The "Ultimate" Game - Frisbee: An Interview With Candacee W.
The Ultimate Game Interview
When I lived in Seoul, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with a teacher from the US, who in addition to being a teacher, writer, motorbiker, world traveler, and all around super person, Candacee W. is also an "Ultimate" player. Ultimate, by the way, was included in the World Games for the first time as a full medal sport in 2001. Recently, I caught up with Candacee and she agreed to be interviewed.
The game of Ultimate is another name for Ultimate Frisbee* - it is also known as "Disc" - and tournaments have fancy titles like "Shanghai Open" and "Cooler Classic" - there are far too many titles to list here. There are famous co-ed tournaments here in the US called Potlatch (now in its 20th year in Seattle) and Poultry Day in Ohio - a three day festival which plays host to one of the world's largest Ultimate Tournaments.
Ultimate is played in more than 42 countries by hundreds of thousands of men, women, girls, and boys. According to the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) website, the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association (SGMA) estimates that in 2007 over 1,318,000 people participated in the sport. You can find a schedule of tournaments, through the UPA link below.
During my time there, Candacee played on a team in S. Korea, and then traveled outside of Korea with the team. She shared pictures with me and it looked like a hard-playing, grueling type of perspiration-producing sport. I was intrigued.
Candacee is still in Seoul and she graciously took the time from her busy schedule to tell me a lot more about the Ultimate Game.
CG: Were you on an official team in Seoul?
CW: Yes, I was on the Korea Ultimate National Team for several tournaments between 2006 and now.
CG: I remembered when you traveled with the group - where did you go?
CW: Korea often attends tournaments in Manila, Shangahi, Jeju island, Japan and Hong Kong. In the past, the team has gone to Singapore, and there are also hat tournaments in Ho Chi Min City and Bangkok that we usually send a few players to.
CG: Over there in S. Korea, are there people you regularly play with?
CW: New players always come and go, and we are always trying to recruit, but yes, there is a core group of people that regularly play together and attend tournaments.
CG: Are they mostly from the US or do you have Korean friends as well on the teams?
CW: Most of the traveling team are American or Canadian. There is a handful of Koreans who like to play with us as well, and we welcome them.
CG: How long have you been playing, both in the US and abroad?
CW: I played for 5 years in the U.S., and I’ve been playing for 2.5 years in Korea, for a grand total of just under 8 years.
CG: Seriously, Candacee, you are in excellent shape and young, what would you say is the age range of players?
CW: Players tend to be between 20-40 years old, and the majority is in their late 20s and early 30s. Age largely doesn’t matter, though, in Frisbee. As long as one is willing to run around and have fun, they will not be turned off by the sport.
CG: Let’s say I’m older, but I think I’m in shape, and won’t pass out on the field, how can get I started? Can I just look up an organization and then show up for a tryout? Or is it more high school, college, location, or people who know people, oriented?
CW: In the U.S., and out here, I would say Frisbee communities tend to be young, and they tend to be tight. Frisbee enthusiasts often seem to ‘get’ each other, and love to party together. However, Frisbee players are also, I think, some of the most open and welcoming people you meet. If you find out where your local community likes to play, you can often show up in your tennis shoes for some ‘pick-up’ (casual play) and have a great time. The only teams that tend to have try-outs are the super competitive men’s and women’s club (and sometimes college) teams.
CG: I’ve read that the idea started in colleges. Would you say it is mostly a college sport today?
CW: I don’t know statistically, but I feel like Frisbee is more a club sport than college. Both exist in the U.S. and Canada, but not all colleges have teams, whereas a city can have any number of club teams, ranging from ultra-competitive to just fun. Also, there are no age/enrollment requirements to play club, so anyone can join in. Personally, I enjoyed playing club more than college because of the older, more experienced players on my teams.
CG: How many on a team?
CW: There are 7 players per team on the field at one time, but there is no real limit to the number of players that one can bring to a tournament (with the exception of savage7 or gnarly 9 tournaments, in which there is said limit). Generally, teams won’t bring more than 20 or so to a tournament (depending on if it’s co-ed or open) because each player wants to get to play for a decent amount of time!
CG: When I watch a game, it seems like people never stop moving, except when holding the disc and then you can pivot. Is that accurate?
CW: Just about. You cannot run when you have the disc; you can only pivot on one foot. Everyone else on the field typically plays a position, and tries to ‘cut’ into a space where they can receive the disc. Often many players will cut at the same time, and hopefully at least one will be successful, and get to catch the disc.
CG: The field looks as large as a football field? Must it be so large?
CW: The standard field size is 64m long with 2 23m long end zones on each end, and 37m wide. For 14 people to play, it is a good size. If you’re playing a pickup game, or beach, where you have fewer players, the field is smaller.
CG: What is the objective of the game?
CW: To score more points than your opponent! Some games are capped at, say 11points, so the 1st team to 11 points wins, where other games are time-capped - so the team with the most points at the end of the time wins.
CG: What kind of penalties are there?
CW: There are fouls (obvious, pushing, tripping, etc.). There are picks - which is when you get cut off from the person you’re defending. It’s the same as in basketball, but it’s illegal in Frisbee. There are also travels, which is when you move your pivot foot when you have the disc. For most of these penalties, play stops, and the disc is returned to whoever threw it before the penalty happened.
CG: How long does a game last?
CW: Anywhere from 30 mins to an hour, usually. Time capped games tend to be 50 mins or so. If one team is schooling another (beating them very handily), it could end really quick!
CG: Is there a regulation type of disc as opposed to what I would buy in any store?
CW: Discraft pretty much has the monopoly on Ultimate Frisbees. They must be 175 grams, and white plastic is better than the colored ones. I think you usually have to order them, or buy them at tournaments. Whammo tried to make an ultimate disc, but nobody used it.
CG: What other equipment do you need? I mean like, knee pads?
CW: Cleats are all you really need, if you want to be fast, and be able to make sharp cuts. Teams tend to have nice fancy uniforms, which are fun. Fanciness of equipment usually depends on how competitive your team is. You don’t need knee pads, though you’ll see a lot of braces on recurring injuries.
CG: You played in the USA and abroad? Are the rules different?
CW: Not very. When I played in Japan, there were a few different rules about picks and fouls, and the games were very short, but otherwise they were the same. Every now and then there will be a new edition of rules for the game, but the core elements of the game are the same.
CG: One more question then. Are you actively playing now or will you be in the near future?
CW: This weekend I’m going to practice with my team for the Jeju tournament next weekend. I have a great team this year, and I think we’ve got a great shot at winning. We haven’t practiced or trained as much this time around. I, and many of my teammates are considerably out of shape, but we are all determined to have a good time, and I have no doubt that we will. Jeju is kind of a must for Frisbee players in Korea. It is a cheap flight, a beautiful landscape, and good international competition. I can’t not go. However, I think I’m going to take a nice long break from Frisbee after Jeju. I want to start playing soccer, and work on my tennis swing this summer.
CG: Candacee, I agree, Jeju Island is beautiful. I'd love to see the photos after the game. And thank you so much for your time today. I think interviewing you about the Ultimate game will be enough exercise for me.
*The Frisbee patent was issued on September 30, 1958
See link below for information about Jeju Island - a premiere destination in S. Korea