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Showcase your Sport: Q&A with IFDA President Ian French

In our new series, ‘Showcase your Sport’, in association with the Federation of Irish Sport, we will be giving you a thorough insight into some of the most fascinating sports we have in Ireland.

This week our focus is on the Irish Flying Disc Association and to explain more about the fast-growing sport of Ultimate Frisbee is President of the IFDA, Ian French.

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What sports are incorporated under the Irish Flying Disc Association? 

The IFDA is responsible for disc sports including Ultimate, Beach Ultimate, Disc Golf, Freestyle, Guts, and Individual Events.

What are the rules of Ultimate Frisbee? 

Two teams of seven players compete on a playing field about the same length as a football pitch, but narrower.  At each end of the playing field there is an end zone, similar to an American Football end zone.  A team scores a goal if one of their players catches the disc in the opposite end zone.The player with the disc may not run with it. They move the disc by passing to team-mates in any direction.The defensive team gets possession of the disc if an offensive team’s throw is not caught by a player of the same team e.g. it’s intercepted or goes out of bounds. 

There are also variants for Indoor and Beach, both are 5 a side instead of 7 a side and take place on a smaller pitch.

Photo: Meghan Choy

Do Irish players compete on the international stage? 

The IFDA sends teams to international events every year. International events feature 3 divisions – Mixed, Open and Women’s – and there are separate events for different ages. Every year we send teams to compete in U17 and U20 European or World Championships. Every 2 years the World U24 Championships are held and we send teams to compete. The European and World Championships are held on 4 year cycles. 2019 was the last European Championships and our most successful ever with our Women’s team taking home the gold.

How many clubs are there in Ireland?

We had 30+ teams enter IFDA club tournaments in 2019. At the moment our teams are mostly based in the bigger cities (Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Galway), but we are continuously looking to expand Ultimate communities. We have a Club Starter programme ready to roll out to bring Ultimate to more of the country, once it’s safe to do so.

When did you get involved with the IFDA? 

I have been playing Ultimate since 2006 and first volunteered with the IFDA in 2009. I’ve been involved with the IFDA committee pretty much every year since. I was elected President at the start of this year and we’ve been working hard as an organisation to get ready to restart when we can.

What is your favourite aspect of your role? 

Working in a fast-growing sport is really exciting and rewarding. You can really see the difference made by all the volunteers working hard to grow the sport through helping to run tournaments, setting up coaching in schools, and working alongside the IFDA to create inclusive playing opportunities for all. We have come a long way since I started playing in 2006, but there’s still so much potential for growth. We’ve been creating structured development initiatives and programmes that will be ready for when sport can resume—I can’t wait to roll them out later this year. 

Photo: Ben Condell and Siege of Limerick

Why should people try Ultimate? 

Firstly, there’s something innately fun about throwing a disc and watching it fly, or chasing one down and reaching to grab it at the last second. But no matter where you start playing, everyone knows what it was like to learn that skill for the first time and the community of players is always willing to teach. It’s also cheap to get started – all you need is a good quality disc (around €10) and something to mark out a pitch with. There’s no other expensive equipment or facilities needed. One of my favourite aspects of the game itself is that it always requires teamwork. As the person in possession of the frisbee can’t run, even the most athletic and talented player needs their teammates involved to score.

How can they get involved?

If you’re an adult or in college, we have a list of teams on our website: https://www.irishultimate.com/ . Teams are always happy to welcome new players so don’t be afraid to get in contact! You can also keep an eye on the events on our website for information about upcoming leagues that you can get involved with. 

For schools we can offer a starter pack and support to try out the sport. More information is available on our website: https://www.irishultimate.com/schools-ultimate 

Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.