May 7, 2013 at 7:13 AM
WEST WINDSOR TWP, NJ - Since 2010, 4.5 million Americans have played a sport that is fairly common for beachgoers to play during the summer and that number is growing every year. With the sport's popularity growing significantly, professional leagues have formed to invite the best from all over the country to participate.
The sport is known as Ultimate Frisbee and by the professionals, simply, Ultimate.
The original flying disc was created in the early 1920s in Bridgeport, CT by the Frisbie Pie Company, but through the years, the disc has had a few transformations. In 1948, Fred Morrison created first plastic version of the disc which would eventually be used in Ultimate. In 1955, the Wham-O Manufacturing Company bought the patent from Morrison and renamed the plastic disc the Frisbee.
Two men named Jared Kass and Joel Silver created the official game of Ultimate in 1967 at Columbia High School which serves Maplewood and South Orange. Colleges started to pick up the sport and the first intercollegiate game was played in 1972 between Rutgers and Princeton.
Fast forward to 2012 and the first professional Ultimate league ends its first season. The American Ultimate Disc League that started with eight teams grew to 12 and the New Jersey Hammerheads entered the scene.
With the sport returning to New Jersey, the Hammerheads, who play their games at Mercer County Community College, hope to create more of an awareness for the sport within the state.
“Honestly, it is about time that professional ultimate was introduced to the birth-state of the sport,” said Hammerheads’ director of marketing Patrick DeRiso. “The sad thing is, New Jersey has really faded away in the ultimate community due to strong club teams forming in the Midwest and on the West coast. People don't look to NJ as a hot-bed for the sport.”
Currently, the Hammerheads’ roster features one player from Maplewood, Marques Brownlee, but the team hopes to entice more players from around the state to join the team instead of losing them to anyone else.
“Players in New Jersey are spread out amongst various college teams and then have no real strong club-team to turn to,” said DeRiso. “We're hoping that the Hammerheads can become the high-level ultimate team that NJ players will want to aspire to be on."
He added, "When we can accomplish this and continue to draw top-tier talent, we believe that NJ will be back in the spotlight. Then the state can really embrace its roots as the birthplace of the sport.”
The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Kean University's Department of Communication.