History of Ultimate

The sport of ultimate originated in the fall of 1968 when a student at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey named Joel Silver proposed his idea of a new sport to the student council. Silver had learned about the sport from an instructor, Jared Kass, at Mt. Hermon summer school earlier that year. The next year, the first game was played between students and the sport quickly took off from there.

Within a few short years, the first collegiate game took place in 1972 between Rutgers and Princeton. Coincidentally, the two schools played the first game of ultimate on the same ground that the first collegiate football game was played on exactly 103 years prior, with the result being the same—a two-point victory for Rutgers.

Throughout the decade, the sport grew from its East coast beginnings and soon spread across the United States. By 1973, 23 colleges had Ultimate Frisbee teams, and two years later Yale University hosted the first organized championship tournament. Nearly a decade later, the first College Nationals were held in 1984, with Stanford crowned the winner.

As the number of college and club teams grew, organizing bodies were formed to oversee play. The Ultimate Players Association (later renamed USA Ultimate) was established in 1979 to oversee play in the United States, and has been a leader in growing the sport and organizing tournaments throughout the country. Due to the sport’s growing popularity internationally, the European Flying Disc Federation (EFDF) was formed in 1981. EFDF went on to form the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) to be the international governing body for disc sports. In 2001, ultimate was included as a medal sport for the first time at the WFDF World Games in Japan.

Ultimate has consistently been among the fastest growing sports in the United States over the past couple decades. In just over 40 years, the sport now boasts almost five million Americans who play the sport at least once per year. That growth set the stage for ultimate’s next step: professional ultimate. Founded in 2012, the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) was formed with the mission to increase the visibility of one of North America’s fastest growing sports by creating fun, family friendly events that showcase the sport being played at its highest level. The AUDL has grown to include 24 teams throughout the United States and Canada. In 2017, the AUDL will host 168 regular season games across four divisions.