Wednesday, August 03, 2005

QoTW:Laying out – overrated?

Am I the only one that thinks that laying out is the most overrated skill in ultimate? I’m not saying that there is never a time to dive; I just think people put too much emphasis on it. Offensively, you’re always advantaged if you can run the disc down and stay on your feet – you can get a throw off much more easily, and there’s an additional difficulty in catching the disc when you fling yourself to the ground. Defensively, I think that most successful diving blocks come when the defender is running perpendicular to flight path of the disc (usually on a dump, off-man block, or a diving block in the zone). You don’t really see many good players have defenders dive past them when they’re cutting back to the disc. Gratuitous diving in this situation just leads to open hucks and breaks.

Anyway, that’s about all I got on this – any thoughts? Is diving super important?


_dusty_ said...

Looks like I'm becoming a regular poster over here. Some good topics recently.

Huge layouts are not SUPER important any more than a 40" vertical or a 90 yd flick. They are all excellent to have, and elevate your game tremendously if you are fortunate enough to possess one of them. However, you can still be an elite level player without them.

Its similar to a short-stop who can throw to first from his knees. It is an awesome quality to have, but not required for an MLB shortstop. It'll help him make a few more plays over the course of the year, but its not the end-all-and-be-all baseball ability.

An ultimate player who has good diving skills can make a few more plays over the course of the year than another identical player who could not dive well. Of course you're advantaged if you CAN run the disc down. CAN being the operative word here. There are some that you just CAN'T get to if you don't dive. It the elite level, thats probably only a few catches or D's per year. However, on a lower level (say summer league), being a good diver becomes a bigger deal because the skill level is lower. There are many more errant passes in the SL that a reciever (or defender) would have to lay out for than there are at Club Nationals. Similarly, a person with a 40" vertical (Robert White) or a 90 yard flick (Ricky McClellan) or Stu Downs reflexes (Stu, obviously) will dominate at the summer league level, but it is not the defining characteristic of an elite player. The difference that good diving makes is inversely proportional to the level of play. (ie. high level of play = low impact of good diving).

Another thing that goes hand and hand with good diving is the ability to get up quickly. If you can get up quickly after a big bid and put on a mark, its huge. You can bid more often because it is less risky to get burnt afterwards if you recover quickly. We used to practice this when I played HS football by running sprints starting from our stomachs or backs. Also helps retain offensive flow to recover quickly from a TO saving dive. Learning to lay out and get up is something that not enough (any?) people practice.

Hoping my good layouts can make up for my lack of a 40" vertical or 90 yard flick.

Noah said...

I agree with Dusty - you can be a pretty good player if you have speed but don't lay out, just as you can be a pretty good receiver if you can cut/read/position well but don't have a huge vertical.

However, in our sport games aren't won by what goes right - they're decided by what goes wrong over the course of a game. In many upper-level games, an opponent may make only a handful of passes that can be challenged by the defense. In these cases, it's the layouts and the big skies that can be the difference in games.

So, if I had to choose one extreme for a given game, I would probably choose speed over layouts and experience over huge ups - but I think to become a truly elite player you have to have it all.

So AJ, I guess this means you'll be laying out more now. And by the way, when I've seen you play, you're 100% when you actually decide to lay out all the way and not do the fall-down layout (1 for 1)... but I'd say 5 for 10 is much better than 1 for 1, especially when playing against teams that don't make a lot of mistakes.

I've noticed that often people can often get to discs they don't think they can get to, or to discs they didn't originally anticipate being able to get to (and thus don't prepare to bid until it's too late).

mark said...

