SOTG at home and abroad

“Defense ready?” Before I could get out the words a disc slapped my hand and play started. Huh? I was too surprised to say anything. And I was a visitor here at a scrimmage in Singapore. So I played on. Turns out the offense checking the disc in after a stopped disc was common practice at this particular scrimmage, not an aberration.

Ultimate is relatively young and growing rapidly in Singapore. Without a large community of veterans, it’s easy to imagine how a minor rules violation that doesn’t seem like a big deal could be passed down from one player to another within a club. And it is easy to imagine how starting play without a proper check would create a lot of confusion, and some angst, in an international tournament.

I’ll admit to taking rules knowledge and SOTG for granted. But my travels around southeast Asia where ultimate is younger and rapidly growing have me convinced that we need to make a continued and concerted effort to work on self officiation skills if we want to maintain the unique components of ultimate culture.

It’s easy to assume that if everyone’s “cool” (plays with SOTG), then things will run smoothly and everything will be fine. However, if the game doesn’t run smoothly, then the default assumption is that the other team isn’t cool or has bad spirit. Which is a lack of respect for your opponent.  What is very much more likely, and more common in places where ultimate is developing, is that players in fact lack the skills  required to interpret the rules and have swift discussions on the field.

Throughout my travels in Asia, organizers expressed common concerns about their spirit scores in international settings,  While in Singapore, I attended a session with all captains specifically to review the recent WFDF rules changes and to discuss SOTG.

If you’re not familiar with the WFDF spirit scoring, it is an excellent tool for getting quantitative feedback on SOTG. But this tool is only useful if teams take the time and effort to look at their results and take steps to improve their scores.

In many regions where ultimate is growing quickly, organizers worry about a loss of control of how players are learning to self officiate. I think we’ll begin to see more initiatives like Singapore’s to improve their rules interpretation and spirit scoring.

In the United States when you first learn how to play ultimate, you are likely surrounded by veterans to who have been playing for many years. Even if rules aren’t explicitly talked about, you’re in an environment where people will be annoyed if you don’t check the disc in properly, if you continuously violate certain rules, or even challenge softer cultural norms about what is and is not an acceptable foul call.

My international travels have made me come around to taking SOTG more seriously than before. I now firmly believe that if we want to have rapid growth in the sport and remain self-officiated, then we need to invest time and effort in teaching SOTG to our players.

Teaching Self-Officiation as a Skill

If you’re looking for some practical ways to discuss SOTG with others and help your players develop self-officiation skills, take 25 minutes out of your day to check out Liam’s presentation, Teaching Self-Officiation as a Skill.

If you’re a member of our URCA Classroom, you can access all of Liam’s presentation as well as all of our URCA Library. Check out what’s included and sign up for just $19/month. Cancel any time!

Five Key Takeaways

  1. SOTG = Ethos + Skills
  2. The problem with self officiation usually isn’t at higher levels of competition
  3. Regardless of the scenario, there will always be two points of view
  4. Every sport has self officiation. Where ultimate is unique is applying it to high level competition
  5. Learning the rules is boring. It’s unrealistic to expect players to do it on their own.

One Action Item

When you do a drill, bring up the relevant rules!

Example: When doing the break mark drill, take 3 minutes to review the contact rule.


What drills are you running at practice this week? What relevant rules can you teach and review?

Leave your ideas in the comments below!


WFDF Rules, decision trees, etc can be found here

USAU Rules can be found here