For untold centuries, man has wished to be master of the skies. In his desire to get off the ground, he invented balloons so he could mingle with the birds. When he grew tired of playing with these feathered tribes, he built airplanes so he could ascend to far higher realms of the atmosphere. And when he desired even more, he designed spaceships so he might cast off from the moorings of earth altogether.
However, during this time the “little” man was still left on the ground, unable to finance his own trip and too disconcerted to make it a voyage of fantasy.
What was needed was a catalyst for his imagination—and then came the Frisbee …
At colleges and universities around the globe, on beaches, secreted in office cabinets awaiting the lunch hour, in backyards, tucked into hiking backpacks, and loaded into cars along with dogs and peanut butter, this upside-down ex-pie pan has the world in its grip.
Should there be any berators of this fastest-growing of all sports, I bid ye beware! The world is not being duped by these plastic whatchamacallits—for there is more to them than meets the hand.
The mysterious attraction they inspire in people of all ages is virtually unexplainable. As one newspaper attempted to explain, “For the frustrated athlete, it’s an outlet; for the freshman coed, it’s a mixer; for the stores, it’s a gold mine.”
And there are even those who turn to aesthetic reasons for the pursuit of this sport. The poets of this popular platter say: “There is something peaceful about a Frisbee,” “It seems to have a life of its own when it soars,” and “There’s something naturally beautiful about the first time you see a Frisbee fly.”
I would suggest four reasons for the sport’s popularity:
1. It is cheap. A Frisbee can be bought at most dime stores for as little as 88¢. The more expensive model is $3. Also, the mortality rate on these objects is low; nature has created no Frisbee-eating predators—at least not yet.
2. It requires about as much physical conditioning as a brisk game of chess. The Frisbee player need not be the muscular behemoth so familiar to persons who watch football. Nor must he be blessed with basketball height. In fact, with a little practice anybody can toss one around and may even find himself trying some trick shots after only a few enjoyable hours.
3. No large or specially equipped field is necessary for the playing of the sport. A Frisbee game can take up the area of an entire football field and yet can be played in the smaller halls of older buildings.
4. Young people of today see throwing a Frisbee as a true amateur sport, one that is not overburdened with regulations. Frisbee has remained unique in that its performers forsake personal monetary gain and glory in favor of the joys of friendly competition. It’s not whether they win or lose that counts; it’s how the Frisbee flies.
Indeed, it can be said that its spinning has started a revolution of sorts, for there is even an International Frisbee Association, which has a membership of over 65,000 aficionados.
Legends of the Frisbee’s origin are many and for the most part apocryphal. One school of historians contends that the statue of the famed Greek athlete Discobolus was, in reality, a man with a Frisbee. The explanation: the sculptor was too tired to hollow out the stone from the discus.
Another version holds that a nineteenth century Yale scholar, one Elihu Frisbee, revolted against the passing of the collection plate in Episcopal chapel by seizing the platter and sailing it mightily in the general direction of the university quad.
And now, with many screen celebrities listed among its devotees, Hollywood has claimed that it all started during the 1940s when film editors relaxed at lunch by tossing empty film cans.
Actually the modern Frisbee was born when a man named Fred Morrison watched several Yale students tossing pie plates and making a game of it. He conceived the idea of a plastic model to be used worldwide, and the Frisbee was under way.
It was only recently that Frisbee moved across the sometimes-thin line that separates toys from sporting goods, leaving behind the Yo-Yo, the pogo stick, and Super Balls. It used to be that Frisbee was about as competitive as two kids on the ends of a teeter-totter. That was before they started the annual worldwide Frisbee championship and the competition for the Julius Nachazel Memorial Trophy. Nachazel is a somewhat shadowy figure who reportedly showed up at a Frisbee tournament, chased an errant toss in the woods, and was never seen again!
Competition has its snags, too. Contestants take the risk of incurring the feared Frisbee “finger,” as it has been named by the Manchester Guardian in England. The malady occurs when catching a viciously spinning Frisbee at the wrong angle, resulting in a fractured fingernail.
However, those nipped by the Frisbee fever let nothing stop them. They envision infinite possibilities. Frisbee golf and Frisbee horseshoes are beyond the planning stages and are now being played. And then there is … oh, oh! It’s time for lunch—time to quit writing and join everybody else at the park. I can’t stand to waste a single minute of frisbee time!
Try Your Hand at the Frisbee Amateur Test
If you want to see how your Frisbee skill stacks up against the International Frisbee Association (IFA) amateur requirements, try the test that follows. Or, if you’d like to try for master or expert standing, write the IFA for its manual and complete details (Box 38428, Los Angeles, California 90038).
Draw a circle 12 feet in diameter on the ground. Fifteen yards from the center of the circle, draw a foul line. You must deliver your flights from behind the foul line.
The catcher is free to move anywhere within the twelve-foot circle but is prohibited from stepping outside of it during the accuracy test. You may elect to pass any or all of the proficiency tests within the thirty-minute maximum time period allowed in a given twenty-four-hour day. Within each of the following groups, the flights are to be completed in any order but consecutively. If the flight is properly executed and the catcher fails, it will be judged to be a completed flight. (See illustrations below)
[Frisbee Throwing and Catching]
Group 1—Two Straight Flights
A. BASIC GRIP
Hold Frisbee with thumb on top and index finger just under the rim. Middle finger should be extended toward center with third and fourth fingers curled back against the rim.
