What is "Ultimate"?
Sometimes referred to as Ultimate Frisbee because it’s played with a plastic disc instead of a ball, those in the know simply call the game Ultimate. The idea is to work your way down the field by passing the disc back and forth to teammates’while avoiding opposing players’until you score into the other team’s end zone. With no referees, the crux of the sport is its spirit: sportsmanship and the expectation of fair play. While the seven-player teams are usually co-ed, more recreational and competitive all-women teams are emerging. And the fitness benefits? With its non-stop action, you burn lots of calories while building agility, cardio endurance and lower-body strength. ‘You’re running the length of a soccer field and laying out [diving] for the disc,’ says Nancy Symons, captain of the all-women competitive Ultimate team Zephyr in Vancouver. ‘It’s quite a workout.’
"Why I love Ultimate Frisbee"
When Nancy Symons looks back at why she started playing ‘Ultimate”a non-contact sport in which you run about the length of a soccer or football field tossing and catching a plastic disc’she feels a ‘sense of surprise’ at how far she’s come. The 33-year-old joined recreational co-ed Ultimate in 2004 after graduating from teachers’ college and moving to Ottawa. ‘I was raised in a small-town Ontario farming community, so moving to a city was a shock,’ she says. ‘If it hadn’t been for the tight-knit Ultimate community, I might have felt lost.’
Symons settled easily into the Ultimate scene, even meeting her now-fiancé, Adam, through the sport. And when he took a job transfer across the country in 2006, Symons faced another transition: this time to Vancouver. Diving into the Ultimate community there helped her take root in an unfamiliar city once again.
Symons’ greatest satisfaction with Ultimate comes from its camaraderie. ‘It provides friendships on and off the field,’ she says. ‘My teammates and I do everything together’Ultimate, skiing and surfing. We share the same motivation to exercise outdoors.’ This overwhelming involvement by participants in Ultimate is often called ‘cultimate”a slang term that players and non-players alike use to refer to this highly addictive sport. ‘During the season we live, eat and breathe Ultimate.’ This culture keeps Symons committed, whether she’s playing for fun or competition.
Now working as coordinator of outdoor education at an all-girls school, Symons has also advanced to the role of captain for Zephyr, her all-women competitive team that took bronze last year at the Canadian Ultimate Championships in Winnipeg. ‘And we were the underdog,’ she says. This summer, Zephyr is bound for Prague to compete at the World Ultimate Club Championships. ‘Never did I suspect that when I got into this sport, I’d one day be representing Canada on a world stage. It feels like a real accomplishment.’
This success plays a part in her everyday life, too.
As team captain, Symons is able to hone her leadership skills, something she might not have experienced on a co-ed team, where men are often the stronger force. ‘My skills have transferred to my work as a teacher,’ says Symons. ‘I learned to assess both the players and students early on, then focus on each person’s best skills to help move the entire group forward.’
To stay on top of her game and prevent an injury, Symons practises or plays two to three times per week, and also aims to do a minimum of two cardio workouts and two strength training workouts (leaving a day or two off for recovery). ‘Ultimate is tough on the body,’ she says. But playing hard on a highly competitive yet nurturing team is a clear confidence booster. ‘Ultimate provides the outlet and community I need to thrive.’
This article was originally titled "The ‘Ultimate’ Exercise" in the Summer 2010 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health