Good day all! It has come to my attention that the organisation of ultimate (and particularly, us) is really kinda confusing. So let’s beat it all out here!
Firstly, what is meant by Open, Women’s, and Mixed (and Men’s!).
Open means constructing a team out of whomever you like, regardless of their gender. It’s not restricted to men but at competitive levels of Open it’s very rare to find women playing – this is the case in most sports. A fair number of second teams will have a few women on board, though.
Women’s means constructing a team entirely out of- you guessed it- women. According to the Olympic standards for sex determination, if anyone was wondering.
Mixed means constructing a gender-mixed squad. At the start of each point, the team on offence decides whether to field 3 or 4 women (or men, however you want to think about it), and the team on defence has to match that. This is what ‘mixed’ means in all competitive uses- but some lower-level tournaments (including our own college league) implement variants like ‘loose mixed’ (at least one woman on the pitch per team), or ‘1-2 loose mixed’, where the team on O decides whether to field one or two women.
Men’s is not a division commonly seen in ultimate as Open tends to be male-dominated. However, BUCS replaced the university Open competition with Men’s: no women can play in this division.
By and large, there are 2 major divisions in UK Ultimate: they are Student and Tour (also referred to as Club).
Student is, funnily enough, comprised of uni students: each university club enters a team or two into Regional qualifiers and National Championship events in Men’s (formerly Open), Mixed and Women’s. There is an Indoor and an Outdoor season. For indoors, there is a weekend regional championship and a weekend national championship in each division. Outdoors is a little more complicated: from 2015, the Men’s regional competition is a weekly league, which qualifies team for the National Championships (a weekend tournament). Mixed is a single weekend national championship, and Women’s has a regional warmup tournament and then a weekend national championship. The university teams in Cambridge are Strange Blue (the Cambridge University Ultimate Club) and ARU Darkside (Anglia Ruskin University Ultimate Frisbee). Student Indoors takes place in the winter; student outdoors in the winter and early spring. SB tends to enter 1-3 Open teams, 1-2 Mixed teams, and 1-2 Women’s team into these competitions.
Tour season is the club/ city side of things. Anybody (including students of any university) can play for any team (within gender boundaries and obviously at the discretion of the team itself). There is a league season split across 3 weekend Tour events, followed by Regional qualifiers and National Championships. Tour teams associated with Cambridge are Cambridge Ultimate (the Open and Mixed Tour teams), and Punt (a Women’s Tour team comprised of players associated with the cities of Cambridge and Oxford). In these events, CUlt and Punt are made up of non-students, and students from both universities (all 4, in the case of Punt). Club indoors happens across the whole winter. Mixed Tour happens in the mid-late spring; Open and Women’s Tours (which are run in parallel) in the summer. Open, Women’s and Mixed UKU Nationals happen in the late summer (Open also has regional qualifiers). CUlt tends to enter 1-3 teams into Open and Mixed events, and Punt tends to enter 1 team into Women’s events.
Less common, but increasing in popularity, are divisions like Juniors, which I know nothing about. In Cambridge, you have the benefit of being able to play in the College League- a primarily intramural league comprised of teams from individual Cambridge colleges, amalgamated college teams, ARU Darkside, a Townie team, and more recently some 6th form college teams. This is a year-round competition. If you’re interested in playing, get in contact with us! Ultimate in Cambridge is also the umbrella term for anyone who plays ultimate and is associated in any way with the city of Cambridge.
P.S. More information and a natty Venn diagram is available here.