Feet should be spread about same width as your shoulders, with throwing side aimed at target.
B. BASIC SWING
Start back swing with arm extended toward target. Roll Frisbee into body as you bring arm back. Wrist and forearm should be coiled like a spring. Keep edge of Frisbee away from body, tilted slightly down, with edge toward target slightly raised.
C. FLAT THROW For Straight and Distance Flights
Start throw from shoulder, extending arm toward target. Keep wrist coiled until arm is extended; then snap wrist in a whipping motion, spinning Frisbee. Throw with your wrist and follow through. As you start throw, step toward target. Important: Keep Frisbee in same plane during throw. Form is everything.
Group 2—One Right-Curve Flight Group 3—One Left-Curve Flight
D. CURVE FLIGHTS
Same as flat throw, but Frisbee is tilted in direction of desired curve. Position body in direction of throw and allow for curve. Experiment; increase tilt to increase curve. Don’t throw hard.
Group 4—One Hover (or Floater) Flight
(Note: Bob Meize says, “In this shot the Frisbee seems to stop over a catcher’s head and hover like a flying saucer. I throw this one downwind and try to get a lot of spin without too much forward momentum.”)
Group 5—One Skip Flight (to be executed on any hard surface)
E. SKIP FLIGHTS Backhand or Underhand
Contestant makes two throws that hit ground and skip as shown. This should be done on fairly hard surface. Award two points if throw skips into circle after hitting the ground. Flight is good only if Frisbee skips once.
Technique of Skip Flight
Start with same motion and position used in fairly tight curve left. Frisbee should hit ground on edge about halfway to target, skip, then fly up to catcher. Don’t hit ground flat.
Group 6—Distance Flight (candidate must obtain an average distance, in four flights—two upwind and two downwind—of not less than 20 yards)
High wind throw low—Low wind throw high!
Repeat any two flights in the above groups 1 through 5 using opposite method of delivery; i.e., if backhand was used, throw underhand.
The candidate must be able to catch two consecutive flights of any type thrown for a distance of 15 to 20 yards using only the right hand, and two consecutive flights of any type thrown from a distance of 15 to 20 yards using only the left hand. Note: These catches should be done consecutively. However, another try is given if the flights are not properly executed.
For the Advanced Student
For those who wish to try the more complicated shots that qualify one in the expert and master categories, here are a few of them:
(Note: Bob Meize says, “The boomerang requires a lot of accuracy. You throw the Frisbee straight up against the wind in a very wide curve. Snap your wrist hard for a lot of spin. If you’ve judged your curve right, the wind will bring the Frisbee back.”)
“The most important thing in throwing the Frisbee is your wrist snap and follow-through. You have to keep your wrist parallel with the ground as you snap it. When you let go, extend your arm straight out—sort of as in bowling.”—Bob Meize, fourteen-year-old New Mexico state champion
One-Handed Behind-the-Back Catch
One-Handed Between-the-Legs Catch Both feet must be on the ground.
Index Finger Catch
Use either the right or left hand only.
Frisbee football, known in many circles as Guts Frisbee, is, as the name implies, the most grueling Frisbee contest. Frisbee football looks pretty wild—bodies leaping in the air, falling in diverse positions; hands reaching out to grab a plastic disk; and most of all, laughter mixed with the tense moments. While there are several variations of the game, it has been and will continue to be the ultimate test of a competitor’s true mettle. Here’s how it’s played:
1. Two teams of five persons each face each other 15 yards apart. Each person puts himself an arm’s length away from his own teammates so that the playing field is about ten or twelve yards wide.
2. A line drawn in front of the players is a foul line. Players who step over it lose a point. The same applies to lines along the side.
1. The Frisbee must be thrown at members of the other team. If it hits in front of the foul line, goes wide of the sidelines, or flies too high above the receivers, the catching team gains a point.
2. If the Frisbee is within reach of a player who is unable to catch it with one hand, one point goes to the throwing team. If he catches it, no point is scored.
3. If the receiving team lets the Frisbee touch the ground or a player uses two hands for a catch, the throwing team gains a point.
4. Scoring is counted as in table tennis (Ping-Pong). The team that reaches 21 points first is the winner. A team must win by 2 points.
1. Only one-handed throws and catches are allowed.
2. Proper catching position is fingers up, thumb down.
3. Any number of players may touch the Frisbee, and the third or fourth person to touch it may make the catch. However, the first person to touch the Frisbee must be the one who throws it back. If it flies foul, then any person may return it to the other team.
4. A catcher may not trap a Frisbee against his body, but he can trap it against a teammate’s body.
A Few Tips:
1. Try to keep the throws low.
2. Since the first person to touch the Frisbee must throw it back, aim for the weakest thrower on the other team. In positioning the players for your team, the best players should be the center three, because the majority of throws will be received by players in these positions.
3. It is a distinct advantage to a team to have one left-handed member, since there is considerable difference in judging the flight of and catching a Frisbee delivered with a left-handed spin.
4. As the Frisbee approaches, every member of the team should be in motion, either to the front, side, or rear of the catcher. Specific coverage positions, depending upon the primary catcher, high or low throw, and so forth, should be discussed in advance by the team so team members can move up instinctively.
One other thing: while you’re learning, make the two lines 20 or 25 yards apart. Even at that distance, there will be plenty of action.