Observer Certification Program

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USA Ultimate offers observer training clinics in strategic locations throughout the country. These clinics are used to train and certify observers using our standards for officiating in ultimate games.


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  Process and Requirements  


Observer Clinic Calendar

Observer Manual

Guide to Observed Ultimate

Player Misconduct System


Observer Certification Process 

The process of becoming a certified observer is simple: 

•  attend a clinic in your area

•  pass the clinic exam

•  pass the rules quiz

•  performance evaluation

These two-day clinics will include discussion of the Observer Code of Conduct, officiating philosophies, and officiating mechanics as well as skills and drills and game-time experience. Participants will have the opportunity to become USA Ultimate-Certified Observers, following completion of specific requirements including a real-game evaluation and demonstrated knowledge of rules and Observer mechanics. Clinics will be organized in conjunction with Ultimate events and will be taught by USA Ultimate Observer Program trainers.



Certification costs $25, but that fee is refundable after working five games post clinic.

Observer certification lasts for two years, and can be renewed by:

•  work 10 games in two years

•  pass renewal test

•  approved by a trainer

If you have further questions or comments about the OCP, please contact Byron Hicks, USA Ultimate Events Manager, at

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In 2005, the USA Ultimate Observer Program took on its current structure. A standardized training document was produced in the form of the USA Ultimate Observer Manual. A training clinic curriculum, based on the standards in the manual, was developed, implemented, and continues to be utilized at clinics around the country. Criteria for certification were developed, which included clinic attendance, testing, and performance evaluation. Regional Observer Coordinator positions were created to facilitate scheduling of training clinics and use of observers at USA Ultimate events. In 2011 the position of Regional Coordinator was eliminated with HQ taking on that role. A standing Observer Committee, headed by a committee chair, was tasked with overseeing the development of the program. 

The USA Ultimate Observer Committee determines official USA Ultimate guidelines for observing, including current standards for USA Ultimate competition, and training materials and methods. The committee consists of seven active members (including a chairperson and a USA Ultimate staff liaison), plus USA Ultimate’s national division directors. The active members of the committee are responsible for updating and maintaining the Observer Manual and other official observer training materials. They also meet periodically to discuss potential changes to observer roles and practices, and implement any such changes by revising and refining those materials. The Observer Committee oversees and assists in conducting observer training clinics, including at least one "experimental rules" tournament each year, where proposed variations on observer roles, protocol and interaction can be tested and evaluated by players and the committee.

USA Ultimate Policy on Observers and Referees 

In line with its previous statements, USA Ultimate endorses the use of Observers in Ultimate but does not endorse the use of Referees.

The primary difference between Observers and Referees is that Observers shall not make active foul and violation calls of a subjective nature, while Referees are empowered to make any call authorized in the rules, bylaws, officiating guide, or any set of tournament ground rules. Observers are allowed to resolve disputes on foul and violation calls if requested to do so by the players or event organizers. It is permissible but not required for Observers to be allowed to make active calls on conduct issues and objective matters in the rules, including but not limited to time violations where the disc is not in play and boundary decisions.

Observers have the responsibility to uphold the Spirit of the Game to the players on the field. While Observers can provide a neutral perspective for dispute resolution or calls of an objective nature, the responsibility for the integrity of Ultimate and the Spirit of the Game remains with the players.

Submitted by the Observers Committee. Adopted 8/28/03 by the Executive Committee.

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