Category: Judging

5. Bonuses

Bonuses for speed flow, unique style of play and consecutivity

Many players perceive modern competitive Freestyle to be increasingly focussed on single technically difficult tricks. Flow, the flight of the disc as well as artistic and surprising elements that please the crowd are perceived to be lacking. In order to change this, the committee decided to establish a bonus system that shall encourage

a) Speed flow elements

b) Unique/creative style of play

c) Consecutivity

For detailed descriptions of the categories see below.


Technical implementation:

All bonuses are decided upon by the judges at the end of the pool that they are judging:

a) Each artistic impression judge can add a bonus of .5 to the overall score of the team with the best speed flow elements.

b) Each execution judge can add a bonus of .5 to the overall score of the team with the most creative/unique style of play.

c) Each difficulty judge can add a bonus of .5 to the overall score of the team with the most consecutive style of play.

As the word ‘can’ indicates, a judge does not have to give a bonus in case (s)he feels unable to decided upon it. This can be the case when multiple teams performed equally well or when no team showed relevant tricks e.g. no speed flow elements. However, a bonus should be given if possible.
Judges are not allowed to split their bonuses and distribute them among teams. A bonus should be a real incentive for teams to change their style of play and the power of the bonuses gets lost if they are split.
Judges are not encouraged to discuss and agree on whom to give the bonus to as we want to avoid a concentration of bonus scores on one team.


Speed flow:

In Freestyle Frisbee, Speed Flow refers to a quick exchange of the disc from throw to catch. In most cases this means that a player throws the disc to his/her partner who does a trick catch directly off the throw. Usually players will stand at least a few meters apart from each other, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Also small manipulations of the disc are allowed between the throw and the catch and it can still be called Speed Flow. The key criterion of a Speed Flow is that the disc’s movement is not brought to a hold between the throw and the catch.

Examples of speed flow:

  1. Player A does a forehand throw, Player B does a UTL catch directly off that throw.
  2. Player A does a backhand throw up in the air and to his right, Player B extends the flight of the disc by brushing it directly off the throw to Player C who does a scarecrow catch off this brush.
  3. Player A does an overhand throw to Player B who deflects the disc with his hand and then does a lacer catch directly off this deflection.
  4. Player A throws a bounce throw to Player B who does an UTL tip off this throw and catches the disc off this tip.
  5. Player A does a UTL throw to Player C, while Player B hoops the disc’s flight between them.

When a couple of Speed Flows are done in a row, we call it a Speed Flow sequence. A single Speed Flow is called a Speed Flow element.

The distinction between a Speed Flow and a regular combo is vague. Rules of thumb when it’s not a Speed Flow:

  1. The disc is brought to hold before the catch. This refers to the movement of the disc, not to the spin of the disc.
  2. A rim delay or a center delay is done.
  3. A guide is done.
  4. A padiddle is done.
  5. A twirl is done.
  6. A player does more than one brush in a row.
  7. A player does more than one tip in a row.

The difficulty of Speed Flow elements depends on:

  1. The difficulty of the throw
  2. The difficulty of the catch
  3. The difficulty of the deflection/brush/tip done in between the throw and the catch
  4. This distance between the players performing the Speed Flow element. Greater distance means a higher need for accuracy, but still closer sequences are more difficult, as the players have less time and less space, so more coordination more timing, more speed is required.
  5. The speed of exchanges: Quick throws are more risky than slow throws; short breaks between catch and throw are more risky than long breaks.

In general Speed Flow is more difficult than it appears, because it contains a high number of exchanges of the disc between players in a shorter span of time; and a high number of tricks catches (which  are the most risky part of each combination of freestyle movements).


Unique/creative play:

This bonus category is created to motivate players to show new kinds of Freestyle moves that differ from the moves shown by the majority of players. On the one hand, this refers to technically creating new moves of any types: rolls, brushes, pulls, shoots, turnovers, tips, deflections, padiddles, guides, twirls, etc.

