Friday, June 24, 2011

Defensive Positioning

I had a question come in from an old Fuguer (who bytheway need a good, dumb name like Geezergy.) She asked a series of questions related to defensive positioning:
1. DIP D - can you tell me when this is ideal?
2. Having a cushion - also, when to use verses DIP?
3. Poaching on the dump for the first few seconds, then getting right back on
4. Switches and dump D, too.
I'm going to get to all of it, but it is a lot, so it may take a bit.

Before talking about dip and cushions and switching, I'd like to cover basic, fundamental face-guarding positioning. The classic position is:
1. Between your player and the disc....
2. shifted half a step to the open lane. (Not the open side, the open lane.)
Take a look at this clip from the 07 Sockeye-Bravo final. Once the disc moves to Moses on the sideline, there are a series of Sockeye out cuts running down that sideline. The Bravo positioning is perfect - giving a half step deep and shading slightly to the open lane. Well, until Beau gets caught napping.
Something to consider about this standard club-ultimate defense: it is high risk, high reward. Championship caliber ultimate teams are completing 95% of their passes and 60% of their possessions. A turnover is a BIG deal. All the players are constantly making decisions about the percentages. It's not a question of open or covered. Offensively, it's a question of can I hit this throw (because the receiver is open for something.) Defensively, it's a question of limiting options to what the thrower doesn't want to throw (because you can't stop everything.) In this clip, the defenders are limiting the thrower to a straight-away 40 yard touch throw downwind. Not an easy throw and it doesn't come until Chase has a 5-step cushion.

If you are playing college ultimate or co-ed or city league or something where the completion and conversion percentages are lower, you might want to use something other than classic positioning and I'll talk about those next time.


  1. Hi Lou,

    Before moving on, would you quickly expound on the difference between the open side and the open lane? I assume the open side is synonymous with the force side, while the open lane is an optimal path the cutter would take to receive a pass. Is that about right?


  2. @Daniel:
    You've pretty much nailed it. The distinction is a crucial one because of the difference in positioning against a mark that is trapping and a mark that is force middle. (You don't have to run fm to get a force middle situation. It happens all the time in force forehand when the disc is out on the backhand side.)

    In a trapping situation, the open side and the open lane are the same. In a force middle, the open side is all the way across the field on the weak side. The open lane is the interior lane on the strong side. You will often see inexperienced defenders lining up on the open side in this situation and then complaining to the marker when they are beat to the 'break side.' But the actual geometry of the throw is one that is released to the open side.

    The 'inside out' in this situation is the easier, safer and more advantageous throw and is the one that should be taken away. The big swing to the far side of the field is tougher, riskier and often only gains 5 yards. It is a lovely block opportunity.


  3. The way Beau gets burnt is a good reminder that when playing D with "classic positioning," you can't turn your back on your player. Beau losing sight of Chase was what allowed Chase to gain so many yards when he changed direction to go deep. Easy concept that can be difficult to master, but makes such a difference.

  4. Thanks Lou, will waiy for your next post more applicable to co-ed or city league :)

  5. @Gwen: is correct.

    @Anna N: DIP is the next post.

    @Z: I should add that this defense is great anywhere, any division if you are a step faster than whoever you are covering. Then you can deny and recover.

  6. Thanks again for the clarification, Lou. Looking forward to the next post.

  7. DIP = **** in pocket/on their hip?