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Ultimate frisbee: An intro to free spirit

Ultimate frisbee: An intro to free spirit

Rooted in values of fair play, ultimate frisbee is team sport that also promotes overall physical, emotional and social well-being
Photo by Goutham V / Happiest Health

Be it a beach vacation with friends, or a family picnic in the park, frisbees have remained a mainstay in our holiday backpacks. Synonymous with endless fun and laughter, frisbee is played professionally as an international team sport, by over 100 countries. Known as Ultimate, all this sport requires is an open field, a flying disc weighing about 175 grams, an appropriate pair of cleats (shoes) and rock-solid team spirit.

Its uncomplicated, cost-effective nature allows it to cut through the barriers of age, gender, geography, and social strata. Happiest Health met the team members of Airbenders Ultimate Frisbee sports club, Bengaluru, to learn the nuances of the game.


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Ultimate frisbee rules

Ultimate is a non-contact, mixed-gender sport. It fuels a sense of self-discipline, mutual respect and friendship among players. It is relatively injury-free compared to sports like football.

The game is played in a 7-on-7 format on grass, with a gender ratio of 4:3 or 3:4, and a 5-on-5 format on the beach. The field is about the same length as a football field, but narrower, and there are end zones in place of goalposts.

Interchangeably known as ultimate frisbee, this sport is unique because it is self-refereed, and bound by Spirit of the Game, a set of rules that confer the onus of fair play onto the players. They take pride in the fact that the goal is bonding and joy of play, rather than in defeating one another.

Points for fair play: The Spirit prize

Apart from the usual game scores, ultimate tournaments have an additional set of scores that count toward the unique Spirit of the game prize. It is conceptualised with the objective of monitoring and rewarding a team’s ability to self-referee games and exhibit the desired degree of mutual respect.

At the end of games, teams evaluate their opponents on their behaviour and conduct, assigning them individual scores in five categories:

  • Knowledge and use
  • Fouls and body contact
  • Positive attitude and self-control
  • Fair mindedness
  • Communication

The team that receives the highest average Spirit score from all their opponents receives the Spirit prize.

Frisbee warm up, cool down and drills

Like any other sport or workout, ultimate frisbee too calls for appropriate warm up and cool down exercises. 

Players of Ultimate start with full body warm ups, and static and dynamic stretches such as knee-to-chest stretches and side shuffles. Special emphasis is laid on the hips, ITB (iliotibial band), calves and hamstrings. This is followed by spot jogging, sprints, and running drills.

Next, they perform what is known as ‘kill drills’ in which players split in pairs and practise their frisbee moves the throws and catches, passes and cuts. It is a thoroughly exhausting drill that builds attention, endurance, throwing accuracy and agility.

This is followed by rigorous ‘square drills’, practised by the whole team with four players engaging the disc at a time. Throwing the disc with accuracy, even while you’re tired and understanding the aerodynamics of the frisbee are the key skills that players strive to train for.

This warm up lasts 30 to 40 minutes. Players close their practice with cool down stretches and hydration for muscle relaxation and recovery.

Healthy rewards of ultimate frisbee

“The health benefits of ultimate frisbee are the same as any other team sport,” says Dr Girish

Gadre, Bengaluru-based neurologist and Team captain of Airbenders Ultimate Frisbee sports club, “Physically, it helps one be fit, improves both aerobic and anaerobic capacity, and helps improve speed, agility and quickness.”

One can practise ultimate cross-training as well, since it is a dynamic sport that involves a lot of sprinting, while engaging the entire body.

“Ultimate acts as a stress buster, giving a feeling of general well-being,” says Dr Gadre, before touching on the mental and cognitive aspect of the sport.

“Ultimate allows one to enjoy an emotional balance, like any other sport involving physical activity. It improves memory and reduces anxiety and depression. Players learn to actively cooperate to solve problems and overcome challenges, which helps them in other spheres of their lives. Also, the friendship and camaraderie that you develop with your mates is one of the best aspects of this sport,” he adds.


Ultimate frisbee is an uncomplicated, cost-effective team sport that is accessible for all. Like any physical activity, it helps one be physically fit, while also aiding emotional balance. What sets this game apart is that it is a self-refereed sport, bound by a set of rules called Spirit of the Game, that promotes mutual respect and fairness among players. Playing ultimate frisbee is also a great way to cultivate friendship and camaraderie.

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