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How playing Ultimate gets the right results

Stratford Hall and McRoberts during second day of competition at the BC Junior Ultimate Championship (BCJUC) in Surrey, BC. 29 May 2016 ©2016 Jeff Bell Photo. All Rights Reserved.

In part two of our series on physical education, an IB World School shares how introducing this self-refereed sport has engaged students

Ultimate may not be as well-known as some other sports, but its ethos of fair play and mixed gender teams makes it an ideal school game.

This fast-paced, self-refereed sport, which uses a flying disc (or Frisbee), was invented in 1968 by a school in Columbia, USA. It is now played in over 90 countries.

It has been played at Stratford Hall in Vancouver, Canada, since 2007, starting with one team made up of 18 students from grade 7-9, explains Kyle Nystad, Athletics Coordinator at the school. “Fast-forward to 2018 and we now have teams for all grades 512 with over a 120 students participating.” It’s become Stratford Hall students’ favourite team sport.

Nystad explains that teachers Chris Brogan and Amy Reece originally introduced it to the school. “Amy and Chris are passionate Ultimate players and grew up playing the sport. They loved the co-ed nature, the spirit of the game and the welcoming community that Ultimate provides.”

It is both an extracurricular sport and a core unit in the school’s grade 6-10 Middle Years Programme (MYP) physical and health education (PHE) course. (Others units include volleyball and basketball.) “The school supports sport through its PHE classes and also through a well-developed athletics programme,” says Nystad.

“Participation in sport provides students with a non-academic opportunity during school to develop relationships and have experiences they may not otherwise have. Students gain from participating in sport in many ways: from improved overall stamina and greater self-confidence to learning important social skills and developing the determination to improve one’s level of skill,” says Nystad.

Ultimate benefits students, as well as being an attractive option. “The social aspect of boys playing with girls and bringing together two groups of students that generally do not have an opportunity to compete with each other makes it very popular at our school,” says Nystad.

“The interpersonal skills learned on the field of Ultimate are also a plus; being able to calmly discuss a call made by an opponent in the heat of an intense and competitive sport is a skill in and of itself. Ultimate is also a very physical sport demanding a high level of fitness. So it improves an athlete’s health as well.”

How it develops the IB learner profile

There are two aspects of the sport that particularly link well with the IB learner profile. “One is that it is a self-officiated sport and two is the concept of ‘spirit of the game’. These link with the IB learner profile attributes of being open-minded, knowledgeable, principled and communicators,” he says.

“As the sport is self-officiated, athletes are required to call, discuss and settle rule infractions without the intervention of an official. This requires the athlete to have multiple skills in order to mediate the calls in a calm fashion that is respectful to their opponent. They need to be knowledgeable of the rules, open-minded to the perspective of the opponent, principled in how they make calls and a good communicator when participating in the discussions.

“This concept, that athletes are solely responsible for fair play through their behaviours on the field, is grounded in a foundation of being an open-minded and caring person. Just by participating in the sport, athletes are inherently learning and applying IB learner concepts.”

Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship and actions such as as taunting opposing players, belligerent intimidation, or other win-at-all-costs behaviour are contrary to the spirit of the game. There is even a rubric used that takes into account rules knowledge, fouls called, fair play, attitude and communication. It is not unusual for the team that wins a tournament to also be recognized for their great spirit and win the spirit trophy.

Community spirit

Nystad says: “Ultimate has also been incredible for Stratford Hall in terms of developing both our student and parent community.

“Older students coach and mentor the younger grades, parents help feed and hydrate athletes at weekend tournaments and the sport has created an environment in which every member feels they are able to make a positive contribution that is valued.”

See part 1 of our posts on physical education: Do schools put enough emphasis on physical education?

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