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Ultimate Frisbee: Speed, Grace & Power

By Andrew Burgon /
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February 25, 2014


Project Fellowship Ultimate

Ultimate is an elegant yet demanding game noted for it’s speed, grace and powerful hurling at a breakneck pace!

Ultimate is a fast-paced, no contact sport where two teams of seven players play with a flying disc (frisbee) on a large rectangular field. The game starts with the two teams at their respective end zones. One team puts the disc into play by hurling it to the other team. This is called the pull. The team in possession of the disc make their way to the opposition’s end zone.

While a player is required to stop running when he catches the disc he may pivot on one foot and throw it to another player. The three distinctive kinds of throws are backhand, forehand and the hammer.

As the team in possession of the disc head towards the other team’s end zone the defending team will try to thwart the attempt by marking the opposition just like in basketball. This is in the hope of discouraging the other team from throwing the disc to that player or intercepting the disc.

If the disc touches the ground, is intercepted or is knocked down by the other team the opposition gets possession of it. This is called a turnover. The same thing applies when a player catches the disc outside the playing area.

A teams scores when a player catches the disc in the other team’s end zone.

A travel occurs when a player picks up or slides his pivot foot while throwing the disc. If the throw was complete then the disc goes back to the thrower. If the disc touched the ground then it’s still a turnover and the other team gets possession of the disc.

During the game players may be substituted between points or when a player is injured.

In games where professional rules are adhered to there are four 10 minute quarters. The team that accumulates the most points at the end of the game is the winner. Should there be a tie the game is extended for another 5 minutes. If the game is still tied then whoever wins the next point is the winner.

Ultimate has an honor code called ‘Spirit of the Game’ that is practiced even at the highest levels of league competition. If you’ve done something that qualifies as a foul you own up to it and only dispute it if you really feel it didn’t happen. In games that adhere to the code disputes are settled by the players themselves. In club and Professional Ultimate there may be an “observer” or an empowered referee who mediates disputes.

Fouls in Ultimate

Below are two kinds of fouls that occur in the game.

Physical Contact

While it’s the responsibility of all players to avoid physical contact with one another incidental contact does occur. If it effects the outcome of a play then it’s counted as a foul. The foul is on the player that initiates contact and the fouled player is required to say “foul” out loud. If the player who initiates the contact agrees then the fouled player either obtains or retains possession of the disc. If the player who initiated contact disagrees then he or she respectfully states his or her case why there is no foul. If both players can’t agree then the disc goes back to the thrower. Players can change their mind about the call or the contest.

The Pick

The pick occurs when someone on defense is running after their mark and someone gets in the way. If the defender has to slow down or change direction he or she shouts ‘pick’. Play stops then and the offensive player resumes play from the place the pick occurred.

Ultimate is a popular sport in the United States that had attracted 5.1 million players by 2012.

This is a great video by the Ultimate Players Association on how to play ultimate.

Helpful Links

United States – USA Ultimate

Canada – Ultimate Canada

Europe – European Flying disc Federation (EFDF)

Australia – Ultimate Australia

New Zealand – New Zealand Ultimate

South Africa – South African Flying Disc Association

International – World Flying Disc Federation
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