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Spirit of the Game™
Excerpts from the Official Rules of Ultimate: 11th Edition
From the Preface:"The integrity of Ultimate depends on each player's responsibility to uphold the Spirit of the Game, and this responsibility should remain paramount."
From Section 1. Introduction, item B. "Spirit of the Game. Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate unsportsmanlike conduct from the Ultimate field. Such actions as taunting opposing players, dangerous aggression, belligerent intimidation, intentional infractions, or other 'win-at-all-costs' behavior are contrary to the Spirit of the Game and must be avoided by all players."
Spirit of the Game sets Ultimate apart from other competitive team sports. For over 30 years, Ultimate has flourished, reaching a highly competitive level, without the use of referees. In Ultimate, the honor system works. Sure, human nature rears its ugly head from time to time - just as in any sport, just as in life. Yet, one of the many beauties of Ultimate is how, even amid the most difficult of situations, utmost graciousness is allowed to meet that challenge head on. Through this balance, Ultimate players are free to demonstrate the most honorable and the most joyous sides of human nature in sport.
Most Ultimate players care deeply about Spirit of the Game. The organizational challenge for USA Ultimate is to foster an environment where the challenge does not become,"to see what I can get away with". Rather than dictate what Spirit of the Game is or should be, it is up to each player to do so for him or herself within the context of the teams he or she plays with and against.
See our Conduct Policy.
Ten Things you should know about sotG™
1. The golden rule: treat others as you would want to be treated.
Spirited games result from mutual respect among opponents. Assume the best of your opponent. Give him or her the benefit of a 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."
2. 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 emotionality, 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.
3. 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 unspirited 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.
4. SOTG is compatible with championship 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.
5. 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.
After a hard foul, close call, or disputed play, take a step back, pause, and take a deep breath. 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.
7. When you do the right thing, people notice.
When you turn the other cheek, you know you've 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.
8. Be generous with praise.
Compliment an opponent on her good catch. Remark to a teammate that you admire his honesty in calling himself 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.
9. 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.
10. Have fun.
All other things being equal, games are far more fun without the antipathy. Go hard. Play fair. Have fun.
Special thanks to Eric Zaslow and members of the 2005 Conduct Committee (Jeff Dunbar, Kate Bergeron, Eric Zaslow, Will Deaver) for the development of this document. Adopted by UPA Executive Committee, March 29, 2005.
Spirit Ranking Guidelines
At the board meeting in January, 2007, the board was tasked with creating spirit ranking guidelines to use at specific USA Ultimate events. The USA Ultimate (then UPA) Conduct Committee (Ricky Eikstadt, Jeff Dunbar, and Patrick Gilman) along with Peri Kurshan, Will Deaver, Kyle Weisbrod, and Eric Zaslow, developed the following rating system to assist in ranking the spirit of an opposing team. The rankings are ordered from 5 (indicating the highest level of spirit) thru 1 (the lowest level of spirit)
5 - Highest level of respect shown throughout game towards opponents, officials, and spectators. For the level of play, showed excellent knowledge of the rules and abided by them throughout the game. Any conflicts were resolved amicably and without incident. Opposing team's conduct added to our enjoyment of the game. The opposing team unfailingly played fairly and with an excellent attitude.
4 – Respect shown throughout the game towards opponents, officials, and spectators. For the level of play, showed above average knowledge of the rules and abided by them throughout the game. Any conflicts were resolved favorably and without incident. Opposing team's conduct did not detract from our enjoyment of the game. The opposing team played fairly and with a good attitude.
3 – Generally exhibited respect towards opponents, officials, and spectators. For the level of play, showed adequate knowledge of the rules and abided by them during the game. Any conflicts were resolved plainly and without incident. Opposing team's conduct generally did not detract from our enjoyment of the game. The opposing team generally played fairly and with a decent attitude.
2 – Exhibited a lack of respect towards opponents, officials, and/or spectators. For the level of play, showed a lack of knowledge of or disregard for the rules at points during the game. Any conflicts were resolved heatedly or led to contentious incidents. Opposing team's conduct detracted somewhat from our enjoyment of the game. The opposing team played unfairly and/or with a poor attitude.
1 – Exhibited a major lack of respect towards opponents, officials, and/or spectators. For the level of play, exhibited no knowledge of the rules or blatantly disregarded them during the game. Conflicts were resolved acrimoniously or led directly to contentious incidents. Opposing team's conduct made the game basically unenjoyable. The opposing team played unfairly and their attitude was abysmal.
See the archive of Spirit Awards.