, may not run with the disc and has 10 seconds to move it by passing to teammates. 

Ultimate Frisbee, now referred to simply as “Ultimate,” would not have been possible without the frisbee itself, which originated from  Yale University in 1940. The Frisbie Pie Company sold pies to neighboring Yale students who would then throw the pie tin cans to each other for fun. 

Intrigued by the prospect of finding ways to make a flat object fly straight and fast, Fred Morrison patented the first flying disc toy in 1948, and the first mass-produced toy — called the Pluto Platter — was sold in 1951. After Frisbie Pie Company closed down, Yale students nicknamed the pie tins “Frisbies,” which was later changed to “Frisbee.”

Raphael Nast
Ultimate frisbee has grown from being a fun, leisure activity, into a competitive sport, played around the world.

In 1968, Joel Silver and a few other students introduced the game to the Columbia High School student council, and the first team was formed a year later. Silver, Buzzy Hellring and Jon Hines created the first edition rules of Ultimate Frisbee in 1970, the same year that the first interscholastic game took place. This later progressed to intercollegiate games and tournaments between colleges such as Rutgers, Princeton and — of course — Yale. 

The Ultimate Players Association was founded in 1979, and the First World Ultimate Championship took place in Sweden in 1983. In 2001, Japan officially made Ultimate a medal sport in the world games. 

Today, the presence of Ultimate Frisbee is felt on almost every college campus, either in the form of an official team, club or simply a group of students meeting up to play. The game, often associated with middle school PE, has, in fact, been able to rise, from merely tossing pie tin cans to uniting players from across the globe in intense competition.