Ultimate Frisbee 2

Yorktown High School senior Hunter Schumacker makes a pass during Ultimate Frisbee competition in April 2016.. (Photo by Patrick Kane)

Arlington school officials are aiming to be regional and statewide leaders in introducing the sport of Ultimate Frisbee to a wider audience.

School Board members in mid-August are slated to approve its addition to the ranks of intramural sports in county middle schools, high schools and specialty programs, with competition starting in the fall.

“This is a first step,” Superintendent Patrick Murphy said at the board’s July 20 meeting. He called plans to add the sport “something that we’re very proud of.”

Ultimate Frisbee already is a growing niche sport among Arlington youth, who play on club teams that, while representing individual schools or groups of schools, have no direct involvement with the school system.

That will change if the School Board OKs the program for intramural (“co-curricular” in school-speak) status.

Under the proposal, each secondary school or program will field teams for girls and boys, with practice taking place in September and competition running throughout October. The estimated $92,000 cost of managing the program and funding equipment and uniforms will be carved out of the existing school-system budget.

School Board Vice Chairman Barbara Kanninen, whose sons have played Ultimate Frisbee at the club level, pressed to add the sport to the school system.

“It’s a great step,” she said of the sport’s moving up to intramural status.

Kanninen expressed hope that other local school systems will add the sport. “Maybe we’ll be building as we go,” she said, noting that the city of Fairfax’s school system has expressed interest in following Arlington’s efforts.

Adding Ultimate Frisbee to a crowded fall sports season is not without its challenges. Michael Krulfeld, director of student activities at Yorktown High School, mentioned availability of field space in a season dominated by football and field hockey, plus finding sufficient numbers of athletic trainers, as areas to be worked through.

Availability of field space also was cited as a concern by Tyrone Byrd, the school system’s new director of secondary education.

“There’s a challenge there,” he acknowledged.

But Murphy said the kinks could be worked out in coming weeks, and that the greater good was served by getting the program up and running for the 2016-17 school year.

“We need to recognize opportunities for students and provide them with a host of activities,” said Murphy, who began his educational career as a physical-education teacher.

Ultimate Frisbee – often known just as “Ultimate” – is a non-contact sport featuring seven players on each side competing on a 70-by-40-yard field. Teams score points by successfully passing flying disks into end zones. The disks only can be moved by passing; players can’t run with them.

While it has not been a team sport locally, Arlington schools have offered Ultimate Frisbee in physical-education classes, said Debbie DeFranco, supervisor of health and physical education for the Arlington school system.

The sport – which admittedly has a slightly counterculture vibe to it – developed in the groovy 1960s, with the first intercollegiate game held in 1972 between Rutgers and Princeton. (Rutgers won, 29-27.)

The sport is not recognized by the Virginia High School League, but eventually could be if enough school systems across the commonwealth show interest. But that could take years, as supporters of girls volleyball found when they attempted to get the sport added.

During the July 20 School Board discussion, no voices were raised in opposition to the proposal. A final vote is slated for Aug. 18.

(8) comments


This is excellent! So glad the county recognizes a sport that is very popular with kids and adults; requires nothing more than a $6 disc to play; focuses on excellent sportsmanship and physical conditioning; and provides a lifetime of exercise and fun. Kudos.


There are enough APS sports programs for student athletes. The $92,000 should be used to augment teenage obesity prevention programs and non-sports physical fitness programs.


This is a very cheap anti-obesity program, and augments current clubs in the area. By your argument, no sports would meet the test for public funding.


Give the Taxpayers a break! Next it will be $10 million for a "boating related facility" on and near the Potomac. After millions are being spent on new drive-thu drop-offs for SUV soccer parents. None of this garbage has anything to do with education. Elitist parents and their spoiled brats play, Seniors on fixed incomes pay.

Dump the Democratic School Board and elect Independents !

APS Parent

This step is fantastic for APS! Ultimate frisbee is a sport that kids of all abilities can play. Furthermore, far less resources are needed to field a team as compared to many other sports. With the growing numbers of kids in the APS system, there is a need for more sports opportunities. Hooray!


How much will this ultimately cost the taxpayers? How much present passive unreserved open space will be eventually dedicated to this 'sport'? Just because another member of the Democratic Regime wants something does that mean the taxpayers have to fund it? Haven't Democratic County Board member Jay Fisette's pet interests already cost taxpayers hundreds of millions over the past 20 years, with no end in sight?


This is a reallocation of existing funds. It must be terrible to deal with the neck pain from these reactionary responses.


This will cost ZERO as it will reflect a redistribution of funds. Further, the $92,000 is a very high estimate; t-shirts and discs for a few hundred kids won't add up to anything like that. Let them play and stop complaining about things you don't understand.

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