A team of 26 players is set to represent Kerala at Ultimate Frisbee, an inter-State flying disc tournament scheduled in Hyderabad from June 2-4. Preparations have included practice sessions held at training camps at Kolenchery, Chalakudy and Kochi, on weekdays and a few weekends over the past month and a half.
The flying disc game known as Ultimate has found many fans in Kerala, especially over the past couple of years, with active communities playing the sport regularly in Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha and Kochi. Most of the players of the Kerala team are from Kochi, including 11 children who are part of a programme by JustdotPlay, an NGO that works with children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Ultimate life skills
With JustdotPlay Foundation, co-founders Anand Varghese Mathew and Peter J Pulikkunnel hope to use sport as a tool for development, teach kids life skills and gender equality. They began work with children at shelters, rescue homes and government schools in 2021. Eleven children, three boys and eight girls are among the children who are part of the Kerala team. Anand, who graduated from St. Stephens College, Delhi, was part of the college’s Ultimate team, Hawabaaz. “I came across several NGOs that are using sport as a means of development, and thought of doing something similar in Kochi,” he adds.
Explaining how life skills are developed through Ultimate, Anand says, “This sport has no referees, which is great when it comes to conflict resolution. Children learn to sort out differences amicably. Similarly, since the format is mixed, we are able to have a conversation about gender identity, stereotypes and roles.”
Most of us would have thrown a flying disc around, at the beach or in a garden. But Anand Varghese Mathew, the team coach and co-founder of JustdotPlay, informs that the sport has a competitive side. Teams representing Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh will also participate in the second edition of the Bharat Trophy being organised by the Ultimate Players Association of India (UPAI). While the Ultimate community is in its nascence in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, Alappuzha has had an active community which plays freestyle since the mid-2000s.
The current tournament is mixed format i.e. females and males playing in a team. The youngest members of the Kerala team are 12+ and the oldest is 43 years old. While the children are students, the grown-ups span a range of professions.
The players were chosen based on tryouts held in April. The playing team comprises seven members. “If for two points there are four girls and three boys, then the rules specify switching it to four boys and three girls for the next couple of points,” Anand informs. The team that scores 15 points in the 100-minute match wins.
The idea to compete in the national-level tournament was mooted by JustdotPlay following an invitation from UPAI “We got members from the Ultimate teams from the three cities and put forth the suggestion, which was accepted by all concerned,” he adds.