How CUSB recruits new players - Ultimate Programs in Bologna Schools


  • How to recruit students
  • How to fight the drop out from sports phenomenon, typical for 13 to 19 years old, especially for female adolescents How to promote Spirit of the Game and gender equity values


CUSB (Centro Universitario Sportivo Bologna) has a huge ultimate frisbee recruitment program based on school projects: it involves about 40 schools and 10,000 students from six to 19 years old.

Case Study

How could CUSB create such a big student community? What are the best practices that lead to the increasing number of ultimate frisbee projects in schools? What does CUSB do to recruit more female students?

General elements

The school program started many years ago. What started as a pro-bono effort of a few passionate people then became a structured organization, thanks to the relentless creation of new projects and tournaments, the improvement of the training's quality and education, and, most of all, the creation of a significant teachers' network.
CUSB management understood the strategic and political importance of these projects.

CUSB has a strong relationship with educational institutions such as the University of Bologna (our logo includes the alma mater logo!). The management invested in sources and people in the ultimate frisbee sector expanding the organogram: a secretary and an expert in communication joined the team.

The separation of the school sector from the competitive sector was another key factor. This decision led to a development in skills, workflow, management of the projects, and reach for institutional calls to get public funding for educational projects. The staff is highly qualified: it includes eight graduated students in Scienze delle Attività Motorie e Sportive (e.g. Physical Science) who run the majority of the lessons and practices and about twenty coaches who train students during the after-school courses. To join the program, it is mandatory to have at least the first "FIFD Train The Trainer" certification (Brevetto di primo livello della FIFD, which is very similar to the EUF one) to work with CUSB.

Many of the coaches are also players of the club. This creates a win-win situation: many can work during university and after, and earn money to play the competitive season. They are also highly invested in recruiting and coaching future players for their teams. Obviously, there is a down side: the people that wear these two hats could burn out faster than other players. Anyway, until today, CUSB had more benefits than challenges related to this situation.

Personal relationship with school professors: CUSB staff pays incredible attention to the relationship with professors, supporting them during the lessons and through the project, asking for help to involve the school directors to approve the project, creating a good and friendly relationship to count on. Without their help, it would be impossible to reach so many students.

Institutional relationship with school professors: there is a strong collaboration with Ufficio Scolastico (PE Teacher's local office) and CUSB to create updates for courses for teachers, organize ultimate frisbee tournaments, and promote projects for students. This collaboration enlightens the quality of CUSB's work to the teachers, creating new contacts and new opportunities.

Always try to support teachers: during the lockdown we created a video ultimate frisbee lesson for schools. One year later, professors still use that.
Structure of the programmes

PROGRAMME FOR SCUOLA SECONDARIA DI 1° Grado (e.g. middle school): 11-13 yr students

CUSB trainers go to every class for one or two lessons during physical education hours to convince students to join the school team (gruppo sportivo).

Practice one time per week at school: 11-13 yr students can play at school one time per week with a CUSB trainer. Every month CUSB organises a one-day tournament between all the school teams that train weekly. Usually, the tournaments are organized during the weekend so they do not affect school's attendance.

The Ministero dell'Università e Istruzione (University and Education Ministry) organises a final tournament, split in three phases (local, regional and national) that involves other Italian team's school programmes.

The next step for those young players is to join one of the CUSB under 15 mixed teams (four in total, distributed considering the geography of the Bologna's urban area), who train two or three times per week and compete in the Italian Junior National Championship. Since 2020, CUSB is working to develop a only-girl under 15 team.

PROJECT FOR SCUOLA SECONDARIA DI 1° Grado (e.g. high school): 14-19 yr students

CUSB trainers go in every class for three or four lessons during physical education hours to convince students to start playing ultimate. Every class is encouraged to take part in "Rookie Ultimate Tournament Event", which involves 4,500 students divided into four qualification days (mixed and open category) and one final day, the "Elite Tournament".

The next step for passionate young players would be to join one of the CUSB under 20 teams (three women teams and two men teams), who train two or three times per week and compete in the Italian Junior National Championship.

CUSB KIDS (elementary school): 6-10 yr students

Ultimate frisbee is included in a multisport project for elementary schools. The CUSB professionals (graduated from the University of Bologna Physical Education degree) created a didactic progression for students from 8 to 10 yr, with a lot of funny games and a good narrative setting to catch kids' attention.

Structure of the lesson

CUSB created the didactic progression for students from 11 to 19 yr and analyzed it in a graduation thesis. The key factors of the success of this progression are:

  • Always start with "couple" throws: it is easier to involve less motivated students. Once they start throwing they may continue playing until the end of the lesson.
  • Talk with every student one by one: during the first phase of the lesson, the Trainer should talk to every student, learn as many names as possible and ask something personal about them.
  • Create funny sketches: to involve students and make a lesson unforgettable, CUSB staff create some funny sketches. Girls' recruitment

Girls abandon sports more than boys. This is a well-known phenomenon and there is a lot of literature about it. The main factors are lack of enjoyment perceptions of competence social pressures competing priorities physical factors and maturation and injuries.

CUSB staff repeatedly focused on this problem in the last three years. What the competitive sector is doing, increasing the quality of practices and development projects and pushing on the enhancement of female coaches and leaders into the club hierarchy.

What are the main strategies adopted in the last years to involve female students?

  • Talk with two or three girls: it would be easier to convince two friends to join the team instead of one. CUSB trainers try to dedicate up to five minutes to talk face to face to a little girls' group.
  • Highlight girls' abilities: a good trainer gives a lot of good feedback and cheers for little results, especially during the first approach to the ultimate frisbee technique. This process will make girls feel confident.
  • Trust the Pygmalion Effect: if a trainer doesn't believe that girls can be a strong player, they surely won't become a strong player. Every student has a different motivational driver, find it!
    Each trainer has to discover which are the best drivers to convince students to start playing frisbee. For example, friendship; the need to find a new sport (drop out hits at this age!); trying something new; doing something to enrich their student CV; find a partner in a new community; participate in a tournament (instead of going to school). Show students some of CUSB women role players, telling stories about past years achievements.
  • Includes moments of "theater": since the beginning, be sure to involve students making them participate in short sketches. A recent Erasmus project called combines games, High Intensity Training, Short Sketches, and a final debate on the lesson. The results are ObLoMov astonishing: students after 15 lessons reach better results in Broad Jump test, Shuttle Run test, and in the participation the year after the project to a competitive sport (63% against the 30% of the European media!).

Written by Edoardo Trombetti

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With the support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.