Ultimate India

When I met Devansh, a college student at NIMS just outside Jaipur, the first question he asked me was: “do you play ultimate?” At first I thought I’d heard incorrectly.  It turns out he is one of the tiny of handful of Ultimate (frisbee) players spread thinly across India, and he has wanted to start Jaipur’s first frisbee club since he came to study. After a few minutes of conversation, I agreed that we’d try to do it.

At his urging, I took the train to his home city of Ahmedabad to play in the tournament hosted by Indicorps. Over the past few years, they’ve worked to bring the sport to underprivileged youth from many different areas of the city. They’ve decided to use Ultimate as a vehicle to teach values like teamwork, leadership, and community engagement for a number of reasons: it’s non-contact, coed, and basically just requires an open field and a frisbee. (In fact, they worked with local manufacturers to make them a standard 175 g disc at a fraction of the price they go for in the U.S.) And, of course, the Spirit of the Game: ultimate is (ideally) a cooperative, friendly sport, where treating others fairly is placed above winning.

So in Ahmedebad, I got the chance to play organized ultimate for the first time in a long time, on a team made up of the most talented and committed youth from Indicorps’ programs in Ahmedabad. We went up against (and mostly lost to) teams of experienced players my age and older, with an ex-pat or two on each time. But having the chance to play with these kids was great. Many were as young as 14 or 15, but after just a few months or year playing with Indicorps, they loved the sport and clearly spent a lot of time practicing it.

Back in Jaipur, Devansh and I are currently holding clinics, teaching throws, catching, and basic rules of the sport. Although ultimate is new to nearly everyone apart from us, many people grew up throwing frisbees for fun as young children, and find picking it back up to be intuitive. Already a number of friends (mostly volunteers from my NGO, Pravah) are eager to play in an upcoming tournament, perhaps in Kodaicanal at the end of March. We hope to continue building the club, reaching out to new people, and perhaps doing a little fundraising in order to make this happen.

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