One of the ways I approach developing strategy is the idea of ‘cash on the table.’ This principle of economics and biology states that if there are untapped opportunities or resources, someone or something will come along and take advantage of them. That’s why there are many, many things that like to eat road kill. Because ultimate is so young, there are still a lot of these opportunities. Oregon’s weird zone and fast break offense are good examples of this. Shifts in the rules also offer opportunities. Last spring, the Wisconsin men were huddling on offense until right before the 20 second warning, greatly reducing the amount of time the opposing defense had to match up.
In the spirit of Christmas, here’s an unused idea. (Full disclosure: I couldn’t get it to work in the women’s game.) I often borrow ideas from other sports and this one came from football. I was watching a game, one team punted and promptly gave up a punt return for a touchdown. The broadcasters lamented that the kicking team had ‘out-kicked their coverage’ and I realized that every team in ultimate routinely out-kicks their coverage. Think for a moment about the best pulls – they hang forever, sit deep and allow the defense an opportunity to set up before the first pass. Think for a moment – how many offenses are built around a free first pass? With a little practice, it should be possible to time your pull and your defenders and get them in sync. Instead of having your manliest man throw it as far as he can, work on the timing and flight of the pull to coincide with the arrival of the defenders. You will have to give up 5-10 yards on the pull, but you were giving those yards up already because the other team was getting a free first pass. Take it, it’s yours.
From the mailbag:
I may have missed it some time in your past articles, but I was wondering specifically what you mean by 3 cutter? I’ve seen you mention receivers with this terminology before, but it hasn’t quite clicked?
A 3 cutter is usually your best player who presents a dual threat as a thrower and receiver. The nomenclature comes from the old NYNY system where ‘Standard’ was the classic string vert-stack play. It went 1 (catch pull) 2 (catch swing) 3 (cut for yards) 4 (go deep). For NYNY this was typically Pat King, but they did a nice job of moving people around. DoG would use Parinella. Mike Grant and Lugsdin (for Furious) were 3s, as is George Stubbs or Jimmy Mickle. The women’s game is less vertical and produces fewer classic 3s, but Georgia Bosscher fits the bill. There are three other positions as well, short fill, deep fill and 7. The short fill is your third (possession) handler, the deep fill is your backside cutter (think Kiran Thomas) and 7 is the finisher.
Makes sense. Was the swing pass just part of it because of the vert stack nature? I have seen people run the hitch route after the pull to gain yards in a more ho stack setting.
You got it. In a vert stack, the stack is forming in the way of a yardage cut from the 2. You could, of course, set your stack deeper, but that’s tricky business and pretty easily messed up. The other thing is that a vert stack offense needs access to the lanes down the side of the field and is usually most effective with the disc on the thirds or quarters. A horizontal set up has the space in front of the disc for a yardage cut and wants the disc in the middle of the field.
A brief comment on the discussion about expanding game requirements for college teams. People were generally supportive of the extra game requirements for Regionals and Nationals bids, but skeptical of the out-of-region requirement. I betrayed my bias from coaching a high travel team in underestimating the number of teams that don’t travel outside their region. I still don’t think we have a good handle on the actual effect of such a rule, although anecdotally I would expect the biggest impact to be on teams from the Southwest. They’re in a geographically huge region and historically teams come to them because of the good weather. One of the commenters mentioned that Nationals hopefuls often extended down to the 5th or 6th team in the region – although it is very, very rare that these long shots ever make it to Nationals, the possibility is a huge part of the experience of these teams and not to be undervalued. A parting question -this argument really comes down to a tradeoff – would you rather have extra requirements for games and travel or the occasional injustice in bid allocation?
As always, questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com