Ultimate frisbee offers safe environment for Atlantans

"I started playing ultimate my freshman year. The team was really small up until we won [state]. That's when we started getting people to play," senior Bahvya Mital said.
Photo by Emmie Poth=Nebel
“I started playing ultimate my freshman year. The team was really small up until we won [state]. That’s when we started getting people to play,” senior Bahvya Mital said.

“I started playing after college since I wanted to stay active. Since then, my involvement and appreciation have just grown,” said John Boezi, president of the Atlanta Flying Disc Club (AFDC), multi-team co-ed league, and general manager of Atlanta’s professional ultimate frisbee team, the Atlanta Hustle.

In 1968, a group of high schoolers played the first game of ultimate frisbee. The sport gained popularity and now, is played worldwide.

“The game of ultimate frisbee, also known as ultimate, is governed by a concept called the ‘Spirit of the Game,’ which means doing the honorable, right thing in all situations,” Boezi said. “Regardless of how a player feels, we always talk civilly with each other.”

He credits this ideology to the attraction of the sport.

“At first it’s a little hard to transition from other sports, but once you get the hang of [the way we play], it’s really fantastic to be able to work with people and know that they’re going to respect you.”

Founded in 1978, the AFDC has seen “a rise in support and interest” for youth and girls ultimate frisbee teams.

We currently don’t have a boys team, only co-ed and girls. However, for our girls, we have around 120 players,” Boezi said.

Kate Wilson, commissioner of the AFDC’s women’s league, started the league in 2012.

“We’ve actually had a women’s league in Atlanta for a long time,” Wilson said. “It stopped for a few years but I wanted to start it up again because I think it’s important for women to get a chance to play sports and learn from other females.”

Wilson’s team prides itself in being welcoming to women of all ages.

“Having an opportunity to play ultimate with women of all ages is really awesome. Our youngest player is around 13 and the oldest is 55,” Wilson said. “It’s fun running [the women’s league]. There’s lots of positive energy and encouragement.”

Ultimate’s unique, “incredibly competitive” and honest nature prompted Wilson to join.

“I love that you can be athletic in ultimate, but you’re also simultaneously required to play with a lot of integrity since we don’t have referees,” she said. “But overall, I think people come and stay because of the community.”

The AFDC’s co-ed and women’s teams follow the same rules of play, set up by the “United States national governing body for the sport of ultimate,” USA Ultimate.

“The co-ed club teams consist of up to 27 players with either three men and four women or four men and three women on the field at a time,” Boezi said.

Though national teams must obey the 3:4 ratio, there are other tournaments that are not part of the “sanctioned series” that have their own formats.

Decatur’s team follows a similar format, senior Bhavya Mital said.

“There are always seven players on the field at a time though the team is much bigger,” he said. “Also, the ultimate team at Decatur is predominantly male. A girls team exists, but not many show up so the girls don’t really compete.”

He compares ultimate to football and cross country.

“It’s really a skillful game,” he said. “There are so many steps you have to remember. Oh, and running. You gotta know how to run, when to run, and where to run.”

Mital’s appreciation for the sport strengthened when he played an Israeli team in late last year.

"I love the community and how nice everyone is. I just really love playing ultimate," said Decatur player "Savage Suli."
Photo by Emmie Poth-Nebel
“I love the community and how nice everyone is. I just really love playing ultimate,” said Decatur player “Savage Suli.”

“It’s cool to be able to play with people who are so different from you but in a way, so similar,” he said. “We couldn’t communicate verbally since we spoke different languages but we knew exactly what someone was trying to say on the field. Ultimate is universal.”

Sydney Marie Jones, sophomore on the girls team, started playing in middle school.

“I think it was someone’s senior project,” she said. “They were trying to reach out to middle schoolers. So, I came to a few practices my eighth grade year and I guess I was the only one who stayed, but that’s how I got into [ultimate]. I think the sport is really fun and that’s why I stayed.”

Though the Decatur ultimate team encourages expansion, some, like sophomore David Ordway enjoy the “small, 19-person community.”

“Ultimate has this ability, at least at Decatur, to give ‘oddballs’ a family,” Ordway said. “We get people who wouldn’t go out for the big sports like football and cross country and we take them under our wing.”

He believes the connection and community built around ultimate lasts “long after the field is gone.

Atlanta hustle
Atlanta Hustle player Matt Smith. As General Manager of the Atlanta Hustle, Boezi helps organize teams, leagues and programs to spread ultimate through Atlanta. Photo courtesy of John Boezi.