May, 2015

Ultimate Frisbee at Ashoka!

Dr. Rajat Chauhan, Director, Sports and Exercise writes about the uniqueness and technique of the ultimate sport of Frisbee

‘The Ultimate Frisbee’ was introduced at the Ashoka campus by alumni of Young India Fellowship, the post graduate and liberal arts programme at the University. This is probably the best gift they could have given to their alma-mater. It might be sometime before students realise why I say so. Being on the sports field teaches you far more about life than being in classrooms.

In the corporate world, a term like ‘sportsmen spirit’ is used very often without even delving deeper into the meaning of it. In today’s world, sports is all about winning at any cost. Now a days, it’s a rare instance that a batsman walks himself out after nicking the ball to the wicketkeeper without even waiting for the umpire’s decision or a striker in football owns up to a handball when that vital goal comes through it. The worst is climbing Mt Everest. The mountaineers are so focused on taking a selfie on the top of the world that they ignore the dying they pass during their ascent. But it’s these characteristics that makes the corporate world infamous. Is this what we want to instill in our students at Ashoka?

Students participating in the Lutsky Ultimate Frisbee Trophy

Students participating in the Lutsky Ultimate Frisbee Trophy

Ultimate Frisbee is a low budget, easy to play, very strategic competitive non-contact gender-neutral self-refereeing fast-paced team-sport which stresses on ‘the spirit of the game’. I know, that’s too much to digest in one single sentence. I don’t blame you, most don’t get that in a lifetime. I’ll be audacious enough and try to decipher it for you in one single essay.

Ultimate is a mix between Chess, American Football, Football (Soccer), Netball and Basketball, heavily dependent on strategising and requires plenty of planning, teamwork, instant decision making, not only for the captain but for each team player. It requires a balanced combination of high endurance, sharp bursts of speed and accurate and sharp reflexes.

It is played using a flying-disc (“frisbee” is a trademark for a line of discs made by a particular company) between two teams of seven players consisting of a set ratio of male and female players, on a large rectangular field. At either end of the field are lines drawn to mark the two end-zones, the goal scoring areas. A goal is scored when a player throws the disc to a team member in the opponent’s end-zone. The team that reaches the predefined number of points first, or the team with a minimal margin of two points at zero minutes left, wins. Each match lasts an hour, with each team getting 30 minutes each.

Players can’t run with the disc. Once they catch the disc, they must come to a stop and then pass it on to their teammate. If the disc falls to the ground, is caught outside playing area or is intercepted by the opposition, the opposing team gets the possession of the disc.

Each player is being marked by the player from the opposition team. The offence players need to break free to catch the disc thrown to them by their team member. For this players need to be very quick on their feet. Defence can turn into offence in the blink of an eye.

As much as each player is being marked, it’s a non-contact sport. Unlike football, American football, basketball or hockey, tackling is just not allowed. This makes it a gender neutral sport. If there is a contact, players call for a foul themselves, without any external refereeing. This applies to even the biggest of competitions like the world championships. This ‘spirit of the game’ makes Ultimate Frisbee really unique.

Ultimate challenges the physical limits of players on various fronts, teaches them far more about life than just winning. If your preferred sport hasn’t made you a better human being, why play it?

Ashoka Students with Ultimate Frisbee Coach Dan Rule

Ashoka Students with Ultimate Frisbee Coach Dan Rule

Members of the first Undergraduate Batch at Ashoka University and Young India Fellows decided to play match between themselves and called it ‘Lutsky Ultimate Frisbee Challenge’, in honour of one of their favourite teachers, Neil Lutsky, Visiting Professor of Psychology for the Spring Semester 2015. Most of them had never played Ultimate Frisbee till they came to Ashoka and more than half in either team had not indulged in sports activities before they came to Ashoka. Even though both teams desperately wanted to win, self-refereeing worked wonderfully well. Undergraduates’ team was captained by Chakshu Chhabra and the YIF team was led by Hasil Gora. Both teams fought well for the trophy, but the mutual respect, camaraderie and friendship became only better and deeper. The match drew students and faculty alike in lager numbers, who cheered for their favourite team and players. The Undergraduates’ team ended up beating the YIFs which led to a series of games between the two. It was an amazing match to watch.

So when I propose Ultimate Frisbee as the University sport at Ashoka, there is a good reason.

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