Ultimate was invented by a group of high school students from Maplewood, N.J. in 1967. It has evolved, over the years, from a free-form sport in which there were no limits on team size and the rules were minimal, to a highly organized, competitive international sport.

The complete rules to the sport of ultimate (if such can be said to exist), can be found at http://www.cs.rochester.edu/u/ferguson/ultimate/ultimate-rules.html. However, a summary of the important rules are as follows:

  • As mentioned previously (in the first post by author unknown), there are two teams of seven players on the field at a time.
  • Each team tries to score by catching the flying disc in their opponent's endzone; the receiving player must be entirely within the end zone when the disc is caught for the point to count; each score is worth 1 point, and after each score the two teams change ends.
  • As in volleyball, the game ends after one team reaches 13, 15 or 21 points (this value is agreed upon either by the league, the tournament organizers, or the teams involved).
  • Each series of play begins with the team having scored last throwing the disc to the opposing team; this play is often referred to as a pull. During the pull, the players on both teams must be entirely within their respective endzones.
  • During play, one team maintains possession of the disc until they commit and error, and turn the disc over; a turn over may occur due to the disc touching the ground (either a drop, a missed pass or a deflected pass), an interception or the player in possession of the disc not throwing within ten seconds of having received the disc.
  • Players man not physically interfere or obstruct one another in any way; blocks, picks and checks are not permitted; upon committing a foul, play is halted and, depending on the circumstances, restarted with the disc in the possession of the previous holder or in the possession of the defending team.
  • There is no referee, so all fouls must be called by players on the field of play; since there is no overriding authority, there are a series of protocols to determine, depending on the circumstances, what should result from a foul call.
The above is by no means a comprehensive list of the rules, and anyone interested in the sport is strongly encouraged to visit the web site given above.

One final comment: one of the things that makes ultimate such an interesting and attractive game for people beyond college/university years is the very fact that the game lacks a referee. This means that all decisions and rulings must be made by the players. Due to this, the fundamental principle governing the rules and behaviour of all players is the spirit of the game. From the official rules:

Sec. 1.2 "Spirit of the Game: Ultimate has traditionally relied upon a spirit of sportsmanship which places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of the bond of mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate adverse conduct from the Ultimate field. Such actions as taunting of opposing players, dangerous aggression, intentional fouling, or other "win-at-all-costs" behavior are contrary to the spirit of the game and must be avoided by all players."

This precept makes the game particularly interesting to adults who have a balanced attitude towards competitive sports: "Play hard, play fair."