Ultimate – Playing a game by Dominick Smyth

While the full rules of ultimate are a 14 page document of over 7000 words, it is possible to begin playing using only 10 Simple Rules:

  1. 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. It is assumed that no one will intentionally break the rules.
  2. The Pitch – An ultimate pitch is rectangular in shape with endzones at each end. The full sized pitch is 37 metres wide and 64 metres from goal line to goal line. Each endzone is 18 metres deep, making the full pitch 100 metres long. A player, or disc, is only out of bounds if they land out of bounds. A player running out after a catch should simply return to the pitch and play on.
  3. Teams – Teams may have as many players as they wish but only 7 may be on the pitch for any point. New players can only replace those on the pitch after a point has been scored.
  4. Starting Play – Each point begins with teams lining up on the front of opposite endzones. The defense throws (“pulls”) the disc to the offense. Once this throw is released, all players are free to move about the pitch.
  5. Scoring – A team scores a point by catching a pass in the endzone their team is attacking.
  6. Moving the Disc – Any player holding the disc must stand still. They are allowed pivot from side to side on one foot, but nothing more. If they do move (“travel”), they simply need to return to the correct spot before throwing. The disc is moved towards the endzone by passing, in any direction, to other members of your team. A thrower has 10 seconds to make their pass. If they don’t throw within 10 seconds, they should drop the disc on the ground.
  7. Change of Possession – The responsibility is on the throwing team to catch a pass. Failure to catch, for any reason (e.g. out of bounds, drop, block, interception), results in a turn over and the other team taking possession.
  8. Non-Contact – No contact is allowed between players either as an attacker or a defender. Nor is anyone allowed take the disc out of the hands of someone already holding it. Any contact between players results in a foul so should be avoided.
  9. Defending – Only one defender is allowed beside the thrower. While making it hard for the thrower to complete a pass, it is also this defenders job to count the 10 seconds the thrower has to pass.
  10. Self-Refereeing – All players act as referees in a game of Ultimate. Each player should point out when a rule has been broken and talk with the player who broke it (either opponent or team mate) to decide how the game should be re-started. Since any breaking of rules is accidental, players should look to re-tart the game as if the incident had never happened.

Rules Modifications

To help new players get used to the game and to help them learn different aspects of play, the following modifications are helpful. The number in brackets refers to which of the 10 Simple Rules is being modified:

  • (2) Pitch size may be reduced for new/younger players. Indoors, a basketball court may be
    used. Outdoors a pitch roughly 18 metres wide, 25 metres from goal line to goal line with 6 meter endzones works well as a starting point. As knowledge and ability increase, the pitch size can be gradually increased until reaching full size.
  • (3) When using a smaller pitch, it is recommended to use smaller team sizes. 4-a-side is good for the first few games in order to get everyone involved. 5-a-side allows for team work and tactical play.
  • (4) In the full rules, play stops after each score and teams change ends (and the direction they are playing in). For new players this can be confusing and makes for a very stop-start experience. By having the scoring team drop the disc and allowing the other team pick up and resume play in the same direction they had been going, players got more time involved in the game and less time waiting for play to begin.
  • (6 & 9) It may not be necessary to have any time limit for new players to make their pass (as they will rarely hold it for more than 2 seconds!). The necessity to pass and move towards the end zone is usually enough to encourage players to move the disc quickly.
  • (6) To help players learn to make space for others and to run into space in order to receive a
    pass, a Centre Line rule can be used. Divide pitch into left and right halves. Players are only allowed run away from thrower on right side of line and towards thrower on left side of line.
  • (6) To help players learn the forehand throw, it can be beneficial to play a game where only that throw is allowed. As they become confident in forehand and backhand, it can be beneficial to add a rule forcing the players to throw on the correct side of their body (ie for right handers – backhand to someone on their left, forehand to someone on their right).
  • (7) As players are learning how to throw and catch, changing possession on every dropped pass can again be very stop-start. Allowing a team to pick up and continue playing as long as they attempted to catch can enable them to get a better sense of how the game can flow while they are still learning the skills.
  • (7) Only having a change of possession when the defending team blocks or intercepts a pass can serve as a good method of teaching a team the importance of defending.
  • (10) With self-refereeing being a new concept when in a structured environment (it is the method used while playing any game in a park!), it may be necessary for the group leader or teacher to start discussions between players. The leader should not try to resolve a dispute but instead encourage the players involved to discuss the incident and reach a resolution between themselves. The three basic resolutions possible are to agree that Player A was right and go with their opinion, agree that Player B was right and go with their opinion or decide they can’t agree who was right and instead give the disc back to the last person who had it.
  • (10) As players knowledge and experience of the game advances, the group can be encouraged to be more aware of specific rules such as traveling, in or out of bounds and minor contact that is the norm in other sports. With all players being attentive to these specific rules, it becomes easier for them all to learn them and play by them.

This can help provide guidance on playing: Game – simplified rules

Hopefully you have something that looks a little like this:


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