Colorado Springs, CO (March 9, 2021)—Last month, USA Ultimate published an updated version of its COVID-19 Return to Play guidelines. This 40-page document outlines a variety of health and safety recommendations and protocols that were developed in cooperation with the organization’s medical advisory working group and community volunteers. These guidelines also factor in the latest advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various health departments and best practices of other sports governing bodies.
With amateur athletics continuing their return to competition, these guidelines are designed to provide important health and safety information to event and league organizers, local disc organizations and coaches planning events, tryouts, practices or other ultimate-related activities and include considerations surrounding equity and access. Further guidance for large-scale, national-level events are currently in development and will reflect future COVID-19 recommendations and information, including vaccine availability and vaccination data.
“As team trainings begin to ramp up locally, I hope that team organizers use our Return to Play guidelines as a framework to walk through a wide range of considerations to minimize the risk of transmission before getting back to full-scale competition,” said USA Ultimate Board of Directors President Robyn Fennig.
As the physical and mental health, safety and well-being of its members and the greater ultimate community continues to be its chief priority, and with a guarded sense of optimism given the current trajectory of COVID-19 cases, vaccination data and CDC guidance, USA Ultimate continues to carefully evaluate and plan the upcoming ultimate season for its different competition divisions: youth, masters, club, college and beach.
Over the course of the last several months, and with the help of its division-specific competition working groups, USA Ultimate has been considering and implementing a variety of flexible revisions to its competition guidelines in light of the current environment.
Due to the significant amount of planning and coordination required to organize and run USA Ultimate events, as well as the need for teams to assemble, prepare and train for competition, it’s critical that these efforts move forward. That being the case, USA Ultimate will remain flexible and adjust as necessary depending on the future course of the pandemic, updated CDC guidance and continued feedback from the medical advisory working group, players and other community members.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we can get back on the field of play in 2021,”added Fennig. “We will continue to work with our medical advisors, monitor national data and adjust our preliminary plans accordingly to keep the safety of our athletes, organizers, family and community members at the forefront of our decision making. My hope is that by returning to competition, we as a community are coming back with a renewed sense of togetherness that was lost during this pandemic.”
As guidance for the return to play at regional and national-level events is being developed, and with an understanding of the need to remain nimble and adapt to evolving and uncertain circumstances, USA Ultimate is excited to announce a variety of updates for its competitions divisions, including dates and locations for its premier events.
The following is a breakdown of the latest news from each division. Please stay tuned to the USA Ultimate website and its social platforms for continued updates as planning for the upcoming season continues.
- Masters Regionals will not be held in 2021. With these 48 regional tournaments typically occurring in early to mid-June, too much uncertainty remains to effectively coordinate, organize and host them this season.
- As a result of eliminating Masters Regionals this year, the 2021 Masters Championships will be an open event with bids determined via an application process.
- The 2021 Masters Championships will occur July 16-18 in Aurora, Colo. In consideration of the concerns expressed by members of the ultimate community about hosting events in Aurora, please read more about its community-centered approach to racial justice along with its affiliate and local event organizer, Altitude Youth Ultimate.
- More information can be found in the 2021 Masters Division Guidelines.
- USA Ultimate is currently working with its state youth coordinators and local organizers to plan high school and middle school state championships this spring. With state health departments having different recommendations and guidelines, USA Ultimate will assess each event on a case-by-case basis and adhere to its Return to Play guidelines.
- State Championship bid documents are now available.
- The Youth Club Championships (YCC) at the U.S. Open will occur August 7-9 in Blaine, Minn. Applications will be available the week of March 15.
- USA Ultimate will offer extended application deadlines and flexible acceptance criteria for YCC. Bids will be accepted on a rolling basis (i.e. no phased approached this year) beginning in April.
- USA Ultimate is strongly considering increasing the number of chaperones required for YCC teams and implementing safety guidelines for lodging.
- More information, including player and team eligibility details, can be found in the 2021 Youth Division Guidelines.
- USA Ultimate has suspended all regular season event requirements for teams.
- 2019 flight assignments and rankings will be used to offer invitations to major Triple Crown Tour regular season tournaments. (Subject to change pending the cancellation of events.)
- Excepting Canadian teams, no invitations will be extended to international teams for the U.S. Open this year. Travel regulations between the U.S. and Canada will continue to be monitored with invitations being reevaluated accordingly.
- USA Ultimate is optimistic that a traditional postseason championship series will occur in the fall.
- Due to the relative uncertainty of attendance and potential lack of connectivity, and to avoid placing undue pressure or expectations on teams to attend regular season events, there will be no rankings issued this season.
- Without rankings, the bid process for the series is currently being considered.
- As a result of a flexible regular season with no requirements, there will be no byes offered to regionals this season; all teams competing in the series will begin with sectionals.
- Two weekend options will be available this year for both sectionals and regionals to provide flexibility with scheduling.
- Results from the 2021 season will not directly affect 2022 flight assignments.
- Qualification criteria for the 2022 WFDF World Ultimate Club Championships is currently being considered.
- More information will be available in the soon-to-be-released 2021 Club Division Guidelines.
- Contingency plans, including alternative timelines for the club season, have been drafted by the club working group and have been communicated to teams and organizers. More updates will be provided to teams as they become available.
- The tentative 2021 club division calendar is:
|Pro-Elite Challenge||July 10-11||Aurora, CO*|
|Select Flight Invite (West)||July 10-11||TBD|
|Select Flight Invite (East)||July 24-25||Columbus, OH|
|U.S. Open||August 6-8||Blaine, MN|
|Elite-Select Challenge||August 21-22||Lebanon, OH|
|Pro Championships||September 4-6||Boulder, CO|
|Sectionals||Sept. 11-12, 18-19|
|Regionals||Sept. 25-26, Oct. 2-3|
|USA Ultimate National Championships||October 21-24||San Diego, CA|
*In consideration of the concerns expressed by members of the ultimate community about hosting events in Aurora, please read more about its community-centered approach to racial justice along with its affiliate and local event organizer, Altitude Youth Ultimate.
- USA Ultimate continues to work with local event organizers, its teams and university club sports departments as it considers alternative playing opportunities in the spring.
- Work continues on plans for a 2021 college series (conferences, regionals, nationals) this fall. USA Ultimate intends on communicating its plans for a fall series before the end of the spring semester.
- Earlier this year, USA Ultimate published a 2021-22 College Season FAQ.
- There have been no updates since USA Ultimate announced the postponement of the 2021 Beach Championships to later this fall. Planning continues and updates will be announced as they become available.