Ultimate Frisbee, commonly referred to as simply “Ultimate,” is a popular no-contact field sport. It’s a fast-paced and exciting game that combines elements from games like football, basketball, and soccer into an entirely new kind of team sport: one that uses a flying disc (or Frisbee) instead of a ball. It’s played in teams and its popularity is growing all around the world as Ultimate clubs, leagues, and teams pop up everywhere.
A regulation Ultimate court is 40 yards by 120 yards, with 25 of those marked out on either side as the endzone. Of course, the game can be played on a smaller (or larger) scale, so long as both sides of the field are of equal size.
Your local park has a field? Perfect, you can set up a court there! Heading to the beach? No problem! You can play a casual game of Ultimate with friends anywhere. Ultimate Frisbee HQ has some more tips for setting up your court.
How Do You Play?
A game of Ultimate is played by two teams. Each team can have seven people on the field at any given time but, like in many other competitive team sports, you can substitute players during pauses in the game.
The game begins with a “pull,” during which the defensive team throws the disc as far back as they can, towards the offensive team. Once the catch is made the game begins in earnest.
A point in Ultimate is scored similarly to a point in football, the Frisbee has to make it to the end zone. Unlike football, the only way to get it there is to throw it and have one of your teammates catch it in the end zone because once you’ve caught the disc, you have to stop moving.
After catching the disc, you can pivot and throw it to a teammate in any direction, but you can’t take steps anymore and you only have ten seconds from the moment you catch the disc to throw it again.
Typically in a game of Ultimate, the defending team assigns one player per offensive player. The defender, known as a “marker,” is in charge of counting down the seconds from when you’ve made the catch.
Lots of situations can trigger a turnover, where the defending team takes possession of the disc and becomes offensive. Some of the most common ones are:
Down: offensive team fails to catch the disc and it lands on the ground
Interception: defensive team catches the disc
Out-of-Bounds: the disc goes outside the boundary of the field
Dropped Pull: offensive team touches the disc but fails to catch it during the pull
Foul: uncontested foul occurs
There are additional situations, and some are more complicated, but if you’re going to play you should familiarize yourself with all of the things that cause turnovers. The World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) has an in-depth list of all of the turnovers here. They also have a list of all the fouls, which you need to know as well because you’re the referee – and so is everyone else on the field.
The Spirit of the Game
One of the most charming aspects of Ultimate is its self-governing commitment to maintaining what they call “the spirit of the game.” In fact, in the very first section of the official rules for play, put out by WFDF, rule 1.4 reads, “Highly competitive play is encouraged, but should never sacrifice the mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play.”
Ultimate Frisbee has no official referees. Instead, that responsibility falls to the players, who work to maintain an atmosphere of respect and good sportsmanship, so that everyone remains honest and forthright about mistakes and fouls.
Since the players are the referees, Ultimate is a great game for teaching children responsibility for their actions and good sportsmanship. Players report their own fouls and really take ownership of both the game and the values of the community they’re building together.
There are many different ways to throw a disc, depending on how far and how fast you need it to go. A lot of this can be learned by practicing with other more experienced players, but you can get a bit of a head start here!
There are a whole lot of different ways to throw a disc, ranging from the classic throws we’ve all used when playing a game of catch at the park to more advanced and trickier throws. Here’s a great video that shows you all of the throws.
Don’t be intimidated! For all of the most popular throws, there’s a tutorial to help you learn how to throw like a pro!
Join A Group
Ultimate is played in more than 80 countries worldwide, with 56 nation members of the World Flying Disc Federation. Wherever you are, you’ll be able to find a group playing near you. Ultimate is played in high schools, universities, and clubs. You can check out USA Ultimate’s list of affiliated clubs around the country here!
Things To Consider When Buying Your Ultimate Disc
The USA Ultimate regulation weight is 175 grams. If you’re planning on using your disc for competitive play in any official capacity, you don’t want to exceed that weight. It’s not a problem; there are tons of discs out there that have had a lot of design and love put into making sure they’re 175-gram aerodynamic works of art.
If you’re playing with new players, just warming up, or want something that can stand up to stronger weather conditions, then you might want to invest in a slightly heavier disc. Sure, you can’t use it in an official competition, but you can still use it in a casual setting and it will fly further and faster than a regulation weight disc, which can mean a lot of fun!
An Ultimate disc gets a lot of wear, tear, and scuffs if it’s in use regularly. If you get a less durable disc, like many of the small plastic ones you can win at giveaways, it will be more prone to cracking or chipping. This can alter the way that the disc flies, disrupting its flight and making it less predictable. Higher quality discs, like the Discraft Ultra-Star, have been carefully crafted to maintain consistency in flight, even with minor imperfections.
USA Ultimate Approval
If you’re looking for a disc to play casual Ultimate with friends, you can skip this section. This is important only if you want to use your disc for competitive play. Whether you’re playing in a high school, college, or club league, you’ll need a disc that meets with USA Ultimate approval. Their standards are high and all of the approved discs on their list have been put through rigorous testing by advanced players around the country.