On the other hand, aspects of Artistic Impression contribute equally to uniqueness/creativity of play. So a team can show ‘standard’ tricks but perform them in a unique/creative way. This contains:

  1. Ways of choreographing the play to the music
  2. Ways of teamwork (passes, sets, hoops, etc.)
  3. Body movements of the players (form, artistic manoeuvres, dance, etc.). Both the players with the disc and the players without the disc shall be considered here.

However, nothing shall be rewarded that is not related to Freestyle Disc movements e.g. showing breakdance moves during the routine without incorporating them into the actual freestyle play does not add to the uniqueness/creativity.

What should be rewarded, for instance, is if the player without the disc is copying the body movements of the player with the disc, as this is related to Freestyle Disc play.

“Rules of thumb” for measuring uniqueness/creativity:

  1. How often did the players show tricks or presented unique movements with a disc that no other players from this pool showed?
  2. How often did the players show music choreographies, teamwork elements and body movements that no other players from this pool showed?
  3. How often was I surprised about what I saw?

The difficulty of the unique/creative things showed plays a minor role and shall only be considered if two teams perform equally in terms of uniqueness/creativity besides this.

The judges shall try their best to evaluate uniqueness/creativity according to these rules. However, it is clear that it also depends on the experience and the personal taste of the judge what (s)he considers to be unique/creative. Therefore, it is the judge’s responsibility (and integrity) to minimize the influence of subjectivity and be as objective as possible.


Consecutive play:

Consecutivity in Freestyle disc refers to linking different trick moves together, rather than pausing within a combination of moves with a simple “THE” nail delay. A simple description for Consecutivity would be that one trick is the direct set for the next trick. Specifically, the basic premise is that a combination of moves of a disc shall never be stalled, stopped, or paused with a simple “THE” delay (a simple nail delay in front of your body) without any restrictions. One exception from this rule: when your partner throws you the disc the reception of that throw doesn’t have to be restricted.

Restrictions: A THE delay is the easiest nail delay and anything that makes this harder is called a restriction. A restriction would be, for example: delaying the disc ‘under your leg’ or ‘behind your head’ or ‘behind your back’; or any “blind moves” like a scarecrow brush or a phlaud catch. Also body-rolling a disc is considered a restricted move, because you are not touching the disc with your hand. THE delays, THE tips or THE catches also interrupt Consecutivity because these do not include a player restricting their contact with the disc in any way.
Within a combo there can be different levels of Consecutivity depending on the number of transitions between tricks that are consecutive. For example, when you do 5 tricks within a combo, you have 4 transitions between those 5 tricks to master. If 3 of those 4 transitions are consecutive (i.e. the reception after the trick is restricted), then the combo is more consecutive, than if you have 2 consecutive transitions only. That means that you have the highest level of Consecutivity if all transitions are restricted. However, you can even add to the level of Consecutivity by not only having restricted receptions but also restricted sets. However, sets don’t have to be restricted for Consecutivity! Examples for (non) consecutive combos:

Example for a totally not consecutive combo:

An unrestricted set, to a spinning THE reception, to an under the leg tip, to a THE tip, to a body roll, to a THE catch.

Example for a partly consecutive combo:

A grapevine set, to a behind the back hold, to a THE delay, to a flamingitis catch.

Example for a fully consecutive combo:

An under the leg set, to an arvand pull, to a behind the back tip, to an under the leg pull, to a spinning scarecrow catch.

Example for an extra consecutive combo:

A chair pull reception off a throw, to a behind the back rim shoot, to a scarecrow brush, to a behind the head pull, which goes directly into an under the leg shoot, into a double spinning gitis catch.

In terms of Consecutivity brushing is a special case, because brushing is more dependent on wind conditions, and avoiding THE brushes is more difficult than avoiding THE delays, tips or catches. However, too many “THE” brushes in a row also interrupt Consecutivity. As a rule of thumb, it can be considered that more than 2 “THE” brushes in a row are a break in Consecutivity. The same is true for nesting: more than 2 nesting brushes in a row interrupt Consecutivity.

Why do we want Consecutivity? Because it adds to the difficulty of play and makes combos look much smoother. Even an ordinary person with no experience in Freestyle disc can see a difference between consecutive play and non-consecutive play.

