By: Michelle Ferguson

Derrick Charbonneau plays a game in a recreational 6×6 league at Algonquin in the sports dome.

The Ottawa Carleton Ultimate Association — tied with Vancouver as the largest league in the country — will open up its under 29 league to students of all ages this summer.

The decision to open up the league to students was two-fold. While some players who were reaching the cut-off point inquired about the possibility of continuing to play, the inspiration came mostly from the debate surrounding OC Transpo student passes.

“To me, today in our society, you go back to school at any age,” said Christiane Marceau, executive director of the OCUA.

“A student is no longer 20 to 24 and when you’re 25, you’re a professional and that’s it. So I think it’s more to reach out to people with the same common ground.”

In the end, OCUA decided that conserving the spirit of the league was more important than setting an age cap.

So what started off as a young professional league has now become more encompassing by allowing students with similar interests and social lives to participate.

“It’s more a question of reaching the same lifestyle than reaching the same age group,” said Marceau.

Originally created in 2007, the U29 league has seen some major success. In 2012, there were 62 teams registered, with around six to 10 players on each team.

A socially-oriented summer league, individual players can request to play with up to three different friends. Games are played Monday nights and played at local fields that are accessible by public transportation.

“It’s always been a good league,” said Marceau. “Comments are great, people love it.”

Trevor Primett, a former Algonquin pre-animation student, joined the U29 league two years ago. He highlighted the fun of playing, meeting new people and the after-game beers as his favourite parts of the league.

With such a large following — in 2004, the Ottawa region was actually the largest in the world, boasting roughly 4,500 players — why has Algonquin not tapped into the ultimate market?

In fact, studies show that most ultimate players pick up the sport in university or college.

According to Ron Port, administrator of athletic operations, it is not for the lack of trying.

“It’s something we’ve tried to run in the past and we’ve had some varying degrees of success with it.”

Port said every year Algonquin puts ultimate on the agenda. But the response just isn’t there.

Marceau explained that it can be challenging to get enough players at a single institution like Algonquin. But when you ask every university and college in the area to come together and create a league it is much more likely to reach the numbers needed.

Ultimate is also a hard sport to build from scratch she said. Since games are self-officiated, players must have a solid understanding of the rules in order to play.

But don’t shy away from the sport.

Primett, who had never played in an organized ultimate league until he joined the OCUA, said that it is an easy sport to pick up — although knowing how to toss a disc is helpful.

“I would say that if you are new to the sport and don’t know anything about Frisbee, U29 is a great league to get into. People are always friendly and willing to help out new people.”

According to Marceau Ultimate Frisbee is something everybody should try once in their lives.

“Ultimate comes as a cheap opportunity to stay active, healthy, with friends, in a spirit and social environment,” she said. “Who doesn’t want that?”