Ultimate frisbee

From Academic Kids

Ultimate Frisbee is a competitive non-contact team sport played with a Frisbee or similar flying disc most commonly weighing 175 g. The object of the game is to score points by passing the disc into the opposing endzone, similar to football. Players may not run while holding the disc. The game was invented in 1968 as an evening pastime. Ultimate is distinguished by the Spirit of the Game, the principles of fair play, sportsmanship, and the joy of play.

The game is more appropriately called Ultimate since Frisbee brand discs (made by Wham-O) are rarely used in competitive play. Discraft ( discs are favored by the rules of the Ultimate Players Association for use in championship play [1] ( Regulation discs are also manufactured in Canada by Daredevil Discs (



Teenagers from Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey were the first to play the game of Ultimate initially as an evening pastime, from which it evolved into a kind of counter-culture joke in 1968. Joel Silver proposed a school Frisbee team on a whim in the fall of 1967. The following spring a group of students got together to play what Silver claimed to be the "ultimate sports experience," adapting the game Frisbee Football. Silver, now a Hollywood film producer (48 Hours, Weird Science, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, The Matrix), first played Frisbee Football at a camp in Mount Hermon, Massachusetts in the summer of 1967. The camp counseler who taught him the game was named Jared Kass. Kass created the game with a group of friends in college. The name "ultimate" comes directly from Jared Kass, who came up with the name, when asked by a camper, on the whim that it was the ultimate sport. The students who played at Columbia High School were not the athletes of the school, but an eclectic group of students that represented leaders in academics, student politics, the student newspaper, and school dramatic productions.

While the rules governing movement and scoring of the disc have not changed, the early Columbia High games had sidelines that were defined by the parking lot of the school, team sizes based on the number of players that showed up, and no referees. Gentlemanly behavior and gracefulness was held high. (A foul was defined as contact "sufficient to arouse the ire of the player fouled.")

The first intercollegiate competition was held between Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1972, the 103rd anniversary of the first intercollegiate football game, and at the same site on the Rutgers New Brunswick campus. The popularity of the game quickly spread, taking hold as a free-spirited alternative to traditional organized sports. In recent years college ultimate has attracted a greater number of traditional athletes, raising the level of competition and athleticism, and providing a challenge to its laid back, free-spirited roots.

Rules of play

It should be noted that the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) rules provide the framework in North America whilst other parts of the world use rules overseen by the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) and that the two sets of rules contain significant differences. The rules described below give a general overview of the shared rules. For more specifics see the websites of the relevant organizations listed below.


The object of ultimate Frisbee is to score points by receiving a teammate's pass in the opponent's endzone.


Regulation ultimate is played between two teams of seven players. In informal pick-up games, this number may vary. A shortage of players may force teams to play the entire game without substitutions, a condition known as savage or Ironman.


Regulation games are played on a field of 70 yards (WFDF: 64 meters) by 40 yards (WFDF: 37 meters), with endzones 25 yards (WFDF: 18 meters) deep. Normally, ultimate is played outdoors on a grassy surface. Boundaries are marked by chalklines and cones if available, but any highly visible object may be used.


Sometimes, Ultimate is played indoors on a indoor soccer field, or the like. In this version the disc may be played off the walls, and some other rules are also used. If the field has indoor soccer markings on it, then the outer most goal box lines are used for endzone lines. As indoor venues tend to be smaller, the number of players per side is often decreased. Indoor Ultimate can also be played on a basketball court-sized pitch using the walls as sidelines.

Indoor Ultimate is played widely in Northern Europe during the winter due to unpredictable weather conditions. In Europe, competitive Indoor Ultimate is played five-a-side on team handball fields (roughly 40 m x 20 m in size) with lines as boundaries and a safety zone of at least 1 meter around the court. The best-known and longest-running indoor tournament is the Skogshyddan's Vintertrofén held in Gothenburg, Sweden every year.


Beach Ultimate is another common variant of three to five players on small fields. It is played on sand, and as its name implies, normally at the beach.