See Dave Lewis’ and Z’s video for illustration (consecutivity is called connectivity in this video):

6. Discussed but Not Implemented

The following are suggestions that were seriously discussed and considered, but unable to be implemented into the proposed  judging system at this time:

Catch/drop ratio for Execution judging

The idea of implementing catches in proportion to drops (catch/drop ratio) was to encourage competitors to do more speed flow and shorter combos – which are currently not rewarded by the judging system (as they usually result in lower Execution scores).  The judging committee members picked up the idea from the FPA forum discussion thread to put Execution scores in relation to the number of combos. The suggestion was for number of combos  to be  defined through the number of throws (or catches/drops) during a routine. To put it in simple words: teams with many catch attempts shall be less penalized (through points) for a drop than teams with fewer catch attempts.

What originally sounds like a viable idea is, in actuality, very hard to implement mathematically. Different approaches observing the possibility of catch/drop ratios were tested on videotaped freestyle routines, but each one led to either awkward scoring results, or were  determined to be too hard to apply or too prone to errors in a real-life tournament situation. The conclusion after looking into the catch/drop ratio as an option was that the disadvantages clearly outweighed the advantages.


Dropping Execution as a judging category

Execution is often perceived to be the decisive factor for winning tournaments. This also has been perceived as leading to non-risky play during competitions. To change this, the committee discussed the possibility of dropping Execution as a judging category entirely, as a possible method of encouraging competitive players to attempt their more difficult moves, without feeling as if they are risking too much in terms of Execution.


–      adds freedom to routine design, as the dominating influence of Execution (avoiding drops) is reduced => more risky, creative and varying routines are expected;

–      at major tournaments we can have 5 judges each for AI and Diff, and the top and the low scores for each category get deleted => subjectivity in judging AI and Diff gets reduced


–      the weight of Execution gets too little and teams with 6+ drops start winning tournaments. This wouldn’t be understandable for spectators or some competitors;

–      Execution would have to get part of AI and Diff to some extent, but how to do this in an objective way? => subjectivity of judging would increase even more

After a long discussion, dropping Execution was considered too radical a change from the current judging system, and a change that would probably not be supported by the majority of players. Instead, the committee decided that there are other measures that can be implemented to reduce the influence of Execution.



Ranking system

Statistical analyses show that the scoring weights of the three judging categories (AI, Difficulty, Execution) is not balanced. Artistic Impression (AI) and Execution are more influential judging categories toward the outcome of competition than Difficulty in the current judging system. This is due to the fact that Difficulty judges tend to give scores mainly between 3-7, while the variance for the other two categories is higher, which gives them more weight when tallying up the scores.

One possibility to standardize (and balance out) the variance of the 3 categories is to sum up the ranks of teams instead of the scores, i.e. each judge ranks the teams in his/her category. The ranks of all judges are then added up and the team with the lowest sum of ranks wins the pool.

Another advantage of this approach is the opportunity of a final review: If a judge sees that after counting everything together, Team A has a better score than Team B, but now, after judging the whole pool and having the overall picture, the judge thinks that Team B should be ranked higher than Team A, s/he could still change the rankings. So scores would only be an important criterion for determining ranks by a particular judge, but not necessarily the only one criterion (of course, a judge should have good arguments ready for not ranking teams according to their scores). The ranking system could provide more precise and fair results.

The disadvantage of the ranking system (and the reason that it wasn’t adopted) is that a very small difference in one category is equally important as a huge difference in another category,  e.g. Team A is scoring ahead of Team B in Execution and in AI by .1.  However, in Difficulty Team B is ahead of Team A by 1.5 points. When applying the ranking system, Team A would finish ahead of Team B, which cannot be considered fair given the points scored. The ranking system fails in this scenario because it is not differentiating the team performances enough. Instead, other measures will be implemented to better balance the weight of the judging categories (see according documents).


