In terms of helping keep the pace of play fast and minimize stoppages, the Disc Space rule is one of the most valuable rules in the game. The Disc Space rules establish many of the responsibilities of the marker, and also provide a call for the thrower to use to correct a marker’s illegal position, often without stopping play.
Some people find the Disc Space definition to be complicated, but I encourage you to read the actual text of the rule here (Rule XIV.B.3). I will also provide an unpacked summary below, which may help you better understand it.
1) Establish a position far enough away from the thrower’s pivot. The line between your toes must not be within a disc space of the thrower’s pivot.
2) Establish a position far enough away from the thrower’s torso. No part of your body may be within a disc space of the thrower’s torso.
3) Do not wrap the thrower with your arms. The line between your fingertips may not be within a disc space of the thrower’s torso or intersect any part of the thrower. If your arms arc forward, your chest needs to be that much farther than disc space from the thrower’s torso.
4) Do not touch the thrower.
5) If “disc space” is called, play does not stop. As the marker, you must stop counting, correct your positioning so that it is legal, and resume the stall count at 1 less than the last number you said (4 … 5…[“disc space”] . . . 4). If you are certain that you were not violating disc space in any way, you may stop play and contest a “disc space” call.
Thrower’s Options and Obligations:
1) It is the mutual responsibility of the thrower and marker to maintain the disc space, once it is established.
2) If the marker is violating disc space, the thrower may call “disc space”.
3) Remember, if a marker commits a second (or subsequent) marking violation, the thrower may either call the marking violation by name (e.g., “fast count”), and play does not stop, or the thrower may call “violation” to stop play and reset the stall count.
Application of the Rule
By establishing a position that is illegally close, a marker makes it easier for the thrower to step out and break the mark (especially inside-out breaks). An illegal marking position also produces more contact between the marker and thrower, which generally means more fouls and more stoppages. The disc space requirements describe an effective marking style that results in fewer fouls and less thrower-marker contact than marking from an illegal position. For anyone interested in a faster-paced game with fewer stoppages, ensuring clean marks should be a high priority.
From the thrower’s perspective, the “disc space” call is a really powerful remedy, though it is heavily underused. Many early-stall marking fouls are also disc space violations. By calling “disc space” instead of “foul”, a thrower allows the offense to continue flowing, while creating a competitive incentive for legal marking (and stalling) for the remainder of the count. Throwers who are interested in being marked legally should make sure to use the “disc space” call to correct illegal positioning by the marker.
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Although Colin is a member of the USA Ultimate Board of Directors and the Standing Rules Committee, this article reflects only his personal views and does not represent the views of USA Ultimate, the Board, or the SRC. For official Rules Resources, please visit the USA Ultimate Rules Resources page.