FAIRFAX — Many people who hear the word “ultimate” might wonder, “ultimate what?” That is not the case for the 36 Bellows Free Academy-Fairfax (BFA) students and three coaches who participate in the rapidly growing sport of Ultimate Frisbee. And they participate successfully: The Bullets’ boys and the girls varsity teams won the state championships last year.
More than 7 million people play Ultimate worldwide, but Fairfax is home to Franklin County’s only team. Statewide there are 20 teams in four division, but only four teams at the varsity level.
Matthew Forgues, BFA’s boys coach, along with varsity and junior varsity players, made a presentation asking the Vermont Principals Association to sanction the sport. Currently Ultimate is in a probationary period, so Fairfax’s team still has club status. But as long as the number of Vermont students playing Ultimate does not diminish, it should become a VPA varsity sport in the spring of 2016.
“Ultimate is an incredible sport, full of teamwork, athleticism, fun, and strategy,” said sophomore Ben Bosland, one of the players who talked to the VPA. “One of the most defining aspects of Ultimate is that after playing your heart out during a tough, competitive, game, both teams are able to congratulate and cheer on the other. I could not be happier to be on the Fairfax Ultimate team.”
Forgues echoes Bosland’s sentiments. “Ultimate requires a unique combination of athleticism and sportsmanship that you don’t often see in other sports. Great Ultimate players need to have the field awareness of soccer players, the body control of basketball players, and the explosiveness of football players.”
Ultimate is a game played with a flying disc, or Frisbee. Much like football, players score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. Unlike football, Ultimate is not a contact sport, and the same seven players comprise both the offensive and defensive sides. Players may not run after getting possession of the disc, and have to pass it within 10 seconds. A dropped pass, interception, or pass out of bounds gives the disc to the other team.
A unique aspect of Ultimate is Spirit of the Game, a strong belief in sportsmanship; players self-govern using the rules, but there are no referees or umpires.
“Honesty and integrity are essential parts of the game,” said Forgues. “Great Ultimate players avoid the arguments that often erupt when other sports attempt to be officiated by the players themselves, because the rules are simple and the protocol for resolving disputes is clear. Disagreements about calls take only a matter of seconds to hash out and players are able to retain respect for one another throughout the process.”
Forgues said the conflict-resolution skills learned transfer well to life off of the field, but he also appreciates the purity of the game.
“It can be so convenient to blame the refs when you lose in another sport. Removing this wild card brings the idea of sport back to its roots — a showcase of athleticism, teamwork, and execution to see who is superior at a given game.”
“It’s been a pretty sweet experience,” agreed Bosland.
On Saturday, May 10, the Bullets will be in Portland, Me., for the Northeastern Championships. Forgues and his players raised $1,780 to fund the trip. With records of 3-0 for the varsity Boys and 7-0 for the varsity girls this year, Forgues feels good about their chances.
The Fairfax teams have three home games remaining —May 6, 8, and 13) before defend their title in the state tournament May 24 in Essex.