18 January 2008

One Percenters - Chapter 2

Following on from Rueben's list of one-percenters, here are my additions to that list of the little things that help your team. (Read Rueben's first.)

Moving your defender
When you see a teammate about to cut long, and you are standing near the back of the stack, a little movement in to the disc can draw your defender's attention so they can't help defend the teammate's deep cut.

Not getting in the way

If the thrower has engaged the dump, you need to leave the space around the dump and thrower for the dump to cut into.

Motivating the team
If you or a teammate do something good, let the team know. Get excited. Celebrate. Motivate. A huge layout goal is a very valuable spark that your team can use.

T-minus cuts
Distract and draw the defence by starting your cut before the disc gets checked in. The defence will be less likely to help defend the main cut, and the thrower can throw earlier to the main cut (or even you!). T-minus, because you cut at T-minus 5 seconds, for example.

Look around
See what the thrower, cutters and defence are doing, by constantly turning your head. Have no blind spots.

Share your observations
Let your teammates and leadership know about any tactically useful observations: "Fred has only thrown forehands this game", "Don is poaching a lot".

11 January 2008

Ways to attack a zone

Here are some ways to attack a zone. I didn't realise there are so many ways to attack a zone until I stopped to count them. Anyone got more?

1. Sneak in and pivot through

The poppers step just inside the wall or cup, lean forward to receive a short pass (less than 1 metre), and pivot past a defender to throw to a teammate. The disc is not thrown through the cup - it is carried through by a legal pivot step of the popper. This requires footwork not used anywhere else in ultimate, so it takes specific practice.

2. Stand in space
Poppers stand behind the cup or wall in space. If the wing defenders are kept preoccupied, at least 1 of the 2 poppers should be free enough. The handler throws a hammer, blade or scoober to the open popper.

3. Decoy runs to make gaps

One popper moves through the cup to move a defender. The handler throws through the gap they leave to the other popper, who has positioned themselves where they think the gap will appear.

4. Flood the weak side

Position a handler on the opposite side of the field to the disc, and have 2 poppers nearby. Leave the handler with the disc all alone with 4 defenders near him/her. When the disc is swung with a hammer or dump-swing, the poppers are ready to give-go, as the disc should arrive before the cup, clam or wall arrives. Frisbees are faster than feet.

5. Flood deep and hammer

Put 3 or 4 players deep, each trying to draw a defender. One offensive player should be left open for a hammer or blade.

6. Dump and swing until a wing is open
This is the status-quo. It is simple and so is usually the first tactic taught on zone offense. It uses the assumption that "the cup will get tired and slow down and we can then pass up the wing, before we make a mistake". This assumption is usually false in beginner and intermediate ultimate. My reasoning: if you throw just 7 passes sideways, each of which is 90% safe, you are more likely to turn it over than not. And you haven't even gone forward towards the goal. And isn't that the aim of offense?

Guidelines to popping

Here is the first in a series of posts about popping. Why popping? Cos I like it :) Popping requires very different tactics to man-on-man offence - which we play 95% of the time.

The National Junior Training Camp was on this week in Melbourne. You have never seen such a standard of professional training in ultimate. The coaches and athletes there are building a new culture of elite ultimate. I foresee big things for the U-19 Australian teams that emerge from this camp, and the rest of the campaign.

I was guest coach on Thursday morning, coaching the Junior Women on zone O.

The junior women played three mini-games, rotating through the roles of handler, popper and deep in their team. I gave them two guidelines to follow in each role:

1. Look after the disc (i.e. throw safe throws, don't get stalled)
2. Keep the disc in the middle of the field (because the zone they faced was a line-trapping pommy zone)

1. Always watch the disc (as the angles and defence constantly change, and you can be open at any moment. You can no longer afford to clear long for three seconds, head down, arms pumping.)
2. Stay within 10 metres of the disc (for the offensive style I wanted, the poppers break the zone with small passes through the wall, so they have to be near the disc)

1. Pull defenders deep (to give the poppers space)
2. Cut in at the right time (to keep the disc moving upfield before the wall and chaser can contain it again)

Teams can choose different offensive styles against zone, that may not include these guidelines.

But for the junior women on Thursday, I felt these six guidelines gave them an instant structure.

The hardest one to follow was Keep the disc in the middle of the field. It is a very human tendency to throw where the force lets you. But against a trapping zone, the sideline takes away space to throw into, and lets the defenders crowd in. It is clear it takes a fair bit of practice to ignore an open teammate on the sideline and break the mark to a hit better positioned teammate.