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3. Difficulty Multiplier

Increasing the weight of difficulty

Many players express frustration about the high influence of execution scores and the comparatively small influence of difficulty scores on tournament results leading to a risk-averse type of play. Systematic analyses of tournament results have demonstrated that this is not just a perception by the competitors, but a fact: the committee calculated the standard deviations of all 3 judging categories for 72 pools from Paganello and FPAW 2009 and 2010.

Summing up, the data shows that Difficulty has a lower weight than Execution. AI, however, is the dominating category (see table below; more detailed results available if needed). If AI is 100% in terms of weight, than Execution would be 74% and Difficulty 61% in this sample.

Since nobody wants to increase the scoring weight of execution, the committee thinks that the best idea would be to figure in a way to increase the weight of Difficulty to the same level as that of AI. All committee members agreed that the best way to do this is to educate judges in order to use the whole difficulty rating scale, instead of mainly using scores from 3-7, to increase variance for Difficulty. However, since judging education is a long process, as well as requiring a lot of effort to fully accomplish, committee members agreed to implement a multiplier as a transitional measure to solve this issue mathematically until judges are better educated and subsequent analyses of categories indicate a wider variation of difficulty scores on routine score sheets. The multiplier shall increase the weight of Diff simply by multiplying the overall Difficulty scores of all teams by 1.5 when calculating the final results of a pool. This would bring the weight of Difficulty to 92% in the analysed sample, while AI would stay at 100% and Execution at 74%.


2. Difficulty – Blocks or Phrases

Time blocks or natural phrases?

Some players expressed dissatisfaction with the current system for Difficulty judging that uses 15 second time blocks and would like to return to our previous process of judging Difficulty according to combinations of trick moves sequenced together (“combos” in the form of natural phrases). Since both approaches have significant advantages and disadvantages (see summary in annex below), the committee decided to issue a survey and ask membership for their preference.

In the end, almost 60 people participated and the survey results showed no clear preference for either of the systems (exact results available if needed). The committee agreed that such a result wouldn’t justify a total change of the system towards natural phrases. Instead the committee followed the idea of a hybrid approach that aims to combine the best of both phrase and time-block methods.


Hybrid Approach

The idea of the hybrid approach is a modification of the currently used time-block method of judging difficulty.  The basic premise is for difficulty judges to not be mandated to give  a mark exactly when the speaker says ‘mark,’ but instead record a score within a certain timeframe around each ‘mark’. To provide a time-frame, a metronome beat already recorded onto the difficulty tape shall start 4 seconds before and end 4 seconds after each ‘mark’ to define an 8 second opportunity within which time the judges shall rate the difficulty of play.

With the hybrid approach, judges remain attentive toward watching the freestyle players’ moves, consecutive combos are not artificially split up and fluff is penalized. Also, it still makes a difference if a combo is long or short, since Diff is still judged according to time and not according to combos.

A new audio file was created with the help of a sound technician, with a great deal of attention aimed at  creating a file that is intuitive to use for the judges and with sound cues which will not  annoy the audience. Pilot tests of the new audio file have occurred unofficially at tournaments and while viewing freestyle routines on videos; these “tests” showed that the new audio file appears to work well, and accomplish the goals of both phrase and time-block judging methods. The 3 minute version of the file is available for download.


Annex – Advantages and disadvantages of both systems:

Judging combos (natural phrases):

A difficulty mark is given for each “combo”(combination of trick moves sequenced together by a player). A combo starts with a throw and ends with a catch or a drop.


  • Phrase-based judging is more naturally adapted to freestyle play in that judges don’t have to score during the middle of a player’s combination of moves and consecutive trick moves (“consecutivity”) can be better considered.
  • A player’s combos are therefore judged fully as freestyle tricks combined together vs. judging part of a combo prior to the 15-second “mark” and the rest of the sequence after the mark.


