Hand Check

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Was watching some college ultimate games on youtube. I see quite a bit of hand checks (ie. defender rests hand/forearm on opposing player while defending them in stack)

Is there any rules against this? (read through 11th ed. and didn't find any rules against this)

There are no rules against touching someone.

There are rules against initiating non-incidental contact, but that`s a different class of beast altogether.

In other sports (especially soccer during corner kicks) it's common to put your
hand on your mark so you can use your eyes to watch the disc and stay aware of
what your mark is doing.

The 11th edition USA Ultiamte rules states that incidental contact is "Contact
between opposing players that does not affect continued play." Given that using
your hand to keep tabs of your mark does not impede your opponent (unless
you're doing it wrong) I would say that it is legal.

JDD By JDD

XVI.H states "It is the responsibility of all players to avoid contact in every
way possible". That rule is of course the lead in to fouls and as covered
already a basic hand check should not be a foul (as it is incidental
contact); but intentionally initiating even incidental contact is counter to
the language in the rule. So I would argue not a foul but potentially a
violation.

This came up at the VUL super clinic this year. You're allowed to keep tabs
of their position by touching them, but you're not allowed to impede their
movement by wrapping around them, grabbing them, stiff arming them,
or anything similar.

So groping is ok then? What if we're playing 4/3 and they're playing 3/4 and I'm the lucky one?

It may not be against the rules, but I don't think I'd much appreciate someone grabbing at me to keep tabs on me any more than I would appreciate someone with halitosis screaming stalls in my face.

The absence of a rule prohibiting an action does not override civil and criminal laws governing such actions. Don't worry -- just because you can't call "foul" doesn't mean you have to stand there and endure a lengthy, non-consensual groping.

Casting a hex on someone is a spirit violation, though.

I think that using the language of XVI.H to call a violation on a player who merely touches your person is an especially questionable call. Granted, it is justifiable by a strict constructionist interpretation of the literature, but I don't like setting the precedent that incidental contact should be treated as an infraction. I feel particularly strongly about that in such an innocuous case, and one reasonably exercised in playing ultimate.

Can a hand check be really defined as incidental contact if the defender purposely initiates contact? Also, if you want to move into the space which their arm's length is occupying wouldn't the hand check be preventing you to do so?

Now on the flip side. Is someone swatting away the hand check arm because they don't like the contact then setting a presidence of a fairly rough game? (even though his swatting is considered incidental contact?)

Incidental contact, by corollary, is contact that does not affect continued play. Purposeful or not, provided that the contact does not affect the play of the person contacted, it is defined as incidental.

There is ambiguity in the rules about the extent to which outstretched limbs are expected to legally "occupy a position" on the field. It is generally accepted that legs and torsos occupy field positions, and opinions differ about exactly how much of the arm occupies a "position." In practice, players brush past each others' arms all the time, and the contact is almost always incidental, so no one cares.

But in addition to that, players sometimes position themselves shoulder-to-shoulder or chest-to-shoulder, brushing up against their checks. It's perfectly fine, of course, and yes, their torsos being in the way would obviously prevent the player from moving into that occupied position. That doesn't make the contact non-incidental or otherwise illegal -- it's a legal position with some incidental contact.

In the case of a so-called "hand check," the light pressure of a hand is unlikely to prevent a player's mass from moving a reasonable distance. Moving directly into the arm, you'll probably encounter additional resistance, but the closer you get to the torso, the more obviously you're encroaching on a legal position.

Brushing off or otherwise shedding somebody's hand doesn't necessarily set you up for a rough game. It's how you choose to do it that might finally rankle somebody's ire (e.g., breaking somebody's thumb is frowned upon). I would postulate that anybody laying his hand on your shoulder to locate you is the sort of athlete who won't care when you brush it off and cut -- it's incidental contact, of course.

r2lau: "Can a hand check be really defined as incidental contact if the defender purposely initiates contact?"

No. It appears you're mixing up "incidental" with "accidental". They are not the same. I see people mix those up all the time. Incidental means "minor" or "not a big deal". i.e. does not affect play.

There can be incidental contact which is not accidental (e.g. hand on arm, or swatting it away), and accidental contact which is not incidental (e.g. unintentional foul).

I really wish a different word had been chosen by the rules gurus to avoid that confusion, although I don't know what to suggest instead.

