What to Expect at your First Ultimate Tournament

Posted on: on Oct 20, 2016, 10:52:02 AM



Though this blog is primarily filled with tips for captains, occasionally we'll do a post like this for captains to forward onto their players. So share on, good captain, and make sure your rookies are prepared for the first best weekend of their lives!


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Sup n00bs!


So you’ve made the best decision of your life and joined ultimate. Congratulations!


Hopefully, you’ve made it to a few practices, and if you’re lucky, an ultimate party or two. And now your team is telling you it’s time for the first tournament of the season, and your first one ever!


What does that even mean?! How can you possibly prepare?!


Well, truth is, you can never be fully prepared for your introduction to the greatest lifestyle to ever grace the planet, but we can help make sure you survive your first tournament, so you can focus on chillin’ with your new BFF’s for 48 hours straight.


Here it goes:


what to know about playing ultimate in a real game


There won't be referees. Ever.


Something different about ultimate from other sports, you've probably heard, is that there are no refs. You’re responsible for making your own calls and discussing them with your opponent. That means you’re going to need to know all the rules.


It takes a while to get comfortable making calls on your opponent and being able to discuss them in a mature way, and the best way to lay the groundwork is to read up now.


I hear your objections - intense competitors can’t be held accountable to be fair to make calls in games! This method of call-making empowers rule snobs to waste the time of everyone else on the field!


While we're all human and these things do happen sometimes, you’d be surprised at how rarely. There’s a cool rule in ultimate to keep the game moving, to maintain respect among everyone on the field, and to establish a culture of making the right calls, even if they’re not in your favor. It’s called Spirit of the Game.



Spirit of the Game trumps all.


Spirit of the Game is a crucial rule in ultimate, as a practice that upholds honor, accountability, and mutual respect. 


It's the answer to the universal hypothetical question of if when given a test, you'd cheat if the teacher left the room with the answer key displayed nearby. Spirit of the Game expects you, as an ultimate player, to do what's right even when no one is there to hold you accountable but your own conscience.


It's Spirit of the Game that expects us to make the fair call, to deal with calls respectfully, and to see the other players on the field as people, rather than simply opponents, or worse: enemies.


Read what USA Ultimate has to say about Spirit of the Game here and if you're worried your team's Spirit is starting to slip, check out this post we did about how to salvage Spirit in the middle of a game.



Bring your sideline A-Game.


No one can play all the time, and if this is your first ultimate tournament, you’ll probably get your fair share of sideline time. Don’t be discouraged – there are lots of things you can do on the sideline to help your team, and it's that active participation that will get you more playing time later on.

  • Watch and learn. Soak up that in-game action, and think about how you can implement those moves into your game.

  • Give cues to on-field players. Your homies on the field can’t see everything going on around them. Take on the role of that 8th player by letting them know where the biggest threat or open space is. If you’re not sure what you should be shouting, ask a teammate or check out this Ultiworld article with sideline tips!

  • Encourage your teammates. If you’re not feeling ready to advise your on-field comrades or notice your squad might need an energy boost, get some cheers and claps going! It might not seem like the most important job, but keeping the energy high is key to winning and having fun.



what to know about taking care of yourself at an ultimate tournament


Pack smart.


Look up weather conditions, bring what you need to make yourself comfortable sleeping on the floor, and whatever you do - do not forget your cleats!


Check out our previous post with a full checklist of what you should bring to a tournament here!



Feed yourself responsibly.


You’ll be outside for 6-8 hours and will be doing lots of running around – make sure you’re well-nourished!


Tournament food often includes bagels, peanut butter, and bananas if you’re lucky. But sometimes tournaments supply nothing more than water.


Bring sideline snacks to keep yourself energized and to earn points from your teammates who didn’t plan as well! Here are our recommendations:

  • Pickles: always juicy and refreshing no matter how long they sit in the sun, no mess, and bonus pickle juice at the end!

  • Cliff bars: good for you and lots of flavors to choose from!

  • Chips and crackers: Goldfish, peanut butter and cheese crackers, and Pizza Pringles are fan favorites. (Disclaimer: we’re not actually sure about the last one, but the Funbassadors insist they’re the best. Try them out, and let us know what you think!)

  • Here’s some advice from an actual nutritionist about what ultimate players should be eating during a tournament. And here’s a useful Reddit post with advice from renowned coach Ben Wiggins about an ultimate player’s weekly diet.

Bring a drink more substantial than water so that you don’t lose all your electrolytes from sweating. A lot of players dig Pedialyte, but it’s all up to your preferences.


If you’re a person that needs breakfast or coffee in the morning to function, be sure to make arrangements with your car beforehand to make that happen.



Warm up and stretch.


Again, you'll be doing lots of running around outside. And you might end up with a bye (break between games) in the middle of the day for your muscles to get all cold.


Doing plyos before playing and stretching after games are super important activities to prevent potential injuries.


Here are some warm-up tips from top coaches, compiled in USA Ultimate's "The Huddle"!


What's next?

  • Freshmen: get the beginner's guide on what to bring to an ultimate tournament!
  • Captains:click here to subscribe to the blog and never miss a post, and click here for an inside look at how the pro's structure their leadership teams!
  • Let us know in the comments if you have more to add to the post!