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?


  1. Hey Owen,
    I like your two posts on popping/attacking zones. Good info in there. One thing I'm curious about, how do you normally call the poppers and handlers on the line? As in, would you put your best handlers in as handlers, or put them as poppers if you have other sold handlers? Having them as poppers might mean you could exploit breaks faster, but then perhaps less experienced players are getting trapped on the line.

  2. Another question - say you have a right hander with a killer flick. Do you put them on the right side of the field to throw down the line, a harder throw? Or put them on the left, because then more of their throws to most of the field will be flicks?

  3. A good handler isn't necessarily a good popper. But I feel having strong poppers is more important than strong handlers, so if the best player is good at both, I tell them to pop. Having strong poppers means a) you are less likely to end up trapped on the line and b) you can move the disc off the line through popping.

    With your strong forehand scenario, I haven't seen it as a big factor. But would probably put them on the left side.

  4. A question for you, more on defending a zone than attacking it - say, for instance, that defence is running a pommy.

    They have no short deep, so your number 2 way of attacking a zone is increasingly more viable. If the offence is putting sneaky hammers over the front of the wall, does that mean the weak side wing should run in to stop it?

    Or is all this sneaky overhead swill my league team's just desserts for running pommy in non-windy conditions?


  5. If the O is successfully putting hammers over the wall, the pommy should jump more. Also, the wings and middle of wall need to work out who sags towards these receivers. It depends on where other receivers are.