Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Thoughts on Man D by Noah

The way I see it, there are two aspects of man D - playing shut-down defense and creating blocks. The ideal you should strive for is to be able to shut down your man while being able to get a block every once in a while, or be able to get blocks while not letting your man get into dangerous positions on the field. In some ways, these two aspects are contradictory to each other (i.e. if you are entirely focused on shut down defense, you may miss an opportunity to get a block, and if you poach off your man you will obviously not be shutting him down). So, it's important to be able to do each one, and once you can do each of these then the combination of knowing when to do what.

In practice, you may want to go into a defensive point with the mindset that, for the whole point, you are going to deny your man from ever touching the disc. Likewise, you might want to take the mindset that you are going to employ any means necessary to get a block. Sometimes it will work but obviously not always. (Note: If your captain/coach/teammate yells at you for not playing the way they want you to play, make sure not to tell him/her I said it was okay. It's just something that might be helpful in working on developing each aspect of the so-called defensive mindset.) I guess that the overall message here is to play shutdown D but try tobe aware of any possibilities to get a block. When that opportunity presents itself (or a split second before it does, if you can predict what's about to happen), it's sometimes o.k. to go for the block instead of staying right on your guy ( the block could come either in the open lane, deep, around the dump, or somewhere else on the field, depending on how the play develops).But, get back to your guy ASAP once the chance for the block has decreased or disappeared. Or, if you baited the thrower into making a bad throw toyour guy, lay out past him and get the D.


wood said...

I usually describe this argument as conservative vs risky defense. Ideally, I'll always be able to play conservative or 'team defense'. I say 'team defense' because I'm doing my job and trusting that my teammates will do their jobs. I shut my man down to the open side, and trust that my marker won't get broken. I don't poach, instead trusting that my teammates will shut their men down. Ideally, this will force the other team to make a mistake or a bad throw and lead to a turnover. While there probably wasn't a block, it was a team d. I say ideally because several things have to fall in place for this to work. First, everyone on the team must be committed to playing team defense. If someone is going for the handblock instead of just making sure they don't get broken, I'm going to get abused to the breakside when I'm shutting my man down on the open side. Secondly, everyone on my team must be capable of doing their jobs. If these criteria aren't met, team defense won't work against good teams (bad teams or adverse weather conditions can still create turnovers).

In less than ideal situations, it is necessary to play a more risky defense. This may mean poaching, going for handblocks, baiting, etc. The reason is that the defense must generate turnovers, rather than forcing the opponent into mistakes by shutting down all the easy choices.

In general, I'll try to play 'team defense' most of the time. I think it makes a team better if it can play team defense, as opposed to always having to play a risk-taking defense. A risk-taking defense, by definition, is going to leave weaknesses that a patient team will take advantage of. I'll switch to a risk-taking defense when it is clear a win is improbable with conservative defense. Even then, it may be better to continue with the conservative defense, so that your team can improve it's team defense. Maybe someone can make the argument that risky defense is the best option, or maybe there is a compromise that will work best. Likely it depends on the personnel.

Ironically, I often find myself playing risky defense most often when I'm playing zone. I guess this is because when there is no wind, risky defense is necessary to generate turnovers when playing zone defense against a good team with no wind. Perhaps that is the subject for a future article.

One comment I would make, Noah, regarding going into a point with a certain mindset. It can be dangerous to enter a point with a certain mindset if the rest of your team is unaware of it. It can be very irritating to have six guys playing solid team defense, and one guy poaching.

aj said...

I think in a sense you’re always trying to play shut-down d most of the time. There are just particular times during a point when you have opportunities to take risks. If you know your opponent going into the game you’ll have a decent idea of when these risks make good sense. For instance if I’m covering a teams number 3 cutter I’m going to be peaking into the lane a whole heck of a lot more than if I’m covering their primary cutter who always wants to get the disc.

There are other times to look to be aggressive as well. The one that comes to mind specifically is when you’re covering the first person in the stack and they’re not moving. A lot of times this happens off a stopped disc, a team will just have their initial cut come off the back of the stack. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hit in the gut with the frisbee because I rolled into the cutting lane from number one in the stack when I saw a guy getting open off the back. The thing is that in cases like that your risk is not really super high anyway. If I roll into the throwing lane and they don’t throw I just need to bust my tail to get back to my guy. I feel like that’s how most poaches should be. It’s 1 or 2 seconds in the lane and then I’m back on my guy. I think these kinds of poaches fit easily into the framework of good shut-down man D. Of course most of my PT comes on offense these days, which means I find myself playing "aggressive" d a lot more than I used to.