What is Spirit of the Game™?
While SOTG™ is fundamental to Ultimate, the founders did not see the need to include it in the rules when the game was first formalized back in Maplewood, New Jersey, in 1968. It was only as the sport began spreading across the country that it was formally articulated in the rules.
SOTG™ can be divided into three areas:
1. Mutual respect between players
2. Adherence to the agreed-upon rules
3. Basic joy of playing
Simply put, SOTG™ is how most people played games and sports with their childhood friends. Everyone agreed to certain rules and those who didn’t abide by them were teased, heckled or even excluded by the group. Think of it as schoolyard etiquette. SOTG™ permeates every rule in USA Ultimate’s Official Rules of Ultimate 11th Edition. It encourages and enables competitive play, while respecting the rules of the game and safety of other players. Unlike other sports, individual players are wholly responsible for their behavior on the field. As a non-contact sport, SOTG™ helps keep players safe, especially in a coed situation and league play, where players of all skill levels and sizes come together to compete.
To quote the USA Ultimate website: “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 SOTG™ and must be avoided by all players.”
Another aspect of SOTG™ is the recognition that one team gives another after a game. Whether it is a team cheer or a game played as a group, this acknowledgement is a confirmation of the respect players have for their opponents and helps to diffuse any tension from the heat of competition. It is especially valuable in a draft system as players will often be playing with the very players they competed against at some point in time.
Teaching Spirit of the Game™
By Elisabeth Bowman
One of the most unusual elements of Ultimate is the concept of Spirit of the Game™ (SOTG™). SOTG™ makes Ultimate unique because it allows for self-officiation rather than the use of referees, as in most other sports. While SOTG™ and self-officiation are often the most challenging aspects of Ultimate, they are often the most rewarding. Indeed, they are the reason that many players choose Ultimate over other team sports.
Parents and Spirit of the Game™
Please help us uphold Spirit of the Game™ by letting the players make the call and not interfering with the play on the field. Heckling, yelling and un-sportsmanlike conduct—perpetrated by players, coaches and parents alike—goes against the SOTG™ and is not allowed. We encourage you to cheer the team on in a positive manner.
Roles of Coaches
The coach’s goal in terms of Spirit of the Game, SOTG™, is to create an environment where players are responsible for upholding the rules and ensuring that the outcomes of plays and games are fair.
Coaches may be faced with situations where they are able to correct the self-officiating process and ensure the correct outcome to a given play. In this situation, coaches must not interfere in the officiating process, in order to ensure that players learn and take responsibility for officiating. Coach interference in the decision making process, even in the most egregious violations, will indicate to players that the coach and not the players have the Ultimate responsibility for ensuring the inherent fairness of the game.