The sport of Ultimate, formerly known as Ultimate Frisbee™, spread around the world in the mid-seventies and was considered an alternative sport that embraced a more casual atmosphere than other traditional, competitive sports. Ultimate is now receiving national and international attention as a competitive sport, with broadcasts of games on networks such as ESPN. As it transitions into a mainstream sport while attempting to maintain its alternative roots, it is possible that there are contrasting opinions between those who want to bring it further into the mainstream and those who want to maintain as much as possible of the original, alternative culture. In this work, we surveyed members of the Ultimate community for their perspectives on the unique culture of Ultimate.
Because the Ultimate community considers itself to be progressive, despite its largely Caucasian makeup, one topic of exploration was the political landscape of the Ultimate community. A second unique aspect of ultimate is the system for enforcing rules used by the players on the field, known as the spirit of the game. This system replaces referees and creates an ethical dynamic both during play and within the community that is not found in other sports. The last major topic of study here is the self-perception of the players as athletes. Because Ultimate continues to maintain a reputation as an alternative sport, athletes may perceive themselves differently than in more established sports.
When asked if Ultimate players perceived the Ultimate community as accepting of athletes who are people of color (POC) or members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender community (LGBT), the community reported being accepting of all minorities. However, acceptance of POC athletes was rated significantly lower than the acceptance of LGBT athletes. When asked about comradery, the respondents rated comradery higher within the Ultimate community than in other sports. When asked how impartial players were in Ultimate compared to other sports, players with more experience tended to report perceiving themselves as more impartial. All demographics reported being more impartial in Ultimate than in other athletics. When asked about the seriousness of Ultimate, those who had not played another sport considered Ultimate to be more serious than those who had played another sport. In addition, players with more years of Ultimate experience also considered it to be more serious than those with fewer years of experience. Overall, additional studies on Ultimate culture are needed in order to obtain more viewpoints, as there is a lack of research in this field for comparison.
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