The Pull or Throw-Off

The players line up at the edge of their respective endzones, and the defensive team throws, or pulls, the disc to the offensive team to begin play. Pulls are normally long, hanging throws, giving the defense an opportunity to move up the field. Sometimes, though, a pull consists of a short throw intended to roll out of bounds upon hitting the ground. If the pull is touched by the receiving team while in the air, without being caught, it is a turnover.

Movement of the disc

The disc may be moved in any direction by completing a pass to a teammate. Players may not run with the disc, except a few steps to run out their momentum. They must establish a pivot foot until after their throw, and they may not catch their own throw unless it has been touched in the air by an opponent.

Upon receiving the disc, a player has ten seconds to pass it. This period is known as the "stall", and each second is counted out by the defender (a stall count).


A point is scored when any player catches a pass in the endzone they are trying to score in. (In older versions of the rules, only offensive players could score. Most modern rules allow a defensive player to intercept a pass in the endzone they are attacking to score a Callahan goal.) After a point, the team who just scored remains in that endzone and the opposing team returns to the opposite endzone; play is initiated again with a pull by the scoring team.

Change of possession

Whenever a pass is not completed, the disc changes possession; that is, the defense immediately becomes the offense. After a change of possession, the offense must throw the disc from where it first touched the ground, or where it first traveled out of bounds. Changes of possession do not cause a stoppage of play.

Common reasons for changes of possession include:

  • Drops - The player on offense accidentally drops the disc onto the ground.
  • Blocks - A defender deflects the disc in mid flight, causing it to hit the ground.
  • Interceptions - A defender catches a disc thrown by the offense.
  • Out of Bounds - The disc lands out of bounds, hits an object out of bounds or is caught by a player who lands or leapt from outside the playing field.
  • Stalls - The stall count of ten expires before the player on offense throws the disc.

The Greatest

In Ultimate, a disc is considered in-play so long as it does not touch the ground, even if it is out of bounds. A receiver who wishes to play a disc that is flying out of bounds may only do so if his last point of contact with the ground is in-bounds; otherwise, the disc is now out of bounds, resulting in a turnover.

The Greatest, then, consists of an offensive player who leaps from an in-bounds position, catches the disc, and releases a throw again before touching the ground out of bounds. In order for it to be a successful Greatest, the throw must be caught by a teammate. Such plays often are cause for a certain degree of amazement from both the crowd and the players around the action, sometimes resulting in defenders standing awe-struck while a still-in-play disc floats past them to a teammate of the receiver. This maneuver demonstrates the arete of a focused Ultimate player.

Conversely, "The Stupidest" is when an offensive player jumps from in-bounds to catch the disc, then releases the disc to a spot where there are no other offensive player before landing, still in-bounds. It is "the stupidest" because the receiver's team would have maintained possession had the player just caught the disc and held on.

Stoppages of play

Play may stop for the following reasons:


A foul is the result of contact between players, although incidental (not on purpose) contact does not constitute a foul. When a foul disrupts possession, the play resumes as if the possession was retained. If the player committing the foul disagrees with ("contests") the foul call, the play is redone.


A violation occurs when a player violates the rules but does not initiate physical contact. Common violations include traveling with the disc, double teaming, stripping the disc away from a player who has possession, and picking, or moving in a manner so as to obstruct the movement of any player on the opposing team.

Time outs

Play stops when the player with the disc calls timeout. The number of timeouts available for team is agreed upon by both teams at the beginning of the game.


Play stops whenever a player is seriously injured — this is considered an injury time-out.


Teams are allowed to substitute players after a point is scored or for injured players after an injury time out. In the case of an injury substitution, the opposing team is allowed to make a substitution for a non-injured player.


Players are responsible for their own foul and line calls. Players resolve their own disputes. Occasionally, official observers are used to aid players in refereeing (see below). This creates a spirit of honesty and respect on the playing field. It is the duty of the player who commited the foul to speak up and admit his infraction.


