Some of us can be forgiven for thinking that playing frisbee is for people who have nothing better to do. Or that it is something that families do on the beach while on holiday.
Well, both notions still hold although the sport now called “ultimate frisbee”, or just Ultimate, has grown with the times and can be played on a competitive level as well.
Considering that it started from a college parking lot in the United States a while ago, the sport has taken root among the younger generation in schools, colleges and universities in Malaysia.
Interest has grown to a point that the sport now has a national body – Malaysian Flying Disc Association (MFDA), which is dedicated to growing the sport, organising competitions and helping send teams out to play in international competitions.
MFDA became a member of the international body World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) two years ago.
“In 2015, we became a member (and) with this recognition we can send a national team to world (ranking) tournaments, which is what we are doing with the Under-24 team,” said MFDA president Ben Ong.
On the cards is the 2017 Asia Oceanic Ultimate and Guts Club Championships (AOUGCC) scheduled from Aug 17 to 20 at Alabang in Manila, the Philippines.
Ong said the sport was introduced by expatriate teachers in International School Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) before spreading to various universities like Kolej Damansara Utama (KDU), UTM, UiTM, Monash and Sunway, to name a few.
At the grassroots level, the game is being played in Cheras, Shah Alam and most actively in Sunway University.
“Those who want to play can inform the organisers and these games are played on Mondays and Fridays. All you need is to come in dark shirts and they will divide you into teams,” he said.
These are known as casual or hat competitions, players will register individually and will have to state their throwing skills, understanding of the game to the organisers.
They will try to balance out the field as evenly as possible. Players will only find out who their teammates are on the day itself or the night before.
“We are trying to push it into schools as we feel it is the best place to develop it at the grassroots level. Generally, the age range of most participants is between 19 and 23 years,” said Ong.
“The immediate plan is to put Malaysia in the world Ultimate map. We have a young and strong U-24 team. We want to introduce Ultimate as a co-curriculum sport in schools. How many sports do you see is both competitive and fun?
“Also (we want to) certify our coaches. We are trying to get some Australian coaches to come to Malaysia to conduct clinics and to certify them who can then coach enthusiasts. We are also seeking to register the national body within the next two years,” he said.
Basically in Ultimate, two teams of seven players compete on a playing field about the same length as a football field, but narrower. At each end of the playing field there is an endzone.
Each team defends one endzone. They score a goal if one of their players catches the disc in the opposite endzone.
The player with the disc is called the thrower and is allowed 10 seconds before the disc must be passed to a teammate. The thrower may not run with the disc. Instead, they move the disc by passing to teammates in any direction.
The defensive team gets possession of the disc if an offensive team’s throw is not caught by a player of the same team. Then the defensive team becomes the offensive team and can try to score in the opposite end zone.
Malaysia has already become a well-known venue for international competitions with its staging of the Malaysian Ultimate Open in 2016.
This event saw around 800 competitors from 32 teams participating in the annual competition. This year’s competition will not be staged as the grounds, the Putrajaya Equestrian Park, will be used to stage the polo event for the upcoming SEA Games in August.
Interestingly the sport has another version not dissimilar to golf. Called disc golf, it is played like traditional “ball” golf, but with flying discs instead of balls and clubs.
One point (stroke) is counted each time the disc is thrown and when a penalty is incurred. The goal is to play each hole in the fewest strokes possible. The player with the lowest total strokes for the entire course wins. It is normally played in parks and open spaces.
Ultimate has been approved by the International Olympic Committee and speculation is rife that it may become a part of the roster of the 2024 Games should Los Angeles win the bid.
Ong muses on the dream of seeing a Malaysian team in the Games.
“That’s why we are working very hard to uplift the standard of our players.”