What is a community? A bunch of people that get together for a shared hobby, a social unit for a social cause, or an organization where people just meet to vent out? Since “Community” has been an important part of my life, it has always fascinated me to dig deeper. To understand what fuels it. It has taken me to places, speak to people, and speculate it’s importance more times than I can count.
The closest conclusion that I have been able to resort to is we humans have an inherent need to belong. To a group of people that we can call our own. It’s a feeling with an underlying comfort, “We are not alone”.
One such deep-rooted community in Surat is “Surat Ultimate”. Even though it has existed for a long time, almost 10 years now, not many in the city know about it. A community comprising players from a range of age groups, more than 300 currently, playing this fun sport. One common trait amongst them is their endless love for a flying disc. Another noteworthy piece about ultimate is that it is a mixed-gender sport (played in 4:3 or 3:4 ratio) with no referee whatsoever. Charming right? Now let’s listen to the players in their community talk about this not so common game.
To understand the gist of a community without really being a part of the community is not easy. To make it relevant though, we have put together a list of questions/answers, so as to try and get an in-depth perspective from these aerial players.
1. How will the world be different by having this community?
- We don't know if the world will be different, but we can safely say that it has changed the lives of many people once they did join, including us. It has allowed us to travel the country, make friends from around the world, understand a deeper level of equality. It has opened up so many opportunities and networks. A safe and open community that is ready to help out anyone who asks.
2. How is diversity defined and what is its role?
- Diversity plays a very major role in the ultimate community. The thing about the ultimate frisbee is that you don't need much to play, just a disc and some open space to run. This aspect brings together people from all over the spectrum with diverse - cultures, age groups, gender, languages. Different genders as it is the mixed-gender sport. And even different kinds of socio-economic backgrounds. The role that 'ultimate' has played in these diverse situations is to weave us all together in a refreshing manner. Believe it or not, it doesn’t matter where we come from or who we are. The only thing that is important is we show up to practice sessions, have a will to get better, and play together.
3. How do we want our members to treat each other?
- Ultimate frisbee is unique with respect to other sports, with it being self refereed even at championship levels. This immediately means that there is a lot of onus upon the spirit of the game (SOTG). It is each individual's responsibility to stand by their integrity, trust their teammates and opponents even when it comes to making difficult decisions at crucial game win-or-lose situations. We feel a lot of that respectful treatment often transitions from off the field, looking at the experienced players that exist in each of these individual communities throughout India. It’s important to have an openness in conversation and an idea of a safe place when it comes to sharing opinions and feelings.
4. What is the aspirational way of life our community promotes?
- Our community has players ranging from students belonging to humble backgrounds to very successful women/men in their line of work. It's a community filled with role models that helps the younger players (irrespective of their economic status) to set higher goals and believe that they too can someday reach where they desire to. There is a constant network of support and guidance amongst each other, in terms of aspiration as a player as well as an individual.
5. What is the “vibe” of our community?
- We think our community has a very sassy vibe to it, considering players with a difference of 20-25 years of age, playing on the same field every other weekend. The game started off as a friendly game in the USA where some kids decided on a structure and added rules to throwing a disc in a school parking lot. It has always been a friendly game, with lots of people using it to stay in shape or get fit, considering the amount of running and endurance that the game demands. With friends and family very commonly chilling on the sidelines and catching up in tournaments. Again we're all about the spirit of the game, understanding various cultures, and respecting an individual for the way he/she is on the field.
6. What does the ideal community look like?
- We already are the ideal community :) With respectful disagreements & no age-bar friendships. People from all over the country stitched together for the love of the sport and being able to help each other irrespective of our backgrounds.
7. How does it use language, visuals, and objects to strengthen its identity?
- Since we come from different states, cities, even countries many times, the onus of calls in the match is on us. We have subtle handle signals that strengthen our identity. We think because we speak different languages, we are left to understand each other despite the barrier, and that definitely strengthens us. So Players at every level are expected to know these common hand signals in our sport, so as to call different violations. These visuals are Universal.
9. How do people join the community?
- There are ultimate frisbee teams and clubs in all of the major cities in the world/country. With the community and sport still growing and developing, people from the community are always almost eagerly looking for new players. Everyone is welcome to join training sessions, tournaments, and even just to hang out if that's what you're looking for. And most sessions are free of cost. Most people get introduced by friends or family. If you or someone you know might find it nice and sweet in our community, they are most welcome. They can always look up Ultimate Frisbee India on Facebook or follow/message @suratultimate on Instagram.
10. What is considered “out of bounds” misbehavior?
- We take pride in treating each other with respect, being fair towards our teammates and opponents because the sport relies so heavily on SOTG. Anything other than this would be considered out of bounds. Screaming, Shouting, Blaming, all fall in this. Frankly we don't see much of it, just the fact that everyone else around you embodies and adheres to these qualities is important as a player and the same traces to being a more cosmopolitan human being.
11. Who runs the community?
- The World Flying Disc Federation is the international governing body for flying disc sports, with responsibility for sanctioning world championship events, establishing uniform rules, the setting of standards for, and recording of world records.
- In India we have a similar body called the UPAI (Ultimate Players of India) which is responsible for decision-making.
- In Surat we have USET (Ultimate Surat Education Trust) a.k.a Surat Ultimate community.
12. Where does the community meet regularly - physically or digitally?
- As mentioned, each city has its own teams who usually practice separately on their respective grounds around 2-3 times a week. As for in Surat we practice on the weekends at KG Farms in FountainHead School.
Digitally we have different channels that you can become a part of once you join a team, ranging from WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. A lot of our news and updates you can find on https://indiaultimate.org/ or follow https://www.facebook.com/groups/ultimateindia/ and https://www.facebook.com/SuratUltimate/
Weaving a sense of belonging through a sport, through play, getting fit along the way, what can be better than that? We know for a fact that these players are itching to cleat up and get back on the green. And, we hope they do very very soon.
Over the next few weeks, we will reach out to more such communities of the city and try and understand different aspects of their respective communities. Are there any communities you think would be an interesting feature of our blog series? Let us know.
This blog is written by our beloved community member Linkee Arora who is an integral part of Surat's Ultimate frisbee community. She is a digital media entrepreneur