It's important to keep the skill in perspective, which is what I think AJ is saying. On offense, just catch the disc. I think the biggest problem is on defense. A lot of college teams make a big deal about always bidding whenever there's even some chance of getting a block, or in some cases just to intimidate (layout drills, awesome@!). While sure, these failed bids probably do effect newer players and occasionally get the block when someone doesn't run through, they get _so_ much emphasis that a good aspect of defense quickly becomes "oh he makes great bids on D," nevermind that he didn't get a single block. I'm very excited about effort, but if you're hitting the ground ten times more than you're getting blocks, you're giving up too much; a good player is going to abuse that, not to mention that you'll wear out a bit. If you're getting 5 out of 10, great, but I think that's the exception rather than the norm (in college at least).

On the other hand, I remember overhearing Nathan Wicks at Easterns back in 2002 discussing some young phenom. It went something like "he's fast, he's smart, he throws well, blah blah, and he lays out. He could play for DoG." Now, I'm pretty sure that guy could have played for DoG regardless of whether he could layout. But he wouldn't have been in at 16-16 in the semis at nationals that year and probably wouldn't have (much later) played for the World Games team if he didn't bid as well as he does.

Is the skill overrated? I think so, but it does make a difference if well-used.

cohen said...

having solid, basic diving form is important. sometimes you have to leave you feet to make a catch, and good diving form helps you make those catches and helps prevent injuries during those attempts. plus, the kids love layout drills on a drizzly day.

on the other hand, layout defense is not for everyone. some young players will have the vision and instinct to learn to get come-to layout blocks; most won't. as a coach, i try to explain defensive decision-making and how a missed block attempt can sell out the defense. i also try to encourage aggressive, bidding defenders to do their thing, and i try to get kids who are really close to start pulling the trigger.

heacox said...

Offensively, I have to agree with the general sentiment that laying out for the disc is helpful but not essential. I've seen plenty of players lay out for everything, and consequently miss or drop discs that could just been have run down.

Defensively however, I am more skeptical. This is rooted in an ongoing discussion I have been having with myself over how exactly to create turnovers at the highest levels of ultimate.

As I haven't been in top ultimate condition in the past two or three years, I don't feel in the best position to comment on this, but as someone who can play close to his man on underneath cuts (and occasionally lay out for the big D), I have to think that sometimes the only way to get the turn comes from the extra reach you can get if you leave your feet.

That being said, guarding your person close has the added benefit of putting you in a good position to mark immediately after the reception, adjust to an errant throw behind or above the receiver, or just ice your guy because the thrower looks him off when you're on his heels. This is how I prefer to play defense, rather than baiting the throw and hoping to lay out for a block (which a lot of players do), or just bidding out of spite after getting burned.

Another issue is that laying out well is difficult to refine. There are physical components (making a coordinated leap while sprinting, having the body control to adjust to the disc in mid-air) and mental components (focus and awareness of the game situation, knowing that you can reach a given disc if you do bid, being able to "pull the trigger" when the situation arises) that makes laying out on offense or defense difficult to practice. I think it would be possible to string together exerciese to work on these skills, but I am not sure anyone has does it yet or if people think it is necessary for play at a high level.

Here's a random Stu Downs story for those having made it this far. Sadly, I didn't witness this myself, but I did talk to him about it one time. Stu was on defense (I forget who he was covering), and the guy made the cut up the line for the disc. Without turning around to see the thrower, Stu lays out out from behind his man and gets the block! I asked Stu how he did this, how he knew the disc was right there, and he replied quite plainly that he was just so beat (by his guy) that there was no way the thrower wouldn't have made that pass.

So Stu got the D. Truly something to aspire toward.

Anonymous said...

On one hand, at the elite level, layouts are not vital to being a good, or even offensively dominant player.

On the other hand, on defense, the game-changing play is often a defensive layout at a vital moment in the game. When everyone's adrenaline levels are up, the offense tends to force the disc a little bit and the defenders are keyed on this. Closer plays... if you have (or are) a defender who is ready to make that key bid, you can change the momentum of a game with one play (so long as your dumb d-team can convert).

If you ask me, a great defender will be able to bid. A great offensive player should, but it is not required.

