Ultimate Intelligence – Head to the end zone!

May 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm Leave a comment

This is the first of a series of Ultimate Intelligence posts that I hope to write. These posts will hopefully provide some useful information that you can use to improve your game in a variety of ways. For the most part Ultimate Intelligence will be about on-field performance and may include tips regarding tactics, physical work or mental perspective.

This post will focus on an improvement that can be made from both an attitude and a tactical perspective. This isn’t necessarily an advanced tactic, any player could take these instructions on board and incorporate them into their game.

The premise of the post is that it is important to recognise that your role on the field changes when you see the disc heading into the end-zone. In particular if you are not the intended recipient of the throw (or marking the intended recipient when on defence) your job doesn’t stop as soon as the disc is heading into the end zone.

It is extremely common for players to see an attempted goal being thrown and respond by stopping what they’re doing and watching to see what happens next. This is a mistake and a simple change of perspective can improve your usefulness on the field significantly.

The benefits of this altered perspective are different depending upon whether you’re currently on offense or defence. We can take a look at each:

Offense

Imagine you’re playing on offense in the following situation:

  • One of your team mates has made a cut towards the end zone.
  • The person with the disc has identified the cut and put the disc in the air, the disc is heading towards the end zone.
  • You weren’t necessarily cutting but it is within your ability to get to the end zone at roughly the same time as the disc.

My advice is to get to the end zone as fast as you can! Definitely don’t stop to watch the play unfold. Definitely don’t wander towards the end-zone without intent. Definitely sprint disc-wards!

The reason for this course of action is to fulfil a supporting role. One of the great things about Ultimate is the “freakish” plays that occur on a semi-regular basis. People can pull of impressive things by being in the right place at the right time. Often this seems like luck or fluke but being pro-active can certainly help.

In the situation listed above there are a number of possible outcomes where it would be useful to have another offensive player around the disc:

  • The cutter’s defensive player gains position and gets a hand to the disc. They smack it away for a block but don’t catch it. The point is still winnable providing the disc hasn’t gone out of bounds. How often have you seen players scoop up the scraps of a contest for a score?
  • The intended recipient of the throw misreads the disc, or the wind picks up for a second. Again, a supporting player can clean up.
  • Depending on your speed and location on the field you might actually have a better play on the disc than the intended recipient. Communication on the field is key to making this a success however!
  • Should the cutter’s defensive player catch the disc, you are an option for pressuring the first throw after the turnover before re-locating your player and getting back to your own defensive duties.

In summary, by having a proactive and supporting attitude you can come away with some glory and increase the percentages of the intended goal coming to fruition. There’s no reason not to head to the end zone if you can get there on time. That said, two cautionary points:

  • Don’t get in the way of the intended recipient. If you do have a better play on the disc call it early. Otherwise your job is to hover around the bottom of the contest for the disc and tidy up if the disc floats free.
  • Keep an eye on the players you’re leaving behind as you cut away. If the defence is successful in preventing the score you’ll need to get back to your player on the turnover.

From a personal point of view, I’ve caught many points that weren’t intended for me by making sure I was available as support in the end zone. I have also made difficult and important blocks in games, only to have one of the offensive players follow the disc to the ground and score all the same. I will probably write a future Ultimate Intelligence post on why you should always catch the D!

Defence

Imagine you’re playing on defence in the following situation:

  • One of your opponents has cut towards the end zone, but not the player (or within the zone) that you’re marking.
  • The offensive player with the disc has recognised the cut, put the disc up, and it is heading towards the end zone.
  • Your player isn’t doing anything threatening, but it is within your ability to get to the end zone at roughly the same time as the disc.

Again – don’t hesitate, get to the end zone as quickly as you can! Similar to the offensive situation provided above, you are in a great position to be able to influence the outcome of the point. In this case you’re looking to generate a turnover.

You can effectively forget about the player you are marking temporarily. Nothing else matters aside from ensuring that the throw isn’t completed so it isn’t important what your player does, unless they also head towards the end zone in which case you want to be in front of them anyhow!

The following may occur:

  • The offensive player gets a hand to the disc but fumbles. Their defender may still be in the air or committed to a certain direction, you can step in and grab the disc.
  • Your team mate gets a hand to the disc but doesn’t catch it. The disc is falling within reach of the offensive player (or another offensive player). Again you can step in and make sure there is no score.
  • As an offensive player, it is more psychologically intimidating if there are several defenders around you influencing the outcome. Mistakes happen under pressure, you’re providing pressure!
  • You may get to the disc in a more direct path than the intended players, stopping the disc from even making the target.
  • Your team may get the turnover, you will be in a great position as a free-player to start the disc moving back up the field in a quick manner.

Essentially the flip-side of the offensive advantages apply on defensive. You provide more pressure and more likelihood of a turnover by being available as a supporting defensive player in the end zone.

I recall a point where a good long-cut was made to the end zone by an opponent, closely followed by my teammate. Everyone else on the field stopped flat-footed to see the outcome. It was going to be an impressive contest, involving two of the better players on the field. My teammate was able to out jump our opponent however it wasn’t a clean block and the disc started tumbling straight down. The offensive player landed with his eyes on the disc and immediately attempted a layout grab as the disc fell in front of him. Lucky for our team, I had followed the disc into the end zone and quickly pushed it out of his reach whilst it was falling. I saved us a point. It wasn’t particularly glorious or impressive, but a simple proactive run saved a point.

One final point to make is that, on defence, you can be pro active when the disc is headed towards the end zone even if you are nowhere close enough to make a play. Don’t assume that the throw will be successful. There’s always a chance of a turnover until the disc has stopped spinning in the offensive player’s hands. Watch for the result, but start moving towards your required position as soon as you’ve seen the disc flying towards the end zone. Your offensive play positions can be setup and ready to go early!

I would also like to credit a Tassie player who drove these points home for me whilst I was playing one night. I was watching the disc fly into the end zone from not too far away when Mike Baker yelled at me from the sidelines to run it down. It was a bit of an “Aha” moment where I thought “Why didn’t I go after that? I definitely could have made it and I definitely could have been useful”. So – thanks Mike.

Update!

Interestingly Brodie Smith released a highlight video on his Everything Ultimate YouTube channel today. Two of the plays in the video demonstrate the point of this post perfectly.

In the first play the defender tidies up an attempted block. In the second play the supporting offensive player makes the score off a throw not intended for him. The plays are next to each other in the video, starting at 1min 24 seconds in. The whole video is worth a watch though!

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