Ultimate Disc: The Ultimate Sport

Garrett Heffern ’24 (Opinions Editor, 143rd Board) in Sports | May 26, 2024

 Many people have been misled into thinking that the question “What is the best sport to play?” is subjective. While many people point to the “major” sports—football, basketball, hockey, baseball, lacrosse, or soccer— as the best sport, there are reasons why none of these sports are the best.

Football requires athleticism, playmaking, and teamwork; however, there is a high risk of injury at the tackle level, and the game as a whole is inaccessible to uncoordinated people. Basketball requires incredible finesse and athleticism, but there is often limited court space and, at the amateur level, someone’s height can make all the difference between being virtually unblockable or extremely easy to defend. Hockey requires a rink and skating experience. Baseball players spend half their time standing around in the dugout. Soccer takes 90 minutes for usually only one to two goals and 4 to 5 scoring opportunities per game. Even lacrosse, the “fastest game on two feet,” requires more than 20 people for a full game and is difficult to play recreationally. It is for these reasons that none of these sports listed fit the criteria of “the greatest sport.”

The real “greatest sport” was invented in New Jersey in 1968. It rewards athleticism but is structured so that anyone can significantly contribute, and all you need to play it is a field and a single piece of equipment. The objective best sport in the world is, by far, ultimate disc, or ultimate for short.

You might think that I am joking, and I partially am, but why does ultimate seem like a joke in the first place? Is it because nobody watches it? Is it because very few people grow up playing it competitively? These are not reasons to discount a sport. Admittedly, ultimate does have a few flaws: similar to basketball, height does grant a significant advantage, and extreme wind can make the game unplayable at times. Even so, ultimate’s unique merits outweigh its few minor issues. 

Ultimate is accessible to all able-bodied people—everyone can catch a frisbee, and learning to throw one only takes a few minutes. Additionally, everyone, regardless of athletic ability, can meaningfully contribute to the team. Unlike basketball, hockey, or lacrosse, where one skilled player can “become the team,” in ultimate, the person holding the disc cannot move. Even highly skilled players must rely heavily on their teammates to win. The game is built in a way that heavily rewards the simple skills—running and catching. If you can get open, you are very valuable on the disc field.

Yet, as Aiden Ghesani ’24, star defenseman of the V Form House Disc team, eloquently puts it, ultimate has a skill curve. “Being able to throw accurately and powerfully is number one, and being able to track the disc in the air is much harder than other sports,” Ghesani said when asked what the most important skills in ultimate were. Yet, other aspects—speed, endurance, awareness, and vertical—are also vital to the team. “If you can’t throw,” Ghesani said, “you can find some other skills.” 

Phil Jordan P’24, commissioner of Boys’ House Disc this year, commented that ultimate puts players into a “mystical, slow-mo reality.” According to Jordan, ultimate is the one sport where “time slows down, and the disc moves slower than your feet…it has a slow-mo feel to it.” Ultimate rewards decision-making because you often run more on defense than you do on offense, and every teammate needs to either guard their man or be an outlet if they want to contribute to winning. In ultimate, the whole team, not just a few players, moves up & down the field. Athleticism is rewarded but not required. To practice, all you need is a disc and a friend. I personally have enjoyed games with as few as four and as many as 20 playing on the field at once. 

Finally, ultimate not only builds the teammate skills needed in other sports, but it also builds character. Chris Yen ’24 says, “I like ultimate because it is self-officiated even at the highest levels. It fosters honesty and teamwork, and you have to adapt your game to your teammates’ strengths. If you want to win, you can’t leave any man behind.” The ultimate community is friendly and accepting. Ultimate Peace, an organization dedicated to bringing people together through ultimate, held a camp at Lawrenceville last summer and hosted karaoke, conga lines, and encouraged fraternization with the other programs present. In the world of sports, no other game encourages teamwork, honesty, competition, speed, endurance, finesse, athleticism, and friendship quite like ultimate. The ultimate game is ultimate disc.