Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dip D

This is part 2 in a series on defensive positioning, part 1 is here.

The essential difference between classic (fronting) positioning and dip d positioning is that instead of standing between your player and the disc, you stand behind them. Over the years, I have known a number of teams to use this defense successfully. The first I encountered was the 96 Pie Queens led by Arlie Stern (of Fury.) She called the defense 'contain' and they played it as their standard man-to-man. Sockeye 1.0 (95-98) played this defense in conjunction with a straight up mark, typically for the first 2-4 passes. The goal was to prevent a quick score off of the pull play by overloading the deep throw with both the defender (Dip) and the mark (straight up.) Just as with a zone transition, the defense reverted to classic positioning after the first few passes. The short CUT teams (05-08) played it as a way avoid getting hucked on.

Dip D is a more conservative defense than classic fronting. In classic fronting you are taking the under (the easier throw) and giving the out (the harder throw.) You are more likely to get a turnover on any particular pass, but you are also more likely to get scored on. The decision of which defense to use hinges on percentages. The more skilled a team, the less effective Dip D will be. Playing Dip will force a team to throw ~10 passes to go 70 yards. Playing classic will force a team to throw ~5, but at least one of them will be low percentage. A skilled team (like an elite club team) will have no trouble hitting the half-step-open cuts that Dip yields. A college team? Depends on the team. A high school team? Unlikely. A city league team? Probably not.

As an individual defender, you may want to play Dip from time to time. Are you on an island? Against a more athletic receiver? Great thrower with the disc? Offense going downwind? All these question pertain to the likelihood of getting beat deep. As that likelihood increases, you should consider playing Dip for a portion of the stall count. As those things change, your positioning changes.

Finally, a little technique. This defense can be played more or less aggressively. The bad-defense technique is to give a full step (or more) under, wait for the cutter to move and then follow them to put on the mark. I would only recommend this in two circumstances: you are way over-matched athletically or the cutter can't throw at all and you are baiting the throwaway.
Better is to play closer to your player. This will require you to be alert, to anticipate and to reposition a lot more as your player moves and sets up for their cut. In the version of Dip D I learned with Sockeye, you were close enough to touch your player's back with your chest. If they tried to go deep on you, you held your position and forced them underneath. This method requires a fair bit of technical footwork to be effective (it's easy to get turned) and legal (its easy to commit a foul) and I would not recommend it for non-competitive situations like city league.
There is a middle ground between totally passive and totally aggressive. The cushion will be a half step. The trick is anticipation and tenacity. Know when your player is going to cut; if you pay attention, they'll tell you. Begin moving with them. Once they commit to their cut (usually ~4-6 steps in), commit to defending it and fly to the point of the catch. If it is a bad throw, recognize and block it. If it is a good throw, recognize and get the mark on.

To recap: This is a good team d if you are playing in a situation that is pretty low percentage. This is a good individual d if you think you are going to get beat deep. Like any defense, it is best if executed with anticipation and energy.


  1. Have any good video examples of this type of positioning?

  2. Unfortunately, I don't. I am just beginning a process of annotating the footage I have. You are much more likely to see it applied on the team level in college or women's. In open it will be situational. When I find some, I'll post it.

  3. Stephen,

    A.J. Tiarsmith discussed this style of positioning on Ultimate Strategy & Coaching awhile ago:

    Rereading it now, I see where what he's saying could be applied to fronting your man, but I always imagined him playing behind his guy with the style of defense he's advocating, making it similar to Lou's Dip D. I might be extrapolating from another post, though:

    If one had A.J.'s athleticism, I could see why he would think that Dip D was more than situational.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. The Dip D you describe from Sockeye reminds me a lot of basketball positioning. The footwork required are small moves that most players do not concentrate on, and as a result many defenders can get easily turned around. It's this type of close quarters body positioning and movements that can be beneficial for maintaining position or even handler cuts.

    Other than that, I really liked this segment, and would love to have video to show teammates. This is the type of strategy that I want people on my team to be aware of, and that I've attempted to explain.

  6. Scoober, I'm glad you said that. I know of at least two pretty good ballers who also are ultimate players (the aforementioned A.J. along with Jeremy Goecks from Bucket) that play defense in this style. It seems natural for basketball players to bring this kind of positioning with them when they transition to ultimate.

  7. Breaking it down this way is really helpful. Now that I've gotten myself into shape, poor defensive positioning is THE thing that's been dogging me as a (pretty terrible) defender.

  8. I went and read AJ's two posts. The first is a broad explanation of general principles. The second is an example of situational use of Dip. He is playing Dip on Parinella because he is in the back of the stack, isolated and Parinella was a great receiver. The piece he doesn't factor in is the difference between Al's forehand and backhand. Al could hit any spot on the field with his backhand, but his forehand was much more limited. Why not test it a bit more? Also, if you are on the field with a bunch of good poachers and you've been playing some junk in the game, why not set up a triangle or front-and-back and get a little help and force some swing passes?

    I am going to look for video. It's so much easier to see it than read it...

    The next (and probably last) piece in this little series will be on playing off-man.

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