Over the past few weeks I have been hearing a few complaints about overly aggressive play on the field and so I was just getting set to draft an email when I received a very thorough email from George Kovacs, the president of the Peterborough Ultimate League, addressing the very issues that I wanted to discuss. Since George had done such a thorough job, I asked for his permission to send it along to DUC members. And so, here it is with a few minor modifications to make it apply to DUC. I have included an attachment of this message in case you want to print it and read it with your team.
avoiding contact email.docx
Ultimate is a NON-CONTACT sport
As we approach the mid-point of our summer season, our League Coordinators have been seeing a number of spirit and incident reports. While there is always a range of issues in these, one pattern we are seeing are complaints of contact in the game. Enough to warrant a bit of league-wide attention. Non-incidental contact leads to dangerous plays and detracts from game spirit. Neither is fun.
So here's a refresher on the rules and the course of action around this type of incidence.
The Short Version
The very first sentence of USAUltimate's 11th edition rules states that "Ultimate is a non-contact disc sport" (I.A). Later, when those rules define fouls, they note that "It is the responsibility of all players to avoid contact in every way possible" (XVI.H).
Avoidable contact or contact that affects the play is a foul. Period.
The Longer "Yeah But..." Version
First of all, yeahbuts live in the bush.
Second, some players will argue that there are exceptions. But these are very narrowly defined.
The big one is so-called Incidental Contact. The rules do account for this, identifying "Contact between opposing players that does not affect continued play" (II.H) and noting that such incidental contact "before, during or immediately after the [catching] attempt often is unavoidable and is not a foul" (XIV.H.3.b.1).
But notice even here that the contact needs to be unavoidable AND have no affect on the play. Jostling for position in the stack, bumping a player while you cut for open space, or pushing off a player when you initiate a cut are all avoidable, and therefore are NOT examples of incidental contact. "Some players just expect a more physical game" is NOT a valid example of how to play ultimate.
Not only that, the initiation of contact, and its affect on the play, is a matter of perspective. You may feel you only brushed a player, or made a legit bid on the disc and then grazed a hand, but the other player may feel differently than you. If that is the case, you need to treat the call of contact as legitimate foul, even if that feels frustrating.
In game responses
Foul call: If you feel that another player has made contact with you that affected the game, the appropriate response is to call "foul" loudly. Echo the call if you hear it. The other player may accept the foul call by saying "No Contest." The other player may challenge the foul call by saying "Contest." The rules dictate specific outcomes for each of these, depending on where the disc was when the foul occurred (usually in the air or the hands of a handler).
Players may discuss the foul, but should do so politely and respectfully. Different perspectives, remember. It is ok to make a foul call and retract it during the discussion, but it is equally ok to stick to the foul call. What is not ok is to argue aggressively for one side or another, treat the call as some sort of assault on your character, or express frustration or anger at the final result.
Players not involved in a play should avoid trying to contribute to the conversation, although captains or senior players might offer to mediate a discussion, especially for players less familiar with the rules. The key at all times is to talk it out as calmly as possible.
Remember: foul is not a dirty word. Many fouls occur innocently and may not even be the direct fault of the player committing the foul.
Dangerous Play: Here, PUL(DUC discussed this at the captains meeting but no policy is in place yet) differs slightly from USA Ultimate rules (though that rule set is moving in this direction too). We have a Dangerous Play policy which states that "A player may call a Dangerous Play foul when reckless disregard for the safety of fellow players or other dangerously aggressive behaviour occurs or is imminent. Contact need not occur."
Any time a player is moving in such a way that might be expected to cause harm to another player, the dangerous play can be called. It can be contested like any other foul, and the results of the call work in the same way.
Post game responses
Talk it out with captains and players after the game. Stay civil. If in-game problems were significant and not resolved in post-game discussion, individual players have the option of making an incident report, and speaking to the Kevin. When we see recurring incidents around a particular player, we take action.
So that's it. Sorry to drag you all through such a long email, but it is the responsibility of every player to maintain a safe and healthy game out there. League Coordinators are reminding Captains; Captains are reminding Players. But we are ALL players.
All the best, George (PUL)
Thanks to George for writing such a great message!
So, in conclusion, as we move forward for the remainder of the season and playoffs please try to avoid contact as much as possible. We want this to be a sport of finesse and skill and not one of aggression! And most importantly we want everyone to leave the field in better shape then they arrived.
Enjoy the rest of your season, Kevin