Edited by: Stuti Sharma
This is my official appreciation for ultimate frisbee. People who have played this sport will understand what I mean by that last line. If you don’t, this is your queue to get acquainted with the sport that has taught me what inclusion truly means and how to achieve it. When we talk about equality in sports, especially with the onset of sporting leagues at Ashoka that are trying to be mix-gendered, we often forget the core factor that restricts this inclusion in the first place– sometimes, women just don’t feel comfortable playing with men. Instead of dreaming for a utopian world where physical and psychological barriers between the sexes don’t exist, maybe we should start looking at real world examples of where it actually works. So here comes, surprise surprise, a sport recommendation by yours truly– 3 reasons to start playing ultimate frisbee. If you are someone who cares about inclusivity in sports, give this a read– because trust me, those physical differences between men and women aren’t going anywhere, and if we want to win against that kind of an argument, this sport rec might actually help.
- Frisbee is not just a sport you can play with your dog
Ok listen up y’all, there’s a difference between playing a sport for recreation and playing it competitively. Frisbee for recreation is probably what you see in parks– old people throwing the disk around, dogs rushing to snatch it up mid-air. As a competitive sport, ultimate is very different. The two opposing teams start off in opposite directions, seven players on line each, where one is offense and the other defense. The defense team chucks the disk in the offense’s direction as far as they can– the offense has to pick it up, pass it among each other, and try to score in the defense team’s endzone. You can’t run with the disc in your hand– this is a hard rule. The defense tries to stop the offense from scoring by having marks on each of the offense players– if the offense loses possession of the disk, the roles reverse, defense is now offense and they try to score. This goes on until one team actually scores a point. Then you get a 60 second break, and you start over, with the team that last scored a point, starting on defense. Kind of like rugby, but smarter and a tad bit more strategic.
- It’s a non-contact and a mix-gendered sport– ladies, y’all don’t have to worry about getting bulldozed by a man twice your size
Let me quickly list down a couple reasons why mix-gendered teams in team sports like basketball, football, hockey etc sound pretty on paper, but don’t actually work in real life a) the men don’t pass to women because they either don’t think they’re capable enough or because they think, as women are physically weaker, the men on the opposite team can easily intercept them, and the pass is a fail from the get-go b) women don’t like getting beaten down by men as most sports are quite physically intensive and involve a LOT of body-contact– this saps away at their confidence and comfort level, and they under-perform compared to the men on the field, making them sub-par players who no one passes to and are only there as a formality. Frisbee actively checks for all of this– since it’s non-contact, women are inherently more comfortable playing with men once they get over their in-built biases. Since the probability of contact has exponentially gone down, they get more passes as it’s difficult for men to intercept the disc without actually shoving the women. In most of the cases, the women of defense will choose to mark the women on offense, so there is minimal interaction with the male species, other than to actually pass with your own team mates. This solves the biggest problem in gender inclusivity– women can no longer be overlooked on field because the sport creates an environment where they can actually play on par with the men.
- It’s a self-refereed sport– and this is a good thing
One might argue that because it’s self-refereed, it’s easy for people to get away by breaking or working around rules– here comes Spirit of the Game to save the day. Spirit (of the non-intoxicating kind) is a huge part of ultimate frisbee– it involves rules knowledge, making the correct calls on field, how minimum the body contact is, what is their attitude on field etc. After each match, there is spirit scoring, where the two teams score each other. You might think that is an abstract, useless thing, but it actually matters because if you get low spirit scores, your match points get detected. This is a beautifully designed structure that incorporates all the principles of game theory to ensure both teams, especially the men, are on their best behavior– giving women their perfect chance to shine.
As someone who has learnt professional boxing and MMA, ultimate frisbee has given me more confidence to go up against men twice my height than any other confidence boosting mechanism. And it has helped other women much more conscious and shyer than me to overcome their psychological barriers– something that a “forced ” mixed gender league cannot. If this isn’t enough to convince you, I don’t know what is. I’m not going to ramble more about ultimate and sound even more like an obnoxious jock with no hobbies. If you want to learn more about the sport, I’ll see you on the field :)