YOU’RE OFF to college in a new town with some pretty tasty temptations. It’s going to be very easy to find your "Freshman 15" here in the land of deep fried and sweet everything.
But you don’t want to end up with a degree in your hand and a tire around your waist. So here’s a great idea to keep fit, meet new people and have fun.
It’s a plastic disc. Wham-O made the first one in 1957. And if you do what the folks in Forsyth Park do with it, a Frisbee just might keep you off a treadmill.
“It’s super heavy cardio,” says Chris Porcheddu, one of the regulars at Ultimate Frisbee three times a week. Ultimate is the “flying disc” sport invented in 1967.
“Ultimate is supposed to be full speed the whole time,” Porcheddu says. “Someone told me, ‘If you’re not running, you’re not playing.’ And that stuck with me.”
That’s why I love to watch soccer. Ultimate combines soccer’s speed with football’s end zones, basketball’s traveling rule and other quirks to be very popular at the college level.
“I like what it makes you do on the field,” says player Steven Eckart. “There’s a lot of twisting, turning and jumping to try to make a play.” Take that, Zumba!
Another great thing about Ultimate is that other players don’t zing you. Andrew Aarons picked up the sport at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, where he worked as a contractor.
“I was playing basketball at the time but I ended up getting hurt too much,” Aarons says. Ultimate is non-contact. “If there’s a blocking or you push on somebody, it’s a foul.”
What? No slashing the legs and having a referee decide if the player “got the ball first?” No! And while I’m at it, there’s no referee, either! Ultimate relies on friendly consensus.
“You have to have that base level of respect and spirit to make it work,” says Chris Gwinner, a Savannah native who went from the park to professional play in New York.
Gwinner now lives in Guatemala. But he’s one of several connections between Savannah and pro Ultimate. And, more importantly, he hits on the main reason you should try it.
The people involved are just so friendly. Heck, they’re called the Savannah Ultimate Disc Society, or SUDS. You have to love a group that refers to beer in their official name!
“You can come out to Forsyth Park and the people are going to help you learn the rules of the game and how to play,” he says. “The Ultimate community is very welcoming.”
It’s a no attitude zone that’s also co-ed and free. Only a few players go “way back.” And those that do, you want to know, like Kristin Russell, co-owner of the Sentient Bean coffeehouse.
“There’s maybe three of us that have played the whole time that I’ve been in Savannah,” Russell says. “Almost everybody else is new over the course of the last five or six years.”
When I went out, SUDS founder Wolf Buckley (you’ll know him) was encouraging new players from the sidelines and chiding a chummy dude inappropriately dressed.
This guy made the only mistake you possibly could make on your newbie Ultimate outing. Just remember to bring a white shirt, a colored shirt or both. That’s how they identify teams.
“No shirt means nothing to me,” Buckley says. “And a grey shirt’s even worse.”
Your extracurricular workout won’t seem like a workout if it begins Sunday afternoons at 1:30 or Tuesday and Thursday evenings at six on the Whitaker Street side of the park.
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.