By Kathie Rowell
Cmdr. Forrest “Woody” Browne, USN (Ret), first tried Ultimate Frisbee while serving in Iraq in 2009-10 with Air Force colleagues who sometimes played it as their group exercise.
After returning to the U.S., he reverted to running and CrossFit until one of his sons expressed interest in Ultimate and they began to play together.
That was nine years ago, and Browne, 57, still plays pickup games about twice a week. He recommends the sport to everyone from teenagers to military retirees like him.
Originally called Ultimate Frisbee and now usually shortened to Ultimate, the game incorporates aspects of soccer and football and is played with a flying disc by two teams of seven. Players may not run with the disc and instead advance it by passing to teammates in any direction.
“It’s going to have a field that’s shaped similar to a football field, and your team scores a point by catching the disc in the end zone, similar to a football end zone. But it’s similar to soccer in that there’s constant movement, and the clock keeps running, the game keeps going,” said Browne, who served 24 years in the Supply Corps and now works for the VA.
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That means cardiovascular fitness is a must.
“It rewards folks being in pretty good cardio shape, being able to run off and on for an hour or so,” he said, adding that soccer players often do well at the sport because they’re used to the cardio demands combined with bursts of speed.
Browne, a lifelong runner, has the legs and lungs to compete — he’s a 10-time finisher of the JFK 50-Mile, the nation’s oldest ultramarathon.
Browne values a unique characteristic of Ultimate — the sport has no referees, even at the highest level. Players rely on the “spirit of the game,” instead of officials, to make calls.
“It’s this attitude of sportsmanship, making the call yourself about whether you’re in bounds or out of bounds — then if there’s some dispute about that, essentially working it out among yourselves instead of having a third-party referee that’s sort of the boss,” Browne said. “I like that. It’s kind of a nice thing in terms of problem-solving and the spirit of teamwork.”
What keeps him motivated to exercise?
“I like to eat,” he said with a laugh. “I guess I got in the habit of exercise during my time in the service, but even before that I liked exercise. Runners sometimes joke about running to eat and eating to run.”
Browne encourages others to check out the sport.
“It’s a sport that ages well,” he said. “I’m not a young guy anymore, but since it’s non-contact, there’s still the chance to compete well and have lower risk of injury than some other sports.”
Kathie Rowell is a writer based in Louisiana.