The Thrill of the Catch

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jul 17, 2010

"Most people can throw a Frisbee. With five minutes of training, anyone can play Ultimate."
Tony Bomber

Melissa is my Administrative Assistant and she also plays Ultimate Frisbee (a/k/a Ultimate). She doesn't really call herself an Ultimate player since this summer she played it for the first time. But when she heard about a team that needed one more player, she said, "I jumped at the chance to try something new." 

And she was not disappointed. Each week she and her fellow amateur athletes engage in friendly competition with a flying 175 gram disc. They join 4.9 million other Ultimate players in the U.S. and millions more in over 40 countries of the world who compete in this limited-contact team sport. 

The object of Ultimate is to score points by passing the disc to a player in the opposing end zone, similar to an end zone in American football or rugby. Players may not run while holding the disc. Ultimate can come in various versions such as Traditional Ultimate, Indoor Ultimate, Beach Ultimate, Intense Ultimate, and Street Ultimate, each with its own variation depending on the location and the types of play the athletes prefer. 

Numerous people claim to be the inventers of the Frisbee. The Frisbie Baking Company (1871-1958) of Bridgeport, CT made pies that were sold to many New England colleges. Hungry college students soon discovered that the empty pie tins could be tossed and caught. 

Many colleges have claimed to be the home of "he who was first to fling." Yale University has even argued that in 1820, a Yale undergraduate named Elihu Frisbie grabbed a collection tray from the chapel and flung it out across the campus thereby becoming the true inventor and winning glory for Yale. But that is unlikely since the words "Frisbie Pies" were embossed on the pie tins and from the word
"Frisbie" was coined the common name for the toy. 

In 1948 a Los Angeles building inspector named Walter Frederick Morrison and his partner Warren Franscioni invented a plastic version of the Frisbie called the Pluto Platter that could fly further and with better accuracy than a tin pie plate. Richard Knerr of Wham-O registered the trademark as Frisbee in 1958. Six years later in 1964 the first professional model went on sale. That was also my first year in college and I still remember seeing one for the first time during our orientation festivities. 

But let's get back to Melissa and her reflections on a recent game. "I've been improving each week and today I am riding the high from last night's win. I was excited to play a significant part in the game." 

Just after half time she made the primary assist for her teammate Natalia to score a point. But her most exciting moment came right at the end of the game. Her captain called a time out to plot their final strategy. Melissa was to get into the open to make the winning play. 

"I ran away from my defender, who was distracted by the handler, and got open in the end zone. Silbey had the disc and saw me open, but (he) was being guarded hard. I waited patiently, still open, for him to fake a throw and then turn back to me to make the toss. As the disc sailed in my direction, I saw it coming into my hands. Someone from the opposing team tried to run over to block it, but I had control. The angle of the catch had me on my knee as my opponent ran into me, but it was too late. I caught it and we won the game." 

Even 24 hours later Melissa said she was still glowing with "the excitement of seeing that disc fly across the open air into my hands, or maybe that's just my bruises and sore muscles I'm feeling." 

Every now and then we should all try something new. Who knows what we might catch. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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