By Loryn Flowers | Photography by Sydney Rader and Cara Sieber
While playing in a game for the Lakota ultimate frisbee team, current coach and college and professional player Kyle Romard pulled a muscle in his back. Out of all the people that could have helped him up, he was surprised to see that two players from the opposing team went out of their ways to help him off the field and to the trainer’s bench.
It’s this kind of sportsmanship and integrity that the players call “the Spirit of the Game” that makes ultimate frisbee different than other sports. The Spirit of the Game is a concept that puts the responsibility of fair play upon each of the players because the game emphasizes the use of observers and not referees, and players are responsible for officiating their own actions. Ultimate frisbee takes athleticism, speed, endurance, precision, critical thinking and, most importantly for Romard, effort and sportsmanship.
“Sportsmanship and integrity are at the fundamental foundation of ultimate,” Romard says. “Everything that it stands for and is built around is based on sportsmanship.”
After playing for Lakota from 2010-2013 and captaining for two of those years, Romard decided to be a part of continuing the program. By coaching the Lakota team, he gives others the opportunity that he was given. As a second-year student at the University of Cincinnati, Romard balances playing on three club ultimate teams while coaching the Lakota team.
“[In ultimate frisbee, sportsmanship is shown] just like in most sports, really,” Romard says. “But I’ll tell you that after playing basketball, football and baseball, I have never met a nicer group of people or ever liked my opponents as much as I have from playing a game of ultimate.”
East seniors Katie McKearin and Cara Sieber are two of about 15 players that participate on the Lakota team throughout its 10-game fall season competing against other schools around the area.They started in the summer and fall of 2014 and have continued to play and learn about the sport.
“I like how the main part of [ultimate] is the Spirit of the Game,” Sieber says. “It keeps people honest. I really like how you have to be accountable for your own [actions].”
At the beginning of each game, two teams consisting of seven players each line up at the 25-yard-deep end zones. The defense throws the disc to the receiving team, and the game begins with the offense attempting to move up the 70-yard field to score by throwing the disc to different players, while the defense attempts to block them without contact. Contact between two players is a foul.
“If someone fouls a player, [they must call it themselves],” McKearin says. “Then the other player agrees or disagrees [with the claim]. You are your own referee.”
While ultimate has very unique characteristics such as the ability of players to call fouls, it also contains more common features such as the non-stop movements of soccer and the aerial passing of football. When it was created in 1968, ultimate was first played with a pie pan in Maplewood, New Jersey.
For 30 years, this sport has been quickly rising in popularity. Ultimate frisbee is now being played in more than 80 countries around the world, according to usaultimate.org. It was recently recognized as an Olympic sport. With the option to play women’s, men’s or the mixed division, it is one of the only sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that men and women can play together. Men, women, boys and girls enjoy playing ultimate all over the world today.
“Getting involved with the ultimate club team at Lakota was one of the best things I have done, and I have met some of my closest friends from playing,” Romard says. “Anyone with a little bit of practice and hard work can learn to throw, play ultimate and have fun.”