Strategically like soccer, athletically like basketball, technically like football, but spiritually like no other sport, ultimate pushes players to their limits in often brutal competition for the disc.
Two teams of seven players compete to catch the disc in the other team’s endzone. If they succeed, they score a point, and play stops. The team that has possession of the disc must throw the disc from player to player, as the player holding the disc may not move. If the disc is dropped or knocked down, the other team may pick up the disc and make their own attempt to score.
Ultimate in Ten Simple Rules
- The Field — A rectangular shape with endzones at each end. A regulation field is 70 yards by 40 yards, with endzones 25 yards deep.
- Initiate Play — Each point begins with both teams lining up on the front of their respective endzone line. The defense throws (“pulls”) the disc to the offense. A regulation game has seven players per team.
- Scoring — Each time the offense completes a pass in the defense’s endzone, the offense scores a point. Play is initiated after each score.
- Movement of the Disc — The disc may be advanced in any direction by completing a pass to a teammate. Players may not run with the disc. The person with the disc (“thrower”) has ten seconds to throw the disc. The defender guarding the thrower (“marker”) counts out the stall count.
- Change of possession — When a pass in not completed (e.g. out of bounds, drop, block, interception), the defense immediately takes possession of the disc and becomes the offense.
- Substitutions — Players not in the game may replace players in the game after a score and during an injury timeout.
- Non-contact — No physical contact is allowed between players. Picks and screens are also prohibited. A foul occurs when contact is made.
- Fouls — When a player initiates contact on another player a foul occurs. When a foul disrupts possession, the play resumes as if the possession was retained. If the player committing the foul disagrees with the foul call, the play is redone.
- Self-Refereeing — Players are responsible for their own foul and line calls. Players resolve their own disputes.
- Spirit of the Game — Ultimate stresses sportsmanship and fair play. Competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of respect between players, adherence to the rules, and the basic joy of play.
The complete, official rules (11th Edition) are available online at the Ultimate Players Association.
Some handy words to know.
BACKHAND To throw the disc from the left side of the body for right handed players (or from the right for left handed players). The motion is similar in some respects to the backhand in tennis. (Like the ‘standard’ throw that non-Ultimate players may be used to).
BREAK (side, pass or cut) The side to which the marker is trying to prevent the throw (or a pass/cut to this side).
CLEARING To get out of the area where the thrower wants to pass the disc. Absolutely necessary after making an unsuccessful cut or after throwing the pass. The importance of this is often underplayed to beginners.
CUT An attempt to get free to receive the pass. Usually starting with a body fake and/or a sudden change in direction or speed.
DEFENCE The team attempting to prevent a score.
DUMP Player who stands behind the thrower in order to help out (must get free for an easy pass) when the offence gets in trouble.
FLOW A series of quick passes to well timed cuts – should result in an easy score.
FORCE (or mark) To make it as difficult as possible for the thrower to throw the disc in one direction (usually one side of the field) in an attempt to make (force) him/her to make a pass to the other side. See the relevant section for how and why this is done.
FOREHAND (or FLICK) To throw the disc from the right side of the body for right handed players (or from the left for left handed players). The motion is similar in some respects to the forehand in tennis.
FREE (or OPEN) To be available to receive the pass. The “free player” may be unmarked or have managed to get away from his/her defender.
HAMMER High overhead throw; the disc flies upside down in a parabolic type path. The grip, release etc is similar to the forehand.
HAND BLOCK This is when the defender stops the disc directly after it is released by the thrower.
HUCK A long pass; often nearly the full length of the pitch and high to a tall player in the endzone.
LAYOUT When the player dives the catch or intercept the disc. Also referred to as “going ho” (from going horizontal).
MAN-ON-MAN The most common type of defence. Each person on defense marks an offence player and attempts to stay as close as possible with the intention of getting an interception or forcing a mistake.
OPEN (side, pass or cut) (i) The side to which the thrower is being forced (or a pass/cut to this side). (ii) Sometimes used to describe being free to receive a pass.
PIVOT When you plant your foot (left for right handers and right for left handers) and step to the side (allowing you the throw around the marker).
POACH When a defender moves away from their marker to try and make an interception on a pass to another player.
PULL The throw at the start of each point that initiates play.
SCOOBER A type of throw employing the forehand grip in which the disc is released upside down from the backhand side. Sean Frick has been known to throw only scoobers for several points in a row, especially against a zone defense.
SWING A lateral pass across the pitch – usually does not result in any upfield movement. This is useful to gain a better position or to reset the stall count.
SWITCH This is when two defenders exchange the offensive players that they are marking.
TURNOVER or change of possession When the disc has been dropped or intercepted and the offense becomes the defense.
ENDZONE Area at the either end of the pitch within which a point is scored.
FLYING DISC Many people call it a “Frisbee.” Ultimate players call it a disc. (“Frisbee” is the trademarked name for one particular brand of flying disc.) The disc is part of what makes Ultimate so unique – depending on the skill of the thrower, it can be made to fly straight or in a curve, hover in mid-air or drop like a stone.
OFFENCE The team with possession of the disc.
POINT (or score) When the disc is caught in the endzone by a player on the offence.
STALLING (or Stall Count) The player holding the disc has just ten seconds to pass it to a team-mate – the defender marking the player with the disc counts to ten out loud, and if the disc has not been released on “ten” the defender takes possession. Forcing the thrower to make a less-than-ideal pass as the “stall count” nears ten is the idea behind most defensive strategies.