The Frisbee sports are an eclectic group of activities that center upon the use of a flying disc to achieve the object of the particular game; Frisbee is both the trade name of one of the many discs in use throughout the world today, as well as the accepted generic term for any sport disc.
The history of the flying disc as a sporting device can be traced to Yale University in the period prior to World War II. The Yale students invented games that involved the tossing of metal pie containers through the air. The first commercially marketed flying disc was sold in 1948, constructed of a hard plastic material; the Wham-O company produced its first patented Frisbee in 1954. Other manufacturers followed with their own discs, and the "Frisbee toss" was a popular pastime into the 1960s.
The appeal of the Frisbee is rooted in its aerodynamic properties. When thrown gently, the disc appears to float in the air, making it a relatively easy object to both throw and catch. The disc moves in a manner that creates different air speeds above and below the disc. When the leading edge of the disc is tilted to create an angle of attack, the slower moving air below the disc creates an upward pressure on the disc that serves to keep it aloft longer. The movement of the Frisbee in the air is subject to the similar forces at work in the function of an aircraft wing, a phenomenon known as the Bernoulli principle.
In the hands of an expert, and subject to wind conditions, a Frisbee may be thrown hundreds of feet, and it's flight characteristics permit numerous kinds of trick throws.
Many flying disc sports were developed as a result of the popularity of the Frisbee. The best known of these games, each of which has attained a world wide following, are Ultimate Frisbee, Disc Golf, and Freestyle.
Ultimate Frisbee was created in 1966 in New Jersey, where it soon gained a following among high school students as a game that required team work and creativity in which to succeed. The first ever university Ultimate game was played between teams from Rutgers University and Princeton in 1972. The World Flying Disc Federation, WFDF, was founded in 1984. Today Ultimate Frisbee is played in over 30 countries and it is contested as a world championship on an annual basis.
The most significant feature of Ultimate Frisbee is that it may be the only competitive sport that does not require a referee or judge of any kind; the players themselves enforce the rules of the game. The general object of an Ultimate Frisbee team is to advance the disc across the opponent's goal line into an end zone on a field 110 yd (100 m) long and 45 yd wide (37 m) through passes that may be made in any direction. No player may hold the disc for longer than 10 seconds at a given time, and a change of possession between teams occurs where the disc is intercepted, where the disc strikes the ground on a pass, or where the disc is caught out of bounds.
As physical contact is not permitted, Ultimate Frisbee has proven to be a very popular game for mixed gender teams. Agility, speed, and lateral movement are the attributes of a successful Ultimate player.
The object of Disc Golf is similar to that of the conventional game of golf. A Disc Golf course is constructed to require each player to throw their disc towards a target hole; as in conventional golf, the player who takes the fewest throws to place their disc inside the target on each hole will be the winner. The rules of the game also provide for penalties where the disc is thrown out of bounds or into a water hazard. Disc Golf courses are often laid out in wooded areas, to create as many natural obstacles as possible for the competitors. Formal Disc Golf courses exist in all 50 American states, and in over 20 countries world wide.
Modern Freestyle Frisbee evolved as a distinct disc sport in the early 1960s, through groundbreaking tournaments such as the International Frisbee Tournament and the Canadian Open Frisbee tournaments of the early 1970s. Competitors participate as teams, where team performance is judged for its style and technique.
There are a number of ways in which the Frisbee may be thrown effectively. The most common throwing technique is the backhand, where the player stands sideways to the target. The player grips the disc with four fingers on the throwing hand under the rim of the disc, and the thumb above. With the weight of the player shifting from their back foot to the lead foot, the disc is released with a circular arm motion. At an angle of attack of approximately 30°, the disc tends to fly effectively as it generates lift.
Players wishing to develop greater power in the Frisbee throw may adopt a sidearm delivery, slinging the disc with two fingers with a snap of the wrist on delivery. The "thumber" is delivered in a similar fashion to the sidearm throw, with the thumb under the disc and the other four fingers on its top. The disc can also be thrown in a fashion similar to that of the Olympic discus.
Frisbee sports do not demand a particular body type for a successful competitor. Hand eye coordination, agility, and a measure of flexibility are important physical characteristics for competitive Frisbee. Jumping ability is especially advantageous to Ultimate Frisbee, as the disc is often thrown into circumstances where an offensive and defensive player will jump to attempt to secure the disc.