BENGALURU: Ultimate Frisbee! You throw a disc and your friend catches it, Right? That can’t be a sport. I used to play that with my dog and my friends in my childhood days,” says Bhaswati Guha Majumder, a college student in Bengaluru, when asked if she knew about Ultimate Frisbee.
She is not the only person in the city to be ignorant of a sport that is recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Frisbee is generally seen as a pastime, not a sport. But is it that easy to play?
7-km Run Per Tourney
Sneha Patil, a member of the India Ultimate Frisbee team and the Secretary of the Ultimate Players Association of India (UPAI), dismisses the idea. She says, “When we started, it seemed easy. But each player runs at least 7-8 km in a game and one plays three such games a day in a tournament, so players’ fitness levels need to be at its peak.”
Sneha commenced her journey with Ultimate in 2011 with city club Disc-O-Deewane to be a part of a fun group. Soon she became an active member of the club. Back then, Ultimate was concentrated in certain metro cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. There were hardly 60-70 players in Bengaluru. Now, the sport has grown exponentially just by word-of-mouth to other cities such as Surat, Patna, and Mysuru.
“When I started, there were just three clubs and now there are 11 and at least 200 women from Bengaluru play the sport at National level. In the last trial for a team that would travel to France in June, there were close to a 1,000 who tried out. So, it has become competitive now. Many of the players quit their jobs and became professionals,” she says.
Sneha and her team members don’t have a coach. “We learnt the sport watching YouTube videos,” she says. “We don’t have coaches here. Players who go to coaching camps learn and teach other players locally.”
However, in terms of promotion of the sport, it has been an uphill journey. “Convincing people to take the sport seriously has been a really tough job. People know about other sports but they don’t know about Ultimate, so each player is left to teach their peers about its advantages.
“We don’t have funds to promote it. Whatever sponsorship we get goes towards organising tournaments. Sometimes, we don’t even get them and we have had to cancel tournaments. We collect fees from all the players to organise tournaments and for paying international federation fees,” says Sneha.
Karnataka Ultimate Players Association (KUPA) and the UPAI also face the daunting task of arranging grounds for practice and tournaments because the sport needs a grass surface and such fields are mostly booked for cricket and football. But the players are turning the tide.
“We book grounds of schools and colleges,” says Sneha. “In exchange we urge them to send their students for practice and we coach them. So far we’ve managed to promote the sport through IISc, Jain College, Christ College and few others, who now take part in National level tournaments.”
Amidst several challenges, Sneha targets schools and colleges as platforms to promote the sport once the State association is fully functional. Also, she aims to up the level of their game to attract sponsorship and government recognition as well.