Spirit soars in Yangon’s first Ultimate tournament

2 Photo Credit Ngoc Lala72The world is ready for an Ultimate Frisbee revolution, and Yangon is finally poised to participate.
The game that has been described as “World of Warcraft for extroverts” is now played by professional athletes around the world and may even be on the track toward inclusion in the Summer Olympic Games. But that is just one aspect of the Ultimate revolution. Far more significant are the millions of young people around the world flocking to a sport that values conflict resolution and gender equality as much as it does athletic skill and competition—a combination often referred to as the ‘spirit’ of the game.
On 30 January, Yangon made its first foray into the world of organised Ultimate with an open tournament organised by the Yangon International School (YIS) Athletics Department. About 85 Yangon residents on seven teams, including one team entirely composed of high school students, participated in the tournament, which was held on the Thuwunna National Stadium practice fields.
“I wanted to plan [the tournament] because, as the PE teacher at YIS, I have incorporated Ultimate into a lot of my high school curriculum, [which has] inspired a good group of students who really find enjoyment in the sport. I organised it to give my students a chance to compete and hopefully encourage other schools to as well,” said Jared Joiner, the athletic director at YIS.
4 Photo Credit Carolyn Charu-72“Not to mention I wanted to play in it!” he added.
The inclusion of high school students in the city’s debut Ultimate event honoured the sport’s origins. The first-known game of Ultimate was played in 1968 at a high school in Maplewood, New Jersey, between the student council and the newspaper staff.
In a series of articles titled “Is Ultimate Frisbee Ready for the Olympics?” published by The New York Times last August, four Ultimate enthusiasts debated the direction Ultimate ought to take as its popularity rises. Tiina Booth, a university-level coach in the United States who also runs an Ultimate summer training camp for high schoolers, wrote that the front lines in the battle for Ultimate’s legitimacy are populated by high school students.
“Every summer, at the training camp I run, teenagers tell me about their efforts to establish teams at their high schools. One camper is in his second year of lobbying his administration; though almost 100 of his classmates were interested in playing, the school refused to even sanction it as a club sport. He was told it would divert students from the more successful sports teams already established at the school,” Booth writes.
Luckily for Yangon’s Ultimate community, not only did YIS lend its name to the event, it also paid for half the cost of the venue. The other half was raised through players’ fees.
The event was not without its own challenges. Joiner said: “The most difficult part was organising the pitch, the location had to change two weeks before [the date of the event]. We [also] had a short period of time to get all the games in, so I think the schedule was pretty intense.”
However, by the end of the day, 15 games were played without conflict or controversy.
In the final match, the Eagles—a team comprised of staff and a student from YIS—were bested by Pork n’ Flick, which was made up of staff from another Yangon school.
1 Photo Credit Ngoc-72Pork n’ Flick captain Ian Horsewood commented on his team’s victory, saying:
“It feels good.”
Like most Ultimate events in the world, winning was not the ultimate goal in Yangon’s first tournament. Instead, weeks of training and planning for the competition culminated in mutual respect, camaraderie and a desire for more flying disc events in the city.
“I see ultimate being adopted by the international schools, most of which now have clubs or leagues. I hope there will be more events with students in the future,” said Joiner.

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