  • All combos, regardless of the length of time, are given the same scoring weight. A player’s very short combo has the same scoring weight as a long one. For example, Xavier does two short combos, each of which last 7.5 seconds. Annabelle, his partner, does a long combo of 15 seconds. At the end of the routine, when summing up single Diff scores, Xavier’s two short combos together have twice the weight as Anabelle’s long one.
    In contrast, when using the time blocks system, Xavier’s two short combos together have the same weight as Anabelle’s long one (since they both fill a 15 second time block), which takes into account the fact that a short combo tends to be easier to complete flawlessly than a long one.
  • Situations where the disc is not in play (fluff) are not evaluated/scored in terms of difficulty. An extreme example would be if a player could simply lay down the disc for 10, 20 or even 60 seconds with no effect on difficulty scores (while not risking a drop during this time), because there is no ‘combo’ of freestyle moves occurring.


Judging time blocks:

The system as we currently use it: Difficulty judges hear a sound every 15 seconds and have to give a mark for the difficulty of moves that were performed within the last 15 second time section.


  • The whole routine is judged and not just when the disc is in play.
  • Short combos have less weight than long ones, which takes into account the fact that a short combo tends to be easier to complete flawlessly than a long one (see above).


  • Judging using time blocks is not natural. Judges are obligated to score when they hear the “mark” sound, which is often in the middle of a combo. This is distracting them from the rest of the combo, and combos have to be split up in the middle, where the first half has to be judged as part of the first time block and the second half as part of the second time block. This is hardly possible in real time, and doesn’t take into account that a combo of moves are actually  presented in competition often as one multi-faceted entity and not just a string of separate moves, thereby not suitably valuing consecutive play. In reality, the time blocks system has already been informally modified by many judges (as our survey showed) while in the midst of judging to not interrupt their observations and mark a score until after a player has completed their combo (with a catch or missed catch). Therefore, the time blocks system is adapted to phrase-based judging to some extent anyway.
  • Judges have to calculate an average of the moves that happened within the last 15 seconds. That is quite demanding, especially since they have to decide quickly while having to keep track of the next moves already.

4. Execution and Breaks in Flow

Add ‘break-in-flow’ aspect to Execution judging

Some players advocated for Execution deductions according to ‘breaks-in-flow’ instead of rigidly deducting .1 for bobbles, .2 for ‘the’ catches and .3 for all drops. Committee members agreed that this is a favorable approach, since a nicely choreographed, well-flowing routine with a couple of minor drops is advancing the sport of Freestyle disc and appears more attractive for an audience than a safety routine.

The problem, however, is that the interpretation of ‘break-in-flow’ is more complex than just counting bobbles and drops, and adds to the subjectivity of Freestyle judging within the Execution category. An explanatory manual with detailed rules and examples would have to be created. Overall, there are strong doubts if a ‘break-in-flow’ approach could be applied in reality with a reasonable degree of precision and consistency among judges.

As a compromise, the committee decided to leave the Execution deduction categories as they are and give greater emphasis to the possibilities of reducing execution penalties if an error does not influence the flow of play drastically. However, it would also result in more .1 and .2 penalties given for long breaks in between combos and flow interruptions within combos that are clearly unintended by the player(s). This will require adding more comprehensive explanations to the judging manual.


Examples of how to add language to the judging manual:

–      Only drops that are a clear interruption to the flow in play result in a .3 deduction. Drops that are merely minor interruptions to the flow should result in only a .2 deduction (e.g. dropping and then instantly picking up the disc without a clear change of body movement)

–      The same idea applies to ‘The’ catches: if a player does a ‘The’ catch and instantly brings the disc back into play without an interruption to the flow of play, it should be penalized with a deduction of .1 only instead of .2.

–      Conversely, brushing up the disc as in order to save a combo should be penalized with a deduction of .1 as it breaks the flow and are clearly added movements in order to avoid a drop.

–      If breaks-in-flow happen that are intended and not a result of execution mistakes, no deductions should be made. E.g. an extended behind the back hold with the intention to impress the crowd shall not be punished. The same is true for a brush run around the gym to fire up spectators.

So the intention of a break-in-flow is decisive. I.e. if a player breaks the flow to correct a mistake, a deduction should be made. But if a player breaks the flow intentionally, e.g. to impress the crowd, it should not be punished. What sounds complicated here is usually quite obvious to judges in tournament situations.