By Josh Weiner
As classmates at Virginia Tech, NoVA natives Doug Phung and James Lee played Ultimate Frisbee together regularly and also helped to launch a community league in Blacksburg. Once they returned home, however, their options became more limited. No official Ultimate league existed in Fairfax County at the time, and players often had to travel quite a distance for anything more competitive than a casual pickup game.
By creating Fairfax Ultimate in 2014, the two Frisbee gurus and the rest of their staff launched their initiative to make Ultimate more accessible across the region and also to help promote the sport at the high school level, where it is currently overtaken by more popular sports such as basketball and soccer.
“We’re working hard to get Ultimate Frisbee recognized in the area,” says Phung, who now serves as the president of Fairfax Ultimate.
Lee, the current vice president, hopes to expand the group’s geographic range and allow people throughout the county to participate without having to drive too far to get to the nearest game.
“Our mission is to make [Ultimate] widely available in Fairfax,” Lee says. “We want to spread into the southeast and bring it to everybody.”
Summertime is one of prime seasons for Ultimate, given the more favorable weather and the number of community members who are home for the summer and available to play. During these months, Fairfax Ultimate will host rec league games on Sunday evenings from 1-5 p.m. at Lake Fairfax and Baron Cameron Parks. Other options include pickup Frisbee on Wednesday evenings at 8 p.m. at Arrowhead Park in Centreville, as well as introductory clinics that will teach new players the fundamentals of the game.
The next step will be to establish six-week youth summer camps and to keep pushing for a full-scale youth program to be incorporated into the Fairfax County school system. Currently, high school Ultimate clubs are often loosely organized and fall apart once their founding members graduate, according to Phung. Fairfax Ultimate’s upcoming program is designed to serve as a steadier alternative.
“Our goal is to have a league in Fairfax County where it’s a recognized sport with inter-high school tournaments and competitions,” Lee says.
“If there’s a way to grow Ultimate, it would be through youth leagues,” says youth league coordinator Alexis Planche. “By next summer, we want to have some Fairfax Ultimate Day Camps.”
Fairfax Ultimate’s work is far from over, as the group will have to secure space, funds and coaches before these plans become reality. Nonetheless, the staff remains convinced that the work is all worth it, given what fun and positive values the sport provides.
“Everyone is equal,” Planche says of Ultimate players. “They’re all responsible for being the quarterback, the receiver and the referee, all at the same time. The sport teaches conflict resolution, as well. It’s really important, I think, for kids’ development.”
Phung agrees, given the high standards of sportsmanship that the game promotes.
“The Spirit of the Game keeps everyone honest and accountable for their own integrity,” says Phung, referring to one of the founding principles of the sport. “That creates a very friendly environment that makes people stay in the sport for life.”