Healthy Happenings (10/12)

Every so often, I hope to interview someone regarding their fitness, foodie, or healthy lifestyle endeavours as a way to mix up my blog posts.  Enjoy!

Meet Toronto’s Martha Paterson.  She’s a wicked athlete who has made fitness a priority in her life; now that’s what we like to hear around these parts!  She’s also my best pal, but I don’t think I’m biased when I say that she’s a superstar.  What’s most interesting is that she’s taken her passion for athletics (we played university soccer together) to a whole new level over the past few years in one of the fastest growing sports in North America.  

Martha started playing high level competitive Ultimate Frisbee five years ago on a Toronto women’s touring team, Lotus. She went on to play for a combined Toronto/Ottawa team, the Capitals, and most recently played for Team Canada this past summer. She has competed Internationally at the World Club Championships in Prague, Czech Republic (2010) and in Osaka, Japan at the World Ultimate Championships (2012), not to mention an array of national championships in which she adorned several gold and silver medals. 

How did you get involved with ultimate?

I originally started playing ultimate when I was 16.  The director at the soccer camp I was working at was an avid player with the Toronto Ultimate Club. As a competitive soccer player, he noticed my athleticism and convinced me to play with his league team. At the age of 16 (and the youngest on the team by at least 10 years), I wasn’t quite convinced. It wasn’t until after I graduated from university that I started to take the sport seriously. I was still playing soccer on my provincial team, but slowly began playing ultimate more and more. I thrived on the competitiveness of the sport, the similarities to soccer, and the social aspect of it. Originally, I began touring with a friends on a co-ed team, but as I improved I realized I could take it further and started playing more competitively. As with any high level sport, to take your game to the next level you have to switch to single gender, so I made the switch to women’s about 5 years ago and since then have competed both nationally and internationally.

Is ultimate recognized as a sport or a game?

Ultimate Frisbee is officially recognized as a sport. Within Canada, the sport of Ultimate is governed by Ultimate Canada which, besides organizing the Canadian Ultimate Championships and the Canadian University Ultimate Championships and now the Canadian High School Ultimate Championships, promotes the growth and development of the sport throughout the country. The sport itself has evolved with a specific set of rules and regulations.

If that’s the case, why aren’t there any referees?

Self officiating in Ultimate is an important aspect of the ‘spirit of the game’. However, when you play at higher levels you do have Observers that are similar to refs in that they can make active line calls as well as have final say in foul calls if the teams cannot come to a resolution. It is my opinion that in order to take the sport to the next level (i.e. the Olympics), Ultimate will need to adopt some kind of refereeing system. However, there is something to be said about being able to play in a league where each team plays by the rules and ‘refs’ themselves.

That being said, I know that camaraderie is a big part of the game.  Do you find this has a big influence on the whole ultimate experience?

Camaraderie is a very important aspect of the sport and something that my team strives for continually. One of the biggest contributing factors to this is that we play without a coach so each person on the team is held more accountable for their level of commitment and dedication to being a team player. Another contributing factor is that most teams are made up of young professionals – everyone has responsibilities outside of the sport (i.e. careers, families, school etc), therefore it’s important to be able to switch focuses when you are on the field and having a unified team helps to keep everyone on the same page. 

How does ultimate play a role in your fitness goals/regime?

Ultimate Frisbee is probably one of the best workouts you will ever get. At my level of competition, we train continuously. At the height of our season, we practice twice a week with a third day for fitness, not to mention tournaments almost every weekend. Our fitness regime usual consists of a combination of interval training on the track and plyometrics/agility workouts. During the off-season, we are in the gym strength training twice a week. I also play on a women’s indoor league here in Toronto as well co-ed league teams in order to keep active during the long winter months.  

What about ultimate fashion?  I know that’s a topic worth discussing!

Fashion is a big deal in Ultimate Frisbee which I am sure comes as quite a surprise to most people. Ultimate has its own unique style and it’s all about sublimated jerseys, long shorts, crazy designs, logos and ‘who has the best gear’. There are several companies in North America and Europe who create gear specifically for Ultimate. A Canadian based company and a long time supporter of my club team is VC Ultimate. Teams work with designers to create concepts for their uniforms, and then VC will make it come to life- for me that usually involves a lot of neon or something bright. When you attend Ultimate tournaments, it’s often about what kind of gear you can find and furthermore, when you compete internationally most tournaments will have actual jersey trading nights where you can trade jerseys with other teams from various countries.  So far, I’ve traded my Canadian jerseys with players from Columbia, Hong Kong and the USA. 

Ultimate is relatively new to the athletic world.  Where do you see it headed?

Ultimate Frisbee is currently the fastest growing team sport in North America and it is only continuing to grow. Not only can you play in a league in your city, but Universities are creating varsity level ultimate teams and some are even offering scholarships. Elementary schools and High Schools are offering teams for the younger generation to get involved as well as including it in their phys. ed curriculums.  You can attend ultimate Frisbee camps and there is even a semi-pro league that started last year in the states (followed by Toronto this spring).  Toronto will actually be hosting the U-23 World Ultimate Championships in July 2013! 
As it continues to receive worldwide recognition, I see the sport heading towards the Olympics. At the end of April this past year, WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation- the international governing body of the sport of Ultimate,) submitted an application to the International Olympic Committee for official recognition of the sport of Ultimate. This is a huge step for the sport and although it may take several years for this process to come to life, I think it just goes to show how far that Ultimate has come in the athletic world. 

What life opportunities has ultimate given you that you’d otherwise never have experienced?

Ultimate Frisbee has allowed me to travel all over the world from Japan to the Czech Republic, across the United States to places such as Florida, Boston, Philadelphia and all across Canada. I have competed at Canadian Nationals, winning the gold twice and I have also had the opportunity to compete at the USA Nationals in Sarasota, winning the silver in 2010. Ultimate Frisbee has also allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream: competing for my country. This past July, I represented Canada in Osaka, Japan at the World Ultimate Frisbee Championships. Being able to wear the red and white was one of the most incredible experiences in my athletic career and one that I will never forget. I hope to do it again in 4 years! Playing competitive ultimate has also allowed me to forge lifelong friendships with my teammates and has provided me with a vast network within the “ultimate community” that is like no other.  

Team Canada beats the USA for the first time in almost 10 years- Japan ’12.

Who would you recommend ultimate for?  Do you need much experience?  

The amazing thing about the sport of Ultimate is that anyone, regardless of experience or athletic ability, can play. There are leagues for every level of experience, from beginners, intermediates all the way up to competitive, touring and national.  If you are new to the sport a co-ed league team is a great way to make friends and get some exercise!

Any tips for people interested in joining a league?

Get out there and play! Go to your local Sport and Social club or see if your city has their own ultimate club and sign up.  Equipment needed: A pair of cleats and a disc!

Describe ultimate in just 3 words!


Thanks to Martha for filling us in on her Ultimate experiences and international adventures with the sport. She is living proof that you can be a highly successful athlete and still rock a beautiful blonde ponytail- definitely Femme Fitale approved! :)

For further information about joining an Ultimate Frisbee league, Google search for clubs within your local community!  

Information regarding Team Canada Ultimate:

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