One Frisbee to Rule Them All

May 15, 2019


Courtesy of Skyline Ultimate

In 1950, college kids finish licking their pie tins and fingers, sitting in a small field in Bridgeport, Connecticut on a sunny July day.  Nobody knows who the first person was to turn the pie tin upside-down and toss it to a buddy, but for as long as Ms. Frisbie’s pie shop has been open, people have been throwing their tins to each other.  This odd beginning is also very similar to the way that Ultimate Frisbee itself was made. In 1968, college students from a different college created Ultimate Frisbee in very similar circumstances; informal and low-key.  Frisbee is one of the most informal and widely-played sports in the world. Strangely, Frisbee is not broadcasted in the same way of soccer, football, or any other team sport. In fact, Oscar Pottinger probably doesn’t ring any bells with the majority of the people reading this article.  For the record, he is arguably one of the best Ultimate Frisbee players in the world, and the writers didn’t know who he was either. There are 5.1 million Ultimate players in the United States, or about the population of Utah and Nevada put together.

“The rules for Ultimate Frisbee is really quite simple but probably confusing for people who just start out” says Rex Tippetts, a player who plays on the ultimate Frisbee team at Skyline High School. Rex put all the rules in a easy 10 rule setup that can be easily found on a website called “” He was generous enough to list all the rules if more specific rules are required.  A regulation field is 70 yards by 40 yards, with end zones 25 yards deep. Normally how play is initiated is that each point begins with both teams lining up on the front of their respective end zone line. The defense throws the disc to the offense. A regulation game has seven players per team with people on the sides to sub in if anyone gets hurt or too tired. Scoring is quite simple, because for each time the offense completes a pass in the defense’s end zone, the offense scores a point. During this the play is initiated after each score.  The movement of the disc is one of the more tedious rules. 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 has ten seconds to throw the disc. The defender guarding the thrower counts out the stall, which is what happens when the time runs out. The change of possession happens when a pass is not completed (out of bounds, drop, block, interception, stalled, etc), the defense immediately takes possession of the disc and becomes the offense.

Players not in the game may replace players in the game after a score or during an injury timeout.  Fouls are called normally when a player initiates contact on another player, that counts as a foul. When a foul disrupts possession, the play resumes as if the possession was retained. If the player committing the foul disagrees with the foul call, the play is redone. Self-Officiating is when players are responsible for their own foul and line calls. Players resolve their own disputes. The spirit of the game is the most important as Ultimate Frisbee stresses sportsmanship and fair play. Competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of respect between players, adherence to the rules, and the basic joy of play.  

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