Colorado Springs, Colo. (April 7, 2020)–USA Ultimate released today a new proposed appendix to the Official Rules of Ultimate called Ultimate 4’s – a dynamic, fast-paced and more accessible variation of ultimate designed for teams with fewer players and smaller fields.
As part of USA Ultimate’s ongoing efforts to review, experiment with, and revise the sport’s rules, the various adaptations in Ultimate 4’s serve multiple purposes beyond just creating an alternative version of the game, including opportunities for growth, increasing accessibility, building a more diverse community and a offering a lower-risk competitive option for players, leagues and organizers in areas that continue to be adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With traditional ultimate utilizing relatively large spaces and requiring sizeable teams, Ultimate 4’s bucks that trend to create a more accessible version of the sport. Without the need for large fields that are not readily available in many urban areas, Ultimate 4’s can easily be played in parks, playgrounds and other inner-city spaces, creating playing opportunities for newer, diverse communities and removing additional barriers of entry to the sport. Also, the need for fewer players means that teams are less reliant upon large groups of players to field a squad, further creating opportunities for access and growth in areas where it’s difficult to find a critical mass of participants.
Apart from its obvious 4 vs. 4 nature, Ultimate 4’s most notable rules modifications include a shorter stall count that leads to an accelerated pace of play and smaller field dimensions that allow more throwers to reach all areas of the field. Also, a 4’s “match” consists of a best-of-three series of games played to five points (or three points in the event that a third game is necessary), a format that lends itself to exciting comebacks and exhilarating tiebreakers. Additionally, fewer players on the field means more involvement from everyone.
Small-sided ultimate has been around for years in both formal and informal settings. Beach and indoor ultimate are common disciplines that typically use a smaller footprint, while youth ultimate is often scaled down to accommodate younger kids. Ultimate 4’s was partially developed with those models in mind.
USA Ultimate’s state-based organization, Colorado Ultimate, and local affiliate Altitude Youth Ultimate have already partnered to co-organize several 4’s tournaments since last fall with another scheduled for this May.
“As both an organizer of, and player in, multiple 4’s tournaments, I’ve found this format to be a great alternative for the Colorado ultimate community,” commented Jimmy Donnellon, Colorado Ultimate’s director of operations and longtime player and USA Ultimate member. “Participants have really embraced this format, and we look forward to continuing to offer it as a fun, safe and accessible playing opportunity.”
USA Ultimate will continue to evaluate and offer innovative and creative competitive opportunities, whether they are variations of ultimate or other chances to engage in disc sports like the Skills Challenge or Ultimate Disc Golf – all of which present opportunities to help grow and diversify the sport and increase access in the long run.
The Ultimate 4’s ruleset is considered experimental until it is formally approved for inclusion in the Official Rules of Ultimate. The community is encouraged to consider trying out the new rules when they are safely able to return to play and to provide feedback on their experience to USA Ultimate via this feedback form.