For a couple minutes, I threw a disc back and forth with a player that had recently joined the Rotterdam team after starting his internship in the city. There’s more to just the traditional backhand throw that most people unfamiliar with the sport know of. Forehand throws, backhand throws, and hammers are just three of the different techniques players use. I was glad that the muscle memory I’d developed a couple years back hadn’t quite left.

The training kicked off at around 7:15 PM, beginning with a pretty standard dynamic warmup before moving on to specific throwing and catching drills. There were around twenty people altogether.

In this series, student Byron Dolon (International Business Administration) joins student sports teams around campus. In this edition, Byron throws frisbees with the lads from Ultimate Rotterdam, a Rotterdam based Ultimate Frisbee team that has a large percentage of student members.

Lightning passes

Practice ended with five-on-five practice games. Ultimate Frisbee games involve a lot of sprinting up and down the field, so I felt safe to say that I’d gotten my cardio workout in for the month. Scoring points in Ultimate Frisbee games happens when a player catches a pass inside one of the end-zones, somewhat similarly to rugby and American football, but made more complicated by the fact that you can’t just run into the end-zone while holding the disc.

PhD candidate James Grayot, one of the older members at the club, said: “Someone has to lay-out for the camera.” Laying out refers to diving for a frisbee and snatching it out of the air right before it hits the ground. We didn’t get a picture of that, but there were plenty of lightning passes and long throws to score points.

Your reporter trying to snatch a frisbee between to opponents. Image credit: Joshua Kruter

Frisbee for all

The Ultimate Rotterdam team is the main ultimate frisbee team in Rotterdam. A couple of years ago, former players from other clubs in the Netherlands moved to Rotterdam and made a team. The club has grown since then, home to about thirty members now. Some are Erasmus University students, and others come from Delft, Den Haag and even Amsterdam.

Around a third of the team is made up of students. Unlike many of the other Ultimate Frisbee teams, the club in Rotterdam has a lot of international members, with at least twelve different nationalities. One of the newer members of the Rotterdam club is already an experienced Ultimate player, but is also a student from Italy who just moved to the city.

Right to Play

There’s a core group of around ten to fifteen players that regularly come to trainings, who also make up the more intense competitive team. They compete in indoor and outdoor tournaments, which each require slightly different playing styles.

In the beginning of the year, one or two of these seasoned players will take a group of new members to the ‘Right to Play’ tournament. These games are specifically for people new to the sport. It’s a great way for players not only to get some game experience, but also to learn the ‘spirit of the game’, the fair play attitude that applies to Ultimate Frisbee games everywhere.

A welcoming group

The team tends to be a little less hyper-competitive compared to other Ultimate clubs in the Netherlands. Many older members are content to just help everyone improve their fundamental frisbee skills. Deepak, one of the older members that helped run some of the drills, was continually shouting out words of encouragement to new and old players alike as they threw and caught discs. There’s a mix in the levels of experience of the players, with some still learning the basic throwing techniques, and others knowledgeable about specific offensive and defensive plays and terminology.

On days when the sun’s out and it’s not too chilly or windy, some members of the club will get for socializing in the park or barbecue sessions at a member’s house. Many of the club members have known each other for years, so time spent together isn’t confined to practice on the field, but also just hanging out and maybe throwing a frisbee around on a free weekend.

Honest calls

Image credit: Joshua Kruter

Many games don’t have referees, and rely on players from both teams making honest calls and holding themselves accountable. The sport is becoming more popular worldwide, with appeal coming in large part from the spirit of the game built into the sport. I’ve played Ultimate Frisbee in five different countries now, both for casual pickup games and on competitive teams. The attitude that I’ve observed everywhere, both abroad and at the Ultimate Rotterdam club, is a willingness from seasoned players to help everyone grow.