A narrative is being woven within the confines of this team huddle on the field, one of gender equality, diversity, inclusivity and empowerment. Heads down, hands on the each others’ shoulders, they hum a silent prayer, before throwing their hands up in the air and shouting “ABCDEF…GK Mad”.
GK MAD is a motley group of underprivileged kids in Delhi that compete at tournaments in a sport that could potentially be a game changer as a way to not only promote social inclusion of marginalised communities but also create a space for players to positively interact with the other gender.
Ultimate frisbee has that potential.
Ultimate is a no-contact, mixed-gender, self-refereed sport that’s played with a flying disc. It serves as a powerful tool for girls and boys, men and women of all age groups to play on an equal and non-judgmental footing.
The game is played with two teams of seven players on the ground as big as a football field but narrower. Each side has an end zone, similar to the goalpost in football. A team scores a point if one of the players catches the disc on the opposite end zone. Unlike football, the thrower doesn’t run with the disc but can pass it to her teammates in any direction. If the pass is intercepted by the opponent, the defensive team gets the disc and now becomes an offensive team and will now try to score in the opposite end zone.
“Playing ultimate is a spiritual experience. It pushes you to be a better human being at every level,” says Benoy Stephen, co-founder of Y-Ultimate, an organisation that started coaching a group of underprivileged kids in Delhi since its inception. GK Mad and GK Crazy, currently among the best teams of New Delhi, are mentored by Y-Ultimate since 2016. They comprise of underprivileged kids that belong to an urban slum in Zamrudpur.
Delhi Ultimate in collaboration with Usha International, Y-Ultimate and 91 Ultimate had recently organised the Delhi HAT 2019 tournament in New Delhi at Jasola stadium that had around 210 players, where more than 150 were kids who were part of the development program of Y-Ultimate.
“Ultimate Frisbee equipped these kids with a sense of purpose and was a fantastic way to instill the values of self-regulation, conflict resolution and gender equality in them,” added Stephen.
The concept of a ‘HAT’ tournament is going to be an essential part of community building to grow this sport that’s still at a very nascent stage in India. Aditya Mazumdar, tournament director for Delhi Ultimate, believes that ‘HAT’ tournaments are all about inclusion. “Players from all walks of life come together to play in this format, where they sign up and are randomly assigned teams. This allows new players, intermediate players and professional players to interact with each other and play as one team,” says Mazumdar.
As per HAT rules, all registered players are divided into teams using a ‘sorting HAT’ and then names are pulled out randomly and teams are formed out of them. Each team hence makes for a good mix of players over different skill level, age and across various communities. “Needless to say that since ultimate is a mixed gender sport, gender equity is a key aspect of the game and also holds the ‘spirit of the game’ (SOTG) as it’s a top priority,” adds Mazumdar.
What Y-Ultimate does is this: It uses Ultimate Frisbee as a tool to imbibe and develop important social skills such as self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness – that enable children to effectively manage themselves and their relationship with others.
In a country where cricket and other traditional sports such as football, badminton, tennis still dominate the mind space of masses, Ultimate Frisbee may not have it easy due to a lack of visibility and understanding of the sport. “If a sport does not enjoy visibility, then the accessibility to the sport is limited. This is why Y-Ultimate strives to make the sport more accessible across India. Usha International has been instrumental in supporting us to work towards this vision,” adds Stephen.