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A sport so intense it goes by 'Ultimate'

Respect in sport takes on added meaning when players are self-officiating

There is no whistle. The play only stops if a point is scored, or if someone calls a foul. And then it’s up to the players to decide.

“Self-officiation is really the beauty of the game,” said Joe James, one of three board members of Georgian Bay Ultimate.

Ultimate, originally known as ultimate frisbee, is a non-contact team sport played with a flying disc (frisbee). According to the World Flying Disc Federation, it was developed in 1968 by a couple of high school students in New Jersey. Although Ultimate resembles many traditional sports in its athletic requirements, it is unique due to its focus on self-officiating, even at the highest levels of competition.

Georgian Bay Ultimate is a small league that meets on Thursday evenings and serves the areas of Collingwood, Blue Mountains, Wasaga Beach, Stayner, Thornbury, and everywhere in between. The league is fun and social with just a hint of moderate competitiveness.

James said in its heyday there were about 90 people on the roster, enough to have six teams in the league. Although the group is a lot smaller now, with about 30 people registered for the 2019 season, James said they are more than happy to play pick up.

“We just want to come out, enjoy each other’s company and get some exercise all while playing a good game of ultimate,” said James. “The competitiveness is a fun competitiveness.

The club is open to anyone who is interested no matter what skill level. James encourages rookies to come try their hand, even if they’ve never touched a frisbee before. It’s an adult league, but juniors are welcome to play on an invitational basis as well. The current age range is anywhere from 16 to 49.

Stacie Smith, another one of the club’s board members, has invited her daughter, Hannah Rydlo, to join.

Smith has been playing ultimate for almost 20 years and was a part of the national team while she was living in Toronto. When she moved her family to Collingwood she knew she had to find a way to keep playing. Along with Georgian Bay Ultimate, Smith taught a youth league on Sundays which kickstarted her daughter’s love for the sport as well.

Rydlo is entering grade 11 in the fall and as a competitive skier, she finds ultimate helps her stay in shape through the off season.

“I love it as a sport but I also love it for training, it’s quite the workout,” says Rydlo. “I like that there’s a good amount of strategy involved. There’s an element of ultimate that other sports don’t really have.”

James would like to see more kids playing the sport.

This past year, James and Smith brought ultimate to Collingwood Collegiate Institute and were pleasantly surprised by the influx of interest from both the teachers and students. They quickly managed to pull together a team to play in the Simcoe County Athletic Association league.

“We went in open minded, not knowing where to go,” said James. “By the end of the season we ended up in the B division, but hopefully we can work on that.”

Rydlo plays on the team with a couple of her close friends. She said it can sometimes be difficult to balance ultimate with her other sports, so she’s happy to hear so many people are interested in joining.

“It’s better to have more people, especially because then we can have an A and a B team. That allows for everyone to learn, but for kids who are more competitive to have the opportunity to play more competitively,” she said.

Ultimate is now recognized as an official Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations sport, and the organization has confirmed its first ever Ultimate Festival for the fall of 2019.

No matter how old you are, James thinks there is something you can learn from ultimate.

“Most athletes look at life as a parallel with their sport. So, this sport for me, I like the lessons of it. I like the idea of this internal motivation in life. There is a lot of internal discipline in self-officiating,” said James.

“And there is that extra level of respect. If you can’t respect your opponents, they will walk off the field,” he added.

Rain or shine, you will find these dedicated individuals on the harbourview fields every Thursday until the field manager says they can no longer play.