PSAL Takes the Ultimate Out of Ultimate Frisbee


William Fisher

Members of the 2017-2018 Ultimate Frisbee Team at Bronx Science.

There is a group of athletes at Bronx Science who have been lacking credit for their efforts. They work and practice just as hard as any other student athletes, play games against other schools, and even go to tournaments outside of New York State. Despite this, these athletes do not receive the same benefits and recognition that actual Public School Athletic League (PSAL) teams do. If you haven’t guessed already, they are the members of the Bronx Science Ultimate Frisbee Club.

For the past seven years, the Ultimate Frisbee Club has operated in a peculiar manner in a constant state of purgatory between being a regular club and a sports team. It participates in a citywide ultimate frisbee league, playing against other schools in the city, as well as in tournaments outside of New York State. However, when the club leaves the school, while its participants may wear Bronx Science clothes and cheer Bronx Science chants, as far as the Public School Athletic League is concerned, it does not officially represent Bronx Science. Not only this, but members do not receive the same credit that they would if they were on a PSAL team; they are unable to opt out of physical education classes or receive the same NHS credit as students do who are on other sports teams, despite putting in the same amount of effort.

This all seemed as if it would change this year, when rumors began to surface that ultimate frisbee would be included as an official sport with the PSAL, the governing body for all New York City athletics teams. However, the rumors proved to be false, and in reality, ultimate frisbee continues to be excluded from the PSAL as an official sport.

Ultimate frisbee doesn’t have the greatest reputation amongst the student body at Bronx Science. Many students simply see it as a hobby that requires little effort, and they don’t see it on the same level as they do “real” sports, such as those that have been in the PSAL for a long time. However, as the members of the Ultimate Frisbee Club know, this isn’t the case.

In ultimate frisbee, players have to be able to master multiple kinds of throws and use them to pass to teammates anywhere on the field. Players must also be able to outmaneuver their defenders on offense, as well as quickly switch to defense and guard those same players who were just guarding them. During games, you will see players sprinting up or down the field and laying out for catches or blocks. It clearly takes as much skill and strength as the other PSAL sports offer.

Despite this, the negative perception of ultimate frisbee persists amongst the student body at Bronx Science. One of the reasons for this is that students are simply unaware as to what the ultimate frisbee club does. Since it is not a PSAL sport, students aren’t encouraged to go to the games, and the team’s victories aren’t announced over the loudspeaker, or on the Bronx Science website. Tomer Poole-Dayan ’19, President of the Ultimate Frisbee Club, said, “I think that if students knew that we’re just as committed and serious as other sports teams, and if they saw us practicing four times a week and going to tournaments all over the east coast, they’d have a much better perception of ultimate frisbee.”

Ultimate frisbee’s lack of recognition by the PSAL has had other negative effects. It discourages many athletic students from participating in a sport that they might have ended up thoroughly enjoying. Instead, most students choose to join sports such as Track and Field or Lacrosse, which have the benefits of being a PSAL sport, or not join any of the spring sports at all.

The foundation is already in place for ultimate frisbee to become a PSAL sport. There is currently a league among the ultimate frisbee club teams across the city run by DiscNY, a group that seeks to promote ultimate frisbee in the metropolitan area. This league is composed of teams from twenty-five NYC schools and has features that are similar to the PSAL sports leagues, such as a predetermined schedule, different divisions, and playoffs. However, it lacks the proper funding, meaning there are fewer games and fewer fields on which to play.

“I think if they knew that we’re just as committed and serious as other sports teams and if they saw us practicing four times a week and going to tournaments all over the east coast, they’d have a much better perception of ultimate frisbee.”

A representative from DiscNY, Andy Borinstein, gave many reasons for ultimate frisbee to be included in the PSAL, including the fact that it is a low-cost sport, it does not require referees (since the players settle conflicts themselves), and it allows both males and females to become involved in the sport (something the Board of Education has been attempting to accomplish). In addition, he also said that private schools such as Horace Mann, Riverdale Country School, Poly Prep Country Day School, and Packer Collegiate Institute all recognize ultimate frisbee as a varsity sport. However, Borinstein also stated that becoming a PSAL sport is a difficult process, with table tennis being the most recent sport recognized.

There are certainly abundant obstacles to ultimate frisbee becoming a PSAL sport. The fact that there are no referees is both a blessing and a curse. While not having referees allows players to settle disputes among themselves, it also presents the possibility of an unresolved argument occurring, which is something that doesn’t occur in a sport with referees. Additionally, according to Andy Borinstein, “There has not been a concerted effort to convince [the] PSAL that ultimate[frisbee] should be recognized.” This means that school administrators citywide have not yet fought as hard as they can to get ultimate frisbee accepted into the PSAL.

William Fisher
Bronx Science Ultimate Frisbee players during a practice meet.

Despite the obstacles, it is definitely worth the effort to make ultimate frisbee a PSAL sport. One of the obstacles, the lack of referees, could also be thought of as a benefit, since it allows students to work disagreements out among themselves rather than turn to an adult for answers. Not only that, but the amount time that school officials would need to put in to convince the PSAL to include ultimate frisbee will be worth it in the long run, as more students become exposed to and become passionate about it.

All in all, ultimate frisbee is an amazing sport, requiring lots of skill and strength, and it brings joy to those who play it. Making it a part of the PSAL official roster of sports would encourage other students, both male and female, to join. Not only this, but a club league for ultimate frisbee already exists. For these reasons, ultimate frisbee should become a PSAL sport.