In my experience as a Game Advisor I’ve learned there are plenty of rules many players either do not know, or apply incorrectly, and often players will communicate calls or outcomes to others in an inconsistent manner. In most of these scenarios, the other players on the field understand the convention and play will continue without confusion, but fellow Rules Pedants may find it an irritation. I’ve listed a few of my favourites below.
“Coming in on zero”, accompanied by an almost-closed fist or an ‘OK’ symbol, is commonly shouted by players after an uncontested foul call. The stall count is, in fact, NOT coming in on zero, it’s coming in on ONE. Nobody starts their count with zero. The first number to be uttered by the marker will be one. You might notice if the marker calls out “coming in on zero”, any GAs on that game actually will hold up one finger to signal that the stall is coming in on one. “Coming in on one” is the correct call.
Interestingly, in Australia this difference in the stated and actual starting number only happens on one: if the marker says “coming in on four” that means they will restart the count with four as the first number spoken after the check. This is not always the case – at recent international tournaments I heard players from some countries call “coming in on four”, then check the disc and say “stalling five”.
When an offensive player catches the disc, most defenders will immediately (if they are within 3m) begin their stall count by saying “One”. This is a fast count infraction. Rule 9.1 states that ‘The marker administers a stall count on the thrower by announcing “Stalling” and then counting from one (1) to ten (10).’
So when initiating a stall count (and also when restarting the stall count after a stoppage) the first word from the defender should be “Stalling”. If it isn’t, then the thrower can call a Fast Count.
Try calling it. It’s fun. The confusion on a markers face when you call ‘Fast Count’ when they have said the word ‘one’ and nothing else, is good for a quick laugh (before they recover and start stalling again).
Many players seem to find it difficult, if not impossible, to stay three metres away from the sideline if the 3m exclusion line is not marked. Actually, a large number of players find it hard to stay outside the 3m line even when it IS marked.
Yet, if you put any of those players in a cup in a zone defence pattern, every one of them will stay exactly 3m away from the thrower. They all know how far 3m is, and will stay outside that limit. The sideline shouldn’t be any different.
Perhaps if more players thought about the perimeter line in this way, they might do better at staying the required three metres away from the field. Then again, they might still approach the sideline if they were within 3m of an opponent...
I find this one particularly annoying: players kicking the cone away when bringing the disc into play at the front corner of the endzone. In short: it is not allowed, and players can be called for a violation for doing so.
I’ve seen players bring the disc in from out of bounds in the central zone, and place a pivot foot up to 1m inbounds without being called for a travel (although 10cm-20cm is more common). Similarly, players will bring the disc from the endzone up to the front line after a turnover, and step slightly over the line. Nobody cares. But for some reason, when the pivot point is the front corner of the endzone, everyone suddently wants to put their foot EXACTLY where the cone is, and will punt the cone an impressive distance away in order to do so.
Strictly speaking, the pivot point should be in the playing field anyway: remember that the line itself is not part of the playing field, so the pivot point is just inside the line. Also, the rules specifically allow you to step a small distance inside away from the cone so that it is not in your way when you pivot (see annotations, 13.8).
If you are still going to insist on kicking the cone away, at least put it back after you have thrown the disc.
Touching the ground
We’ve all seen this one – disc is on the ground, and there is a stoppage for injury or some other call. The call is resolved, player calling injury is ready to play or is replaced, and players wait for someone to touch the ground before they all start moving.
Nowhere in the rules is it written that touching the ground starts play. Section 10.5 of the rules describes three scenarios to restart play, two of which are when the thrower has the disc. The remaining scenario is described in 10.5.2: when the disc is on the ground, the defender nearest to the disc must call “Disc In”.
Touching the ground is a very commonly followed convention, and it’s an obvious visual cue that play has restarted, but there is no requirement to do so.
I suspect most coaches would find this one irritating – players bringing the disc to the front of the endzone or the sideline after a turnover and then holding the disc out to their opponent for a check, or touching it to the ground. It’s an unnecessary waste of time that could potentially delay the thrower from getting a quick pass away immediately.
Rule 10.1 specifies that a check is required after stoppage of play. After a turnover is caused by a drop, out-of-bounds play, or a throwaway, there is no stoppage of play. All players may move, the only requirement for the thrower is that they establish a pivot (8.1.2, 13.8-13.11).
Unfortunately lots of social-level players do this, and new players see it and think it’s a requirement. Try to break this habit if you can.
Just to add to the confusion about this, the USAU rules require that if the thrower moves the disc (eg. from out-of-bounds to the playing field, or from the end zone to the central zone) then they must ground-check the disc. Anyone watching USA ultimate may see this and copy the behaviour, even though it is not required by the WFDF rules.
The rules of Ultimate are hard, but it's important to the integrity of our game that we learn them thoroughly. Yes, some of these rules listed will be insignificant in deciding the result of any given game, but getting them right will improve the overall game experience of Ultimate, from grass roots to worlds events. Take pride in your rules knowledge and if you are unclear about anything, ask a trusted source or fact check online yourself.