Frisbees catching public attention

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People in Beijing enjoy playing frisbee on different sizes of football field. The game has made its presence felt in the country and become one of the most popular emerging sports.[Photo provided to China Daily]

When a group of Yale students inverted the pie tins that were used to cover the delivery of their bakery orders more than a century ago, they found an airfoil shape that could be thrown around for fun on campus.

This prototype of the frisbee has evolved and since the beginning of the 20th century it has become a popular sport and pastime.

Yet, the activity has been confined to a small number of players in China over the years. Recently, the game has made its presence felt and has become one of the most popular emerging sports in the country.

"I was under the impression that it was only a toy for children and pets," says Qu Xinchen who started playing frisbee in April.

"It never occurred to me that it was a competitive game with a social functions" he adds.

The Beijing resident in his early 30s tried his hand, literally, at the game after being invited by one of his friends.

"The gyms were closed because of the COVID-19 resurgence then, and indoor activities were subjected to restrictive conditions," Qu recalls, adding that he's also seen many enthusiasts posting their frisbee experience on the social media platform Xiaohongshu.

Qu went to a game for new players with his friends.

"It was pretty nice, and we had a coach walking us through the rules and basic skills," he says.

Each session usually lasted for two hours, and he got to apply the coach's instructions in the second hour with his friends.

Qu discovered that the rules of frisbee were relatively simple.

The main objective is to catch the frisbee in the end zone. Essential to the game is the fact that a thrower can't move from the spot they caught it. A team will work together to try and get the frisbee down the field as efficiently as possible by throwing the disc to an advancing teammate.

"For example, when you hold the frisbee, you cannot move but instead you pivot on one foot until the disc is released," Qu says.

When not holding the disc, a player is free to run anywhere within the field of play to receive a pass.

Qu plays frisbee with his friends twice a week and has been to events arranged by four different clubs across the capital.

The sport not only satisfies his need for exercise, but also allows him to catch up with his friends.

"I felt I was getting the best of both worlds," Qu says.

"I usually burn 1,400 calories during a session, and my stamina has improved," he says.

His skills have too, and Qu says he has been able to better appreciate the elegance of the sport.

"I feel a sense of achievement and I'm proud whenever I score points for my team through cooperation," he says.

More importantly, he gets to see his friends more often.

"Four to five of us usually coordinate our time and sign up together for events near our homes," Qu says.

"After the match, we will have lunch or dinner together."

The frisbee clubs in Beijing usually have a photographer to capture moments in the game.

"The photos are very nice and can be reposted on our social media accounts as a reminder of the good times," Qu says.

More people like Qu are tuning into frisbee.

Searches for frisbee surged 17-fold during the first three months of this year on Xiaohongshu, as compared with the same period last year, the social media platform reports. The topic of frisbee has attracted more than 42.4 million views on the platform.

Those figures have continued to grow over the following months.

On July 7, the General Administration of Sports has announced the first Chinese Frisbee League, which is planned for August.

"Frisbee has been widely enjoyed by the public and has developed rapidly in recent years," says the administration's announcement of the league's formation.

The announcement points out that the sport has become an important part of national fitness activities.

"Most of our clients are white-collar workers, around 30," says Sun Dawei, a former gym trainer who co-established The North frisbee club with a friend in April.

He practiced frisbee back in Tianjin University of Sport in 2011 and, between 2014 and 19, won top prizes at multiple frisbee competitions in Shanghai, Nanjing of Jiangsu province, Beijing and Xiamen of Fujian province.

"There must have been only about 100 people playing professionally, because I saw the same faces all the time at those matches," he recalls.

Sun sensed the surging popularity of the sport after Spring Festival this year.

"People around me have been talking about it as a phenomenon," he says.

So far, his club has gathered more than 500 members.

Sun hosts about three frisbee events in the city's Chaoyang district each week. About 20 participants join each event.

The low threshold for playing in terms of age limits and equipment have both helped fuel the popularity of frisbee in China, experts say.

Zhang Kun, a veteran player and organizer of frisbee events in Beijing, believes social media platforms and online influencers played a positive role in promoting the sport during the early days of the pandemic.

"People now think it is cool to play frisbee," Zhang says.

The sport is easy to pick up and understand, he adds.

"Your attention will be fixed on the flying disc once it is thrown and airborne, and you might feel you're flying too," Zhang says, adding that the experience is a great outlet for venting the pressures of fast-paced city life.

Costs for playing frisbee range from 100-150 yuan ($14.9-$22.4) per player, and organizers generally make a gross profit of 1,000-3,000 yuan.

It is solely up to each club to set a price for the event organization and training and to decide about buying insurance for participants, says Chen Shuo, a manager with the YJ frisbee club in Beijing.

"The competitors' welfare might not be guaranteed," Chen says.

Chen hopes standards will be set up for the industry in the future, such as professional institutes to certify trainers and matches.

Qu has just signed himself up for an advanced training program in July.

"I want to keep exploring frisbee and involve more of my friends," Qu says, adding that he's particularly drawn to the game's golden rule of treating others how you would want to be treated.

"The non-contact policy is extremely good for beginners, and encourages my female friends to join us and play," he says.

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