In the world of Ultimate, a non-contact Frisbee game combines the best aspects of soccer, basketball and football. Players need to be fast and strong… they also have to have a basic, working knowledge of physics.
If you think physics can get in the way of making Frisbee an exciting sport, you’re wrong. A reporter for The Times in London went out to experience the game and came back a believer.
“Throws of 100 yards, vertical leaps and horizontal dives all kept my adrenalin flowing … this was sport at its most exhilarating and dynamic.”
The rules to the game of Ultimate are simple. They dictate the length of the playing field, called the pitch, as well as Frisbee (disc) movement, scoring and self-refereeing, and fouls. The most important rule in Ultimate is the spirit of the game – where sportsmanship, fair play and respect is encouraged above all else.
Did you know? There are teams with names such as Fun with Disc and Jane, Ewes Huck too, and What the Huck?
An Ultimate Toss: The Huck
The ultimate move in Ultimate Frisbee causes the disc to fly nearly the full length of the pitch. It is called the huck and is most often used to get the disc into the endzone and score a point.
“You need to have a heck of a strong arm and a really good spin on it,” said Laura Temmel, who plays for team Ruckus.
She has been playing for six years and is still trying to achieve the perfect huck.
Step One: Arm Mechanics
With experienced players, the move is most often completed using a forehand throw, or “flick”, where the disc is held out to the side of the body and released from the wrist.
Newer players often stick to the more intuitive backhand toss, which uses the whole arm plus wrist motion to provide spin and direction to the disc. Either way, the huck requires a strong wrist and throwing arm.
Step Two: Disc Physics
When the player lets go of the disc they will have caused it to spin by flicking their wrist, but they have also kept the disc horizontal. The players know that without the spin, their disc will go nowhere. Once out of their hands, there are two aspects to how the disc flies: lift and gyroscopic stability.
The disc is like a wing because air flows over the top and bottom of it. There is high pressure on the lower side and lower pressure on the top side; these two forces together suck the disc upward in a motion called the Bernoulli Effect. The disc pushing down on the air while the air pushes up on the disc gives it the lift against gravity. When the disc slows down there is less suction and gravity pulls it to the ground.
Did you know? To throw a perfect huck lift doesn’t work alone - the disc is like a gyroscope.
A gyroscope is device that once is spinning it resists changes to its orientation. The phenomenon can also be seen in other areas including Ultimate Frisbee as gyroscopic inertia. The spinning acts to keep the disc flat as it moves through the air. Without this effect, the lift would cause the disc to flip over and fall out of the sky like a rock; not letting it get to the end zone and possibly turning possession of the disc over to the other team.
According to Temmel, having control is the key, because a good huck is both accurate and fast. “A good huck covers a lot of distance,” she said, “You need a lot of muscle and therefore lots of practice.”
With ultimate games going on in nearly every city and almost any field, there are many opportunities to get out and huck a disc.
The Ultimate Handbook
What is Ultimate Frisbee
Angela Hill BSc, BJ, is a journalist and photographer currently working at a daily newspaper. She has no patience with food photography and was a little scared by the thought of an exploding hot dog. She spends her time photographing people and hopefully exotic places.