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Steve Farra

Ultimate Frisbee and Its Reputation As a Legitimate Sport

Since its inception nearly fifty years ago, ultimate frisbee (commonly abbreviated as
ultimate) has undergone much growth and development. Opportunities to compete at the local,
national, international, and professional levels across the globe hint towards its potential onset as
a mainstream sport. In addition, countless non-profit organizations and developmental programs
have contributed to its advancement as a sport. Certain aspects of ultimates unorthodox culture
seem to play to its benefit. For example, womens opportunities to play in either separate or
mix-gendered divisions are likely factors for the 65% increase between 2002 and 2007 in the
number of womens teams competing in the American College Series (Walters, 255).
However, ultimate struggles to join the ranks amongst todays commonly played sports.
Generally speaking, advocates of the sports growth agree on the necessity of abolishing its
laid-back, hippie reputation (Walters, 250), which Gerald Griggs attributes to the era it was
conceived in the height of the sixties American counterculture in his article The Origins and
Development of Ultimate Frisbee. This reputation is a likely reason for the lack of elite athletes
playing ultimate. One study points out that cardiovascular loading is lower in elite ultimate
players compared to players of other field sports (Zimlich et al. 110-111). The sports
self-officiation system hinders its growth as well, as research shows that officials are often
necessary personnel in models of sport development (Sherry, Schulenkorf and Phillips 111). I will
analyze similar factors and investigate their impact on ultimate frisbee to determine a more
precise reason for why it is (by and large) not viewed as a legitimate sport. Possible solutions will
also be explored, such as improving media coverage by producing more layman-friendly content,
as illustrated in Kyle Weisbrods article Developing A New Media Model For Ultimate.
294 words

Steve Farra
Annotated Bibliography
Walters, Kirsten S. Ultimate spin: Contesting the rhetoric, countercultural ethos and

of the Ultimate frisbee sport, 19682008. Dissertation, The

University of Iowa, 2008. UMI, 2008. AAT 3323475.
This source provides valuable information on the development of ultimate frisbees
culture since the sixties, as well as its implications on the direction that the sport might
take in the future.
Griggs, Gerald. The Origins and Development of Ultimate Frisbee. The Sport Journal 12.3
(Summer 2009). Web.
This source explains how ultimate came to acquire and embrace the counterculture it has
today. Griggs gives a detailed narrative on the history of the sport, from the origins of the
word Frisbee up until the first legitimate ultimate games.
Zimlich, M., et al. The Physiological Demands of Ultimate Frisbee. Research Quarterly for
Exercise and Sport 87.S1 (2016): S110-111. Web.
Zimlich et al. show that on average, elite athletes in other sports are of a higher calibre
compared to those in ultimate frisbee. In order to do so, the fitness levels of elite ultimate
players cardiovascular and running performance are compared to that of players in
similar field sports.
Sherry, Emma, Nico Schulenkorf, and Pamm Phillips. Managing Sport Development: An
International Approach. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016. Print.
This source presents a detailed analysis of the factors contributing to the development of
sport. Many of these factors are relevant to ultimate frisbees present structure and give
insight into what is encouraging or inhibiting its growth.

Kyle. Developing A New Media Model For Ultimate. Ultiworld, 20 Oct. 2016, Accessed 24 Oct. 2016.
Weisbrod points out the shortcomings in ultimates media coverage a critical component
of a sports growth and public perception and suggests fixes to make the sport more
accessible for viewers of all kinds.