Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Engineering in Ultimate

One of the classic debates that can start up in a pub or on the Ultimate road trip is what is a sport. It gets interesting once you get into machines as part of the competition. For example, in the last Olympics, the UK's dominance in indoor cycling was partly due to their technologically advanced suits and bikes, which have been locked away until the next Olympics. Obviously, the athletes are still an integral part, and I'm sure if I strapped on the suit and got on those bikes I would still be passed by most cyclists other than my fiancee.

What about cars? This weekend the F1 series started back up. this weeks winner was a Brit who had been sitting at the bottom of the tables until all of a sudden the engineering team came up with a top notch car. Engineering wins the day, but is it a sport?

For Ultimate, the two major engineered devices are our cleats and the disc (the cones, braces, and clothing also to some degree). The disc is common, for the most part, and the cleats a loved discussion by many a player. Is the toe cleat useful? How important is lightness? How comfortable are they? I'm sure the cleat has some impact on performance, but I'm not going to get into those details.

The discs, on the other hand, are made by companies and we try to keep them roughly the same. When talking to the guys at Daredevil, I was wondering why is it so hard to copy the more popular Discraft. The reason was along the lines of how the plastic recipe, the cooling, and the mold are all guarded secrets that would be hard to replicate (and expensive).

For the sake of some imagination today, what if Ultimate was crossed with F1? Instead of one disc, each team was allowed to bring a disc that met some set of specification rules. On alternating points, the discs would switch (or maybe halves), and the opposing team would get 20 minutes with your disc to learn it's nuances. Imagine now, your team plays with a disc that is weighted so that flicks roll over faster (how you do that is for the engineers), and your strategy limits hucks because of the roll. Sounds interesting, but is it a sport?



John Hope said...

The latest WFDF rules (2009) actually state:

3.1. Any flying disc acceptable to both captains may be used.

3.2. WFDF may maintain a list of approved discs recommended for use.

So under those rules, you can use your theoretical anti-huck disc.

That said, changing the disc changes the sport. Same as the equipment in any other sport - rackets, clubs, sticks, balls, bats... it's all limited deliberately so that balance can be maintained.

higy said...

The UPA has a similar rule.

IVA. Any disc acceptable to both team captains may be used. If they cannot agree, the current Official Disc of the Ultimate Players Association is used.

AlanJ40 said...

That picture is ridiculous...