Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Good Defense Happens BEFORE the Disc Moves

My first year on a club team, we had some smart older players on my team. One of them was somewhat of a D specialist, and he would say: "90% of defense happens before your man gets out into the lane."

This took me a long time to learn or even understand what he meant because I was young and fast, and could just run past my man for blocks (note: we didn't play too many good teams). Especially in college, I would just stand on the breakside of my man, follow him in to the disc, bait the throw, and get the block. This works extremely well when you play on a mid-tier college team. However, if you ever want to play after you graduate from college, you need to learn how to actually and properly play defense with proper positioning.

One of this season's goals for MIT is to learn how play defense with the same fundamentals as a club team would. I have talked to some people about it, and they think that this endeavour is crazy, that the dictation concept will be lost and it will simply become, stand 7 yards behind your man and give him the free in pass. But, they don't coach you guys, and they don't understand how hard you work at this sport.

The following is are excerpts from emails that the coaches on my club team have sent to us about how to play good, fundamental defense. They actually can write in real sentences and have mastered basic punctuation, so, if anything seems a little off, or words have been left out, it is probably me adding stuff in.


1.) Good D Happens Before the Disc Moves - Dictate
  • Be Aggressive. The nature of the sport of ultimate is pretty unbalanced, the offense has a huge advantage. Don't give it an even bigger advantage by playing passive defense - chasing your man around - dictate where you want him to go, take control of that, and tip the scale over towards the defense.

  • Re-adjust Your Defensive Position Constantly. In a perfect world, all you would have to do is dictate slow, fat handlers out, and tall, fast, goal scoring idiots with no throws to speak of under, and we would win.

    That would be a nice world to live in, but it isn't real, instead, how you dictate your man is usually more about what your team is doing, what you are trying to take away, where the disc is.

    Good defenders re-adjust their position over and over throughout the point. Kevin and I, try to make it a point at practice, to keep saying in our heads where we are forcing our men. Try to do this at practice and in games until it becomes natural.
2.) Use Your Body!

  • Physically place yourself in the path between the person you are covering and where they want to go.
    • Example 1.) To stop the upline dump, you must place your body between the dump, and the area upfield where he wants to go (normally a diagonal path).
    • Example 2.) When guarding a deep threat, you want to stand blocking him from turning and sprinting deep towards the endzone.
    • Example 3.) When guarding the last people in the stack near their scoring endzone, you want to stand in their path between them and the cone they are trying to score at.
  • Take Micro-Charges. For dictation to be effective, you have to keep your cushion small.

    Reach out and touch someone small, but you can't just stand and expect them to run into you and stop. Your body weight should be towards where you want to send them. The more micro-charges you can take, the better.

    Micro-charges are just what you think they would be - You are "standing", someone turns to run into you, you absorb it, and then move your body once again in the path that they want to go, and they run into you again. By standing I mean bouncing on your toes, weight towards the direction you want them to go.
3.) Triangulate Whenever Possible.
  • See the disc and your man. This is much harder to do when you are fronting your man or "faceguarding" i.e. playing people who play close to the disc.
4.) Keep On the Outside Shoulder of Your Man.
  • Don't give up the easy out cut if you are forcing in. And vice versa for if you are forcing out. Dictation does no good if you simply let your man run by you.

    Watch people make out cuts. 9/10 of them will involve someone running in hard, and then pivoting toward the openside and sprinting deep. If you were dictating your man under, and sprinting with him on his outside shoulder, when he turns to plant and sprint deep, you are in his way, blocking his path.

    If you decided to stay on his inside shoulder since that is easier to get layout blocks on shitty throws, if he plants to go out, you are left just sprinting in.
5.) When the Disc is Up, Beat the Man to the Spot.
  • Win the Race. Dan Cogan, the old MIT coach used to tell his kids that offense is a race that the offense decides when it starts, and where it ends.

    The concept of dictation on D is to make this race a bit more fare. Instead of letting the Offense decide where the race will occur, place your body in a way that limits the offensive player to one direction. Now you know where the race will end. Stay close on your man, and when the disc is thrown, win the last part.

This is a lot of stuff to digest. When it comes down to it, it all is pretty simple, and we are going to spend a lot of time honing our dictation skills. I think we are capable of being the best, most physical defense by the end of the season, but it starts at practice. Commit yourself to working hard, and commit yourself to learning these fundamentals.

If you have any questions, just write it in the comment section and I will get back to you.


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