Photo by Pete Guion – Ultiphotos.com

Each offseason, the MLU reviews and updates the league rulebook.  With several new and modified rules in 2016, the Current aren’t complaining.

Before the season, Major League Ultimate announced the release of its 2016 rulebook. Based on Rules Committee recommendations, the league’s Executive Board agreed to these amendments, revisions, and updates:

  • Any whistle from the referees during the final minute of play in any quarter will stop the game clock.
  • Referees will now give players a verbal cue four seconds into the stall count. Referees previously provided verbal cues at five seconds.
  • The 2015 rule that allows pulls from the midfield line following a timeout by the pulling team will remain in place, with one new notable feature: In the event of a second overtime (sudden death), teams will no longer be allowed to pull from midfield following a timeout.
  • Teams now have three timeouts per half.
  • Travels and downfield field will now result in a 10-yard penalty. During the first three MLU seasons, the penalty for a travel or for making contact with a defender by the offense downfield was a change of possession.
  • Penalties for flagrant fouls that occur during a scoring play will now be assessed on the following pull. MLU defines a flagrant foul as an “intentional or unintentional foul that seriously or immediately endangers players, or otherwise undermines the public image or health of the league.”

Both the Washington D.C. Current’s players and the coaching alike have welcomed these new rules for the 2016 season.

“I really appreciate what the MLU front office does to improve the play on the field from year to year,” said second-year cutter Kevin Healey. “The league is so young, these changes are necessary to provide the best product possible to our fans.”

Players specifically favor the travel and downfield contact rule changes.

“I do like the change of offensive contact and travels no longer resulting in a turnover,”added Healey. “I believe the intention of having offensive contact result in a turnover was to try and help the defense contend with the larger field, dynamic throwers, and sometimes, almost, unstoppable offenses. Unfortunately, from my experience these calls were inconsistent and infrequent. I think the severity of punishment for a travel or offensive contact prevented the refs from blowing the whistle.”

D.C’s coaches approve of the additional timeout in particular, with Head Coach Will Smolinski calling it “the best rule change.”

For first-year players, the updated and revised MLU rulebook is just one more of many parts of the process of learning to play a different-style game.

“It’s been an interesting process learning the new rules, because it’s the same game, but with so many little differences,” said first-year hybrid Trevor Griesman. “I think that playing multiple variants of Ultimate over the years, such as mini and hotbox, has helped me to adapt as I play more. For me, the biggest difference has been the presence of refs.”

Physically, even under a new rulebook, the on-field challenges on both sides of the disc will remain the same for D.C.

“For the offense, there is more room to spread out the defenders and attack the field,” said first-year cutter John Kerr. “As a defender such as myself, it is vital to know your assignments and do your job. You really need to be mindful of your surroundings, the stall count, the force, and have that chemistry with your teammates to know when to attack. This has been a challenging transition, but one that will make me an all-around better player.”

The Current also believe that the different rules will not affect the mental challenges of the game on the field and on the sideline as the start of the season approaches.

“Just getting back in the habit of the disc being whistled in is hard enough, these guys have played thousands of hours of ultimate without refs, so that continues to be the toughest part of adapting to the officiated game,” said Smolinski. “The rules aren’t really that different and don’t require any specific attention.”

“The game itself hasn’t changed, just some relatively minor ways that the rules are enforced,” Smolinski noted. “We are going to continue working with our three-year and season plan. It’s just Ultimate.”

The Current (0-1) face off against the Philadelphia Spinners (2-0) at Cardinal Stadium on Saturday, April 16. First pull is scheduled at 7:00 p.m.  Can’t make it to the game?  Watch the game as it happens on MLU Live!

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