The ‘Ulitmate’ Sport


For the more active students, NMU offers a robust line-up of intramural sports.

From flag football to broomball, it seems like there’s something for everyone. Lately, one sport in particular has been attracting both students and professors alike with its ease of play and friendly competitiveness.

Ultimate Frisbee, often referred to simply as “Ultimate,” has been a staple on college campuses across the nation and worldwide. Ultimate is a non-contact team sport. A typical team consists of seven members and is played on a field divided into three sections – two endzones and a field of play. To score, a player must get the disc to a teammate who is in the opponent’s end zone. However, there’s a catch — you can’t move your feet when you have the disc, and you only have a limited time to throw it, or else it’s turned over to the other team. If the disc hits the ground, it’s also turned over to the other team.

Biology professor Alec Lindsay, who has been playing Ultimate Frisbee since he was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that Ultimate is different from the other intramural sports.

“It’s really a beautiful game,” Lindsay said. “For some people, it ends up becoming a way of life.”

One of the most appealing aspects to Ultimate is that it’s easy to get into, no matter what your skill level is. It’s also one of the few mixed-gender intramural sports, allowing anyone to play in the same game. This adds to Ultimate’s philosophy of letting everyone play.

“Both men and women can play up to a high level,” Lindsay said. “It encourages involvement and play from men and women, old and young.”

For senior criminal justice major Jon VanOss, this was one of the main reasons he began playing.

“I didn’t play at all until I came up here,” VanOss said.

VanOss, along with senior accounting major Jake Simmons, began playing Ultimate when they lived in West Hall three years ago. According to Simmons, it all started as a way for people in West Hall to come together and have fun.

“We just really were trying to come up with something for everyone in the hall to do,” Simmons said. “It’s a great way to get exercise and meet people.”

In the years since, Ultimate has become more than just an activity for those living in the dorms.

“It’s gone way beyond that now,” Simmons said, adding that the amount of intramural Ultimate teams rose to 26 total.

Each week, VanOss and Simmons, along with a group of approximately 20 others, get together at the rugby fields on the corner of Lincoln and Wright Streets to play pick-up games. These games not only allow those who already play a chance to do so but give others an opportunity to see what Ultimate is all about.

VanOss said that he always encourages people to come and check it out.

“The more people, the better,” he said, adding that when they say everyone is welcome, they truly mean it. “I’ve never seen anyone not fit in.”

Lindsay said that in the six years he’s been teaching at NMU, he has seen the sport’s popularity rise and fall. He attributed this to the fact that Northern does not attract many post-graduate students, so those who do play never get a chance to pass it down to younger generations.

“It just takes one to two people who are willing to organize it,” Lindsay said. “If you lose those two people, it kind of dissipates, but the interest is still there.”

Perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of Ultimate is the same principle that fuels the competitive, yet friendly environment: the spirit of the game. An actual trademarked term by the Ultimate Players Association, the spirit of the game refers to a set of rules and codes of conduct that all players are encouraged to follow. Since most games of Ultimate are self-refereed, it’s important that players learn to play fair and respect each other.

“Ultimate relies on sportsmanship that places responsibility for fair play on the player,” Lindsay said. “(The spirit of the game) is part of the beauty of the game. It’s an integral part of the game.”

Although winter is quickly approaching, Lindsay isn’t done with Ultimate just yet. Along with VanOss and Simmons, he’s working to organize a tournament, aptly titled “Hucktober Fest,” which will take place Oct. 11 at the rugby fields. The idea of the tournament is for anyone interested to show up and sign in. The teams for the day will then be determined randomly. According to Lindsay, random teams will allow for a more rewarding social experience.

“You get to meet new people, (and) you get to learn the game,” Lindsay said.

For those who’d like to play in the tournament but would like to get some practice in beforehand, the pick-up games offer the perfect opportunity. Lindsay said it gives them a chance to show newcomers the ins and outs of the sport, and teach them a few new tricks, such as new ways to throw a disc.

“We love (for) people to come out and learn the game,” he said.

Pick-up games are held every Monday at 6 p.m. and every Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the rugby field. For those interested in participating in the tournament, which will start at 11 a.m., Lindsay recommends bringing a folding chair, water and both a black and white shirt. For further information contact Jon VanOss at [email protected] or Alec Lindsay at [email protected].