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Basic Ultimate Frisbee Rules

175 gram Official Ultimate Disc

175 gram Official Ultimate Disc

What is Ultimate Frisbee?

Have you recently found out about this fantastic summer sport and are looking for Ultimate Frisbee rules? Well you'll be happy to know that the rules can be learned fairly quickly and you only need a field, a disc, and a few friends to play!

Ultimate is a limited-contact team sport, meaning that fouls are used to discourage contact between players. The unique combination of:

  • A flying disc as the object of play (official size: 175 grams)
  • Gameplay elements from Soccer (Football), Basketball, and American Football
  • Player-based officiating through "The Spirit of the Game"

makes Ultimate a unique, fascinating, and demanding sport. But you have to know the rules first. Luckily there's only 10 simple rules you need to know before you can start playing. Since Ultimate is self-officiated, it's important for all the players to have a good understanding of the rules.

Ultimate Frisbee Field

Source: Author: Gustavb

Source: Author: Gustavb

10 Simple Ultimate Frisbee Rules

Here are ten basic rules of Ultimate Frisbee. Learn these for the first time you play, as it will be enough to get your started. Once you get a few games under your belt you can look into more of the details behind the rules.

  1. The Field: The official field size is 70 yards by 40 yards (64 meters by 37 meters), with end zones on both ends that are 25 yards (23 meters) deep. This rectangular field is a fairly large size, although it is still smaller than a soccer or football field.
  2. Starting Play: Each team of 7 players lines up on their own end zone line at the beginning of a point. Once both teams have indicated that they are ready to start, the defense throws ("pulls") the disc to the offense.
  3. Scoring: The team with possession of the disc has to complete a pass in the defense's end zone in order to score a point. Play is then restarted at the team's respective end zones.
  4. Disc Movement: The player with possession of the disc ("thrower") cannot move around the field, except for the use of a pivot foot. The disc can only be moved elsewhere on the field through a pass to a teammate, and must be done within ten seconds. The defender guarding the thrower ("marker") does the counting.
  5. Change of Possession: If a pass goes out of bounds, is dropped, blocked, or intercepted it is considered a turnover. The defense immediately becomes the offense and can take the disc.
  6. Substitutions: You can only replace players in the game if there is an injury or after a point is scored.
  7. Limited-contact: Physical contact is not allowed between players, and this includes picks or screens. When contact is made a foul occurs.
  8. Fouls: If the foul disrupted possession of the disc, play restarts as if the possession was kept. If the player who made the foul disagrees with the call, play restarts as it was before the foul occurred.
  9. Self-Officiating: The player who is fouled is responsible for calling the foul. This is done by yelling "foul" to alert the players on the field. If there are disputes, they must be resolved by the players themselves.
  10. Spirit of the Game: This is the most important rule in Ultimate. Sportsmanship and fair play are very important, due to aspect of self-officiating. Competitive play is important, but never at the expense of following the rules, respecting other players, and having fun.

Basic Ultimate Frisbee Rules

Ultimate Frisbee rules are important to know in order to play well.

Ultimate Frisbee rules are important to know in order to play well.

Ultimate Discs and Cones

Novice Ultimate Frisbee Rules

  • The line is always out of bounds
  • The "player with the best perspective" should make the call when play is potentially out of bounds
  • Touching or dropping the pull is a turnover
  • The marker has to be within 3 meters in order to start the stall count, and must loudly state "Stalling" while then counting to 10.
  • If the stall count reaches 10 it is a turnover.
  • There are both offensive and defensive fouls. Contact should be avoided at all times, and it is the responsibility of both players to ensure this is the case. Usually it is a defensive foul, but if an offensive player runs into a stationary defensive player, it is an offensive foul.
  • When catching a frisbee, the receiver should take the minimum number of steps required to stop moving. If additional steps are taken it is a foul.
  • If the disc is caught by both the offense and defense, the offense retains possession.
  • The marker should maintain sufficient room or "disk space" around the thrower to give the thrower enough workable room.

Additional Ultimate Frisbee Rules

More on the Spirit of the Game (SOTG)

SOTG is unique to Ultimate and is a very appealing feature of the game. Let's get more into what SOTG means:

1. The Golden Rule: Treat Others as You Would Want to be Treated

Nobody really likes to be treated poorly, so don't be mean to others. A spirited game requires mutual respect amongst all players. If something questionable happens, assume the best and give the opponent the benefit of the doubt.

2. Control: SOTG Takes Real Effort

The spirit of the game can be quite difficult to follow at times. It isn't just some lofty idea that everyone talks about but comes naturally. There can be some pretty hard fouls that get committed, and some close calls have to be made in close games. You will be put under pressure, and it's how you handle yourself emotionally that is so vital to SOTG. The concept can fall apart rather quickly, but if you act to fix things through the golden rule, the game can improve.

