This summer, King Edward’s High School for Girls, Birmingham (KEHS) introduced the demanding sport of Ultimate Frisbee to give pupils girls a wider range of sporting activities and to help them cope with the pressures of GCSEs and A-levels.
This once counter-cultural activity has proved highly successful, especially among the driven, high-flying girls who would generally spend hours revising, taking little exercise and among the ‘mavericks’ who don’t enjoy traditional games like hockey and netball.
KEHS English teacher Simon Holland, 27, himself an accomplished player who has represented Warwick University and Brasenose College, Oxford, started an Ultimate Frisbee club in September 2015, mainly for sixth-formers and it immediately caught on. Scores of girls now play regularly and the school even entered a novice team in the National Schools Championships in July.
The school is celebrating a record A-level year, with almost 92% of its exams graded A*-B, 18 of its 80 Upper Sixth formers gaining places to read Medicine and 11 girls winning places at Oxford or Cambridge. Many believe that the chance to relax and unwind through Ultimate Frisbee was partly responsible for the stellar set of results.
“I’m thrilled by our girls’ enthusiasm for Ultimate Frisbee and how hard they’ve worked to develop their skills,” said Simon Holland, who introduced the game at KEHS. “To them it’s a new, exciting sport and something they can become really good at. It’s got a particularly beneficial effect during exams as it gives all of them, particularly those who’d normally be sitting revising in the library, the chance to let off steam and dispel any nervous tension they might have. During breaks and lunch hours, the games pitches are crowded with girls playing Ultimate Frisbee, which is great to see.
“It may look like the ultimate slacker sport but it’s actually extremely tough and demanding and during a high level game which can last up to 90 minutes, players often cover up to 4 miles in short sprints. They also need agility and the ability to jump and catch the disc in flight and playing regularly, they quickly develop aerobic fitness, core strength. It’s a very flexible sport and requires lots of different skills so it lends itself to all body-types and casual players can play alongside experienced ones.”
Lower Sixth former Mohona Datta is a team member and insists it’s helped her stay calm, fit and energetic during her exams.
She said: “I like Ultimate Frisbee because it’s a unique team sport, and it’s been invaluable as it’s one of the only activities I’ve maintained during the exam period as the exercise helps me stay fit – and keep calm and relax throughout the exams.”
The game developed on US college campuses in the 1960s and ‘70s and is usually seven-a-side with rolling substitutions. The rules are based on American Football with points being scored when a player catches the Frisbee in the end zone. Competition pitches are a similar size to a football pitch and scores of British schools, state and independent now play it competitively. There are around 1000 clubs in the UK and it is played around the world, with over 30 countries represented in the world championships and professional leagues in the US.