Friday, January 28, 2005

Call for Articles/Posts

Please send me any strategy type things you've written, and I'll post them up here. Also feel free to post comments to any of the existing posts.

Random Thought of the Day - Primary Cuts

Last night at Emory practice, Adrienne, our tall athletic receiver kept getting too deep and her defender kept sliding way under her making it very difficult for her to cut back to the disc. She had basically taken herself out of the play by getting too far away from the frisbee – her deep cut is effectively shut down because we don’t really have anyone who can throw it more than 55 yards consistently, and her in cut is shut down because her defender is way underneath her. It sort of reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write this big thing about offensive movement against man defense. Basically I think there are 3 types of offensive movement: 1)primary cutting – when you’re trying to get yourself open from a stopped disc, or you’re the first cutter in a called play, or sometimes the motion just stalls and someone just has to go get the disc 2)secondary (continuation) cutting – this is basically cuts from flow or motion. You’re moving on the field and reading the play and you change direction right as the person you’re cutting for catches the disc, voila you’re open. 3) Actively clearing space for your teammates – you almost never notice the guy who cuts as hard as he can under so someone else can go catch a goal, but it’s extremely important, especially when teams start poaching.

Anyway, I don’t have time to write the big huge thing I’m always telling myself to write, but this incident with Adrienne does make me want to talk about type 1 (primary) cuts for a minute. I always tell this anecdote about an interview I saw with Jerry Rice. I’m sure you’ve all heard me tell it before but bear with me while I repeat it. The interviewer asks Jerry Rice how he consistently gets open against defensive backs that are faster/quicker/stronger etc. than he is. Rice basically says that good defensive play is all about maintaining a cushion, tying a string around the receiver’s waist and maintaining the distance of that string at all times. Rice says a receiver’s job is to break the string. Now if you’re just twice as fast as your defender you can just throw it into overdrive and break the string by running away from them. Of course, Rice wasn’t faster and so his strategy for breaking the string was to stutter step or juke or do something where he could eliminate the cushion that defender was giving him. Rice wanted to have the defender pretty much right on top of him when he made his move because the defensive back wouldn’t have time to adjust and Rice would be able to create the separation he needed. I think good ultimate defenders want to do the same thing: they want to maintain a cushion in one direction and force you in the opposite direction. I think the easiest way to get open for type 1 cuts in ultimate is to find the “sweet spot” on the field where you can use the defender’s cushion against him. When I’m playing on Chain I love it when the call is Crawford to me, and I just wait for Crawford to get the disc and kind of walk/jog my guy out to a spot about 15-18 yards away from the disc. When you get out to an island where you can threaten both ways your defender is screwed. He’s forced to “break the string” himself. Why? Well if he continues to give me a 2 yard cushion underneath, the throw is going over both of our heads and he has no chance and if he gives me a 2 yard cushion away I walk back to the disc and he has no time to catch up. So he’s forced to play right on top of me. When he’s right on top of me, it’s really pretty easy for me to force him to turn his hips with some sort of juke.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Defending Horizontal Stacks

It seems that most of the top open teams have gone to some sort of horizontal or spread type offense. The most obvious benefit of these types of offenses is that they open up huge downfield cutting lanes – most notably, the deep lane is pretty much constantly open.

An additional concern for defenses is that called plays out of a spread formation are more resistant to transition defenses (zone to man, junk to man) than traditional straight stack plays. The reason for this is that the spread formation resembles a traditional zone offense formation and it’s pretty easy for an offense to simply call “after they transition to man, run the play.” That’s not to say that defenses should abandoned transition zones against spread offenses – I think it just means that defenses should rethink the point in time when the transition should occur. For instance, maybe you stay in you transition until the offense reaches a certain point on the field rather than a specific number of passes. Perhaps paradoxically, spread offenses become considerably less threatening the closer they get to the end zone they are scoring in.

I think the most effective strategy for playing man against spread offenses is to poach off the dumps and mark flat. The handler defenders should work very hard to contain the frisbee in the handling zone. What I mean by that is you want to invite the three guys back with the frisbee to just keep hitting the open reset, while poaching like crazy to make throws downfield uninviting. I hear handlers saying all the time, “let’s just sit back here and hit the open resets all day.” That’s great for the defense because while the handlers are throwing their swing passes and racking up the touches without breaking a sweat, the cutters are downfield running. Fitness becomes an issue surprisingly quickly. If you think about how most teams train it makes sense. Generally, teams are focusing on short sprint workouts and are just typically not training for marathon points. Their reason for doing this is pretty sound – most of their offense points are involving 2 passes and then a bomb to isolation. Given this style of offense it makes sense to train for explosiveness over endurance. As a defense we want to use this against them. I usually feel if we can go out there and make them throw 6 or 7 horizontal reset passes the cutters are going to get tired and they’re either going to stop cutting all together or more likely, they’re going to keep cutting, but they’re going to be more prone to make errors.

Three thoughts about forcing backhand - by Wood

Wood sent me this in an email recently, and it's pretty much exactly the kind of thing i'd like to have on this blog you go.

First, usually the forehand force is used because it is a more difficult throw. However, I feel this mostly applies to beginners, and most club players have forehands that are as good or better than their backhands. The one exception is probably deep throws. So maybe teams force flick to make deep shots more difficult (although as the level of play increases I think this becomes even less of a factor).
Second, the backhand release and flight seem to be slower (it's not just me is it?). This would suggest it would be preferable to force backhand because it would give your defense more time to react.
Anecdotally, I know that when I am playing short deep in the zone, I am much more likely to be able to get a d on a backhand swing pass than a forehand swing pass. This may also be due to reason three...
Third, the backhand release is such that the thrower's back is to most of the field, whereas the forehand release positions the thrower to face the field. This should make throws to the breakmark side more difficult, and make it easier for the thrower to not see a defender who is in position to get a d.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

2-4-1 Zone O and the Emory Ladies

So Emory practice is pretty much back in full swing again. We’ve made a commitment to stick with the 2-4-1 zone offense this year. We ended up abandoning it last year as our handlers were pretty much unwilling to make aggressive passes over the cup. The last two practices have been primarily devoted to 2-4-1. We’re doing a decent job of getting the disc through the cup to the poppers, but we’re not doing a great job of fast breaking once we get there. This seems somewhat counterintuitive to me as the pass through the cup should theoretically be the hardest pass in the offense. Right now, I think the poppers and wings continue to be too conservative. I’m going to put a handler-type as the deep position in the offense and try to get them coming back under for the poppers. We’ll see how it works.