Ultimate Frisbee Through the Years

How many times have you thrown a frisbee around in a friendly game of Ultimate? The sport has been around for more than fifty years now, and it’s getting bigger all the time. From humble beginnings in 1968, Ultimate Frisbee has proven to be one of the most popular games you can play with a disc.


From humble beginnings as pie tins, the frisbee gained popularity and became popular in most schools. In 1968, the Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey was the home of the first Ultimate Frisbee game, then called Frisbee Football. Joel Silver’s rules sparked fascination, and when he returned to school, he proposed developing the first Frisbee Football team.

Though many thought it was a joke, Silver propelled it forward, developing teams during lunch. Everyone from stoners to Ivy League prospects joined the scene, and soon there was an even mixture of people from all backgrounds. Silver prided himself on the inclusivity of the sport, stating that both the athletic and non-athletic could both enjoy the sport. Wham-O Master, the first official frisbee distributor, became the disc of choice for Frisbee Football enthusiasts.

You’d likely not recognize the rules for Ultimate back when the sport first started. It was fairly open to interpretation, and people could gather as many as 30 players on a single team. However, Silver, Bernard Hellring, and Jonny Hines—all creators of the sport—narrowed down the rules to fit a better recognized team sport. Teams were whittled down to 7 players, and just like in basketball, they prevented running with the disc.

Ultimate Frisbee History

Referees became a thing of the past as people took refereeing on themselves. When the Columbia High School developed a lit parking lot, it became much easier to play, and the official length of the field was determined by how long the parking lot stretched. Soon, people were playing at night, during weekends, and on holidays. When the founders went off to university, they printed off the rules and hung them in the school.

Many of the rules are still used today, though there have been many alterations. In the fall of 1970, more schools had developed their own teams, and high schools battled it out with each other. The news spread to the Newark Evening News, and other schools around New Jersey begged to have the rules, and the New Jersey Frisbee Conference was formed in 1971 to accommodate the growing interest in the sport.

Of course, the founders developed their own Ultimate Frisbee tournaments. The game of Ultimate Frisbee became so popular that the first intercollegiate match was scheduled to occur between Princeton and Rutgers in 1972.


Ultimate Frisbee has come a long way, and it’s only just beginning. People from all over the world connect with players, both professional and amateur. Both Ultimate Frisbee and its sister sport, disc golf, continue to dominate today as more people are introduced to them. Ultimate Frisbee has its own line of discs, and there are thousands of tutorials online, perfect for the beginner. With all the excitement surrounding the sport, it’s no surprise it has a cult following. So, if you’re ever in need of a team, head to your local Ultimate Frisbee game.


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