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Ultimate Frisbee was developed in 1968 by a group of high school students.

It has gained more and more popularity over the years, and today there are leagues for all ages and all levels of experience. 

If you are brand new to Ultimate Frisbee, you might find yourself overwhelmed trying to learn about all the different facets of the game. 

This article will explain some of the Ultimate Frisbee basics for those looking to learn more and get involved with this action-packed sport. 

Ultimate Frisbee Basics: Getting started

Ultimate frisbee is most typically played on a 70×40 yard (64×37 meter) rectangular field with two 25-yard (18 meter) end zones, though this game can also be played indoors or on the beach.

Each team has 7 players on the field at once; substitutes are allowed but can only sub in after a point is scored or during an injury timeout.

Some of the most important elements to understand about Ultimate Frisbee are the rules of gameplay, the positions on the field, and the types of throws. 

The Rules

The game starts with both teams lined up along their respective endzones.

The defensive team throws the initial long throw down the field, also known as the pull, to the offensive team.

The goal of the pull is to get the disc as far down the field as possible without going past the endzone; the further down the field the disc goes, the worse field position the offensive team starts out with, so it will take them longer to advance up the field to score. 

From here, the offensive team passes the disc to their teammates, trying to advance the disc up the field toward the endzone to score.

The defensive team tries to intercept the passes to gain possession of the disc and prevent the opposing team from scoring.

Every player on the field can run except for the player holding the disc.

Once a player catches a disc, they must come to a stop and can only move by pivoting on one of their feet.

Once the thrower, or the handler, gets possession of the disc, they have 10 seconds to pass it; if they do not pass the disc within the 10-second time frame, the opposing team gets possession of the disc.

The time count is kept by the closest defender, who audibly counts to 10 to signal how much time has passed.

If a pass is incomplete, the opposing team automatically gets possession.

This can happen if the disc is intercepted by a member of the opposing team, if the disc is dropped, or if It lands out of bounds or is caught by someone who lands out of bounds.

To score, the offensive team must complete a pass into the defensive team’s endzone.

Once a point as been scored, the players once again return to the end zones for another pull.

The team that scored stays in the endzone they just scored in, and the other team walks down to the other endzone.

Once both teams are ready at their endzone, the defensive team throws a pull and gameplay begins again. 

The Spirit of the Game

One of the most unique qualities about Ultimate Frisbee is that there are no referees.

All Ultimate games, from a recreational game to a championship tournament game are self-officiated by the players.

As a result, all calls such as out of bounds or foul calls, and all disputes are settled by the players.

This system functions under what officials call the “spirit of the game.”

Players are expected to play fair and act with integrity. They should have a mutual respect for their fellow players and have good sportsmanship on the field.

This system of self-officiating is unique to Ultimate Frisbee and is taken very seriously by the players. 

Ultimate Frisbee Positions

Players hold two positions during a game, one on offense and one on defense.

Offense

The two main offensive positions are handlers and cutters.

The more experience players are put in the handler role because the handlers are the ones that have the disc for most of the game; as a result, handlers need to be well-practiced in all of the basic types of throws and be confident and consistent in their passes.

During gameplay, handlers stay back and wait for the cutters to find an opening and then throw to the cutters to advance the disc up the field. 

Another strategy that handlers can use is to throw short passes to each other as an easy way to reset the “stall count,” which is the 10-second time limit mentioned earlier.

There are two types of handlers: a dump and the swings.

The dump runs behind the handler that has the disc so that there is an easy pass option to reset the stall count.

The swings throw longer passes to the cutters to try to make progress up the field. 

Because of the nature of their position, handlers need to be good at communicating with the cutters and be able to make quick decisions about where to pass. 

The cutters are typically the newer players who do not yet have strong enough throwing skills. 

The cutter’s purpose is to get away from the defenders and find an open space so that handler has someone to pass to. They receive the disc and then quickly pass it to another cutter or a handler to advance it up the field. 

Similar to the handler, the cutter position also has two subsections: a striker and a popper.

A striker is in charge of catching longer throws that go further down the field. In contrast, the popper catches the short passes in the middle of the field. The popper also serves as an alternative option to the dump if the handler needs a short pass to reset the stall count.

Players in the cutter position need to be fast and have good stamina because they spend most of the game running. It is also vital that they can catch well because they are usually the ones receiving the disc. 

Defense

When playing defense, the players do not always have set positions, but instead take on different positions depending on what defensive strategy is being run. 

When running a man-to-man strategy, each of the defensive players chooses one of the offensive players to mark for the entire next point.

During gameplay, the defensive players stay close to their chosen opponent, trying to block them from receiving or throwing the disc. 

In a zone defense strategy, players guard a specific zone of the field instead of guarding an individual.

The defensive players guard any of the opponents that come into the zone they are marking. 

The Throws

In Ultimate Frisbee there are three common throws that are important for players to learn: the backhand, forehand, and hammer.

The throws will be explained for a right-handed player for simplicity.

Backhand

The backhand is the easiest and most natural throw.

It can be used for short-, medium-, or long-range throws because you can control how much power you put into the throw and thus how far it will go. 

To throw a backhand, grip the disc with the thumb on the top and then four fingers underneath.

Twist your arm to your left side until your elbow is directly in front of the disc.

To release, swing your arm back to the front and let go when the disc is straight out in front of you.

Make sure that you release the disc parallel to the ground and follow all the way through with your arm. 

The position that your wrist is in upon release controls the spin on the disc and then direction it flies.

Forehand

A forehand throw, also called a flick, is a more efficient throw that the back hand because it takes less energy and less time to throw.

It does take more practice to master, however. 

To perform this throw, your index and middle finger go under the disc and your thumb sits on top.

Extend your arm away from your body and pull your wrist back as far as you can; then, thrust your arm forward to throw and snap your wrist inwards while keeping your palm up.

Throwing a forehand is a similar motion to skipping rocks on the water.

Hammer

The hammer throw is the most advanced of the three.

This throw is good to use if you are being marked and need to throw the disc over the defender’s head, and it is harder to block. 

To throw a hammer, grip the disc just as you would for a forehand.

Hold the disc above your head and angled slightly to your left with the top of the disc facing your left side.

Pull back with the bent elbow and release the disc when it is in front of your forehead. Snap your wrist downward and follow through with your arm. 

You can watch the following video to see how each of these throws is performed.

There are also other more advanced throws that you can use in Ultimate Frisbee, but they are variations of these three basic throws; you should master these three before moving on to something more advanced. 

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