10 Tips to Hosting the Best Pickup Ultimate Frisbee Game Ever
Pickup Ultimate can be some of the most fun games of Ultimate frisbee for some, and some of the most frustrating for others. The sport of Ultimate frisbee is one in which there are many levels of playing and countless rule formats to follow that you may never know what you’re getting yourself into when stepping onto a pickup field. This article will attempt to provide a quick guide for how to hold the most fun, welcoming, competitive, and enjoyable game that encourages playing at all levels. These 10 tips are in no particular order.
Cones are very inexpensive and necessary tool for a good game of Ultimate. You can pick up a set of cones at any local sports store, Walmart, or you can even pick up a set of field cones on our site. Eight cones are all you really need to make sure to clearly mark the endzone corners on both ends of the fields. Sideline cones are not necessary and sometimes make it even more confusing to see the field if the cones are not accurate. (when are they ever straight anyway?) Mark the field.
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to hit a pickup game when the times, locations, and days keep changing. If at all possible, pick a day and time that works well for you as an organizer and stick to it for a good amount of time. There is no better way to lose numbers than continually changing the time. This might mean to stop continually asking everyone’s opinion on when the best time is to play each week. You won’t be able to please everyone and sometimes the most opinionated responders won’t even show up. Pick a time and stick to it.
Go Lights and Darks
It is really easy to tell everyone to bring a light (white) and a dark (gray does not count) shirt to each pickup game. When you pick teams, assign a color and make each team wear those colors. If someone doesn’t bring the right colors there should always be a few extra clean shirts hanging around for others to borrow. This is really important to help the newer players figure out who is on each team. There is nothing more frustrating then throwing to the wrong team because someone said, “Everyone knows each other, it should be fine!” Bring lights and darks, it’s really simple.
USAU has a really good time-tested set of rules established for Ultimate frisbee that can be really easy to follow if a few people are familiar with them. You can read up on them at the USAU website. For starters, there is the “Ultimate in 10 Simple Rules” document to read to get a quick understanding of the game. There is even a simplified set of USAU rules for recreational play if you don't feel like studying. At a minimum I would suggest using stall counts, out of bounds, contact fouls, double teams, and fast counts (there are more you could add). There is no need to nitpick travels, picks, violations, etc. in a game of pickup as long as everyone is ok with it not being ran like a USAU event. Pickup is Ultimately supposed to be fun and encouraging so stick to what matters in the game to help it run smoothly and give the newer players as much opportunity for success as possible. Keep the game moving quickly, get everyone involved. If it directly affects the play feel free to call it, if it is a technicality or minor infraction let it go. You are there to have fun but play fair.
Use 7 vs. 7 On the Field
We always want to get everyone involved and many pickup games try to play everyone at the same time on the field regardless of numbers. If you want to play 8 vs. 8 because you have a good field size and no one wants to sit that can be admissible but know that it will take away from the true field space intentions of the sport. If you have 30 people show up to pickup great! But find two fields to play on or play “King of the Hill” style and form 3 teams. One of the three teams sits out each point and the winner of each point stays on the field rotating through challengers. You can play to 7 or 13 and keep a running tally of the team’s points. It is a really fun way to keep everyone involved and still use the numbers to your advantage. 7 on 7 is time-tested, use it!
There is nothing worse than showing up to a new pickup game and immediately feeling left out. As the organizer you should strive to make the game fun and inviting to everyone no matter who they are or what skill level they may be at. Try to introduce yourself to new faces and toss them the disc a few times if you can during the game. They may drop it, they may throw it away, and they may not know what they are doing but they showed up for a reason. Try to get them involved and encourage them to stick around. That’s the best way to keep growing your pickup game. Be inclusive, there is no pickup trophy.
Promote It Well
You need to be a marketer of your pickup game whether you like it or not. No one shows up to a pickup game on accident…(well mostly not). Post on social media to your local Ultimate pages, church groups, school bulletin boards, however you can get the word out. Be a promoter and encourage others to do the same. Consistency again on this one can go a long way. Post timely reminders about when and where the games will be a few days beforehand. Be a pickup ambassador!
Bring a Bunch of Discs
Showing up with more than a handful of discs will encourage everyone to get involved. The more discs sitting around on the grass the more likelihood someone will pick one up and start tossing. Make sure there is one disc to every two people if you can so there are always enough for partners to toss. As more and more people love the sport they will start bringing their own.
Buy Quality Discs from DiscStore.com
Speaking of discs, make sure you are using a quality disc when playing. Some discs you find at your big box stores are designed for company profits, not as much for playing quality Ultimate frisbee games. Some discs that might even say “Ultimate Discs” or “Official Ultimate Frisbee Discs” but may not be the best discs to use. I recommend a Discraft Ultra-Star which is the Official Disc of USA Ultimate Championship Play but there are others that you could use if you prefer. The Innova Discs Pulsar, Dynamic Discs Aviator, and the Daredevil Gamedisc are all quality discs as well, just not as popular for Ultimate as the Discraft Ultra-Star. The disc matters, shop quality.
You play Ultimate to have fun and be with other people. Keep that your focus and all these other things will fall into place. Be respectful when on the field and give each other the benefit of the doubt, you may be surprised by how many people stick around. If your group is not having fun it will be hard to grow and you will start to lose numbers. Remember at the end of the day, you’re playing with a flying toy, enjoy it!
There are a lot of other things that could make the list such as field size, bringing cleats, person-to-person defense and more but stick to the basics and enjoy what you’re doing. These 10 tips should give you a good guideline to hosting an awesome pickup game and should help your numbers and quality of game increase. If you think we need to add more to this list please let us know in the comments. If you think we are off-base on any of these we want to know as well. Get out there and throw some plastic!