ultimate discs lying on turf

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If you’re looking for an adult sport that’s fast-paced, competitive, non-contact, and requires minimal gear, ultimate might be right up your alley. Often referred to as ultimate Frisbee, the true players simply call it ultimate (Frisbee is a trademarked brand name).

Ultimate has an almost cultish following of adult athletes, which tells you there’s something special about this sport. Let’s get into how to play and where you can find a place to play ultimate in adult leagues or pickups near you.

Understanding Ultimate

Before you jump into the action of ultimate, it’s worth your while to understand the basic rules and objectives of the game. Remember those days of childhood Frisbee tossing at a beach or park? Ultimate is that times a hundred.

Ultimate is a highly competitive, team-based sport that involves strategy, agility, and, yes, some impressive disc flinging. It’s a mashup of different sports, like football, soccer, and basketball. Most ultimate matches occur outside on grass, but indoor ultimate leagues are also available.

Like football, you have an end zone on either side, and teams try to get past their opponents and into the end zone to catch discs and score points. You can’t run with the disc, though. Instead, you pass it to your teammates to move down the field.

It might sound simple, but there’s a lot to it. The game has a fast pace and a unique combination of rules, making every match an adrenaline-pumping experience.

The Basic Rules Of Ultimate

Now that you understand the overall gist of ultimate, here’s a deeper dive into the game’s actual rules.

The first interesting twist in the rules of ultimate is that it’s an entirely self-officiated sport. Yep, that means no officials to call fouls. The teams work out any disputes amongst each other.

Regulation ultimate teams consist of seven players on a side. The field is 70 yards long and 40 yards wide, and each end zone is 20 yards deep. The total game time for ultimate is 40 minutes, with a 5-minute halftime after 20 minutes of play.

To start the game, each team lines up on their respective end zones. Similarly to a kickoff in football, the defense throws the disc to their opponents. This is called a “pull.”

Once caught, the offense attempts to move down the field to score. Players cannot run with the disc but rather need to pass it to teammates in any direction. The person in possession of the disc is called the thrower. He or she can possess the disc for up to ten seconds before needing to throw it. While the thrower cannot run with the disc (similar to basketball possession), he or she may pivot one foot to throw the disc.

two men playing ultimate both reaching for frisbee in air

Photo by John Kofi on Unsplash

The defense, on the other hand, tries to block or stall the thrower. But remember, there’s no contact, which means no smacking the disc out of an opponent’s hands while they are still holding it. There may be only one defender blocking the player who has possession, and the defender is responsible for counting down the ten-second possession.

Play continues if the offense catches the disc. If it’s dropped, blocked, intercepted, or held beyond the ten seconds, possession reverts to the opposing team.

If there is contact, it’s considered a foul. For example, if one player runs into the thrower and knocks them down or causes them to drop the disc, the thrower would restart play from the place of the foul.

Teams earn points when the offensive team throws the Frisbee to their player in the end zone. That player must have both feet in the end zone when catching the disc. And since there’s no running with the disc, you can’t score by running into the end zone.

Teams may substitute after scoring or because of injury.

The rules aren’t very complicated, which is always lovely, especially if you’re new to a sport. If you want to read the full set of official ultimate rules, you can find them at USA Ultimate.

Essential And Optional Ultimate Gear

The gear for ultimate is pretty minimal. Quality ultimate discs are the most essential. Opt for Ultimate Players Association-approved discs since they guarantee proper weight and dimensions.

Cleats are the optimal footwear choice since you’ll jump, plant, and pivot while you play. You can opt for sneakers, too, but you’ll be more likely to slip.

For clothing, wear something comfortable, and you’ll be able to move in easily since you’ll be running, twisting, jumping, and possibly diving. Your team might have specific colors or jerseys.

Some players like to wear gloves or hats as optional accessories. As long as what you’re wearing doesn’t impede others or play of the game, you’re allowed to wear it.

Mastering Your Throwing Technique

The throw is the heart of an ultimate game, so mastering your throwing technique is essential. Fortunately, anyone can improve their technique with practice. Most of us aren’t born with a perfect backhand or a magical forehand flick—it takes time, patience, and repetition.

Start by perfecting your grip. The disc should rest on your fingers, not in your palm. This gives you greater control and leads to more accurate throws. Remember, it’s not all about power. Precision is also key to ensuring your teammate can catch the disc.

You also want to focus on your stance when throwing. It’s surprising how much of a difference the position of your feet makes. When preparing to throw, stand sideways with your dominant foot behind you. This gives you the balance and power you need to launch the disc.

Then, practice your wrist snap. This is where the real magic happens. The snap gives the disc its spin. The more spin, the better your throw.

Lastly, follow through. Like any good golf swing or baseball pitch, your motion shouldn’t stop at the release. Continue your arm and wrist movement as if reaching for your target. You’ll soon find your throws getting faster, stronger, and more accurate.

woman holding ultimate disc on field

Photo by Christine Tu on Unsplash

Mastering The Art Of Catching

As crucial as throwing in ultimate, a solid grasp of catching techniques can equally benefit your game. You might think it’s as easy as grabbing the disc from the air, but there’s more to it than that.

There are two main types of catches in ultimate: the pancake and the crab. The pancake catch is your go-to for high-accuracy situations. You’ll clap your hands together on the disc like you’re squishing a bug. It’s not fancy, but it’s dependable.

The crab catch, on the other hand, is for when things get dicey. It’s harder to pull off, but it’s invaluable in tight situations. Your hand should resemble a crab’s claw, reaching out and grabbing the disc like an eagle snatches a fish.

You can crab catch with one or two hands, overhand or underhand.

Ready To Play? Here’s Where To Find Ultimate Games And Leagues For Adults

If you’re excited about ultimate and are ready to start playing, we are here to help! Fortunately, Adults Play Sports has an easily searchable directory of ultimate leagues and pickups across North America.

All you have to do is enter your location, skill level, and gender preferences, and you’ll see options for ultimate near you. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

If you save your search (hit the heart button when your results come up), we’ll email you any new listings we add that meet your criteria.