Mastering the Basics: Ultimate Frisbee

The ultimate sport in Vancouver

Photo of two people jumping in the air to catch a frisbee
PHOTO: Raphael Nast / Unsplash

By: Izzy Cheung, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Some answers were edited for clarity.

With endless sheets of ice, blacktop basketball courts, and baseball diamonds, Vancouver has plenty of sports to play or watch. However, ultimate frisbee doesn’t often make its way around Vancouver’s tabletop chatter, even though a game contains just as much action as basketball or hockey. The Peak talked to Viktoria Abanos, a player who is part of Strawberry Vancouver Ultimate League’s Wednesday night Division 3 Champions to understand some of the basics of the game. 

Q: How many people make up a team? 

A: Roster sizes are typically 20–25 people, with seven players required on the field at a time. 

Q: How are games divided (rounds, quarters, periods, etc.)? 

A: Games can be divided into halves, though halftime breaks aren’t always taken. Lower-level games tend to be around 80 minutes. 

Q: Can you describe what a typical game looks like? 

A: A typical half consists of teams taking their turn trying to earn points with only breaks for substitutions. After the initial pull (the first throw of the game), points are played out until either the allotted time or scoring cap (the amount of points needed to win) is reached. 

In addition to the start of each game and half, pulls are executed by the team that scores. A player on the scoring team throws the frisbee to the opposing team. Possession changes with each point that is scored (with the disc going to the team that was scored on). Turnovers occur when a pass is intercepted, knocked down, or lands out of bounds. 

Q: How are points awarded? 

A: A point is awarded when the disc is caught in the opposing team’s endzone. Since a player can’t move when holding the disc, in order to score a point, a different player must catch the disc in the endzone for the point to count. Each catch in an opposing team’s endzone counts for one point — after a point is scored, possession goes back to the team that was scored on. 

Q: How does a team win a game? 

A: The game concludes when a team reaches the maximum amount of points (generally 15 for 80-minute games). If the game time concludes before the point cap is reached, the team with the most points wins. 

Q: What are some of the positions? 

A: Offensive positions include: 

  • handler (“two or three people that tend to touch the disc the most, pretty much equivalent to a quarterback in American football”).
  • cutter (“‘cuts’ into the middle of the field, closer to the handler to get the disc passed to them as a way of moving the frisbee past the opposing team’s defensive line.”)
  • wing (“runs up and down the side of the sideline they are responsible for.”)
  • deep (“stays in the middle as deep and close to the endzone as possible depending on the handler’s throwing ability — and waits for a huck [long distance throw])”. 

Q: How are fouls/misdemeanours regulated? 

A: Ultimate is largely self-refereed and operates on an honour system. Opposing team members can call fouls. If a call is contested, the disc is brought back to the player who last had possession and the point restarts from there (the other players on the field should ideally try to get in the same positions they were when the throw first happened). If the call is uncontested, the foul stands, and possession changes to the opposing team.

Q: What are some examples of common violations? 

A: When the disc or disc-holding hand are touched by an opposing player before leaving the current player’s hand; travelling (taking more than three steps with the disc), or interfering with the other team’s player(s) during the air battle (when players jump in the air to catch the disc). 

Q: How do players determine shift lengths/substitutions? 

A: There are two methods for substitutions. Players either change every two points, which is common at lower levels. Or they are split into an offensive “O-line” (which goes on the field to try to score points) or a defensive “D-line” (which goes on the field to try to stop the opposition from scoring). 

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