The high-flying sport of ultimate soars into Scouting with new alliance

Ultimate-at-2010-jamboreeTossing around a flying disc isn’t just for picnics or lazy days at the beach anymore.

That activity gets a shot of adrenaline in ultimate, a sport that combines the nonstop movement of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football.

Unlike some other sports, ultimate is non-contact, so it’s safe. Participants call their own fouls, so it helps build character and honesty. And the only equipment you need is probably already in your garage, so it’s inexpensive.

Safe, values-based, inexpensive and (most importantly) a ton of fun? Sounds like the perfect activity for your next pack meeting or troop or crew campout.

Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America announced a new alliance with USA Ultimate, the national governing body for the sport of ultimate in the United States. (Read more on Scouting Newsroom.)

This alliance makes sense for both sides. USA Ultimate gets its fast-growing sport in front of millions of potential participants. The BSA gets access to resources for a sport that aligns perfectly with its SCOUTStrong Healthy Living Initiative.

There’s also this: USA Ultimate is offering a limited number of free Learn to Play kits to Scout units. Each kit consists of 10 discs, a clinic guide, cones, posters and stickers. 

Because these kits are in limited supply, there’s an application process to ensure that, for example, two units that live a mile apart don’t each receive kits. They would be asked to share one kit instead so there are more to go around.

Apply for a USA Ultimate Learn to Play kit at this link. If you don’t get a kit, you’ll still want to explore the resources at the USA Ultimate website to introduce this sport to your Scouts or Venturers.

Why ultimate?

Ultimate isn’t your typical sport, and Tom Crawford isn’t your typical executive.

The CEO of USA Ultimate uses phrases like “wicked fun” to describe the sport he says is perfect for Scouts and Venturers.

Sure, ultimate will help Scouts keep themselves physically fit in a way that makes them forget they’re getting exercise.

But it also helps Scouts keep themselves mentally awake and morally straight.

Any contact in ultimate is a foul, but there aren’t any zebra-striped officials patrolling the sidelines. Players in this sport call their own fouls, something Crawford says builds character.

“With built-in conflict resolution and values-building, the character-building elements of ultimate are incredibly powerful,” he says.

Yeah, sure. But the Scouts and Venturers I’ve seen playing ultimate — on the lush lawn of the Villa Philmonte, at national jamborees, at summer camp — are having too much fun to realize they’re getting their characters improved while playing.

That’s the real beauty of ultimate.

Going up

Lots of sports, including football, are losing participants. Ultimate is gaining them.

It’s easy to see why with a glance at the USA Ultimate YouTube channel. This sport is seriously awesome.

Today’s teens are seeing ultimate tournaments on ESPN and highlights from them on SportsCenter’s Top 10. You can understand why they’d want to give it a try themselves.

Ultimate has a “really good ‘cool factor,'” Crawford says. “It’s a nontraditional sport, which a lot of kids are looking for these days.”



  1. Take it up a notch, deck yourself out in glow sticks and ropes, get an LED Frisbee and make it a night game. This is totally fun.

  2. One sentence in there makes me twitch: “Unlike some other sports, ultimate is non-contact, so it’s safe.”

    “Safe” is not black and white, safe and not-safe. Getting out of bed in the morning is not safe – a friend broke her leg getting out of bed. (It was asleep and she collapsed on it.)

    If you’re running around, there’s always the chance of trips and falls. If you have a heart condition, exertion could be fatal. Even if contact isn’t allowed by the rules, it can happen by accident.

    The implication that “non-contact” automatically means “safe” seems particularly wrong. Square dancing involves contact; is it less safe than this? Parachuting is non-contact; does that make it “safe”?

    You can talk about “more safe” and “less safe”, but when you say “unlike some those other activities, this one is safe”, you’re setting an unrealistic expectation of perfect safety.

    I’m sure this sport is safer than many. I’m also sure that it’s less safe than others.

  3. Yep, safe. Oh, the fond memory of a scout coming off the field of disk saying “Mr. SM, I think I broke my nose!”
    Evidently, his face met the back of another scout’s head.
    And, the best line from the camp medic: “Nose broke. Go hospital!”

  4. LOVE this partnership. My son was first exposed to Ultimate as a Cub; it was a sport our den leader could have the kids play and the jocks and the non-jocks were on equal footing. Then, when we joined the Troop, the SPL was a player (He made it to a national team or two, even). Ultimate became the game to burn off energy. My son played again at his OA Ordeal weekend. And now, he’s the JV captain of a team that won the state high school championship this past year. He plays on Club Cup teams. Winter leagues. Summer leagues. And because of my experience as a Scouter, he asks me to fill a car with his teammates and schlep off to tournaments, informing each player of car rules based on … past Scout adventures.

    As for the “safe,” claim, the research I’ve done shows that Ultimate has as many injuries as every other sport. Maybe “safe” refers to the lower risk of concussion, since it’s a no-contact sport, and when players know the game, accidental collisions are rare.

    • Yes, to clarify, compared to most other popular youth team sports like football and lacrosse where contact is allowed and encouraged, Ultimate is less prone to injury especially serious injuries. AND as one gains better field awareness and experience, incidental collisions become extremely rare. AND once a player is formally coached as to proper field positioning and cutting you see even less incidents. Conflict resolution is taught as a matter of normal course and play can be as intense and athletic as ANY sport.

  5. Love this! I have been playing Ultimate since summer of 1984, and had a roaring good time with 2009 Philmont Crew 719-M-1, at Head of Dean. The other crew’s advisors thought we were completely nuts for getting out there with the boys and playing too … I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!

    Photos, you say? … but of course!

    … and on non-contact not meaning safe … all things are relative. Yes, you can get your teeth knocked out in this non-contact sport, or twist a knee, or all manner of other injuries. And if you’re an old fart like me, you can drop dead of a heart attack, too. (and at Philmont, you could have a bear wander into the game, and I supposed it’s only fair to let him be on your team, cause my team has a bear already, and a good ‘ol bear, too!).

    … and having thoughtfully considered the risks, and I’m playing anyway. It’s safe enough for the reasonable and prudent — and if you don’t want to play, you don’t have to.

    We don’t need a clock, or a ref, or anything more than a tree for a marker, but we’re going to make life memories, … and we’re going to play again at the Raton train station.

    oh yeah … final score: 6-5, we win!

  6. But wait – I thought that you could not shoot something at another person cause it conflicts with the pooting shorts guidelines. No water guns or water baloons – but you can with a flying disk?

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