Cambridge sport focus: ultimate frisbee

Tejas Guruswamy 14 November 2013

In TCS’ weekly feature, we take an in-depth look at some lesser-known university sports. This week: ultimate frisbee.

Walk past Jesus Green on any weekend of the year and you will be likely to spot people chasing flying plastic discs around. It is a game of Ultimate – sometimes called ultimate frisbee – one of the most sucessful sports created in the last half-century. One of the UK hotspots is right here in Cambridge.

Similar in principle to American football or netball, ultimate involves passing a flying disc (a Frisbee is a specific brand) between players to reach an endzone, but it is non-contact and self-refereed.

Playing competitively requires agility, skill and teamwork. Outdoors, the game is played for 90 minutes, 7-on-7 on a pitch approximately a football field length – plenty of room for huge throws, spectacular catches and great defense.

In recent years, the sport has been recognised by the International Olympic Committee, included in the World Games, and now has two professional leagues running in the US (where more than 5 million people play). High level tournaments are now viewable on ESPN, and plenty of video coverage and highlight reels are on YouTube.

Cambridge was one of the first places in the UK to play Ultimate in 1976. Now, the Cambridge squad competes all year-round in open (men’s), women’s, and mixed divisions, indoors and outdoors, under the nickname “Strange Blue”.

The Cambridge Open 1sts were undefeated in the regional BUCS competitions Indoors and Outdoors last year. “So far this year, the men are still undefeated, winning Midlands Indoor Regionals last month”, remarked Open Captain James Richardson. “We’re looking to go on to improve on last year and win Nationals.” At their Indoor Regionals, the Women placed 4th, also qualifying for Nationals.

Last year’s Varsity match saw Cambridge winning 5-2, with the Open 1sts and women winning their matches indoors and outdoors. Preparation for this year’s Varsity matches has begun.

In Cambridge, the club runs a college league with 16 teams. A closely linked local club team – Cambridge Ultimate – competes nationally, and includes townies and Cambridge University students. Many alumni and a few current players also represent GB or their home countries internationally.

Most of the practices all year-round are open to everyone, including complete beginners. So next time when you are looking for a new sport, turn up to Jesus Green and give Ultimate a try.