Aside: Sickest plays I see in ultimate are on in-cuts when the offensive player knows that the defender is going to go for the disc and as a result, said offensive player needs to bid on that in-cut to make the play. Obviosuly there is a thrower error in there, but this situation leads to an amazing showcase of individual athleticism.

Jon said...

Sickest plays I see in ultimate are on in-cuts when the offensive player knows that the defender is going to go for the disc and as a result, said offensive player needs to bid on that in-cut to make the play.

You mean like the one at 2:25 in this video?

Keith said...

To me (being a basketall player), the layout is comparable to the dunk.

Sure, if youre good at it, it can be more effective. Lay outs suprise the D, and increase the distance you cover for a short instance of time, so if you time them right, its fine. Dunks are very hard to block, so if you can do it, it has its uses.

Its flashy. Cameras love them. Fans love them. They look good. People are meant to be on the ground, so when they arent, it looks cool.

And they are great pump ups. A layout D and a normal D are do the EXACT SAME THING, just as a dunk and a lay-up are both worth the same 2 points. However, its impossible to measure the adrenaline either can throw into your team. You need a comeback? Get a layout D to start you momentum, or throw one down all over your opponent, and get your defensive slapping the floor with excitement. They are statements of total domination, and can definitely intimidate your opponent and encourage you.

However, I'm not sure I'd say they are overrated. You just have to take them for what they are worth. You can be good and not be able to layout or dunk. You can be a specialist in either. You can just occasionally break one out. They are more symbolic than practical, I would say, because of their impact. But its rare that Ive ever heard anybody say a player is great because they lay out a lot. Just like nobody will ever call Harold Miner "great". They will make the highlight reels, but you can't be a team based on it, because you will obviously lose.

Anonymous said...

But in basketball, you can often score with a layup (or the classic finger roll) in the stead of a dunk... in ultimate, you can't always get the d without laying out.

Unless, of course, you're just that damned fast, which most of us are not.

Keith said...

But there sometimes where, if you could dunk, and you drive the lane, you wouldn't get that softy finger roll swatted.

Tarr said...

Keith, you are right of course, but the simple reality is that laying out usually makes more of a difference relative the alternative (laying it up vs. just lunging forward) than dunking does.

Both sides of this argument are right. The "Layouts are overrated" crowd notes that making a play by laying out is nearly always disadvantageous relative making the same play without laying out, due to the delay. This is especially true with a failed defensive bid. It's also true that for most of us, the number of plays you will successfully make only by laying out in a given game are very small. In the last three games of ultimate I've played (as far back as I can remember well enough to say this with confidence) I can only remember one play that probably is altered if I lay out.

On the other hand, there are some plays that you just can't make without laying out, and the cost of not making a play is often a posession, which can turn a game. Saying "just be a little faster" is a fallacy, because as soon as you get faster, there will be some other play that you couldn't have even considered before, that you can now make with a layout. To wit, Zip's ridiculous layout grab against Stanford, and his tip catch for Brown's first lead of the finals, would both have been impossible plays for him without laying out. If your plan is to become faster than Zip... well, good luck with that.

parinella said...

Saying "just be a little faster" is a fallacy, because as soon as you get faster, there will be some other play that you couldn't have even considered before, that you can now make with a layout.
But it may be that the number of new layout opportunities is less than the number of now-unneeded layouts due to the extra speed. Throws aren't distributed uniformly, but rather are on target (on average) with some window of error, presumably distributed normally. So, assume you're throwing a long pass to an average speed guy, for every pass that is overthrown by 10 yards, there will be 2 or 3 overthrown by 5 yards. The average speed guy will then have 2 or 3 layout opportunities, while a faster guy will catch those standing up and have only the 1 layout opportunity for the 10 yard overthrow.

And on another note, I think the original question was pitting good layout vs bad layout, rather than good layout vs no layout. In, I dunno, half of all layout plays, a bad layout will work just as well as a good layout.

My opinion: way overrated, if you're talking about good vs bad layouts.

heacox said...

