5 Reasons Why Your Kid (and You) May Love Ultimate

From the time Ultimate was invented in the late-1960s, the sport has enjoyed a hippie-like coolness to it. It’s long been a favorite pick-up game on college campuses and at various summer camps.

Lately the sport has become much more. It’s exploding. There are nearly 4.5 million Ultimate players in the United States; more than four times the amount of Lacrosse players. There are more than 700 college Ultimate teams. At the high school level, the game is played as a club sport with 27 states holding state championships.

The youth club level began in 2005 and features U16 and U19 teams, culminating in national championships held each August in Minnesota. At the local level, many communities across the country offer youth leagues for children as young as 9 or 10. Depending on the geographic location, there is often Summer, Fall and Spring leagues. Here are five reasons why you may want your child to try Ultimate.

1. Ultimate Truly Builds Character through “Spirit of the Game”

Highly competitive play is always encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the rules or the basic joy of play. Ultimate is never about trying to get away with something.

USA Ultimate, the sport’s governing body, explains it this way, “Ultimate develops acceptance of responsibility for one’s own behavior. Because players make their own calls, participation develops character, self-reliance, listening and negotiating skills and leadership qualities. Many schools and programs use this fun sport to also promote good sportsmanship and help participants develop conflict resolution skills.”

One parent told me that attending her son’s Ultimate games is actually “peaceful.”

She added, “There are no screaming parents. It seems more dignified and mature. There aren’t the distractions of emotional spectators. Parents seem to let the kids be and not micro-manage. The competition is just as competitive as other sports but there are a lot more other positive things happening in the game. The self-officiating forces kids to negotiate fairly because there are going to be many moments when they disagree. They learn to control their emotions, think clearly and compromise.”

2. Ultimate is one of the Least Expensive Sports to Play

At the most basic level, all you need is one disc (generally $10), an open field and eight markers (cones). One team can wear white t-shirts, the other colored t-shirts.

There is no big-ticket purchase required to play, such as a $400 baseball bat or a $300 baseball glove. In more formal play, most Ultimate players choose to wear either soccer or football cleats. Teams will order uniforms.

Youth Ultimate leagues offer bargain prices. A typical youth season (for ages 9-13) is often eight weeks. There is typically one or two sessions per week (often a 45 minute practice followed by a 45-minute game). The cost of the league is usually $50 or less per player.

3. Camaraderie and Community Win Out in Ultimate

There is a laid back, relaxed type of vibe in the Ultimate community. Opponents often become friends and teammates become like brothers and sisters.

At the high school level teams engage in a post-game spirit circle. It’s customary to give gifts and/or snacks to opponents.  At tournaments, teams rate each other’s spirit and the results are made public.

4. Ultimate = Active Lifestyle

Watch any Ultimate game and you will see a test of endurance. There is lots of running, sprinting, jumping , throwing and catching. The field is large and there are frequent transitions between offense and defense.

Many youth athletes now view Ultimate as a popular way to “cross-train.” They often may compete at a high level of another sport (soccer, cross country, basketball, etc.) and enjoy adding Ultimate to the mix. Others may grow tired of sports they have played most of their youth and enjoy the “freshness” of Ultimate. High school and college Ultimate teams look for these kinds of athletes.

During the past few decades, many adults continue to play the game for years, and even decades. Just like golf and tennis, Ultimate can be a lifelong sport.

5. Ultimate is just FUN

It may sound like a cliché, but ask Ultimate players about why they like their sport and the word “Fun” usually comes out first.

My oldest started playing Ultimate a year ago as a high school sophomore. He’s made dozens of new friends, played in fun events like a Halloween tournament called “Huckoween” where players wore costumes and played the first day with kids from other schools (a “Huck” is an Ultimate term describing a long pass, usually near the length of the field).

In the winter time, he and 140 other high school Ultimate players gathered together at an indoor soccer facility and played Ultimate all night long from 11:00 pm until 6:00 am!

He’s also taken several out-of-town trips where the entire team has stayed with a host family. Food, friends and Ultimate are a mighty nice combination for a high schooler.

Where Can Your Child Play?

You can find information at http://www.usaultimate.org or simply google “Youth Ultimate” and your city’s name.

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