Tuesday Tips: The 10 Biggest Changes to the USAU Rules for 2022

With an even-numbered year comes a new USAU ruleset.

Revolver's Grant Lindsley, PoNY's Matt Lemar, and observer Jonathan Monforti discuss a controversial dangerous play call in the 2018 Club Championships Men's final. Photo: Paul Rutherford -- UltiPhotos.com
Revolver’s Grant Lindsley, PoNY’s Matt Lemar, and observer Jonathan Monforti discuss a controversial dangerous play call in the 2018 Club Championships Men’s final. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

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In keeping with USA Ultimate’s two-year schedule of regular rules updates, the USAU Rules Committee has released a new version of the Official Rules of Ultimate for 2022-2023. While this update consists mostly of small adjustments to the last ruleset, the changes could be relevant in competition this year, especially when it comes to making and resolving calls.

Here’s a breakdown of the ten most significant changes for 2022. (You can also view the official ruleset with revisions marked here and a tagged list of substantive changes here.)

1. Captains can agree to whatever consequences they see fit for players “intentionally or flagrantly” breaking the rules. [2.C]

The changes to 2.C allows captains to agree to handle players “intentionally or flagrantly” breaking the rules in whatever way they agree is appropriate. This is a straightforward adjustment that helps team leaders work together to remedy any egregious issues that might otherwise obstruct the normal flow of self-officiated play, with or without observers.

2. Players should resolve disputes within 30 seconds or consider the call contested and proceed accordingly. [2.D]

An addition to 2.D states that most on-field discussions of a call “should not exceed thirty seconds before either reaching a resolution or requesting an observer to resolve the dispute. If both players have had an opportunity to state their viewpoint and it is clear that an agreement will not be reached, players have an obligation to accept that the call is contested and resolve it as such.” This helps codify some of the pace-of-play expectations, which should help at all levels to expedite discussions (no more reenactments!).

3. Players should consider their implicit bias and how it affects conflict resolution. [2.G.4]

The change to 2.G explicitly calls players to consider implicit bias — that is, unconscious assumptions that might lead them to perceive behavior from players of varying cultures or demographic groups differently — and how it can impact play and Spirit of the Game. It also specifically differentiates intent and impact, and expects players to be mindful that their good intentions can still lead to negative impacts for their teammates and opponents. (You can read more from USAU on how assumed norms about respectful behavior among competitors can affect fair and equitable implementation of spirit on their “EDI & Spirit of the Game” page.)

4. A disc that touches the ground while in a player’s possession is not a turnover. [3.J.2]

This statement may seem obviously true on first read, but this is a helpful wording clarification. This rule would come into play in a situation where a player completes a catch in-bounds, takes a rolling dive, brushes the disc against the ground while firmly maintaining possession, bobbles the disc for another reason (like if their elbow hits the ground and knocks the disc loose), then regains control before the disc hits the ground, that catch is not a turnover.

This is different from the old rule annotation, which would have negated the earlier possession as soon as the disc became loose, regardless of whether the player recovered possession after that. Very few people followed the previous rule to the letter, and the new rule better reflects both how the game is played and how people seem to think it should be played. (Of course, if a player loses possession when the disc is touching the ground, it’s still a turnover.)

5. When a team has incorrect personnel on the field for a point, a new rule expects somebody to identify the issue as soon as possible, and then allows the other team to restart the point or nullify a goal. [9.B.3.a]

This rule helps clarify the exact procedure and options available to teams when one or both teams have the wrong personnel on the field — either too many players or the incorrect gender-matching ratio on a mixed team. The personnel issue should be identified and violation called as soon as possible, the offending team should correct the mistake(s), and then the other team may substitute as many players as were changed by the offending team. The other team can then choose whether play restarts as if there was a timeout or with a re-pull.

Crucially, this also allows the other team to nullify a goal if it was scored during a point with incorrect personnel, even if they do not notice the infraction until after the goal is scored (although they do need to notice before the next pull is thrown). The rule also clarifies that players must call out this infraction as soon as they recognize it rather than waiting to see how the point plays out.

6. Offensive offsides is renamed to “false start” to clarify which team was out of position for the pull. [9.B.4]

The addition of the “false start” call is a welcome differentiation from “offsides,” which now is a call that only applies to the defense. It is uncommon — even with observers — for the offense to be called for this “positioning violation,” but now there will never be doubt about which team goofed.

7. Players that catch the disc and run into the endzone now set their pivot on the closest point on the front of the end zone instead of where they gained possession. [11.B]

This simplification shouldn’t have a big impact on the game, but will reduce any potential disagreements about exactly where a player should set their pivot when momentum carries them into the end zone. By requiring a pivot to be as close to where the player is rather than where they gained possession, this rule change will simplify those situations whenever they arise. It’s easier to know where you are than where you’ve been, in this case.

8. Discs that aren’t easily retrievable can be replaced. [14.A.4.a]

We’ve all seen the disc go sailing way out of bounds on pulls and errant throws. Sometimes it would be impossible to put the disc into play in 20 seconds. Now there’s a specific description in the rules for how we can restart play quickly and fairly: find a new disc, make sure both teams approve it, and get things going again.

9. When somebody other than the thrower is awarded possession due to an infraction, players return to their location at the time of the infraction. [17.C.6.b.2]

This update clarifies something that was already typically expected, but not explicitly stated in the rules. When a violation happens on a throw and possession reverts to the thrower, players return to their location at the earlier of the time of the throw or the time of the call. Now we also know explicitly that if somebody other than the thrower is awarded possession that players should return to their location at the time of the infraction.

10. The Ultimate 4s rules are formally included in the Official Rules of USA Ultimate. [Appendix F]

Small-sided games have long been a staple of tryouts and practices everywhere, but they now have an official USAU ruleset for the 4-on-4 format. If ultimate makes it to the Olympics, many think that 4s is the variation most likely to be added, so formally codifying the rules of the format is a no-brainer.

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