Some additional rules have been introduced which can optionally overlay the standard rules and allow for referees called observers (the X-Rules or Callahan Rules, named after Henry Callahan from the University of Oregon). An observer can only resolve a dispute if the players involved ask for his judgment. In some cases, observers have the power to make calls without being asked: e.g. line calls (to determine out of bounds or goals) and up/down calls (actively ruling if the disc has touched the ground before being caught). Misconduct fouls can also be given by an observer for violations such as aggressive taunting, fighting, cheating, etc., and are reminiscent of the Yellow/Red card system in soccer. As of 2003, misconduct fouls are extremely rare and their ramifications not well defined.

The introduction of observers is, in part, an attempt by the UPA to allow games to run more smoothly and become more spectator-friendly. Much of the ultimate community is split between two camps: those who hold the Spirit of the Game to be the very identity of ultimate and those who believe Spirit to be an excuse for lazy, non-competitive play. It should be noted that some of the differences between the UPA and the WFDF rules reflect a differing attitude to spirit.

Spirit of the game

Ultimate is known for its "spirit of the game". The following description is from the official ultimate Frisbee rules established by the Ultimate Players Association

"Ultimate has traditionally relied upon a spirit of sportsmanship which places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of the bond of mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate adverse conduct from the ultimate field. Such actions as taunting of opposing players, dangerous aggression, intentional fouling, or other "win-at-all-costs" behavior are contrary to the spirit of the game and must be avoided by all players."

Pick-up games

In the spirit of ultimate's egalitarian roots, there are many pick-up tournaments outside the championship circuit, including hat tournaments, in which teams are selected on the day of play by picking names out of a hat. Pick-up tournaments are generally held over a weekend, and afford players several games during the day as well as the chance to socialize and party at night. In addition, less formal games of pick-up are frequent in parks and fields across the globe, often with the same people who play on nationally or globally competitive teams. Newcomers are always welcomed at pick-up games or whenever people are simply throwing, and enthusiastic players will sideline themselves to spend time teaching beginners the throws and maneuvers necessary to play.

Current leagues

Regulation play, sanctioned in the United States by the UPA, occurs at the college (open & women's divisions), club (open, women's, mixed (co-ed), and masters divisions) and youth (boys & girls divisions) levels, with annual championships in all divisions. Top teams from the championship series compete in semi-annual world championships regulated by the WFDF, made up of national flying disc organizations and federations from about 50 countries.

Recreational leagues have become widespread, and range in organization and size. There have been a small amount of childrens leagues, the largest of which, started by Nathan Salwen and Susan Morrello, takes place in Amherst, Massachusetts. The largest adult league is the Ottawa-Carleton Ultimate Association, with 350 teams and over 4000 active members in 2005, located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


This is a partial list of slang terms in ultimate.

For descriptions of various types of throws, see frisbee throws

  • Huck: a long throw, generally at least half a field or more.
  • Hospital pass: a throw that stays in the air for a considerable amount of time, allowing multiple players to get under the disc, and therefore leading to a greater chance of injury. Also used to describe a throw that "dies before it gets there [to the intended recipient]".
  • To turf: to throw the disc downwards, so that it hits the ground shortly after being released.
  • The Greatest (or World's Greatest): when an offensive player leaps from an in-bounds position, catches the disc, and releases a throw again before touching the ground out-of-bounds, and that throw is caught by a teammate. It becomes a "World's Greatest" if the person inbounds who caught it is also in the endzone, thus scoring a point.
  • The Stupidest: A term used for someone attempting (and failing) "The Greatest" while still inbounds.
  • Bid: an aggressive attempt to catch or block the disc, usually diving.
  • Going ho: the same as a bid. It is short for going horizontal and is a play on words of ho or on the phrase 'gung ho'.
  • Layout: a dive to catch the disc.
  • Sky: leaping and catching the disc at maximum height over an opponent
  • Pull: the long "kick-off" throw that begins every point.
  • Hot: an adjective used to describe good play.
  • Swill: a badly thrown pass.
  • Callahan: When an opposing team's pass is intercepted in their end zone, scoring a point for the intercepting team.

See also

External links

For links to specific leagues or associations see List of Ultimate Frisbee leagues.

es:Ultimate fi:Ultimate fr:Ultimate io:Flugo-disko pl:Ultimate frisbee sv:Ultimate


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