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There is a lot of terminology that is specific to Ultimate Frisbee, including terms for the player positions, the types of throws, and different situations that can occur during game play. 

Understanding the various terms will not only help you understand what to do during a game, but it will also help you follow along better when someone is discussing a strategy or a position they want you to play.

The term we are going to focus on in this article is “turnover.”

What is a turnover in Ultimate Frisbee? When does a turnover occur? Who makes the call for a turnover? 

We will address all of these questions and more to help you get a better understanding of this term and all of the rules associated with it. 

The rules

Before we discuss a turnover specifically, it is important to get a basic understanding of the rules of Ultimate Frisbee; this will help you have a better understanding of a turnover in context of gameplay. 

Ultimate Frisbee is played on a rectangular field that has an endzone at each end where points are scored. 

Each team has seven players out on the field during the game.

Players can be substituted in and out during the game, but substitutions can only happen after a point is scored or during an injury timeout. 

The object of the game is to get the disc up the field and catch it in the opposite team’s endzone to score a point while also trying to prevent the opposite team from scoring. 

To initiate game play, each team lines up across their own endzone; a player from the defensive team throws, or “pulls,” the frisbee down the field to the players on the offensive team, trying to get the frisbee as far as possible so that the offensive team has a poor field position. 

Once the frisbee is in play, the players pass the frisbee to their teammates to move it up the field.

Passes can be made in any direction, but the goal is to continue advancing toward the endzone.

The player with the frisbee in hand only has 10 seconds to pass, and he/she must remain in place until it has already been passed.

Much like in basketball, defenders guard the players on the opposite team to make it harder to pass the disc and thus to advance toward the endzone. 

A point is scored when a player catches the frisbee in the opposite team’s endzone.

Then the team that scored stays in that end zone and the opposite team goes to the other end zone.

Once everyone is back in place at their respective endzones, another long throw is made to initiate game play once more. 

What is a turnover in Ultimate Frisbee?

A turnover is when the possession of the frisbee changes from one team to another. 

There are several different situations where a turnover can occur during a game.

In some situations, the possession of the frisbee goes to the opposite team; in other situations, the possession changes over and game play is also stopped.

We will go into depth about when each type of turnover occurs.

Possession of the disc is transferred

A turnover occurs when a pass is incomplete. There are several ways this can occur.

A pass is considered incomplete if the thrower accidentally drops the disc and cannot regain possession of it before it hits the ground.

In this situation, the disc would turnover to the other team because it was dropped. 

It would not be considered an incomplete pass, however, if the thrower was able to catch the disc before it hit the ground.

If the player was to drop it but then catch it before it came into contact with the ground or with another player, possession would be considered continuous and gameplay would continue uninterrupted. 

Alternatively, if the thrower dropped the disc and it was touched by another player, the thrower would give up possession of the disc even if they caught it after another player touched it.

This would not be considered a turnover, but rather would be considered a new possession since it never touched the ground.

Similarly, a turnover also occurs for a dropped pull. During the pull—the initial long throw down the field—if the offensive team makes contact with the disc before it hits the ground but fails to actually catch it, this is considered a dropped pull.

Possession of the disc goes back to the defensive team if this occurs. 

A drop also occurs when a thrower misses their target or a receiver misses the catch, resulting in the frisbee hitting the ground. Both of these scenarios are also grounds for a turnover. 

A turnover also occurs when the disc is intercepted by an opposing player.

If a player tries to make a pass to a teammate, but a defensive player is able to catch the disc before the teammate can, then the defensive team gains possession of the disc. 

A turnover also results when a disc becomes out of bounds, either by landing out of bounds, by hitting an object out of bounds, or by being caught by a player who then lands out of bounds.

Possession of the disc is transferred, and play is stopped

A turnover occurs and play stops if the thrower does not pass the disc in the allotted 10 second time limit. 

While the thrower is looking for someone to pass to, a player on the defensive team counts the seconds out loud to mark how long the thrower has been in possession of the disc.

If the defensive player reaches 10, game play is stopped, and the defensive team receives possession of the disc. 

A turnover with stopped play also occurs if the thrower intentionally hands the disc to another player instead of throwing it.

In order for the pass to be legitimate, the disc needs to leave the hand of one player before reaching the hand of another.

If this does not occur, possession of the disc is given to the opposing team.

Additionally, this type of turnover occurs if the thrower catches the disc that they just threw.

However, it is not considered a turnover if another player touches the disc during flight before the thrower catches it.

But if the thrower purposefully deflects the disc off of another player for the purpose of trying to catch it, then the disc turns over and gameplay stops. 

Game play also stops if an offensive player assists a teammate with making a catch or uses an object to help make a catch.

An example of this would be if the player used a shirt or a hat to help catch the disc. 

However, if a defensive player tries to assist with a catch or use an object to intercept a throw, possession of the disc is awarded to the intended recipient of the throw, so the disc does not turn over. 

Finally, if the thrower calls a timeout while the frisbee is in play and no timeouts remain, a turnover occurs and play is stopped. 

“Spirit of the Game”

As you can see, there are many different ways that a turnover can occur during a game of Ultimate Frisbee. 

An interesting thing to note, though, is that these turnover calls are not made by a referee, but by the players themselves. That’s right! There are no referees in Ultimate Frisbee!

Ultimate Frisbee Is known for something referred to as the “spirit of the game” (SOG), which encourages a strong feeling of sportsmanship and mutual respect for the other players.

Under SOG, players are held to a high standard and are expected to be trustworthy and fair.

Ultimate frisbee players self-officiate the games because there are no formal referees.

As a result, all disagreements, fouls, and out of bounds calls are left up to the players to work out amongst themselves.

Turnovers are also included in this.

While some turnovers are obvious, such as the disc hitting the ground or being intercepted by an opposing player, some turnovers are more subtle. 

For example, if you were to step just out of bounds during a game, it could be hard for the other players on the field to see if you were in or out of the line.

Since there are no formal referees to make the call, it would be up to you to be honest and fair and let everyone know that you stepped out of bounds and therefore needed to give up possession of the disc. 

If the players disagree on whether a turnover has occurred, they can call a “contest” where they discuss and come to an agreement about what happened during the play.

If the players cannot come to an agreement, then they must return the disc to the last non-disputed thrower. 

The “spirit of the game” is unique to Ultimate Frisbee and is really taken seriously by the players. 

This commitment to honesty by all the players on the field is particularly important when it comes to turnovers because there are so many different ways a turnover can occur.

If all of the players on the field are not only watching for turnovers but also calling them honestly, it will ensure a fair game for everyone. 

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