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Ultimate: An ideal mechanism for social change


Ultimate: An ideal mechanism for social change

How much consideration goes into choosing the sport that most suitably meets the needs of a project? There are some sports that can provide the essentials for development more easily than others and that depends on many different factors.

Given that there are many sports to choose from as a tool for social change, how do organisations pick one? There are 28 Olympic sports coming up in Rio 2016, 30+ additional sports part of the World Games 2017 and many more that don’t feature in either of those events. One of the key questions is: what makes a sport suitable for sport and development and why? A sport like Ultimate Frisbee (or ‘Ultimate’) seems to meet many requirements.

Mainstream sports have several winning attributes such as greater access to funding, professional career opportunities, a large community to learn from and share with, and existing proven models with research to back it.

However, non-mainstream sports like Ultimate Frisbee also have advantages: there are few pre-existing role models which can influence new learners, niche sports are interesting and unique for potential supporters, and all players start as beginners so there’s less chance of feeling inadequate.

Ultimate Frisbee (recently given official recognition by the International Olympic Committee) has a special philosophy which makes it ideal for sport and development – there are no umpires/referees even at the World Championships. Players themselves govern the game. As the World Flying Disc Federation says, “Competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of respect between players, adherence to the rules, and the basic joy of play.”

A number of additional characteristics increase the sport’s appeal and make it appropriate for use in development programmes:

  • Mixed gender – tackles biases and promotes equality
  • Team sport – collaboration, communication and respect
  • Simple rules – easy to learn leading to early success and confidence
  • Non-contact – promotes peaceful play
  • Inexpensive – coaches only need a disc and space to throw and catch 


There are a few programmes that use the sport already, including Ultimate Peace (Israel), Early Recognition Is Critical (ERIC) (US) and Ahmedabad Ultimate (AU) (India).

Nelson Mandela said “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

This author believes that sport is Ultimate Frisbee. How about you?

Jaidip Patel has been an intern with since June 2016. He co-directed AU from 2009-2011 and his passion for ultimate stems from the sport's guiding values.




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Jaidip Patel


Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - 23:00