Ultimate Frisbee employs no referees. That’s right. Players make the calls. This ownership demands honor which the fast-growing sport calls the “Spirit of the Game.”
“Spirit of the game is really the heart of ultimate,” Maya Standard, co-captain of the Girls’ Ultimate team said. “It means having good sportsmanship and respecting the other team while still being competitive and playing by the rules. It means holding yourself and others accountable and being a responsible teammate.“
Each year, the Teams vote for a Spirit Captain. Nora Jacobsen (who, full disclosure, is a Register staff writer) is the Varsity Girls’ Spirit Captain, and she was eager to talk to me (and the rest of our staff) about how she brings it.
“Everybody on the field is a ref. If there’s ever a game where there’s just really bad energy people are calling things that shouldn’t be called, and it’s just like, this tense, not good environment between the teams. There’s something called a spirit circle,” Jacobsen said, “The teams, they all sit in a circle with the coaches and we all talk about what’s going on and how we can fix it.”
Compared with other sports, this practice seems a little strange. However, Jacobsen assures that it helps build comradery between teams and helps raise the level of play.
“I mean, I always say, ‘It’s not a game. It’s a cult!” Jacobsen said, “Well, that’s kind of a joke but I do think, while people take it very seriously. It’s more of a community than other sports.”
In addition to running the rare Spirit circle, Jacobsen preps before she reaches the field to make sure that the team is in the right headspace to get a win.
“I’ll bring glitter and tutus to the game, and we’ll all play in it!” Jacobsen said, “It sounds weird if you don’t play ultimate, but it’s a thing that a lot of teams do. It’s really fun and very fulfilling!”
A system called the “Spirit Score” also encourages players to treat each other fairly. The teams actually grade each other after the game on how fair and kind they were!
“Whenever people score a point, on either team, we always congratulate them. That’s not even to get a better spirit score. It’s just ingrained in the playing and the players themselves.” Felcan said, “The way the sport is set up, it just makes it easy to be friendly and congratulate each other.”
However, it is not all fun and games. It is also a serious competition.
The Boys’ Varsity Co-Captain Declan Kervick has been playing ultimate since his freshman year. He started playing because he wanted to spend time with friends but now he is responsible for helping them get the winning spirit.
“As a first-time captain on the ultimate team there is a definite responsibility on Declan and my shoulder’s to nurture a successful team for the upcoming season,” Co-Captain Kofi Young said, “With the strong returning core, our group has high hopes to be an extremely competitive team in the state and region.”
Each boys’ captain hopes to leverage his strengths.
“I think that Kofi’s gonna do a really good job because he’s just a likable person and I think I’ll be a bit better when we’re actually playing rather than off the field,” Kervick said.
Surrounded by other ultimate players who were busy boasting about the games they will win and the strength of their team, Kervick said this was looking to be a disk-breaking year for the BHS team.
“But yeah this year, we’re just going to win the state championship and we’re not going to lose a game. And no team is going to score more than 8 points on us!” Kervick said.
Jokes aside, Standard says the Girls’ team has the experience and talent to take it all the way.
“We definitely have our sights on the state championship,” Standard said.
Yet that winning spirit will be ruled by the Spirit of the Game.
“Definitely kumbaya,” Davis Rock-Jones, BHS junior, said.