Monday, August 09, 2010

If You Can't Stand Up, You've Probably Been Fouled

I've been reading the official rules of Ultimate; I realized I didn't really understand the criteria for fouls. And now that I've read them, it's clear that a lot of casual and semi-serious players don't understand them either.

Here's a big distinction that gets lost in recreational play: a general foul vs. a receiving foul. To put it simply:
  • If you can't keep playing because you got hit, it's a general foul.
  • If you would have caught the disc, but you didn't because you got hit, it's a receiving foul.
The difference matters because the standard for each is different, and the penalties are different too.

Receiving Fouls

First the receiving foul. You're running for the disk, and before you can catch it, your defender crashes into you and knocks you down. That's a receiving foul; you would have caught the disk, but he hit you so you couldn't. If that's the case (and he doesn't contest the foul) you get the disk where you got hit.

Receiving fouls are the ones that people know about, and thus a lot of offensive players think they will get the disk every time they get hit. But here's the rub: in order for the foul to be a receiving foul, it has to happen before you could have made a play on the disk. So if some big guy jumps over me, grabs the disk, and on the way down knocks me over, it's not a receiving foul because at the time of the foul, I had no play on the disk. (This ignores dangerous play, which is a different story.)

The continuation rule also applies; with the continuation rule if there is any violation by the other team, but it doesn't affect the play, and there is a turn, the turn stands. So if your defender checks you, but the throw was just terrible and hits the ground immediately, it's not a receiving foul, and play wasn't affected because the disk was turfed no matter what.

So the moral of the story for receiving fouls: you're only going to get the disk where you got hit if you got hit while you still had a chance to catch the disk. If the disk was not catchable at the time of the hit, too bad. (Delightfully, the defender who hit you can contest that you had a play on the disk; contested receiver fouls go back to the thrower.)

General Fouls

There are a bunch of ways you can get hit and not have it be a receiver foul. But that contact might still be a general foul. If the contact "affects continued play", it is a general foul even if the criteria above for a receiver foul aren't met.

Here's an example that actually happened to our team this weekend: a large man on the other team knocked down a (poorly thrown) huck by our team. After he knocked the huck down, he subsequently crashed into one of our women and knocked her over. Our woman's defender (who was now on offense because of the turn) promptly bolted down field to participate in a score without a defender, while our woman sat on the ground trying to figure out what the hell hit her.

This is a perfect case of a general foul that isn't a receiving foul. The collision happened after the other team grabbed the disk, so our woman's ability to receive the disk was not impaired by the hit; she had no chance of getting the disk at that point under any circumstances. But the hit definitely affected continued play: she was unable to play defense because she had been run over!

This is a general foul, and she can call foul. The key here: while she would not receive the disk (it's not a receiving foul), play would stop! This stoppage of play is critical for allowing fouled players to readjust after being knocked over. Without the stoppage of play, an effective way to play defense would be: hit your opponent away from the disk (no receiving foul), then run deep while they're down. General fouls make this impossible.

So: if you can't stand up, you've probably been fouled. It may not be a receiving foul, and you don't get the disk, but it's still a general foul, and play stops, everyone freezes.