Students Enjoy the "Ultimate" Sport

Ultimate Frisbee

CHICAGO, IL (November 14, 2008) – Seminary student Luke Johnson, like a growing number of students on college campuses and in youth groups across the nation, is an Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast. In fact, it’s one of the reasons he chose to attend North Park. The University’s Ultimate teams have increasingly established a national presence in the sport, in both men’s and women’s competition.

According to the Ultimate Players Association (UPA), Ultimate Frisbee (often referred to as Ultimate or Ultimate Disc) “combines the non-stop movement and athletic endurance of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football.”

The game was started around 1968, and students at a New Jersey high school codified the rules. It was conceived as a sort of anti-sport in that it was open to anyone regardless of athletic ability.

Each game is played by two seven-player squads with a high-tech plastic disc on a field similar in size to that of football. The object of the game is to score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. A player must stop running while in possession of the disc, but may pivot and pass to any of the other receivers on the field. The game emphasizes sportsmanship, with players making their own calls in lieu of referees. Such actions as the taunting of opponents, dangerous aggression, intentional fouling, or other “win-at-all-costs” behavior must be avoided by all players.

“I think the sport fosters character in the way that others can’t,” says Johnson.

More than 40 players participate on North Park’s men’s team (dubbed the The Lost Boys in a literary reference to Peter Pan’s compatriots). Roughly 30 people play on the women’s team, Allihopa, which is Swedish for “all together.”

Sophomore Luke Peterson of Northbrook, Illinois, notes that neither team has tryouts. “They are open teams, they do not exclude anyone, but allow everyone to come and participate,” says Peterson, who enjoys the camaraderie. “The boys on the team not only supported me as a friend, but provided a model of modern Christians that I could relate to,” he adds.

The men’s and women’s teams are also strong supporters of each another.

Senior Kelly Marshall says the women’s team lives up to its Allihopa name and has been a source of encouragement. “I play because I enjoy being in community with my teammates,” she says. “The brother– and sisterhood that is created between our girls and guys has and continues to provide me with amazing friendships and partners in Christ. . . . Together as teams, we are able to share a common joy and passion of playing and also struggles in our faith.”

The idea of starting a team germinated with Johnson in 2000 while he was a student at the University. He and some friends invited a group from Wheaton College to play at North Park.

“We wondered, ‘“Why are they wearing cleats?” says Johnson, who admits he and fellow North Parkers didn’t quite know what they were getting themselves into.

The men’s team officially became a University extracurricular activity in 2001 and played its first contest in 2002. The women’s team was formed a year later, and has become even more successful. It is now one of the top 40 teams in the country. Team captain Marshall says she and her teammates hope to advance beyond regional to national competition. “Our chances are looking good with an even tougher squad than in the past,” she says.

The men also anticipate a stronger showing and are not making any plans that might conflict with tournament time in the spring, which is considered the regular season. The Lost Boys recently captured a tournament title that included teams from schools as large as the University of Illinois. The team finished its season last year ranked 56th out of more than 600 squads.