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Spirit of the Game is the most important rule in flying disc sports (aka frisbee). It is similar to Fair Play and sportsmanship, but there is a much higher emphasis put on it in Ultimate. It is summarised in this preamble to the rules of play:

“All players are responsible for administering and adhering to the rules. Ultimate relies upon a Spirit of the Game that places the responsibility for fair play on every player. It is trusted that no player will intentionally break the rules; thus there are no harsh penalties for breaches, but rather a method for resuming play in a manner which simulates what would most likely have occurred had there been no breach.

Highly competitive play is encouraged, but should never sacrifice the mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play.”

Actions such as intentional fouling, cheating, dangerous plays, disrespectful conversations, and other ‘win at all costs’ behavior are contrary to the Spirit of the Game. Often a player is in a position where it is to his/her advantage to foul or commit some violation, but that player is morally bound to abide by the rules. The integrity of the sport depends on each player’s responsibility to uphold Spirit of the Game, and this responsibility should not be taken lightly.

As Ultimate is a self-refereed sport, maintaining Spirit of the Game is essential. Players must know the rules, be fair-minded and truthful, explain their viewpoint clearly and briefly, allow opponents a reasonable chance to speak and resolve disputes as quickly as possible, using respectful language.

A speech from one of our coaches to our players about SOTG 


As my players know from yesterday's game and the others will inevitably find out at some point in their ultimate career, some games can get a bit heated. How we handle aggression and physical play is ultimately (no pun intended) on us. At all times we must keep a level head in order to play at our best as well as keep the best Spirit throughout the team.  The following information is some key points that impact Spirit of the Game (SOTG) and how to handle it.  

Disc space. Defensive players must leave a disc’s diameter between themselves and the throwers they are marking.

Legitimate position. First person in a space has “legitimate position.” Extended arms and legs are not part of a player’s legitimate position. You cannot block an opponent’s path (or vision) with your arms or legs. 

Bad excuse. Going for the disc is never an excuse for clocking/running over/into another player.

Ten Things You Should Know About Spirit of the Game 


The Golden Rule: Treat Others as You Would Want to be Treated Spirit. Games result from mutual respect among opponents. Assume the best of your opponent. Give him/her the benefit of the doubt. You would want the same for yourself. But if you are thick-skinned, do not assume that your opponent is. Maybe you should think of this rule as, “treat others as you would have them treat your mother.”

Self-Control: SOTG Takes Real Effort. SOTG is not just some abstract principle that everyone adopts and then games run smoothly without effort. Close calls are made in tight games. Hard fouls are committed. SOTG is about how you handle yourself under pressure: how you contain your emotions, tame your temper, and modulate your voice. If you initiate or contribute to the unraveling of spirit, the concept falls apart quickly. If you act to mend things (or at least not exacerbate the situation) by following (1) above, the game heals itself.

Heckling and Taunting are Different. Ultimate has a long tradition of good-natured heckling. Heckles are friendly barbs, typically from non-playing spectators. Heckling can be fun, but taunting is not spirited and wrong. Harassing remarks after an opponent’s foul call or close play are NOT heckling: they are abusive taunts which create unpleasant playing conditions and often escalate to acrimonious disputes.

SOTG is Compatible with Competitive Play. It is a fallacy to argue that the stakes are so important that some aspect of SOTG can be cast aside. Time and again, great teams and star players have shown that you can bring all your competitive and athletic zeal to a game without sacrificing fair play or respect for your opponent.

Don’t “Give as You Got”. There is no “eye for an eye.” If you are wronged, you have no right to wrong someone in return. In the extreme case where you were severely mistreated, you may bring the issue up with a captain, tournament director, or even lodge a complaint with the governing body. If you retaliate in kind, however, a complaint may be filed against you. We recall point (1): treat others as you would have them treat you, not as they have treated you. In the end, you are responsible for you.

Take a Deep Breathe.. after a hard foul, close call, or disputed play. Take a step back, pause, and take a few deep breaths. In the heat of competition, emotions run high. By giving yourself just a bit of time and space, you will gain enough perspective to compose yourself and concentrate on the facts involved in the dispute (was she in or out; did you hit his hand or the disc; did that pick affect the play). Your restraint will induce a more restrained response from your opponent. Conflagration averted, you may resume business as usual.

When You Do the Right Thing, People Notice. When you turn the other cheek, you know you have done the right thing. You may not hear praise, there may be no standing ovation, but people do notice. Eventually, their respect for you and their appreciation of the game will grow. 

Be Generous With Praise Compliment an opponent on their good catch. Remark to a teammate that you admire his/her honesty in calling themselves out of bounds. Look players in the eye and congratulate them when you shake their hands after a game. These small acts boost spirit greatly, a large payoff for little time and effort.

Impressions Linger. Not only does the realization that your actions will be remembered for a long time serve to curb poor behavior, it can also inspire better conduct. Many old-timers enjoy the experience of meeting an elite player who remembers their first rendezvous on the field and recalls the event in detail. A good first encounter with an impressionable young player can have considerable long-term positive impact.

Have Fun. Enjoy the game spirit of the sport, teammates and even your opponents.


I'm sorry for my long winded/written rant. I hold SOTG and being a TEAM over winning as a player and as a coach. 

If anyone wants to talk further or has questions about SOTG don't hesitate to email, talk, or call me!

-Coach Jereme Mason(Spring 2015)

Links on SOTG:

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