Ultimate brings hippie vibe to high school sports

Ultimate’s gone legit in British Columbia’s high schools. But it hasn’t lost its hippie vibe.

The non-contact co-ed sport that looks a little like touch football played with a frisbee was adopted last year as an official activity by BC School Sports, the governing body for high school sports in the province. That means associations receive financial support, athletes are registered and games and tournaments are sanctioned.

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Alaina Brandsma, the coach of Riverside secondary school’s newly-minted Ultimate team said the  20 athletes on her squad just want to run around and have fun.

That ethos was behind the birth of the sport on U.S. high school and college campuses in the late 1960s, according to the World Flying Disc Federation’s website. Goal lines were marked by telephone poles or piles of players’ coats, games were self-officiated, sportsmanship and a spirit of fair play were as important as the final score. Conflicts, when they occurred, had to be resolved with negotiation.

Brandsma said not much has changed.

The Rapids compete in a league that includes two sides from Heritage Woods secondary school and others from Archbishop Carney and BC Christian Academy, as well as squads from Burnaby and Langley. At the end of every game, players from both sides mingle to recognize the efforts of their opponents and one team introduces a “spirit game,” a fun little activity like “duck, duck goose,” that’s meant to invoke smiles and mirth.

“The weirder and funnier it is, the better,” Brandsma said.

While many of the players on the Rapids team come from other sports like basketball and volleyball, they’re all learning Ultimate together, which adds to the fun and camaraderie.

“They know they’re not up against players who’ve been competing for 10 years,” said Brandsma, who teaches phys-ed and science at Riverside and introduced the sport to prospective players in her classes and with after-school drop-in sessions last year.

Sarah Wade, a Grade 12 basketball and soccer player, said joining Riverside’s Ultimate team was a good way to stay active, and she likes the sport’s simplicity.

Adrienne Willems, who also plays for Riverside’s basketball and volleyball teams, said she was attracted by Ultimate’s inclusiveness. The Rapids’ side is comprised of players from every grade, and there’s more girls than boys.

Still, Willems said, the level of competition is high.

“It’s a lot more athletic than I thought it would be,” she said. “It helps me stay in shape.”

Brandsma said Ultimate is growing in popularity. Some middle schools are putting together teams, and she expects more SD43 high schools to sign on for next season.

Last year 30 AAA and AA teams competed at the provincial championships in Newton, where this year’s finale will also be held May 23 to 24. Brandsma hopes her charges will be among them. But if not, that’s okay too.

“It’s just a cool opportunity to be outside,” she said.

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