Five Best Flying Disc Sports

Throughout this article, I will be referring to games as “team disc” or “flying disc” games.  Due to trademark reasons, I cannot use the vernacular that is often attributed to nearly all these games.  But if you need help remembering what these “discs” look like, I highly recommend you take a hard look at the included graphic representation.  That should help.

It is easy to stereotype who is throwing flying discs around: long-haired, typically tie-dyed listeners of the Grateful Dead who are only doing it because they lost their favorite footbag (honestly, this is another trademark reason – from the same company).  Yes, it is an extremely simple activity to partake in while, say, waiting for Dave Matthews to come out and jam at Bonnaroo.  But this round plastic disc has morphed into something of greater significance over the years.

Ideas have been born, games have been played, and money has been made.  That is the sign of a true sport isn’t it?  The truth is that a basic flying disc has been utilized to create some of the most played games in our nation’s history, and is also part of a new wave of sport-hybrids that could potentially be the next big thing if given a big push by league organizers.

5.  KANJAM

We’ve mentioned KanJam within the pages of this magazine before, but when this topic came up, several members of our staff immediately turned their attention to this unique take on flying discs.  Consisting of two teams of two, the object of the game is to use teamwork to get the disc to connect with two can-style goals.  Unlike more traditional games, you can score in three ways: by deflecting the flying disc into the side of the goal, hitting it on your own, and slamming the disc down through the top of the can.  Each have different point values, and it even has an “instant win” move, which happens when the disc glides into the small slot on the front of the goal.

The game is rising in popularity, leaving the confines of college campuses (where most of these sports seem to be born) and making its way into the childhoods of kids around the country.  The owners of KanJam have moved close to 15,000 kits on their website, as well as contracted with school districts to include the game in gym classes.  With the popularity of kickball and dodgeball growing everyday, this is nothing but a good sign for an up-and-coming obscure sport.

4.  Schtick Disc

Developed at Rice University in the 1990’s, Schtick Disc is a modified version of the more popular flying disc game Ultimate.  The football field is cut down into two “worlds,” each owned by one side.  Two “scoreboxes” sit in the exact middle of these circles, and players must handle multiple discs to score goals.  The biggest deviation from Ultimate comes from the allowance of players running while holding the disc, a big no-no in the Ultimate realm.  The addition of extra discs and the ability to move with them makes Schtick a more tactical game than Ultimate.  When each team is in possession of the disc, both teams have to balance their offensive attack with a solid defensive presence.

Perhaps the construction of the game and the frantic nature of its play will always keep this as a curiosity, it is a fresh take on Ultimate that adds a more high energy element to its already winning formula.

3.  Dodge Disc

When you set out to introduce a new sport, sometimes you have to borrow from another.  Heavily.  And in the case of Dodge Disc, you just replace a ball with a disc.

Born from the minds of the Japanese, this game is simply dodgeball with flying discs, and can be played in a multitude of locations: beaches, gyms, even larger sports complexes.  All the rules of dodgeball are intact, but Dodge Disc seems to lend itself more to final shootouts than its rubberball counterpart.  The final battle between two individual participants can be exciting, as each player attempts to wield multiple discs in unison to secure victory.

Surprisingly, this game hasn’t caught on much in the United States, but it is still early in the life of Dodge Disc.  Playing with regular plastic flying discs can be quite dangerous in a sport like this, but there are official dodge discs which are made out of a compacted foam that doesn’t decrease speed, while keeping the players safe from injury.

2.  Disc Golf

The oldest game on the list, Disc Golf is a by-product of the actual invention of the modern flying disc in the early 1900’s.  The passionate resurgence and prominence of the game came in the 1960’s, when municipal parks began to install Disc Golf courses in Ohio.  The modern game of Disc Golf resembles the sport of golf almost identically with small changes to goals and course setup.

The construction of the game is not as interesting as the construction of the courses.  In order to have a true-to-form Disc Golf course, it all starts at the “tee pad,” a usually concrete platform where players can make their drive.  The level surface allows the player to increase their accuracy and throwing power.  At the end of the hole, instead of having a disc-sized recess in the ground (that would look ridiculous), there is a pole hole made of metal and chains called “the basket.”  While this seems like a better option than tossing a disc into a hole, trying to successfully “putt” into the basket is an acquired skill.

Most courses are found on park land, but there is a growing amount of private Disc Golf courses popping up around the country.  Its popularity is said to have peaked during the early 2000’s, but evidenced by the increasing number of Disc Golf teams popping up at universities and the presence of the Pro Disc Golf World Championship, this sport seems like it is here to stay.

1.  Ultimate

Come on – you knew that this was going to be number one.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game (and whoever you are, for shame!), Ultimate is basically football without all that hitting.  Oh, and it is played with a flying disc.  While the rules of football are well-known, Ultimate deviates in small, but important ways.  A player cannot run with the disc, as forward movement can only be achieved when the disc is thrown.  The use of a regulation football field remains the standard, but the game can be modified to accommodate changes in venue, like beaches or even streets.

Ultimate is the most widely played of the team disc sports, with national collegiate championships taking place every year since 1975.  Ultimate clubs at colleges and elsewhere are common across the United States, and international play has commenced with the United Kingdom jumping on the bandwagon within the last couple of decades.  What has cemented Ultimate’s place in the public psyche has little to do with its slow global growth and more to do with physical education programs utilizing the game in their curriculum – something the upstart KanJam disc game has recently accomplished.

I developed my love for Ultimate in gym class during high school, but it could never truly flourish because throwing a disc is somehow an un-learnable concept for my extremities.  The best thing about Ultimate is that, even despite a handicap like mine, you can make yourself useful somewhere on the field.  I was good at catching long passes and completing short tosses, so I kind of tracked near the endzone waiting for a play to build.  When an out-of-shape,  but competitive kid can be the MVP of their Ultimate unit in school, you know you are participating in a fairly special sport.

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