Ultimate Frisbee Rules

Ultimate Frisbee is an exciting team sport that combines fast throws, exciting plays, and team strategy into a fun activity to play. The Ultimate Frisbee rules can be learned below.

Ultimate Frisbee (sometimes called “flat ball”) is played on a field with a single plastic disc. The teams (usually of 7) compete to try and score points by catching the disc in the endzone, similar to American football. However, once a player catches the disc, they cannot run with it, and must establish a pivot foot, similar to basketball. The player only has 10 seconds to throw the disc, so the movement of the disc, as it is passed from teammate to teammate (and sometimes intercepted or dropped) resembles the movement of the ball in a game of soccer. 

A game of Ultimate Frisbee ends when one team reaches a certain number of points, usually 13 or 15.

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What Is Ultimate

Ultimate Frisbee (referred to as “Ultimate” because Frisbee is a trademarked name) is an exciting, high energy sport that combines features of basketball, soccer, American football, and a flying disc (Frisbee). Millions of people play Frisbee around the world. It appeals to young players, casual players, competitive players, and older players.

Frisbee is played on a field with 7 players on two teams and a flying plastic disc. The teams play against one another, scoring points, until one team has scored enough points to reach a predetermined total (usually 13 or 15). The team that is able to do this, wins.

Ultimate is a self-refereed sport. Ultimate is played without referees, even at the highest levels of the sport! This is possible due to something called Spirit of the Game.

Spirit of the Game places a responsibility on each Ultimate player to uphold the values of respect and fair play. Players call fouls through the game themselves. By following Spirit of the Game, the two players are able to discuss the alleged foul, come to a consensus, and continue the game.

Ultimate Frisbee Rules

If you’ve watched other sports like soccer, American football, basketball, or many others, you will recognize different aspects of those sports in Ultimate Frisbee. However, the rules of Ultimate Frisbee are a unique blend of these sports that creates a fun and exciting game to watch (and play!). To learn how to play Ultimate Frisbee, let’s start with scoring in Ultimate.

To score, a player must catch the flying disc in the end zone.

If a player catches the disc outside the end zone, they cannot run with it! They must use a pivot foot and pass the disc to one of their teammates. This is similar to the way a basketball player must pivot (though there is no dribbling in Ultimate). However, players only have 10 seconds to throw the disc! They must complete a pass within 10 seconds, or a turnover occurs.

Working together, teammates pass the disc to one another across the field. The disc is thrown and caught through the air, but the movement of the disc is similar to the way the ball moves in soccer – often it is passed sideways, or even backwards, before going forwards again.

Ultimate is a non-contact sport, meaning you cannot hit or foul another player. However, as the disc is flying in the air, it can be intercepted by the defending team! This results in a turnover, and the intercepting team now has the opportunity to score.

These are the basic rules of Ultimate Frisbee. If you are new to the sport, and want to start learning all the rules for Ultimate Frisbee, the best way to learn is by reading the ten rules of Ultimate Frisbee below.

Ten Rules of Ultimate Frisbee

  1. The Field – A rectangular shape with end zones at each end. A regulation field is 70 yards long by 40 yards wide, with end zones 20 yards deep.
  2. Starting Play – Each point begins with both teams lining up on the front of opposite end zone lines. The defense throws (“pulls”) the disc to the offense. A regulation game has seven players per team.
  3. Scoring – Each time the offense catches a pass in the defense’s end zone, the offense scores a point. The teams switch direction after every goal, and the next point begins with a new pull by the team that just scored.
  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 the disc. The defender guarding the thrower (“marker”) counts out the stall count.
  5. Change of Possession – When a pass is not completed (e.g. out of bounds, drop, block, interception, stalled), the defense immediately takes possession of the disc and becomes the offense.
  6. Substitutions – Players not in the game may replace players in the game after a score and during an injury timeout.
  7. Non-Contact – Players must attempt to avoid physical contact during play. Picks and screens are also prohibited.
  8. Fouls – When a player initiates contact that affects the play, a foul occurs. When a foul causes a player to lose possession, the play resumes as if the possession was retained. If the player that the foul was called against disagrees with the foul call, the play is redone.
  9. Self-Officiating – Players are responsible for their own foul and line calls. Players resolve their own disputes.
  10. Spirit of the Game – The foundation of the rules in ultimate is Spirit of the Game, which places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of respect between players, adherence to the rules, and the basic joy of play.