Interesting discussion. atanarjuat writes:
"Incidental contact, by corollary, is contact that does not affect continued play.
Purposeful or not, provided that the contact does not affect the play of the
person contacted, it is defined as incidental"

If the 'hand check' contact is not intended to affect play, then why is being done?
The idea is obviously supposed to make it easier for the D to gain an advantage,
therefore it's neither accidental nor incidental.

On that basis, I'd call a foul.

From the USAU Rules of Ultimate, 11th Ed.:
II.H. -- Incidental contact: Contact between opposing players that does not affect continued play.

From the SRC annotations: "For example, contact affects continued play if the contact knocks a player off-balance and interferes with his ability to continue cutting or playing defense."

All activities on the field "affect play" in the most facile sense. Incidental contact, however, is intended to be interpreted as contact that does not impede a player's ability to continue doing permissible things. The definition very carefully, very deliberately stresses "continued play" in its wording to try to communicate that idea.

The contact we are discussing is completely harmless to your personal ability to play. It does not affect continued play in any material sense -- both players involved can continue doing whatever they were trying to do. It's a bit of a stretch to say that it affects continued play by virtue of the fact that a player is doing it to help him play well.

As an aside, can I ask what people find objectionable about this practice? It seems to me like we're looking for excuses to call it an infraction.

When I look at it, I see it as being a member of a family of defensive positioning.

I think my original intent was to pose this question because it wasn't clear from the rules if this was a legitmate practice.

The question I have now is.. are we able to say that from what we have concluded that from the offensive player perspective.. I can swat/push/throw their arm off of me without any foul repercussions?

"The question I have now is.. are we able to say that from what we have concluded that from the offensive player perspective.. I can swat/push/throw their arm off of me without any foul repercussions?"

I would say yes to this with some strong qualifications to avoid slippery-slope arguments. I say that because this is a lot like jockeying for position. Positioning and counter-positioning is fine as long as it is performed without incurring non-incidental contact.

This is also not that much different, say, from someone in the cup standing with outstretched arms to inhibit a throw through the middle. It's harmless for a cup-crasher to brush through; it's an obvious foul to violently hack their arms down. We could discuss the language concerning legal positions and how much a hand "occupies a legal position," but I don't think much is gained through that. As long as the contact is incidental to continued play, it doesn't matter.

So, sure, you can push or brush a hand or forearm off (No one in his right mind is going to say, "Foul! My hand was legally positioned on your chest and you moved it!"). Just take care not to do it with excessive brusqueness that would hurt or throw their balance, and don't get into some kind of slapping contest. It's just light positioning and counter-positioning.

If you're looking for a better counter-tactic, though, I would suggest dancing your position -- move beyond the defender's reach, step behind his shoulder, and change positions slightly and frequently. It messes with his intuition and forces him to turn his attention back to you so he can't rely on touch to defend you. It's especially effective to move out of reach and then cut behind his shoulders.

What do I object to? Being deliberately touched by an opponent seeking to
gain an advantage. There's no place for it. Maybe it's because I was brought
up playing in Europe (I'm often seen as over-sensitive on the field here),
though there's nothing I can find in the WFDF rules. I guess I always
categorized that sort of thing as an issue of Spirit (ie just because something's
not specifically prohibited by the rules, it doesn't mean it's acceptable).

>I would say yes to this with some strong qualifications to avoid slippery-
slope arguments.
But aren't we already on a slippery slope? Not allowing or accepting this sort
of touching avoids the need to talk about degrees.

>If you're looking for a better counter-tactic, though, I would suggest dancing
your position ... It messes with his intuition and forces him to turn his
attention back to you
That works for me. Good advice!

Cheers

Well, I guess that's just one of those things that some people will find annoying and others won't.

Keeping in close tactile contact with your opponent while playing defense arguably offers an advantage over a player who doesn't, but I don't see it as an unfair or unacceptable one. Even then, it's still a risky move -- if you turn your eyes off your opponent, even at arm's length, you're taking a gamble that the information you've gained mitigates the fact that you can't see his hips move. I've roasted a lot of defenders who have accepted the risk.

"Not allowing or accepting this sort of touching avoids the need to talk about degrees."

True. But the difference between incidental and non-incidental contact is already -- usually -- a question of degree. We're not going to be able to eliminate that subjectivity, so I prefer to be frank about it.

WHEN ARE WE GOING TO BAN SUNGLASSES!?