The Ultimate Cost of Ultimate Frisbee

Flickr user Chuck Grimmett

My summer starts with the first outdoor game of ultimate frisbee. Over the last 15 years, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on this sport. Although there are ways I could make it cheaper, my love of ultimate has reached an intensity where money doesn’t seem to matter.

For the uninitiated, ultimate frisbee is like a combination of soccer and football, except the ball is a plastic 175-gram disc. You cannot run with the disc. You have 10 seconds to release a pass. If the disc is not caught, the other team gains possession. Each point starts with a pull from one end zone to the other. To score a point, a player catches the disc in the end zone opposite from where they started. No physical contact is allowed. Players self-referee. Spirit of the game is fundamental. Newbies are welcome. If you show up to your first game in sneakers with a toy disc in hand, no one will laugh at you (much). It’s simple, fast-paced, and fun.

It’s also, in theory, nearly free. Check Facebook or Pickup Ultimate for free games. You will need a disc, which costs $10. Get a Discraft Ultra-Star and ignore the other brands. Buy the cheapest soccer cleats you can find. Wear athletic clothing. Bring water and a lot of energy. Other ways to save:

  • Check with your ultimate friends and local Facebook groups for sub requests. Lone rangers wandering the fields in search of freebies won’t have quite as much fun, but if you have skill and spirit you will be welcome. Take advantage of the chumps who pay but never show.
  • Join a team, be the most spirited or most successful player, and win spirit or MVP prizes.
  • Make friends with captains and conveners and take any leftover or outdated swag off their hands.
  • Get a reversible jersey so you can get by with fewer shirts.
  • Wash your clothing immediately after every game. You’ll never run out of clean gear, and you may have more luck than I’ve had not splurging on new clothing.
  • Keep duct tape handy to fix your cleats when they fall apart.
  • Carpool!
  • Get to the fields early to claim your share of free tourney food. But always bring your own electrolytes.

Once you develop a love of the sport and start playing a few games a week, you’ll need more gear. It’ll get worse when you start playing tournaments. Let me explain how I’ve managed to drop thousands of dollars.

  • Ultimate shorts. Five Ultimate is popular in the USA, but VC Ultimate is the best.
  • Bro tank or sublimated jersey to support your favourite team (go Team Canada!).
  • Extra cleats. I rotate through 2 or 3 pairs and buy them as cheap as possible because I wear them out fast. You can also go the high quality route and buy ultimate cleats from Shoe North.
  • Athletic socks. More important than you think, if you don’t like blisters. I buy expensive wool running socks and supplement with sports tape and toe caps.
  • Tournament swag, and the duffel bags to hold it.
  • Gloves, because sweaty hands make for slippery discs.
  • Sunscreen. And aloe vera when you don’t use enough sunscreen.
  • Nutrition. The green bananas and bagels with peanut butter provided at most tournaments may not work for you.
  • Post-tourney celebrations and post-game libations.
  • Gas for long drives to out-of-town tournaments.
  • Knee braces, ankle braces, KT tape, foam roller, epsom salts, blister bandages, and gigantic bottles of ibuprofen.

I estimate my costs for playing ultimate this summer at $1,700. That includes $500 for tryouts, clinics, team fees, uniforms, and registration; $480 for cleats, clothing, and accessories; $320 for food and drink; $300 for transportation and accommodations; and $100 for essential sundries like sports tape, sunscreen, and ibuprofen.

Insane? Maybe. But to me, it’s worth every cent. Ultimate frisbee can be as cheap or expensive as you make it. Either way, it wouldn’t be summer without it.

This article is part of our ‘Summer Series’ collection. Read more stories here.

Laura Joldersma plays a lot of ultimate frisbee, which this summer means four nights a week plus seven tournaments. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

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