USA Ultimate. (2021, March 26). Ultimate in 10 Simple Rules. https://usaultimate.org/rules/10-simple-rules/

Ultimate Frisbee Terms

Like other sports, Ultimate has it’s own rich vocabulary. Check out the different Ultimate Frisbee terms and Ultimate Frisbee definition below!

Frisbee TermUltimate Frisbee Definition
HandlerA player who throws the disc more often – similar to an American football quarterback.
CutterA player who runs or “cuts” to get open for a pass – similar to an American football receiver.
HuckA deep throw.
MarkThe person playing defense on the person who has the disc.
ForceThe direction the mark is trying to force the player with the disc to throw. Usually the force is towards one sideline or the other.
DumpA short throw, often backwards, to another player.
SwingA short throw, often sideways across the field, to another player.
StrikeA cut, often made by a handler, running in a line in front of the player with the disc.
PullA deep throw after a point is scored, or to start a game, similar to a kickoff in American football.

The History of Ultimate

A group of high school students at Columbia High School in New Jersey created Ultimate in 1968. They were able to create a sport that imitates other sports, but with one significant difference: Spirit of the Game. Spirit of the Game is an embodiment of fair play through competition. Ultimate is played with very little startup cost because referees are not needed. It also helps embody a community and culture of respect and fair play.

From its humble beginnings, Ultimate has become one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Ultimate tournaments are held around the globe, in different divisions of play such as women’s, mixed (coed), youth, master’s, and open. In fact, Ultimate has been recognized by the Olympic committee as a possible Olympic sport in the future!

Ultimate Frisbee FAQ

How many steps can you take in Ultimate Frisbee?

None, a player must establish a pivot foot “at the appropriate spot on the field” (which often means as quickly as possible). If a player is able to establish a pivot foot by taking 0 steps, they must. If a player is sprinting, it may take them 3 or 4 steps to slow down – which they must do in as little time and space as possible. You cannot purposefully take steps after catching the disc in Ultimate.

A player can catch and throw a disc quickly without establishing a pivot – however, this must occur between 1 and 3 points of ground contact (for example, within 3 steps). If a thrower catches and throws a disc without establishing a pivot and after 3 points of ground contact, it is considered a travel.

How much is a goal worth in Ultimate Frisbee? or How many points is a goal worth in Ultimate Frisbee?

Each goal in Ultimate Frisbee is worth 1 point.

How many players in Ultimate Frisbee?

Usually each team has 7 players playing on the field at a time. Ultimate can also be played with 5, and infrequently with 4 or 6.

How to get better at Ultimate Frisbee?

There are a lot of skills you can practice to get better at Ultimate Frisbee. Check out the level up articles using the button below!

How much does an Ultimate Frisbee weigh?

Currently, the official weight of discs used at USA Ultimate tournaments is 175 grams. Discraft is the most common provider of discs for Ultimate (in the United States), but other companies such as WHAM-O and Innova also have 175 gram discs.

What is a pick in Ultimate Frisbee?

Unlike basketball, players cannot set picks for one another in Ultimate Frisbee. If a player (usually a defender) feels an opposing player got in their way, they can call “Pick” and stop play, so they can reposition themselves on the field.

What is a pull in Ultimate Frisbee?

A pull is similar to a kickoff in American Football. At the start of a game, and after a point is scored, the team that scored “pulls” the disc down the field to the opposing team.

What is a turnover in Ultimate Frisbee?

When a team has control of the disc, they are on offense. If the disc is intercepted or dropped, it results in a “turnover.” When a turnover occurs, the team that was on defense is now on offense, and starts trying to score.

What is a Callahan in Ultimate Frisbee?

A Callahan is a special and exciting play in Ultimate Frisbee. It occurs when a defender intercepts the frisbee while in the endzone, resulting in an immediate score. Callahans are usually rare, and highly celebrated when accomplished.

How long is an Ultimate Frisbee game?

Ultimate Frisbee games are played to a specific point total – usually 13 or 15. The first team to reach that point total (often needing to win by 2) wins the game! Games usually take between 1.5 to 2 hours.

What does force mean?

The person defending the player with the disc (the thrower) is called the “mark.” The mark tries to force the thrower to throw the disc towards one sideline or the other. This makes it easier to play defense. Therefore, the “force” is the direction the mark is trying to force the thrower to throw.

How do you play Ultimate Frisbee?

Check out the Ultimate Frisbee Rules section above!

Ultimate Frisbee Gear

Compared to other sports, you need very little equipment to play Ultimate. At most, you’ll need a disc (Frisbee), a field, and people to play against.

Additional Ultimate Frisbee gear can be a lot of fun to play with! Check out the Ultimate Frisbee gear below.