Do you have the wrong idea about spirit?


Spirit of the Game is a core concept in ultimate – but do we understand it well enough?

If you were to ask 5 friends to define what spirit means to them, it’s unlikely that they’d all give the same answer.

With little guidance on what it means to be ‘spirited’ at the grassroots level, misunderstandings can arise amongst developing players.

Here, Axel Ahmala gives his thoughts on the current state and potential misuse of SOTG: “If we don’t understand and apply spirit correctly, then the Spirit of the Game falls down as a rules system.”

Do you agree? Post your comments below, or get in touch at if there’s anything you’d like to discuss.

* Standard disclaimer: These are not necessarily views held by The Release Point, or by any other people in the local Ultimate community



  • At the start of the video you mentioned that no one should ever detract for the basic joy of playing. I would say that not many people enjoy playing against Glasgow, not just because they are “not nice” but because they create a very aggressive atmosphere in the game. When they are winning, they come across as very arrogant and when they are losing, they come across as entitled and whiney. For an example, you can look at the post match review of the Strathclyde game where it was written as Glasgow lost the game as opposed to Strathclyde winning.

    Why do you feel as though Glasgow’s bad spirited reputation is not justified? Just from memory, the woman’s team placed last in 2016, the mixed team this year came last and the mens team were branded cheaters on a reddit thread. This is all 3 of your teams with pretty negative feedback and it still doesn’t feel like you are doing anything about this.

    • Sorry for the delay, I’ve been away and was trying to find the time to write a well worded answer.

      So I didn’t really mean to have this video focus too much on Glasgow teams, just using them as an example, however I don’t want to shirk this comment either, so here goes.

      I am unhappy to hear people do not enjoy playing against Glasgow (not sure if this is uni or club). I hope you have experienced this in a one-off circumstance. I am however unhappy in the fact that we rarely (practically never) get comments on our spirit scores to help us work on issues we may have (which is an issue in itself).

      I do not necessarily see what is wrong with an aggressive (read competitive) game, as long as it is not badly spirited and as long as respect is maintained between players (particularly during discussions), after all you are meant to compete as hard as you can. However, if that has spilt over into poor challenges or self control then that isn’t ideal. I would love to discuss what makes you feel as though the team comes across as arrogant/entitled/whiney, so that we can address this.

      I watched our video again and having also been at the game, I don’t feel it is an unfair analysis. Dark Horses got some blocks, but not as many as Farflung, however Flung made a lot more individual errors where Strath were more clinical. That is not a negative analysis towards either team, it is what we felt happened. Hopefully you disagree rather than having a confirmation bias against Glasgow.

      So from your last paragraph I would love to know why you feel they aren’t doing anything about it. As I know that there have been extensive talks about improving spirit, and many who play Glasgow teams regularly will attest to improved spirit, as mentioned by a Horses’ player in the BUCS match video.

      I feel as though the reputation is undeserved as there are no players on the teams who deviate from what is expected of them and they are all fair, at a minimum. Beyond a couple of bad calls here or there (as happens with every team) I can’t think of anything systematic or regular that crops up.
      In addition I feel when any Glasgow team makes a bad call or play or bad reaction there is a confirmation bias against them. The same tournament where they were branded cheaters and booed in elimination play there was a worse play and call from someone else that went seemingly unnoticed by the Internet, but not those who saw it. So why was it not talked about? Is it because Glasgow are easy to hate or something else?

      Also, what does it say about the people branding the team cheaters. That is totally out of order and unspirited. It is said that you should grant your opponent the benefit of the doubt, basically trust that they believe the call and are not cheating. So assuming they cheated is ridiculous. Again I would love to know if you were at that game, or maybe even in the spirit circle where the opponents talked about the spirit of that game.

      For me, what you have mentioned only confirms a lot of what I was saying in the video. However, I would love to have a discussion with you about spirit or how you feel about Glasgow/Farflung if you want to contact me on Facebook! 🙂

  • Thanks Axel, I think spirit of the game is a vital part of ultimate – Ultimate frisbee as an unrefereed sport relies on every single player to know the rules and abide by them. I agree that we should have more discussion about spirit at every level of ultimate here in Scotland, and this can be helped along by nominating or voting in a spirit captain or two for every team. Spirit captains would have the responsibility of knowing the rules very well (or being able to access the rules easily), as well as making sure that each member of the team also know the rules to an adequate level (for example being rules accredited on WFDF). They can then bring up any spirit-related issues that might have popped up in the game in the spirit circle afterward, it’s not a rule that only one person per team can talk. At WCBU2017, teams were given a minute to chat about SOTG within their own team, after the game but before the spirit circle, so that the chat could be more focused on spirit. This also meant that the chat in the spirit circle can more closely reflect spirit scores given. Maybe we could trial this at events here in the UK too.

    • Again, sorry about the delay! I think SOTG captains are an awesome position that are seen more and more in teams at the moment and I think you are hinting that they should be responsible for education of spirit within teams, which I think is crucial as no one can just ‘know’ anything without education.

      I like that idea, especially if a game has been a little bitty and if that pre-circle could be agreed upon between the spirit captains potentially?

      Thanks for giving your thoughts Alice!

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