23 November 2008

Never clear again

If I was to play a game of word association with you, and I offered the word "clear" (in the context of ultimate), I wouldn't be surprised to get some of the following replies:



"not open"


The habits that players learn as beginners persist as players move into elite ultimate.

The slow jog back to the stack after not receiving the disc on a cut may be useful in beginner ultimate. But it is a big handicap in elite ultimate.

The offensive player who is clearing is generally not moving fast enough to pull away from their defender. They are not looking at the thrower. They have no body language that says "you can throw the disc to me now, and I want it".

Personally as a defender, I will regularly interfere with the offence when my player decides to "clear". I will float off them and look to get an intercept, or help shut down the cuts of others. Sometimes I will use this as a chance to take a shortcut to where they are heading, and take a rest on the way.

And as a thrower, I like to throw to teammates who think they are "clearing". You may have finished a cut and are jogging away from me, not looking back. But I may still throw to you, and then let you know the disc is coming.

To summarise: always be a receiving option. Cut in, cut out, cut left, cut right or wait in position. Cut slow or fast. But never clear again.


  1. Totally agree.

    My preferred method of "clearing" is planting and cutting deep, hard. Typically this goes up the sideline to leave a cutting lane open for the continuation, so it's not necessarily a terribly GOOD deep cut--that said, if a defender doesn't respect it, it quickly becomes a GREAT option--who doesn't like an open target deep?

    Barring that, I also enjoy curling off to the break side of the field, either after or in lieu of a deep "clear." Generally this is a cut--when I say "curl," I mean simply that my cut is redirected. If your thrower can hit the IO, or if you can get around to the dump side, you can often be (I've found) an easier dump option than the natural dump.

    This won't jive with a lot of offensive setups though, so it all depends on where you station your dumps and where you stand in the cutting/handling/receiving hierarchy overall.

  2. Ever since i started playing ultimate i've been taught to clear. I've never been taught to do any of the things you're describing as clear though.

    You don't seem to have a problem with clearing. You seem to have a problem with bad clearing.

    We had it drilled into us to clear with a secondary threat. To clear at least as quick as we cut, if not harder. To clear in a way that made more useful space, not less...

    I would be surprised to see any of those words in word association. Clearing is about one thing - space. It's the opposite of clogging and it's vital.

  3. JOhn, I think it is partly an issue of language. When I have seen people asked to clear, they jog. When I have seen them asked to cut, they run hard.

    The word association was hyperbole.

    In my world, beginners are taught to clear, and rarely instructed to do so at speed or while expecting the disc.

    What is clearing for? Making space? Or a secondary threat? I believe both, and at the moment many people only do the first, and poorly too.

    I think we agree, and I wish more coaches had the approach that yours did John :)

  4. Hah. The number of times I've been tempted to throw hard at the back of people's heads as they are 'jogging away'... particularly playing against zoneD.

    I think the problem is exacerbated when players don't have (or aren't taught) a good understanding of 'how far is a good cut', and either come in to close, or go out to far, and then find themselves in a position where it's difficult to make a positive next cut. Hence they move or 'jog' back to a better position, and they and their defender may add to field clutter.

  5. Do you have unresolved anger issues Alec? ;)

    When I coach zone offence (which is different again), there is no clearing. You watch the disc wherever you are moving. Particularly when I am holding it.

  6. Hahaha, I like the "particularly when I'm holding it" line. The thing I dislike most is people not looking, especially when we get a turn on D and you could have a give and go for gaining yards, but your teammate runs away to set up in a stack. Ugh.

    I was definitely taught the "always clear out" thing when I started. And I've seen it taught, (and probably taught it myself, double-plus-ugh) to other beginners.

    When I cut, my 'clear' is a second cut, but I don't think I developed that as a cutter until I played a while as a decent handler. I didn't realize that it could be a viable cut until I saw for myself that "Oh yeah, I can throw to that. Don't look away!"

  7. Yes, yes, spot on. Look at the thrower always - you are always an option.