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Winter 2017

Stay Calm and Play Frisbee

FrisbeeAs a kid, i loved throwing and running after Frisbees with my dad. When I got to college, I tried out for the ultimate Frisbee team at the University of Texas–Austin and didn’t make it. But it was a very friendly rejection, and I appreciated the positive energy that most ultimate players seemed to share. I continued playing. Eventually, while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama, I began using ultimate Frisbee as a simple way to build relationships with young people. It is amazing how quickly kids learn to throw and catch the disc. Then, in 2012, still in Panama, I helped launch Ultimate Without Borders.

One of the best parts of the game, especially when working with young people through the nonprofit, is something called spirit of the game. This “rule” for how to play the sport is actually an ideal tool for social and emotional learning. For starters, players mediate disagreements via self-officiating — there are no official referees. But it goes beyond that. In ultimate, players must demonstrate respect, integrity, and self-control. At the end of a game, it’s common for both teams to perform a cheer or play an icebreaker to show appreciation for the other team. It’s a reminder, especially for young people, that joy and friendship are more important than winning.

If your organization works with youth, give ultimate a try. Although there is no umbrella site for ultimate Frisbee, there are thousands of local leagues and clubs around the country. You can Google search for “ultimate Frisbee” with your city and state, and local organizations will pop right up. Ultimate players love teaching new players, so most would be thrilled to get an invitation from a school or youth organization. You can also check out five organizations from around the world that already teach youth via ultimate Frisbee: Girls Ultimate Movement (United States), Bridging the Gaps (India), Juega Ultimate Frisbee (Mexico), 10 Million Discs (the Balkans), and Ultimate Peace (Israel).

Ben Searle is the co-founder of Ultimate Without Borders
Illustration by Greg Clarke

Watch the video of Searle and International Education Policy Program students teach Professor Fernando Reimers how to play.