Spreading ultimate frisbee fever
“Backhand.” “Forehand.” “End zone.” “Up!” If you had your eyes shut, you might think you were listening to a strange hybrid game of tennis, American football and volleyball. You’d be mistaken; what you’d actually be listening to is ultimate frisbee. Sure, it can be mistaken for some game you might play to while away your time on the beach with some friends. However, this is no game, it’s a sport which has been around since the late 1960s and is now taking Spain by storm.
Ultimate frisbee is called ‘ultimate’ because it goes beyond the normal parameters of beach frisbee as it is now a recognised non-contact team sport. There are five to seven players on each team depending if it is played on a beach or on grass, respectively. The most popular teams are mixed (men and women), but there are also women’s and open (mainly men) teams. The objective of the game is to pass the frisbee to a teammate who is in the opposing end zone in order to score a point.
There are several different ways of throwing a frisbee, such as ‘backhand’, ‘forehand’ and ‘hammer’; much like in a backhand and forehand swing in tennis and a slam dunk in basketball. As you may well note, there is a prevalent use of English words, terminology and phrases throughout ultimate frisbee training sessions and matches. This is due to the fact that the roots of this sport are based in the United States of America.
Frisbee dates back as far as 1940s America, with its origins in Amherst College, where they played with pie tins and cake pan dishes before plastic frisbee discs were made available. Ultimate frisbee, on the other hand, was a sport that was born from the counterculture movement of the 1960s, when American football and basketball were mainstream and highly covered sports and ‘hippies’ were invading the contemporary culture scene.
It is the only team sport that does not have a referee and so invokes the “spirit of the game”, which means it is the responsibility of every player to call their own fouls, maintain good sportsmanship and fair play throughout the match, whether it is in training or in World Championships.
Ultimate frisbee is played all around the world; there are over eight million players in 80 countries. In the USA there are two semiprofessional leagues. Now in Spain it is quickly becoming a popular sport among university students as there are 35 teams in the country and an official flying disc federation. A lot of the players currently in the Malaga teams are originally from the province, but over the past couple of years people have been coming from all around Spain and Europe to play in local teams. There is a website called Ultimate Central, which allows people to search for and contact ultimate frisbee teams whilst they are traveling other countries.
Only a year ago Andalucía had three teams in Granada, Seville and Malaga. Now there are also teams in Cadiz, Almería, Huelva and Jaén. Malaga province can even boast three teams along the Costa del Sol: the Camaleones in Malaga, the Bokerones in Fuengirola, and the Volaores in Estepona. In September there will be the Regional League in Salamanca, Castilla y León, where the best teams in Spain will compete. In October there will be the Spanish Championships that will be held in Santander, Asturias.
Gonzalo Ponce de León, the 30-year-old trainer and captain of the Bokerones, founded the team with Lucia Agüera Bravo, spirit captain, in order to help encourage the frisbee fever that has taken over Spain in the last few years.
Most players, in fact, come across ultimate frisbee through friends and family or by absolute coincidence. Marta Quijano Ramos mentions how she found out through a close friend of hers that told her about the sport and “actively encouraged” her to give it a try. After that she was hooked.
And it seems to be the case with most players. A lot of the people who have joined these teams over the years have been Erasmus, who have been keen to make friends in the area and try out something completely new. Katharina Petry from Trier, Germany was on her Erasmus when she first began to play, having heard about it back in her home country and saw the opportunity to “go play frisbee on the beach for four months”. However, Petry later realised that it was more than just a game, as she noted that “Ultimate frisbee has its own charm that combines all the good things of mainstream sports with a hint of spirit.”
This spirit, or what they call the “Spirit of the Game” is truly the driving force of ultimate frisbee. David Urbano, the 30-year-old trainer and captain of the Camaleones notes that it is a sport that has the objective of encouraging values- that “Ultimate is not about beating the other team” but about promoting “tolerance, looking at things from a different perspective and learning to listen to other people and express your opinions properly.” Above all, Urbano emphasises the fact that it is a sport that teaches you about “having self control.”
During or at the end of every match there is a spirit circle in which both teams gather together and these are a positive way to connect with members of the opposing team, whether to resolve any conflicts that arise between players or to discuss the problems or highlight positive aspects of the match.
It connects many people, perhaps even complete strangers, in the most exciting and rewarding of games. It is a mixture of races, genders and backgrounds, which encourages a multicultural harmony, which at times can be difficult to find amidst the tourist traps and language barriers that dominate the Costa del Sol.
Richard Matute Sandoval, who is originally from Caracas, Venezuela, but has lived in Spain for the past three years says that “Ultimate frisbee has been a means of getting to know new people, who are happy and willing to welcome anyone with open arms if they want to try it out. [...] Team spirit and respect pretty much cover what this sport has to offer in a world where many people are losing many principles and values.”
Beginners are welcome.
Malaga. Camaleones Ultimate Frisbee Malaga. Mixed frisbee team. Contact through Facebook @camaleonesultimatemalaga. Training on Thursdays, 7.30pm-9.30pm (La Caleta Beach, Malaga).
Fuengirola. Bokerones Ultimate Frisbee Malaga. Mixed frisbee team. Contact through Facebook page ‘Bokerones Ultimate Frisbee Malaga’. Training on Tuesdays 8pm-10pm (Campo Municipal Elola, Fuengirola).
Estepona. Volaores Ultimate Frisbee Estepona. Mixed frisbee team. Contact through Facebook @volaores. Training Tuesdays and Thursdays on the beach in front of Avenida España 242 and the Paseo Maritimo Pedro Manriqu, Estepona.source surinenglish