New Gender Balance Rule

This summer, the VUL is introducing a new gender-balance rule for 7-on-7 play.

A Brief History

When the VUL first started in the late 80’s, the gender ratio was 6 men and 1 woman. In the early 90’s, we had switched to 5M / 2F. There was a fair amount of resistance at first, as teams were concerned they couldn’t find enough women (see Our First 30 Years). But over time, more women were recruited to try ultimate, they fell in love with it, and our co-ed leagues became more balanced.

By the mid-90’s the VUL had switched to 4M / 3F, and that’s been the default rule ever since. Teams could choose to play 4 women if they wished, but the opposing team didn’t have to match.

The New Plan

This past fall, the VUL completed a new Strategic Plan to guide us for the next 5 years from 2017-2021. One key element of the plan is a focus on inclusivity, as captured in the Vision and the Leadership pillar.

To support our goal of gender equity, the VUL has decided to switch to 4-3/3-4 where the other team does need to match. Many other leagues both locally internationally play that way. The Vancouver high school league uses that rule. The BC and Canadian championships for both adults and youth use that rule. The US Ultimate Association and World Flying Disc Federation use that rule. We piloted the new rule in Fall Grass League 2016, and did not encounter any significant challenges, so we’re rolling out the new rule for Summer League 2017. Over time we hope the new rule will lead to more gender parity in our co-ed leagues.

Note: in Fall 2016 we used “offence sets”: whichever team was on offence would choose the ratio. For Summer 2017 we’re using to “endzone sets”: one endzone is selected at the start of the game, and whichever team starts from that endzone gets to choose the ratio.

What To Expect This Summer

About 3800 people play in Summer League: roughly 1600 women (42%) and 2200 men (58%). We are not asking teams to recruit 600 new women to move to 50/50 this summer! We expect most points will still be played 4M/3F. However, many teams will play 3M/4F for some points, and we’d like to see as many of those points as possible! If your team doesn’t have 4 women at the field at that time, you’ll play that point with 6 players. 

Do you need more players? Captains should read our tips for finding players. New players can try ultimate and be supported as they learn with our Intro Sessions & Clinics, the Summer League Camp, the Fall Women’s League, and our online Players Guide. We offer free Mentors to all teams who’d like some help (email the League Manager to request one). And remember the best way to encourage anyone to continue playing is to engage them on the field – include all of your players in the game!

Contact us if you have suggestions for other ways we can support people to try and continue playing ultimate.

What about other Genders?

Inclusivity involves more than improving gender balance between women and men. The VUL is currently working on plans to support transgender and other non-binary players in our leagues. We will summarize those plans in an article in the next few weeks, and also present them in the Captains Meeting at Ultimate Day.

If your gender identity is not male or female and you wish to play this summer, we encourage you to sign up! When you create your account, for the gender question, for now just select the binary gender (male or female) that you would be most comfortable matching up against while playing a game.


Contact us for questions about finding players or how the new rule will work, inclusivity or the VUL’s plans in general.