• Print

The Spirit of the Game

by Stefan Sörne
Photos by Dave Barfield

The sport is named, simply, “Ultimate.” “The Spirit of the Game” is Ultimate’s motto. It refers to an unspecific set of principles that dedicated Ultimate players abide by: An attitude of all-encompassing friendship and sportsmanship.


The sport is named, simply, “Ultimate.” Sometimes wrongly called “Ultimate Frisbee” it is a seven-on-seven game that is played with a 175-gram disc on small football fields. Until eight years ago, Ultimate in Tallahassee had only been either a game casually played after school or exclusive to college club teams who were competitive about the sport. Others that had enough time in their schedules could organize a traveling team and play at tournaments around the Southeast during the regular season. Community members who were past their days in school, yet still passionate about the game, recognized this deficit in the availability of good, quality Ultimate for the average Tallahasseean.

They had nothing to lose and about sixty players on board when they organized the Tallahassee Ultimate, Inc., league in the fall of 2008. The league was declared co-ed with a certain mandatory male-to-female ratio which ensured even match-ups. The four teams of this first season consisted of about fifteen players each, some teams with ages ranging a four-decade spread. No one cared who won the season; folks were just thrilled to be playing organized Ultimate again.

ultimate1Spring came, then summer. The league was growing. On game days, people would often stick around after matches, just to hang out or catch up. The community had built a strong camaraderie and networks of friends between people who, otherwise, may not have much in common. It was clear that, truly, everyone could play Ultimate.

In summer of 2012, the league had more-than-doubled its initial size. College players from the FSU men’s team (“DUF”) and the women’s “Seminole Ladies Ultimate” team who had learned of the local league also signed up to try their talents in the small pond. Locals had spread the word to their friends and recruited a mixed array of players; people who had never much cared for sports found themselves having the time of their lives chasing a plastic disc to score points. Dads were signing up with their kids, and wives with husbands.

The Tallahassee Ultimate (TU) League was now a mish-mash of players with varied levels of investment in the sport and both extremes represented. Incidentally, an unclear line had been drawn between those who were just there for the joy of the game and those who were much more competitive. Slowly, the unease lead to resentment between those players who were on either side of the fence, even among teammates.

After a definitive and heated season playoff, the TU board members and league participants decided it was time to make a change. What, exactly, had led to such an unsportsmanlike ending to that particular season? Unique to Ultimate is its ability to self-examine and adjust itself in order to maintain “the Spirit of the Game.”

“The Spirit of the Game” is Ultimate’s motto. It refers to an unspecific set of principles that dedicated Ultimate players abide by: an attitude of all-encompassing friendship, sportsmanship, or perhaps forgiveness for when honest mistakes are made. A team may even be given a “spirit score,” for better or worse, to let other teams out there know just what they can expect from a match-up with that team. For some hosted tournaments, a team’s spirit score will even decide whether they are allowed a bid, over the other entries, to compete in that tournament. The board addressed the TU community with a simple request: for “the Spirit of the Game” to take priority again.

It clicked. The next season, captains of each team addressed their drafted players with that creed. The Tallahassee Ultimate League saw a distinct change in the face of the game that had been souring for the past three seasons. Teams that held true to keeping positive attitudes, respecting their opponent, and giving everyone a fair chance markedly outperformed those individuals and exceptions who were a bit more stuck in their ways. This trend of good attitudes would require work and commitment, though. Over the course of the next couple years, the league would succeed in becoming one of the most exciting organized sports in Tallahassee.

Today, the Tallahassee Ultimate League continues to keep, at its core, what many groups of people strive for: the fun and excitement of victory and the values of decency and respect. How people treat one another, on or off the field, will not come down to whether they want to win or not. The Tallahassee Ultimate community has proven to be a great place to find both friendship and competition.

Each spring, summer and fall season begins with a free kickoff tournament event where anyone can come see what it’s all about. During the week following the kick-off, elected captains for the particular season meet up and draft teams from the pool of people who have signed up and paid league dues. Each season sees a different assortment of captains and a different spread of teams. Individuals are loosely ranked based on their experience to ensure the creation of balanced teams with healthy support for those who are new or learning players. The primary goal of the non-profit organization is, by far, to grow the sport of Ultimate in the capital city. That means doing all that it can to teach and welcome newcomers because Tallahassee Ultimate is a place for everyone.

To learn more about Tallahassee Ultimate, or to sign up for the upcoming league season, visit tallahasseeultimate.com. You can also look them up on Facebook under “Tallahassee Ultimate” for day-to-day posts and conversations.

Stefan Sörne is a multimedia producer and dedicated athlete working, living, and playing in Tallahassee.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Leave a reply

Story Page