Anthony Nunez coached the New York Empire and helped them win back-to-back championships in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL), the world's largest professional Ultimate Frisbee league.
Ultimate is a 7-on-7 field sport that combines elements of football, basketball, and soccer. It is not to be confused with disc golf, which is golf that uses a series of discs, or Frisbee golf (as George Costanza calls it). They often pass through trees and into chain baskets.
But when Nuñez wants to talk to friends and colleagues about his and his players' activities, the league's name often complicates the conversation. People often confuse Ultimate with Disc Golf.
“I can't tell you how many times I have to tell someone, 'Frisbee is only called Ultimate because it's a name owned by Wham-O.' We call it Disc,” said New Jersey. said Nunez, a Maplewood native. He played at Columbia High School, where the rules for Ultimate were first codified in the late 1960s.
Now that it has officially changed its name to the Ultimate Frisbee Association (UFA), life will be much simpler for Nunez and all the players and coaches in the 24-team league.
Owned by sports investor Rob Lloyd and his family and based in Los Gatos, California, the league has a long-term license for use with Sports Dimensions, Inc. (SDI), owner of the iconic Frisbee® trademark. A contract was signed. It's called Ultimate Frisbee, but he declined to say how much he paid for it. The league, which owns each team individually, also declined to provide financial information, but UFA CEO Steve Hall said on a phone call that the league is not making a profit.
“That's right. We're still in growth mode,” Hall said.
Virtually all current players have regular jobs because the league doesn't have enough salaries to live on. Some teams are getting more creative with compensation, such as housing or other paid positions within the team, to attract top talent.
As part of the partnership with SDI, which Hall said took about a year to put together, the company will supply Frisbees to retailers such as Walmart, WMTWMT Target, and Dick's Sporting Goods, and as a result, the sport of Frisbee The aim is to spread awareness of the issue. Ultimate Frisbee. Hall said that time would be 2025.
Asked whether UFA would benefit financially from this sale, Hall said, “Regardless of who made it or what distribution channels were used, both SDI and UFA will continue to support the sale of Pro Frisbee.'' “We are benefiting from this,” he said.
Several types of discs will be available at these large stores. Both the traditional, inexpensive Frisbee that you throw to the dog or play with your dad in the backyard, and the new Professional Ultimate Frisbee (also known as the Aria Disc) sold by UFA. It will be used in all games starting in the 2024 season. Hall said the UFA Player and Coaches Committee will be “at the heart” of innovation and “tweaking” new designs and innovations.
Some of the new Frisbees will be engraved with the names and images of top UFA players, such as Empire's Jack Williams.
“That's the general perception,” Hall said in a phone interview. “The most important thing is recognition in the broader community, and we don't have that recognition right now. But to use the familiar phrase, the ultimate Frisbee that most people know, it's our It helps to elevate the sport and at the same time helps elevate the Frisbee brand from a toy to a sports equipment.
“So being able to have branded professional Frisbees in TargetTGT and Walmart is a huge deal for us because of our ties to the general community.”
Wham-O, which also invented the hula hoop and the Superball, trademarked the word Frisbee in 1958, about a decade before students at Amherst College and Northfield Mount Hermon began pioneering the team sport, which they simply called Frisbee. registered. It is also known as Ultimate Frisbee. The rules of the sport were eventually codified by students at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. One of them was Joel Silver. The Matrix, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon movie.
When former Columbia High School players went on to college, many of whom settled in the Northeast, they became the Johnny Appleseeds of the sport and helped bring the game to college campuses.
“More than 60 years ago, Wham-O introduced a new product called the Frisbee, and soon the new game was born on college campuses and sports fields across the United States,” SDI President Curt Rios said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be partnering with UFA to bring Frisbee back to the official sport of Ultimate. We could not be more proud that Frisbee is a part of professional Ultimate competition. We look forward to working with our athletes to create the next generation of competitive Frisbee products used by the best players in the world.”
The new UFA has a three-letter acronym similar to NFL, NBA, and MLB, while also presenting a simpler and clearer vision of what sport it represents.
“This is a gamble for both the future of the sport and the future of Frisbee as a sports device. To me, that's the most important factor,” said the author, who co-wrote ULTIMATE – The First with me. said film director Tony Leonard. 40 years. “The story is that this sport is a bet on what he's going to be 10 to 20 years from now.”
(Leonardo is currently working on a documentary about the history of Ultimate called “The Lot.'' The film explores the birth and survival of the sport, with and without Wham-O, in the 1970s, when Frisbee was a phenomenon. ).
Hall said UFA is looking to expand globally, mentioning China (where it has a nascent professional league), India, Latin America and the Middle East.
“We have worldwide rights, so we want to see professional Ultimate Frisbee grow all over the world, whether it's under our flag or another flag. '' Hall said. He added that he likes the concept of having different overseas leagues under the UFA regulations.
Ultimate appears to be a top contender for the Olympics, but was not allowed to compete in the 2028 Los Angeles Games. The partnership with SDI is expected to increase awareness of Olympic participation in the future.
“I certainly don't think there's any harm, that's for sure,” Hall said. “If you look at the sports that competed in Los Angeles 2028, there was certainly significant sponsorship and financial backing, so once we started to grow in scale commercially and start getting sponsors, that gave us a boost. We need to get to Australia in 2032. ”
UFA says it has amassed a global social media audience of 1.5 million followers over the past 10 years, producing viral highlight videos with more than 150 million views in 2023 alone. League highlights often appear on ESPN's SportsCenter, even if the general public doesn't know much about the sport yet. (No, I don't play with dogs or play on the beach in general.)
The UFA has unveiled a new logo featuring the silhouette of a player laying out facing the disc, and this logo represents the “thousands of players who sacrificed everything to move the game forward and sought one more game-changing possession.” “I was inspired by the ultimate professional.”
There's an old expression that goes, “When you dream of a ball, you dream of a Frisbee,” and our new logo embodies that sentiment.
Two-time AUDL MVP Ben Jucht said, “Maybe the logo will be something that will be more acceptable to the general public and help push Ultimate into the mainstream.” “But in my opinion, it feels backwards. A good product leads to logo recognition, not the other way around.”
The 2024 UFA schedule will be officially announced in February, with opening weekend scheduled for April 2024. The league's 13th title week, now called the UFA Championship, will culminate on Aug. 23 and 24 at Zions Bank Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah.
And if Nunez's team wins the title again, it will be much easier to explain to everyone what he and his team have accomplished.
Adam Zagoria has competed in College, Open, Mixed, Masters, Grandmasters, and Great Grandmasters nationals during an ultimate career spanning over 35 years. His teams won Westchester Summer League titles in 2011, 2013, and 2021.
Mr. Zagoria is co-author with Tony Leonardo of ULTIMATE – The First Four Decades.”
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