Students shut down ultimate stereotypes


The start of the outdoor ultimate season is less than a month away, and some players say the jokes are coming right on schedule.

Jesse Greenberg said he’s been teased and bugged for playing ultimate, but he normally just chirps right back.

“I’m used to the flak I get from some of my close friends,” he said. “I usually just go with the joke and say it really is just throwing a Frisbee around, and that we often pull up dogs as substitutes. Then I invite them out to watch or try it out.”

He said most newcomers are shocked when they experience a game for the first time.

“The people who do are often blown away or gassed after only playing a few points.”

Greenberg knows firsthand how intense ultimate can be. He’s been playing as a handler since his freshman year at Kelvin High School and now plays year-round as part of three competitive teams.

Last year, he played on the international stage and represented Canada as part of the Winnipeg General Strike, the provincial men’s team, and competed in Lecco, Italy for the 2014 World Ultimate Club Championship.

Over the last four seasons, he’s helped lead the University of Manitoba men’s team to two gold medals, including one for the 2014 Canadian University Ultimate Championships held in Montreal.
Greenberg said both recreational and competitive ultimate is “the fastest-growing team sport in the world,” because of its openness and affordability.

“Teams often won’t turn players away who are willing to learn and try the sport for the first time,” he said. “And the equipment is essentially a uniform, cleats and a disc.”

He said ultimate is most expensive at the competitive level when teams often rely on sponsorships to fund tournament fees and travel costs.

As the sport gains popularity, it’s be¬coming easier for teams to gain sponsors, but Greenberg said ultimate is still considered an alternative sport, likely because it’s self-refereed.

While competitive games often include an “observer,” who will help teams settle disputes around rule infractions, most games rely on the honour system, which Greenberg said is one of the best parts of the sport.

“Everyone needs to hold themselves and their teammates accountable,” he said. “You think people will simply cheat every game because there are no refs, but it’s pretty fascinating when you see the honesty and respect players give each other on the field.”

But this respect isn’t always extended to players off the field.

Like Greenberg, Emily Forrest has heard her fair share of people question if ultimate is a real sport, but she has an answer ready.

“It’s in contention to be an Olympic sport,” she said. “It’s fun, inclusive, inexpensive and anyone who has played can’t deny how physically demanding it is.”

A former soccer player, Forrest admits she originally started playing in high school because of the “promise of hot boys,” but she really fell in love with the athleticism and affordability of the sport.
She played for Masters of Flying Objects, the formerly coed Winnipeg-based junior team, for three years. She then joined Fusion, the provincial women’s ultimate team, five years ago.

Her Fusion teammate Elan Chochinov started playing ultimate for the Singapore Management University team while on an exchange program in 2011, and said she hasn’t stopped playing since.

“When I came back, I got off the plane, ate a sandwich and was off to my first practice with Fusion within the hour.”

Chochinov said involvement in high school is drawing more people to competitive teams, and she expects to see more players this year for the university season, which begins in September.