Looking ahead by going back

Kenn Oliver
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Popular Ultimate frisbee group looks to secure its future by attracting kids

With the sheer number of participants in the adult co-ed Mile Zero Ultimate League and St. John's Women's Ultimate Recreation League (SWURL), it was only a matter of time before the fringe sport reached kids.

Two years ago, armed with a budget for youth and community outreach, the Newfoundland and Labrador Ultimate Association (NLUA) began work on growing their numbers outside the adult age group.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Ultimate Association has introduced the sport to schools in the hopes of perhaps getting it in the school curriculum. Submitted photo

With the sheer number of participants in the adult co-ed Mile Zero Ultimate League and St. John's Women's Ultimate Recreation League (SWURL), it was only a matter of time before the fringe sport reached kids.

Two years ago, armed with a budget for youth and community outreach, the Newfoundland and Labrador Ultimate Association (NLUA) began work on growing their numbers outside the adult age group.

One of the first initiatives inolved the creation of the Ultimate in Schools program, aimed at the eventual development of Youth Ultimate.

"We'll go in and take over a gym class for a day and give them ideas to put some Ultimate into their curriculum if they want it," explains Claire Moore-Gibbons, NLUA Tournament Planning Committee member.

Played by seven-player teams, Ultimate, or ultimate frisbee, is played by passing the frizbee to a teammate.

After catching a pass, the receiver must stop running, but may pivot and pass to a another teammmate.

The object of the game is to score by catching a pass in the opponent's end zone.

The provincial Ultimate association was formed only six years ago. Yet, the Mile Zero league already has 400 competitors with a wait list.

On top of learning the rules and skill development, Ultimate volunteer instructors ensure to teach students about the spirit of the game.

Ultimate is a self-officiated sport, meaning players on the field make the refereeing calls but always in the interest of mutual respect and fairness.

"Highly competitive play is encouraged, but not at the expense of the spirit of the game," Moore-Gibbons said.

In late May, a team of NLUA volunteers hosted the first junior high tournament, featuring four area schools. St. Paul's junior high emerged as the winner from the small exhibition tourney which saw every participant go home with an NLUA youth designed t-shirt.

But with the school year all but over, the NLUA is planning a new weekly pickup league for the summer months.

Students at Gonzaga have already organized and played a game or two on their own, and Moore-Gibbons expects more will follow once word starts to spread.

The summer league - split into junior high and high school divisions - will be open to boys and girls ages 12 years and over.

Once they guage the interest and depending on player skill level, the NLUA may break them up further into beginner and advanced categories.

At this early stage, rather than organize teams, the NLUA is asking that interested players contact them and once pickup games are scheduled, they'll be contacted about a time and place.

The first 20 to 25 to respond will be guaranteed a game.

"You won't show up and not play because because there are 50 kids there," she said. "The idea is for it to be first come, first serve."

And the best part? It's free to play.

The provincial ultimate association is looking long term for the development of their sport, so it only makes sense to generate interest now among future stars of the game.

"We're trying to get them interested at a young age, get the skills and the idea of the spirit of the game down and promote it further in junior high and hopefully by high school, we'll have some formal leagues set up.

"The hope is it will be around for a long time to come and involve all age groups in the community."

koliver@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Ultimate Association, Mile Zero Ultimate League, Ultimate Recreation League SWURL NLUA Tournament Planning Committee member

Geographic location: St. John's, St. Paul

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