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Ultimate Spirit - Placing Sportsmanship First

Peter Zana

How Spirit of the Game has lead the Emergence of this Budding Sport

Just win. No matter what.

Stanford Superfly team members cheer from the sideline during the D1 Championships in Milwaukee, May, 2015, Photo by Alex Fraser, Ultiphotos.com 

Stanford Superfly team members cheer from the sideline during the D1 Championships in Milwaukee, May, 2015, Photo by Alex Fraser, Ultiphotos.com 

Much has been said about the importance of winning. Winning is what fuels competition, right? Winning is awesome and losing stinks. Winning is what fans and media primarily relate to the success of a team. But what if winning was NOT the most important thing in a sport? What if there was a sport that truly prioritized the WAY in which a game is played over the actual achievement of a win itself? What if sportsmanship and integrity were the most important things? There’s no need to ask what if. One sport has shown this purity of competition can exist, and the sport can thrive and grow in the type of environment this creates. What sport? Ultimate Frisbee.

With nearly 50,000 members in USA Ultimate as of 2014, and the sport now being a Recognized Sport Organization by the United States Olympic Committee, Ultimate Frisbee’s future has never looked brighter, and we here at isplack fully support Ultimate and what it stands for.  

So what sets the sportsmanship apart in Ultimate than from all other team sports? Sportsmanship is written into the rules of the game. The term is officially: “Spirit of the Game (SOTG).” As the Official Rules of Ultimate: 11th Edition clearly state: Section 1. Introduction, item B. "Spirit of the Game. Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate unsportsmanlike conduct from the Ultimate field.”  

It is the SOTG that allows Ultimate to have official competition at the sports highest levels, and all levels for that matter, without the need for referees. Ultimate relies on the players to responsibly adhere to the SOTG, and prioritize it above all else. Some might question whether this ‘playground ethos’ really works. It does! The SOTG calls on the experienced player to call their own fouls, simultaneously teaching both the rule AND the ethos to the new player.

“One of the main things that stuck out to me right away when I started playing Ultimate was the level of general respect competitors had for each other,” said Ultimate star and Seattle Riot player Kelly Johnson. “I quickly learned that the element driving this was Spirit of the Game. Having played on the world stage with the Seattle Riot, it’s been so rewarding to see SOTG translate to extremely high level games where opponents strive to win—we all want the gold after all—but not at the cost of cheating, taking advantage of or treating each other poorly. As new players get introduced to ultimate, SOTG is impossible for them to ignore and becomes infectious. It creates a culture in our sport that is quickly learned and appreciated.”

If you don’t think this is a novel approach, Google Jack Rock and Lleyton Hewitt (Tennis). Jack Rock is being heralded as Sportsman of the Year for doing something every Ultimate player is expected to do every play of every game.  He called a play for the benefit of his opponent. It’s a great story of sportsmanship from another sport. Perhaps Jack played Ultimate growing up back in Lincoln, NE…

There isn’t a greater ideal in sports than sportsmanship itself, and the unity it can create both for a team and between teams. Unity is something that isplack can never get enough of, and it’s something that has led us to support the great athletes of Ultimate as much as we can.

“At the core of competition is the desire to out-wit, out-smart, out-hustle and ultimately out-play your opponent. Being able to do all of those things while being respectful of your opponent, the rules of the game, and the understanding that we are all human, defines your legacy,” said Seattle Sockeye captain Danny Karlinsky. “I have seen firsthand the influence of SOTG, as there is no greater rivalry in Ultimate than the Seattle Riot and San Francisco Fury, who have played in countless championship finals over the past decade. While these two teams have consistently ended each other's seasons, they have always been true to the core tenants of SOTG and never sacrifice doing things the right way for gaining an upper hand unfairly.”

For the 2016 season, isplack is sponsoring both the Seattle Riot and the Seattle Sockeye. These teams both embody the dedication and unity that helps define isplack, but also the Spirit of the Game that isplack believes is something to celebrate. To have a sport thrive without the need for referees is a trend that isplack believes other sports could learn from. We are proud to unite our brand with these great athletes and look forward to seeing isplack on the faces of Ultimate athletes while they compete for another championship. 

Get Your Colors On!

Peter Zana, VP Sales