Why Chaos And Risky Defence Are Better In Ultimate

Tyler Steeves Ultimate Frisbee

Here’s the thing. We all play frisbee for different reasons, and my main reason is to have fun. So I don’t belong on a competitive team with winning as the primary focus. If I can win AND have fun, great. But I’d rather have a shit ton of fun, take big risks, try to build momentum and win or lose in epic fashion.

So with that in mind, I’m personally developing a playing style more aligned with massive risk-taking. This means paying way more attention to the thrower at all times, and trying to read what’s going to happen in order to do something about it. I leave my man to feel basically unguarded. Sure, I’m close-ish, but I’m playing with space. I’m poaching, trying to make my man look as attractive a throw as possible while staying confident that I can cut off the throw mid-flight. And if they throw over me, that’s more time for me to recover careless positioning.

At this point, I’d say (just as a wild guess) I’m able to see a play coming 30% of the time, and the majority of the time I’m completely wrong and out of position. But that’s OK with me, because I feel pretty strongly that if I’m able to drop my player and make an interception, the momentum gained by my team is far greater than the momentum lost by me being out of position and a pass being completed (even for a point). Being out of position is not spectacular, it doesn’t generally create a strong reaction. But bidding for an interception (and even missing) creates a sense of “swinging for the fences” that spreads throughout the team. I think this makes a team more volatile, more dangerous, and more fun.

I think it’s a mistake for a beginner team to try an play a “controlled” game. I don’t think there’s enough to be gained by playing safely, making only “sure throws” to justify that approach as a team’s strategy. New players, if given license to throw bombs in a game, gain a shit ton more confidence and valuable handling experience than if they’re pressured into always making safe throws (and dumps) to veteran handlers.

No team, ever, has been ignited by safely walking the disc into the end zone. On the other hand, even the opposing team will get up and scream for a spectacular layout D block.

Defending the end zone presents even juicier opportunities to read the play, and abandon your player, and make a bid for glory. Because you’re covering a smaller part of the field, I think it’s actually easier to poach hard in the end zone (providing you’re taking away the easy “in” throws and forcing the handler to put the disc over you, thus building the necessary time to catch up if you made a mistake).

Here’s my final argument for why poaching is better than not poaching:

Imagine a situation where all the players on the defending team are able to predict the throw a second before it’s released. This gives them all enough time to begin sprinting to the point on the field the disc is headed, leaving all players undefended but the player trying to receive the disc. Assuming the defender marking the disc doesn’t make the block, you have the defenders in immediate proximity to the handler reacting to the handler alone. This means bodies getting in the path of the throw (which we’re assuming is happening). So let’s then assume that none of those nearby defenders were able to block or intercept the disc, we now have all the mid-and-deep positioned defenders reacting to the receiver – who now has to make a fairly difficult catch due to being outnumbered by defenders. Yes, if the catch is made, the entire rest of the team is open. That’s the risk. But I still think that a team being able to collectively react to one throw at a time, and isolating/outnumbering the two offensive players involved in that pass, creates a defensive advantage. It also introduces a level of unpredictability for the offence to deal with, and as those of you who’ve played with me know, I’m a huge fan of creating a sense of chaos! I love when the other team is yelling “Man! No, Zone! No, Uh… What the fuck are they doing?”

We’ve all played “Man” and “Zone” and I think it’s time to embrace a new and somewhat random system where we’re thinking less about zones and players, and more about flight paths and developing a poaching mindset (admittedly structured almost exactly as a zone would be). I want to do some strange shit. I want to leave the handler unmarked (if we have a lead!) and double up on the in-cuts.

I want to see the game evolve.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *