Gender Balance Rule

How it works:

We use “endzone sets”: one endzone is selected at the start of the game, and whichever team starts from that endzone gets to choose the ratio for men-matching players to women-matching players. Since teams end up switching sides after every point, the teams will alternate choosing the 4M:3W or 3M:4W ratio.

Instructions (updated Oct 2021):

  1. At the beginning of the game Captains choose which side is the Gender Endzone
  2. Both teams are required to have at least 3W/3M on the field to start play
  3. The team starting in the Gender Endzone before each pull chooses which ratio they are playing - 4W/3M or 3W/4M - and signals this to the other team. 
  4. The other team is required to match the 4W/3M ratio if the Gender Endzone team is playing 4W/3M and can choose either the 4W/3M or 3W/4M ratio if the Gender Endzone is playing 3W/4M.
  5. If there is a mistake in gender matching, the impacted team (team in the Gender Endzone) can choose to either re-pull the disc, or continue play from where the disc is after the mismatch is discovered, play stops and a substitution occurs. The stall count will either go back to 0 if on offense, or remain where it is (or "stalling six" if above 5) if on defence in accordance with other Violation rules. 

Preparing Your Team for Gender Balance

The introduction of this rule in the Summer 2017 had an impact on game dynamics and play, as members told us in our 2017 Summer Survey.

Here’s what we recommend:

* Note: in this article when we refer to women or men, we include self-identifying, non-binary and trans folks.

  • Recruit more women so you have more than 4 more women at each game. If your team is struggling to retain or recruit women, ask women on your team why they think that is. 
  • Organize a pre-summer gathering for teammates to meet each other. Discuss what your team is about and brainstorm ideas of who can help new recruit players and how.
  • Read our tips for finding players
  • Ask female players to help recruit subs for days they can’t make it. 
  • Message captains of opposing teams before games to ask if they often play 3:4 or 4:3 to help prepare your weekly roster. 
  • Encourage women on your team to consider Intro Sessions, Free Clinics, Ultimate Day clinics, Summer League Camp, the Fall Women’s League, and our online Players Guide
  • Remember the best way to encourage anyone to continue playing is to engage them on the field, as well as off the field, too! Include all of your players in the game!
  • Know the updated hand-signals to use when announcing your gender-match ratio while on the line before the pull

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:2W. 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:3W, 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.

As part of the VUL’s Strategic Plan from 2017-2021, one key element is a focus on inclusivity and equity, as captured in the Vision and the Leadership pillar.

To support our goal of gender equity, the VUL decided to switch to 4M:3W / 3M:4W where the other team does need to match women but not men. We piloted the new rule in Fall Grass League 2016, and did not encounter any significant challenges, so we rolled 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.