Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Mail Bag - Cutting

Today’s question comes from Crystal in Maryland

So I was reading various posts about getting open on a defender. It seems that with a good read on your defender and a good fake to get them going in one direction, you can always get open. It makes sense, but I've run into many situations where faking one way (i.e. deep or break) isn't bought cause the defender knows that isn't a viable option. Basically, they know that the only way to go is for an in-cut. My question is how do you get open on an in cut when they're positioned to defend that cut (and do it without ending right on top of the thrower)?

First, Crystal – Good to hear from you. Hope all is well and good luck with the upcoming move. As usual, I’ve pretty much stolen my theory from someone else, so I’ll point you in the direction of the source material. In 1999, Parinella wrote an article that addresses the basic rules of offense. His book contains an updated version of his theory.

Parinella’s first two basic principles of offense are:
1. Take what they give you
2. If you really want something they're not giving you, try to fake them into giving it to you.

According to the principle of taking what they give you, if you’re being fronted (as you describe in your question) you should look to attack the away cutting space. It sounds like what’s making your situation difficult is that you’re only threatening one space. In a previous post, I talk about finding a “sweet spot” where you can viably threaten two cutting spaces. If you’re not viably threatening the deep space, presumably it’s because you’re too far away from the thrower. My suggestion, in this situation, would be to take a few steps toward the disc while you're moving into the cutting lane and then cut hard back towards the disc. When your defender turns her hips to commit to the in-cut, turn and take her to the house. I like to think about the set-up for a cut as opening up a window for the thrower to put the disc in. By running back to the frisbee you’re effectively opening up the throwing window behind you. At the beginning of your scenario you may have been 30 yards away from the disc, meaning your thrower was going to have to throw the bejesus out of it if you were going to be open on the deep one. Now after your hard run back towards the disc you may only be 12-15 yards away from the thrower when you turn and head for the house. This makes the throw much easier.

Parinella’s second basic principle of offense is “if you really want something they’re not giving you, try to fake them into giving it to you." In the scenario you describe where the defender is just absolutely determined to stop the underneath cut you’re probably better off not trying to overpower them to get the disc. Generally, I’d rather set myself to catch a big swing and punish them for over committing to the open side in-cut. However, if you’re just absolutely set on getting the disc on the in-cut I like to use the z-cut in this situation. The idea behind the z-cut is to mimic the standard v cut and take advantage of the defender when they cover the cut like the standard v cut. In most cases, when a defender is camping out underneath you, she expects you to make a few steps towards her and then turn and run in the opposite direction. With the z cut you want to take 5 or 6 lazy jog steps toward your defender then turn and go as hard as you can for 2-5 steps in the opposite direction before stopping and sprinting back towards the disc. Hopefully, you can be stopping to come back to the disc while she is still accelerating to run with the deep cut.

The final thing here is sometimes you’re just not in the best position to make the next cut. If you feel like you’re in a position where getting the disc is going to be exceedingly difficult, actively get out of the way of teammates who are in better position to make the next cut.


Anonymous said...

A wise player once told me:

"In order to get open, you must reinforce your defender's fear."

Marinate on it.

heacox said...

I was going to say something along these lines, but I didn't think it was pertinent to this discussion.

When talking with other players, the term I use is "threat" (rather than fear). Basic ultimate defense is a dynamic created by the force on the thrower and the coverage on the receivers. Within each of these is the idea of minimizing the area the offense can threaten (e.g. taking away the backhand side of the field on the mark to prevent the easy huck, guarding a handler underneath to prevent him from coming back to the disc, etc.).

Consequently, as an offensive player, if you can do exactly what the defense doesn't want you to do, you can often get them to loosen up their coverage because their task suddenly becomes larger than just "don't get broken; don't get beat to the force side." Obviously, there is a significant mental component to the effectiveness of this strategy.

For example, if my defender is playing me hard underneath, I will repeatedly go for the swing cut to the break side, thereby threatening the area of the field the defense doesn't want me to utilize, and my defender in particular isn't concentrating on covering. The idea is that eventually the defense will be so concerned about the disc moving up the break side that their force-side defense will open up.

This tactic is also applicable when you are the thrower. If I prefer the pass to the open side, but am getting mugged by the mark, I will look to get off one solid break mark throw, usually a low forehand (but the hammer works well, too). Again, the idea is to show the defense that you can threaten the area they don't want to worry about. Hopefully, the defense will spend enough time thinking about not being broken that you can get easier passes to the force side.

However, these examples may not be the best solution to your situation as they both involve throwing break-mark passes that ideally will be followed by continuation cuts after the reception. Another tactic I like, although it also depends on a proficient thrower, is to go deep against the underneath defender. If I can show myself to be a scoring threat (there's that word again) early in the game, perhaps my defender will bite harder on my fakes, allowing me to come back to the disc for the cut I really want.

By threatening the area of the field the defense doesn't want to be concerned with, an offensive player can regain the oppourtunity to cut for what he or she wants.

I think all I did above was put what Jim and AJ have said in a different language, but I hope it resonates with our audience.

Edward Lee said...

If the in-cut really is your only option (disc on the sideline, upwind, weak thrower, etc.) and the defender knows this, then he's going to try to stay 3 yards in front of you, and you're just going to have to beat him to the open space, which can't always be done.

Running straight at the defender in the hopes of getting him on his heels or off-balance helps. Also helpful is running at his outside shoulder, getting him to step sideways or turn his hips, then running inside him. (Running to his inside, then outside is also possible but leaves him in a better position for a block.)