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Starting any new sport can be overwhelming because there is a lot of information to gather and rules to learn to make sure you know what you’re doing during a game.

This is especially true for a smaller sport like Ultimate Frisbee that is not commonly played on tv or regularly discussed. 

While Ultimate Frisbee is not the most common sport, it is becoming increasingly more popular, and for good reason.

This sport is fast-paced and generally fun to play and to watch.

There are also opportunities available to all age and ability levels, from community leagues to college intramurals to championship-level professional teams.

It’s no wonder it is one of the fastest growing sports!

This article will offer a brief introduction to the sport of Ultimate Frisbee for beginners, explaining the basics of the game along with some common mistakes to try to avoid as you practice. 

Ultimate Frisbee for Beginners

The Basics

Ultimate Frisbee is played on a rectangular field with two endzones on either end.

A standard field is 70 yards by 40 yards (64 meters by 37 meters), and each end zone is 25 yards (18 meters) deep. 

An Ultimate Frisbee team can have as many players as desired, but only 7 players are allowed on the field at one time.

Substitutes are allowed during the game, but players can only be traded out after a point is scored or during an injury timeout. 

Similar to American football, the object of the game is to pass the disc down the field and score in the other team’s endzone.

While doing so, each team is also trying to block the opposite team from scoring.

Game play

To begin playing, the players on each team line up in front on their own endzones.

The defensive team throws, or “pulls” the disc down the field to the offensive team, which officially starts the game play.

The purpose of this pull is to throw the disc as far down the field as possible; this gives the offensive team a poor position on the field and gives the defensive team time to run down the field to stop the opposing team from advancing. 

The players pass the disc to their teammates and work their way to the opposing team’s endzone while the defenders try to intercept their passes and prevent them from scoring. 

Once a player catches the disc, they must come to a stop and find a teammate to pass to, for the player in possession of the disc is not allowed to run.

The person with the disc, or the thrower, can pivot on one foot, but if they pick that foot up, the disc is turned over to the opposing team.

The thrower has 10 seconds to pass the disc, which can be passed in any direction; if they hold onto the disc for longer than 10 seconds, the defending team gets possession.

While the thrower tries to find someone to pass to, the defender audibly counts to ten to signal how much longer he/she has to pass. 

If a pass is incomplete, the opposing team automatically receives possession of the disc. This can happen in a few ways.

First, a pass is considered incomplete if it is caught by a player on the opposing team or if it is blocked, meaning it is hit to the ground.

A pass is also incomplete if the disc is dropped or if it flies out of bounds or is caught by a player who lands out of bounds. 

A point is scored each time a pass is caught in the opposite team’s endzone.

Once a point has been scored, the team that scored stays in the end zone where they just scored, and the opposing team walks down to the opposite endzone.

The teams line up at the end zones again and the team that just scored throws the next pull. 

Spirit of the game

One of the things Ultimate Frisbee is known for is its “spirit of the game.”

While a competitive game is encouraged, fair play is expected; players are held to a high standard and expected to act with integrity and have a mutual respect for the other players. 

Because of this, there are no referees in Ultimate Frisbee. Players are self-officiated, leaving all disagreements to be settled amongst the players.

The only form of mediation is a couple of “observers” who stand on the sidelines, but they only step in if the players cannot come to an agreement.

Physical contact between players is not allowed; any contact made is considered a foul, and players are trusted to make foul and out of bounds calls for themselves.

This system is unique to Ultimate Frisbee and is taken very seriously by the players. 

The Equipment

The most basic piece of equipment needed for Ultimate Frisbee is a disc.

The USA Ultimate has set a Disc Technical Standard to determine what discs can be used during official game play.

According to this standard, discs must be 175 grams, plus or minus 3 grams.

The diameter must be 274 millimeters (mm), plus or minus 3 mm, and the height must be 32 mm, plus or minus 2 mm.

The USA Ultimate also has a list of discs that are already approved; you can choose a disc from this list to ensure you are practicing and playing with a disc that meets the official standards.

While there is no other equipment that is specifically required, having good quality, comfortable gear can also be an asset to your game.

For example, having a good pair of shoes will help with traction during game play and having a pair of gloves will help with grip so that your throw is consistent even in poor weather conditions.

While specific clothing is not a necessity, these items can help enhance your game and allow you to play at your best.  

Beginner Mistakes

As you get used to playing Ultimate Frisbee, you are bound to make some mistakes and have areas that need improvement.

As such, let’s discuss a few of the mistakes that people make when they are new to Ultimate Frisbee. 

One mistake beginners make is that they use the same strategy for throwing a frisbee as they do for throwing a ball.

When throwing a ball, we throw high, aiming above the target to account for the fact that gravity will cause the ball to drop. 

This is not true for a frisbee.

Because of the way it is designed, a frisbee gains lift in the air, causing it to pull up higher and come down slower.

Where a ball falls quickly back to the earth, a frisbee floats back down more slowly; this extra time in the air gives defenders a chance to try to intercept the throw.

Therefore, you should throw a frisbee flatter and with a direct line to your target rather than trying to throw it upwards.

Another common mistake is that new players do not watch the opposing handlers closely enough to predict their movements.

When playing defense, it is not enough to just guard your player; you also need to keep your eyes on the opposing team’s handlers.

By watching the handler and getting to know their body language, you can predict where they are likely to throw the frisbee next.

This will help you be better prepared if the handler throws the frisbee to the player you are guarding or if they throw it near enough to you that you can try to intercept it. 

Lastly, beginners are also much more likely to rush into a throw.

Having the disc in your hands is a lot of pressure, especially knowing you only have 10 seconds to pass.

Try not to let this pressure force you into a premature decision, though.

Rushed throws are going to be harder for your teammates to catch because they may not be prepared for the throw and the throw will likely be more sporadic.

Taking the extra time to make a throw is going to allow you to get a better grip on the disc, to establish your footing, and to make a more controlled throw. 

Final thoughts

Ultimate Frisbee is a relatively easy game to learn when it comes to the rules and regulations. But it is certainly a game that takes a lot of practice. 

While you may get a general understanding of the game fairly quickly, it will take longer to pick up on the strategy with your teammates and your throwing and catching techniques.

You also may have to get accustomed to playing in different weather situations since Ultimate Frisbee is often played outside. 

The great news about practice, though, is it can be fun!

This is especially true when you are practicing for a game that is engaging, active, and team oriented. 

While we couldn’t possibly cover everything there is to know about Ultimate Frisbee in one article, this hopefully gave you a good starting point and a better understanding of the game and the equipment you need to get started.

Now get practicing!

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