3. Heckling and Taunting are Different

Heckling can be fun if done in the right way, and it is a part of the culture in Ultimate. They are typically done from spectators on the sidelines, and are only friendly pokes. On the other hand, taunting is not spirited and is wrong. Do not make abusive or harassing remarks towards an opponent's foul call or other close play. Taunting can escalate and destroy SOTG.

4. SOTG is Compatible with Championship Play

Even at the highest levels of the sport, it has been shown that you can be completely competitive and yet not diminish any respect or fair play with your opponent. This can be a hard concept to grasp, especially when you look at the professional leagues of other sports. No aspect of the game is so important where SOTG would not apply.

5. There is No "Eye For an Eye."

Really, this comes back to the golden rule. Two wrong do not make a right. In the very rare case of being severely mistreated, you can raise the issue with your captain or file a complaint with your Ultimate organization. This may backfire however, as a complaint could also be filed against yourself.

6. Breathe

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Give yourself some time and room to breathe after a disputed play, close call, or a hard foul. Emotions can run high in the heat of competition and you don't want to do something you'll regret. If you wait just a few seconds you will feel yourself calm down and be able to focus on the facts of the play. By being calm you will also find your opponent responding more calmly.

7. When You Do The Right Thing, People Notice

People do notice when you let things go. You may know you've done the right thing but it can be hard sometimes when there is no obvious praise. However, over time you will see that your opponents and teammates respect you more and more.

8. Be Generous With Praise

Gratitude and thanks are infectious. They are very small acts that require almost no effort, yet can yield a huge payoff. Complimenting the other teams good play or a teammates honesty raise the energy level of everyone in the game.

9. Impressions Linger

This is an extension of number 7. Ultimate is an addicting game that you can find yourself playing for years, and so will the other people you play with. The impressions your teammates and opponents have formed of you will linger for many seasons to come, so this inspires good conduct and the SOTG even more.

10. Have Fun

Don't focus on any of the negative energy. Just play hard, act fairly, and have fun

Get a Feel For Ultimate Play

Explore the Full Rules of Ultimate Frisbee

  • Rule Insights for Novices
    Once you've had the experience of a few games or practices, you're no longer a newbie. But, you are a novice and there are more intricacies to the game. These rules can be taught and implemented in steps.
  • Rules of Ultimate | Ultimate Players Association
    The Ultimate Players Association (UPA) governs the play of Ultimate in the Americas. These rules are worth reviewing if you decide to become a team captain or coach.
  • World Flying Disc Federation Ultimate Rules
    The World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) governs the play of disc sports around the world, except for the Americas. The rules between the UPA and WFDF are largely the same but there are some differences.
  • Differences between UPA and WFDF Rules
    Since the UPA rules are used for the vast majority of games played, it may be helpful to see the differences in WFDF rules if you get to play a game with those rules.
  • Official 5-on-5 Beach Ultimate Rules
    The Beach Ultimate Lovers Association's (BULA's) official 5-on-5 Beach Ultimate rules. Yup, Ultimate can even be played on the beach. They follow the WFDF rules with some additions. 4-on-4 can also be played as well.
  • Vancouver Indoor Ultimate - Rules and Regulations
    Ultimate can be played in the winter too! You just have to make some adjustments. In general, the field is smaller and there are correspondingly less players on the field as well. Games also tend to be shorter due to field time being more expensive.


Michael Saganski (author) from Canada on November 28, 2012:

There aren't any rules against cherry picking (you can be offside). Going for a long "huck" is a huge part of the game. The defense has to adapt.

Jessica portner on November 09, 2012:

Ultimate Frisbee became my famous sport!!!!!

Jason Jay on June 11, 2012:

Are there any rules against cherry picking? It seems like poor sportamanship to me.

Chard on April 08, 2012:

Nice. We were 1st last m0nday in lasalle tournament

jun lowie undag on November 27, 2011:

Wow this is my favorite game.

And we always play eat here in Philippines at Acmac, Iligan City.

But we dont have a sponsor.

leftanimpression on August 05, 2011:

ultimate 4 life

eljay on May 05, 2011:

i love this game.. \m/

Michael Saganski (author) from Canada on April 25, 2011:

Jason: no.

jason jan on April 24, 2011:

could the defense steal the disk when the thrower is still holding it???

Sergio Little on February 22, 2011:

I am writing a little frisbee article and I was doing some research and found your article. Thanks for the information!

kiszes on June 23, 2010:

nice game

Michael Saganski (author) from Canada on March 16, 2010:

Haha yeah except this is limited-contact so there's no tackling involved. :)

Faye Constantino from Florida on March 16, 2010:

This is great. Funny, my brothers used to play it on a neighborhood football field but they called it Tackle Frisbie. It never really caught on, mom's just got upset seeing all the kids with no gear, in shorts, playing tackle frisbie... You get the idea. It was the sixties, what can I say.

myownworld from uk on March 16, 2010:

That's just supreb for a first hub...Excellent presentation!

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