Ultimate Frisbee Coming to Lowell

Lowell is getting a new sport this spring as Zig Zag Ultimate brings a fast-paced Frisbee game to the community.

“In other cities, it’s huge,” says Mike Zaagman, club director and head coach with Zig Zag Ultimate. The game is a varsity sport in Vermont, and there are hundreds of teams and thousands of adult players in Toronto. However, Ultimate Frisbee is still taking root in West Michigan, and Zaagman is an enthusiastic champion of the sport which requires little equipment and is accessible to players of all skill levels.

“Lowell is definitely the type of community we want to be in,” says Zaagman, who has family living in the area. About a dozen players on current teams also hail from Lowell, making it a logical place for the club to expand.

The Lowell Ultimate Club will include two teams initially: one for students in grades 4-8 and another for high school students. Both are co-ed and open to those with experience in the sport as well as those who have never played before.

Practices will be held on the soccer fields at the North Grand River Riverfront Park off Grand River Drive in Lowell Charter Township. The season will run from April to June with an optional spring break camp offered as well. There are three tournament options in May leading up to the state championship in June.

Basics of Ultimate Frisbee

Although commonly called Ultimate Frisbee, the sport’s official name is simply Ultimate since Frisbee is a registered trademark of the Wham-O company.

Zaagman is quick to note that this is not disc golf, which is a game in which players try to land flying discs in metal baskets. Instead, Ultimate is played on a football-like field. Players throw a Frisbee to each other with the goal of getting it into the end zone. You can’t run with the Frisbee and once it’s caught, a player must pass it within 10 seconds. If the disc lands on the ground, that’s a turnover and the other team moves to offense. Games may be timed or played to a specific score.

At the high school and adult level, Ultimate is usually played with seven player teams while the 4-8th grade league may use five player teams. Teams are co-ed and include players of multiple ages. That’s one thing busy parents love about Ultimate, Zaagman says. Their kids can play the same sport on the same team which makes family scheduling simple.

In addition to being a club sport for youth and adults, Ultimate has a professional league: the American Ultimate Disc League. There are 21 teams in the league including the Detroit Mechanix in Michigan. Coaches for the Lowell Ultimate Club are all certified and include a captain of the pro team.

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Ultimate Frisbee: Fun Game for Everyone

Zaagman fell in love with Ultimate from the first time he played as a junior at South Christian High School. He went on to play on a club team for four years at Calvin University and has also played for the Detroit Mechanix. He launched Zig Zag Ultimate shortly after his graduation from college, and since 2012, Zaagman has made it his mission to spread the word about the sport.

“I’m trying to smash down every barrier for someone to play,” he says. That includes maintaining a collection of cleats to pass out to players who don’t have them and creating flexible practice options to fit busy family schedules.

While some people in the league have been playing Ultimate for years, it’s a sport that is easy to pick up and has relatively few rules. Even those who have never thrown a Frisbee before are encouraged to join the club. “[New players] learn so much in the first couple weeks,” Zaagman says.

In a departure from most organized sports, there are no referees in Ultimate, even at the national level. Since players call their own fouls, integrity and sportsmanship are a vital part of this sport. “It forces you to communicate with your opponent without freaking out,” Zaagman explains.

Beyond that, Ultimate provides a fast-paced workout that doesn’t feel like exercise. Players may spend an entire two-hour practice sprinting down the field as they try to get open. The sport is also associated with very few injuries, and men and women are equally matched on the field.

“I can’t imagine where I would be in life without Ultimate,” Zaagman says. He credits the sport with helping him develop communication and leadership skills, and he hopes the Lowell Ultimate Club will do the same for youth here.

To learn more about the Lowell Ultimate Club and how to sign up, visit the Zig Zag Ultimate website.

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