USA Ultimate: What is Ultimate? USA Ultimate: What is Ultimate?

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Combining the non-stop movement and athletic endurance of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football, a game of Ultimate is played by two seven-player squads with a high-tech plastic disc on a field similar to football. The object of the game is to score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. A player must stop running while in possession of the disc, but may pivot and pass to any of the other receivers on the field.  Ultimate is a transition game in which players move quickly from offense to defense on turnovers that occur with a dropped pass, an interception, a pass out of bounds, or when a player is caught holding the disc for more than ten seconds. Ultimate is governed by Spirit of the Game™, a tradition of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the players rather than referees. Ultimate is played in more than 42 countries by hundreds of thousands of men and women, girls and boys.

USA Ultimate Board of Directors Definition of the Sport of Ultimate
"What is Ultimate?" as defined by the USA Ultimate Board of Directors? The USA Ultimate Board of Directors believes that one key factor that defines Ultimate is that the players need to be the ones in control. The definition of Ultimate developed by the Board at the 2001 Strategic Planning Meeting is as follows: 

"Player defined and controlled non-contact team sport played with a flying disc on a playing surface with end zones in which all actions are governed by the 'Spirit of the Game™.'"

Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: How long does a game usually last?

A: A typical game is played to 15 points and usually lasts about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Q: What's the difference between an observer and a referee?

A: Observers are non-players whose role is to carefully watch the action of the game and to perform any or all of the following duties: track time limits, resolve player disputes, censure or eject players for sportsmanship infractions, and render opinions on things such as line calls and off-side calls.  The difference between an observer and a referee is that in general observers only make rulings on infractions called by players and only after players have failed to resolve the issue themselves.

Q: What equipment do you need in order to play?

A: Ultimate is one of the least expensive sports to play. All that is required for a game is field space and a disc. Most players opt to wear cleats, and cones are helpful for marking the boundaries of the playing field.

Q: Are all discs the same?

A: No.  Ultimate is played with a 175 gram disc, which is heavier and sturdier than the recreational discs most people are familiar with.  The weight, diameter, shape of rim, and plastic all factor in to how the disc handles. The USA Ultimate has developed very rigorous disc standards to ensure that players have access to the highest quality discs possible.  A "USA Ultimate Approved" disc has been tested by Ultimate players and has been accepted for use  by leagues, tournaments and USA Ultimate members.  In order for a disc to be considered for USA Ultimate Championship Series or other USA Ultimate hosted event the disc must undergo a more extensive, player driven review.  For a  complete list of approved discs, visit the USA Ultimate website (www.usaultimate.org/).

Q: How can I start playing?

A: There is pickup in Syracuse on Thursdays and spring, summer, fall, and winter leagues throughout the year. Join the pickup list-serve to hear about opportunities to play.

Q: Where can I find more info to improve my playing skills?

A: USA Ultimate website includes links to various sites that can help improve your game.  The skills and drills section is a great resource for beginning and experienced players alike.

Q: How many people play Ultimate in the US?

A: According to the 2007 Sport & Fitness Participation Report conducted by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, 824,000 people report playing Ultimate at least 25 times per year or more.

Q: Will Ultimate ever become an Olympic sport?

A: USA Ultimate and WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation) have been  working to achieve the best presentation of Ultimate and other disc sports on the worldwide sport scene for some time. A major  milestone in this effort occurred in 2001 when Ultimate was included  in the World Games for the first time as a full medal sport. However, Ultimate must have a tremendous increase in its popularity on an international level before it will be possible to take the next step. USA Ultimate and WFDF will continue to work together to develop programs and services that help local organizers to increase participation and enhance awareness in order to make Ultimate increasingly attractive to global sports organizations.

Q: What is Spirit of the Game™?

A: Spirit of the Game™ is a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play.  For many players, Spirit of the Game™ is as important as who wins the game. 

10 Simple Rules 10 Simple Rules

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Ultimate Field

1.  The Field – A rectangular shape with end zones at each end. A regulation field is 70 yards by 40 yards, with end zones 25 yards deep.

2.  Initiate Play – Each point begins with both teams lining up on the front of their respective end zone.  The defense throws  ("pulls") the disc to the offense.  A regulation game has seven players per team.

3.  Scoring – Each time the offense completes a pass in the defense's end zone, the offense scores a point.  Play is initiated after each score.

4.  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 it.  The defender guarding the thrower ("marker") initiates a stall count.

5.  Change of Possession – When a pass is not completed (i.e., out of bounds, drop, block, interception), the defense immediately takes possession of the disc and becomes offense.

6.  Substitution – Players not in the game may replace players in the game after a score and during an injury timeout.

7.  Non-Contact – No physical contact is allowed between players.  Picks and screens are also prohibited.  A foul occurs when contact is made.

8.  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.

9.  Self-Refereeing – Players are responsible for their own foul and line calls.  Players resolve their own disputes.

10.  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 basic joy of play.

The complete, official USA Ultimate 11th Edition Rules of Ultimate with all amendments and clarifications are available online here.