Attention Ultimate Rookies: first off, I love you. I love Ultimate Disc, and I love it when new players join competitive leagues to learn the game. I also recognize that you ARE rookies, and as such don’t necessarily know everything just yet about how to play the game well. That’s o.k. I’m here to help. Below is my advice to every player out there on how to be successful in Ultimate Disc.
1) Be aggressive. Yes, a good offense works best when there aren’t too many cuts coming from all over the place. But nothing is more frustrating to a handler than to look up field and see nobody cutting at all. If you’re in the stack, pay attention to the person covering you and to the person with the disc. If you don’t see anyone making a move, it’s probably because you’re in the best position to make the move. So cut, and cut hard. It doesn’t matter if you get the disc. As long you make a good hard cut, and then head back into the stack so your mark can’t clog up the lane, you’ve done your job. Keep cutting and you’ll start getting open. Then you’ll start getting the disc.
2) Know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your teammates’. It’s very common for newer (and veteran) players to “want to be the hero” and go deep all the time. The problems with this are myriad. For one, not everyone is built to be a deep threat. It could be a lack of speed or jumping ability. It could be an inability to read the direction of the disc when it’s high in the air. It may be as simple as the mark is playing you tight enough that s/he can cover you on the deep throw. It may also be that the person with the disc doesn’t have a deep throw in his/her arsenal. Going deep all the time will give away your offensive strategy to the other team and usually winds up just wasting a lot of energy. Make sure you vary your cuts. Go in, go out, go force-side, go break-side. But be active and don’t just keep going for the score all the time. Remember, nobody likes a cherry-picker.
3) Keep your mark in front of you. If you’re last-back on defense, shade your mark so that s/he has to cut in to get the disc. Even if you give up a ten-yard pass, that’s certainly better than giving up a score. And if you are last-back, watch for cutters from the front of the stack. The defensemen in front are more likely to shade their marks away, and sometimes a player will try to take advantage of that by going deep. When that happens, give up on your mark, call for a switch, and go with the away cut. Try to do this before the deep cutter gets past you so you’ll have a couple steps on him/her. Switching defenses can be the most deceptive play in Ultimate Disc, as an offense will suddenly go from having two players with steps on their defenders to two players being sandwiched between those same defenders. Often times the handler will not pick up the switch in time and throw a turnover. Keeping cutters contained is the best way to keep them out of the endzone.
4) Know the force and hold it. It’s frustrating having to yell “other side” at a player in the field. If you’re forcing forehand, shade to left flank of your mark. If you’re forcing backhand, shade to the right flank. Again, don’t try to be a hero by over-committing and going for the hand-block. That’s a nice added bonus, but you’re main job is to prevent the break-side throw. If you’re in the field, your job is to not allow your mark to get by you. So stay to the force-side at all times, even if your mark goes break-side. Defense is a team effort, and you have to trust your teammates to prevent the break-side throw.
So there you have it, rookies. Some basic advice that might help improve your Ultimate play. Cut aggressively, cut to a variety of spots on the field, remember that defense is a team effort, and keep your marks contained. Understand these key concepts and the rest will come with time. Until then, just keep playing, and have fun!