Meghan Koehler, Intern at MA Sports Marketing Office and Student at Boston College
(Photo courtesy of Burt Granofsky at UltiPhotos.com)
Boston is often regarded as the ultimate sports town and Massachusetts “the state of champions.” Thanks to our amazing professional sports teams, venues like historical Fenway Park and TD Garden and world-renowned events like the Boston Marathon and the Falmouth Road Race, Massachusetts is a magnet for sporting events and the fans who follow them.
One of the great attributes of local sports fans is that we appreciate all sports, even those not always in the limelight. This includes Ultimate Frisbee, a fast-paced, thrilling sport, gaining world popularity throughout 1968.
So, what is it that makes Ultimate unique? The Spirit of the Game.
The official rules of Ultimate includes a “Spirit of the Game” clause that states, “Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among players.”
As a self-officiated sport, Ultimate depends on a mutual respect between players. Without a referee, players on the field are responsible for calling their own rule violations. For instance, if two players collide, one player has the right to call a foul. The action comes to a halt and the opposing player has a right to agree or disagree with the call.
Self-officiating requires honesty, maturity and integrity – all qualities of which are fostered in the Ultimate community.
Not surprisingly, Massachusetts’s area youth, collegiate, and club teams are dominating the ultimate community across all 3 divisions: Women’s, Men’s and mixed.
Massachusetts has been a leading state in the world of Ultimate and even served as host to the Boston Invitational tournament in 2014. The best teams from around the nation and Canada flooded to Devens, MA to face fierce competition in the area.
2015-2017 Boston College team captain and current Slow White club team member, Olivia Hampton says, “with such a large talent pool and numerous playing options for all ages, Boston is considered one of the major hubs for Ultimate in the country, along with Seattle and San Francisco.”
The state’s Ultimate success rapidly grew from modest beginnings. As college players from Hampshire and Cornell moved into the region in 1977, they brought with them a disc and an enthusiasm for the continuation of the game. Western Massachusetts continues to be a stronghold in Ultimate Frisbee: the UMass Amherst Men’s team is currently ranked first in the nation.
The all men’s original Boston team its first National Championships in 1982 and the first ever Ultimate World Championships in Goteborg, Sweden in 1983. Now, Boston’s Ironside leads the area’s teams in the Men’s elite club division.
Women’s Ultimate has been equally triumphant in putting its mark on Boston’s sports scene, with Boston-based team, Brute Squad leading the pack at number two in USA Ultimate’s rankings. The team’s 15-year climb to the top began with a 13th overall finish wearing makeshift uniforms and a hunger to win. The players’ commitment to the game carried them to their National Championship victory in 2015 and 2016.
Finally, 2016 National Club Champions, Slow White dominates among Boston’s mixed teams. More than just combining the types of play of talented young men and women, the mixed team also promotes an application of gender equality that is unparalleled in any other sport.
Founding member of Slow White, Roselyn Ano said in a statement, “As the sport of Ultimate gains in popularity, the Ultimate community has a responsibility to showcase both genders and, in particular, promote how women contribute as players, leaders, coaches and mentors.”
These three Boston teams swept the 2016 National Championships across all three divisions.
“Boston Ultimate benefits greatly from the incredible concentration of universities around the city and in the surrounding suburbs. There are plenty of opportunities to play against nearby teams of varying skill levels,” says Hampton.
Ultimate recreational leagues are sprouting across Massachusetts thanks to dedicated players and Boston’s local volunteer-based organization, Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance (BUDA).
“Local neighborhood pick-up games occur on a weekly basis in every town,” said Ano. “Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance (BUDA) is one of the longest-running organizations in the country, boasting dozens of leagues for all skill levels and age groups, and has one of the country’s largest Summer Leagues with over 100 teams registering each year.”
With a growing opportunity for youth and college programs to develop alongside the sport, the Massachusetts Ultimate community is bound to continue the upward trend toward success in the coming years.
Ultimate is just one of the lesser mainstream sports that contributes to Massachusetts’ title as the “state of champions.” With disc golf, Rugby, and lacrosse taking the state by storm, Massachusetts will only grow as the premiere destination for all sports and sporting events.