Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What ever happened to space?

Apologies for the quality of this post.  It was written off of the top of my head and I am two lazy to fix it right now.

I have been watching all of the footage I can this Nationals weekend.  Mostly it is to see the U23 Mixed players and get a feel for where they are right now (I was also rooting a fair bit).  And while I have seen a number of things that are good and bad this weekend I have noticed one thing that most teams do that I don't like.  I don't understand the point of catching the pull and then throwing a 2 yard pass.  I saw UCF do it plenty in the finals. I saw Tufts do it in their quarters game.  I saw Iowa State do it in their barn burner of a game.

I think I can kind of understand the rationale behind it.  IF you have a dominant handler you want the disc in their hand no matter what.  But that is the strategy of a cowboy team where your gunslinger is going to be throwing dimes all over the field.  More often than not these teams are running more motion  based offenses.  What confuses me even more is when vert stack teams do this.

Again, I understand the argument that in a vertical stack you want the disc to be in the center so that you can attack both lanes.  But what I think is lost on teams is that when the disc is pulled even slightly to one side the defense (if coming man) is running down that side.  So it is beneficial to move the disc away from the defense.  Mike often describes ultimate as a game of keep away (sorry Lou, but I think Baccarini is older than you) so why aren't we getting the disc away from the clutter.  If the disc lands on one side you should almost always motivate the disc to the other side because that is where there is space on the field. 

This is the premise of a vertical stack, so I really don't understand it when vert teams do this.  The basic idea of a vertical stack isn't to create two lanes so the initial throw can go to either side.  That is a benefit, but isn't the main focus.  Instead a well run vert swings the disc from side to side to get away from the defense. 

If we imagine defense as a cloud that is trying to blanket the "open" space.  After a pass to one sideline defenders adjust to the current disc position.  That can create a density in the cloud because the defenders are all on one side.  When the cloud density increases in one area it is at a deficit somewhere else.  So the offense should try to get the disc over there before the cloud has time to cover that part of the field.  Keeping the disc in the same location doesn't accomplish that.  So on a pull, when the cloud density is high because defenders are running at the disc, we should get the disc away from that density and not just throw a two yard pass.

I see the same problem often in zone handling.  The goal is to spread the zone out.  A two yard backwards pass between handlers in a zone does nothing to affect the defense.  You have to get the disc outside of the containment either by losing enough yards to guarantee a swing, getting the other handler just outside of the cup (laterally) to ensure the swing, or by crashing through the containment.  All of those are fine options.  Two of them value space highly and that leads to good things. 

In the end I put this on the coaches of these teams.  They are all good coaches doing great work for little or no money.  But having been involved with this sport for a long time I find it interesting how you can tell what a program values by small things that they do.  I didn't see enough teams valuing space on the pull this weekend.   But I did see a lot of good defense!

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