I believe one of the things AJ was getting at in his original question was that a lot of players lay out unnecessarily and therefore actually make the play situation worse. For example, on offense you'll have dropped discs that could have been easier catches had the player just kept running, and on defense you allow the receiver an uncontested throw by not being able to mark immediately.

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Anonymous said...

I still feel that the major difference in the value of laying out is determined by whether you are on offense or defense. Jim mentioned the notion of chasing down a huck and the help that speed/laying out can give you. I find this less vital on offense than on defense.

On offense, you are the person to which the defense is responding. That is to say that, if you are a strong offensive player, your defender never has an advantage as far as prediction is concerned because he must react to you. As a result, you can largely avoid putting yourself in positions where a layout bid is necessary. In contrast, on defense you are more likely to be recovering or working to react as quickly as possible to what the offensive player is doing. If you are quick enough and can read your opponent very well, you'll likely still be just a split second behind him. This is the situation that calls for a layout. You can make up that split second just before the disc arrives by propelling yourself through the air.

Another notion here is that you have a lot less to lose on defense by bidding. An uncontested throw from time to time when the offense is already holding all of the cards will rarely tip the game against you because from you will also occasionally get the d. That one extra possession can win you the game, whereas the odds of one extra uncontested throw will likely not determine the outcome of the game.

Of course, all of this doesn't mean that rampant out-of-control bidding is a good thing, but on defense you have to MAKE things happen. On offense, you can let things happen. One way of doing this is to take chances by laying out.

But, to paraphrase an earlier expressed notion, great layouts do not a great player make.

mick said...

Like everyone else on this thread I think layouts are sometimes necessary but are often over-done. Sometimes you have no choice, you've run fast the guy you are defending or defending you has also run fast and you just have to layout hard to try to get the disc...

Obviously, like everyone else on this thread, I think it's a lot better to stay on your feet and, if you can, just run faster to get the disc.

That said there are a few times when I get really pissed about people laying out. There are two types of layouts in particular that really get me angry:

1. When the cutter is making an in-cut and has position and is running down the disc (note: not when they are stationary and waiting for it to come to them). I've seen so many defenders, burnt by the cutter, then try to layout through the cutter to get the bloc. This really isn't cool. I don't mind if you have a clear bid and make an attempt to not hit the cutter, but I've seen people with next-to-no-chance laying out in this situation. I think this just bums me because a mate of mine got 6 months on the sidelines from some guy doing this to him and screwing his back in the process.

2. The other layout that gets to me is the burnt-defender-boxed-out layout in the inzone. I've had this one happen to me a few times. When you have the deep position on a long throw and the defender trys to layout over you to get the disc. It drives me nuts when I'm about to layout myself to score only to have some big oaf jump through my vertical space only to leave us both in a tangled mess on the ground.

Oh yea, it's not like I'm trying to say don't layout if it's marginal. Layout dammit. Just don't do it when you are definitely going to smash someone and possibly injure them. It's frisbee, not rugby. If it's an even bid between O and D, I think it's fair game.

So what's my opinion? Layouts = good with discretion both with regard to safety and tactics.

Edward Lee said...

In college and city league play, I could sometimes bait the throw on a long in-cut and lay out for the block.

During my brief club career, if a receiver got one step on me, he'd stay one step ahead of me, the thrower would make a throw with the correct curve to the correct shoulder, the receiver would turn his shoulders and catch the disc with arms extended, and I wouldn't have a shot at a block.

I imagine that Dusty is right -- at the elite club level, there are many fewer plays where layouts help than there are at lower levels.

mike said...

When the disc is obviously over thrown and the side line is screaming layout, then chances are the player needs to layout. Occasional gratuitous is ok if its all in fun, like during practice. Also if ya don't know wtf your doing laying out it could cost ya a broken collar bone. Have seen that and it wasn't pretty. I personally think layouts are freaking awesome especially for the point.