Friday, June 01, 2007

Purposeful walking

At the White Mountain Open, I was given a backhanded compliment along the lines of "you're old and slow(er) but you still get way open. How?" After kicking him in the groin, I explained to him that it was all about positioning and knowing when to just run.

Good defensive positioning is a dynamic process. What might be good position at one point is suddenly way out of position a few seconds later as the disc is swung or the players move a few yards. The defender basically decides what cut is not a threat to the team and so doesn't have to respect that cut. Examples: player 50 yards away, a deep pass is not a threat, defender plays in front. Cutter at the back of the endzone, only cut is back to the disc, defender plays in front. Marker takes away dump pass, handler defender doesn't overcommit on a cut to the dump. The defender will follow if the cutter goes to those places, but the defender won't try to beat the cutter there.

So, what you do on offense is to try to change the position so that the defender either continues in their relative positioning (thus opening up what was previously not a threatening cut) or alters their positioning (thus opening up the cut they were trying to prevent at first). For instance, you are handling, standing about 10 yards directly in front of the thrower, being forced one direction, say, forehand. The inside-out is a very tough throw here, and the around break will take long enough to deliver that the continuation isn't that much of a threat, so a good defender will position himself to allow you to cut inside-out. What you do, then, is to take several steps to the open side. If the defender keeps the same relative position, the inside-out cut is now wide open and is an easy throw straight up the field, and a threat to deliver a continuation pass. If the defender adjusts to be more in front of you instead of to the side, you may be able to cut back to the disc for a swing or laterally for a leading "away" pass.

Downfield, you are more likely to work in/out positioning rather than side-to-side. Say the disc is being walked in, and you are planning on cutting first. Put yourself somewhere near the middle or middle-back of the stack. Prior to check in, you reposition yourself further back in the stack, slightly on the open side. By starting out in the middle, the defender will usually adopt a position that at a minimum respects the deep cut (and sometimes even takes it away and concedes the in-cut). As you get deeper, they will usually maintain the same relative position to you, but suddenly the deep cut is not an option, and the in-cut is that much more open. A smart defender will adjust at this point, but amazingly, there aren't that many smart defenders out there [insert general disparaging comment about the intelligence of defensive players versus offensive players]. In the last couple steps before you actually cut, you can also drift more out into the open, making it more of a straight shot clear of poachers. Then simply plant and run hard to the disc. You may also throw in a step away or right at the defender before cutting in, but it's just one step, and you are not waiting for a reaction from the defender before going.

(This is what I have previously called a "quick fake", where you do a fake and continue on to your real cut or throw without waiting for a response. A quick fake is a diversion. A "slow fake" involves making a motion and then reacting to the defender's response. A bunch of back-and-forth jukes from a handler is a slow fake (even if those jukes are quick), because the handler is waiting for a sign that a defender has overcommitted or not reacted before deciding where to go. Sometimes a quick fake becomes a slow fake. A thrower might lift the disc suddenly to set up a low breakmark forehand (the quick fake), but if the defender anticipates correctly and shuts off that forehand, the thrower pivots to the backhand break (the slow fake). A cutter is on the open side and has both short and long open. Do a quick fake out to set up the in cut, go hard in for two or three steps and then read the defender's reaction. If the defender has anticipated the in-cut and has maybe even overcommitted to that, you immediately stop and cut deep as hard as you can.)

Sometimes, through no effort on your part, an "opportunity cut" will present itself. Maybe you're in the stack a little on the open side, your defender is fronting you and not watching the disc at all. At that moment, you're not a deep threat because the disc is not in a position to be hucked. However, you see a swing pass go off to the open side and the receiver is someone who can huck it. Suddenly, you're in great position to cut deep, provided that your defender keeps his focus on you. Allow him to do that by pretending to prepare for your own in-cut. Then, you make a hard step in and immediately reverse and cut deep. The defender will be backing up and even if he is faster than you, you will have enough of a head start that it shouldn't matter.

So, the basic idea is that you need to identify an area that you would like to cut to, then purposefully walk (or shuffle, or run if you must, I suppose) in the opposite direction, giving the defender the opportunity to make a mistake in positioning.


luke said...

goodpost jim.

Tiger said...

Long-time reader, first time commenter. Commenter? Commentator - that's more like it.

Jim, what bothers me about getting open is this - whenever I am cutting in, my defender will mainly stand ahead, directly facing me about five metres away, with their back directly facing the open area of the field: roughly at a forty-five degree angle.

When I '1 fake' - take five or so steps hard deep at an imaginary long throw, then cut back in - my defender will mostly stay in his original position, neglecting completely the long option in favour of shutting the short option off completely.

Is the only way for me to get around the whole 'not-being-open' thing to continue my long cut and hope that whoever is handling can throw?


Bill Mill said...


If you watch (American) football, you know how they say that you need the running game to set up the passing game? Same thing going on here.

If your team doesn't establish that it's willing to throw deep, I'm never going to respect your deep cuts and my job will be much easier.

There was a post either here or at AJ's blog about a team (Chain?) whose strategy used to be to huck on the first three possessions of *every* game just to make the defenders respect the deep and open up their cutters.


parinella said...

I think this is a perfect example of when you need to use purposeful walking. When you set up at the back of the stack, wait there, and then cut in, that is the only option you have and the defender knows it. I presume that the defender would not be giving you that cushion if you were only 15 yards away from the disc. Thus, start at 15 yards away, purposefully pull your defender away with you (hopefully he will maintain the same, smaller separation), and then cut in. If you find yourself back there with that large separation, you need to close that gap first and then draw him away. If you wait until it's time to cut, it is too late.

Good cutting starts several seconds before you actually make a hard move. Playing good defense against a good cutter is hard, because that cutter doesn't allow the defender to establish and maintain good position. The good cutter repositions himself such that the defender has to reevaluate what "good position" is.

Besides moving up and down the field, the cutter can attempt to position himself behind the defender. In this case, "behind" refers specifically to the body position of the defender, not to any particular position on the field. In the example you give, it might be very difficult to get behind. But say he's a yard or two away, and his body is angled so that he's fronting you just a little and can also watch the disc. In this case, you need to move toward his outside shoulder faster than he can shuffle easily. Two common things that happen then are that he puts himself behind you so that the in-cut is easier, and that he turns his shoulders and hips so that you are now on the outside of him and often can go immediately while he is still turning.

Bill, it was AJ's blog, a comment from a Ring player . My comment to that was that a team needed to establish that it was willing to complete long passes in order to establish the in-cut. But yeah, if a defender knows that a deep throw is highly unlikely, the cutter's job is that much more difficult. Whether it's due to not establishing the deep game, a poor thrower having the disc, the cutter being slow, or whatever, I guess it doesn't matter.

beatty said...

it doesn't appear the
that the defenders guarding
your receivers here are making
any effort to count the stall
to themselves; but like you said,

parinella said...

Yeah, it's funny, in my world, the defenders never seem to have an idea what's going on.

In some alternate universe where they do, then it's not as simple. "Purposeful walking" becomes "purposeful shuffling" or "purposeful jogging", moving the defender around, forcing them to make decisions about what they need to take away from you. This is a little more useful when you're one of several cutters instead of being the isolated primary cutter who is out there walking around while the stall count mounts. That way you can have the time to set something up and can take advantage of other passes changing the angle of attack.