Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gunning for Goliath

So my last post was about how to approach games where your team significantly outmatches your opponent.  But the more interesting question is what to do when your opponent is significantly stronger than you.

If your team is one of those teams that takes themselves seriously, then you probably have goals.  And if those goals are appropriately high, then you probably have a team ahead of you that you need to beat (unless you play for Fury or Revolver).  Maybe your goal is to make the second day of Regionals or make Nationals or make quarters or win everything.  In all divisions, those teams on their respective bubble are wondering how to knock off that team just ahead of them.

Maybe you’re Rhino trying to defy the odds and finish top 2 at Regionals.  Maybe you’re Scandal and you draw Fury in quarters at Nationals.

Now don't get me wrong; maybe you’ve played them tight a few times.  Maybe you’ve even beaten them at a summer tournament.  But how likely are you to beat that team in an elimination game when it matters most and when both teams are focused and peaking?

In games like this, your “A” game can’t beat their “A” game.  Maybe your “A+” game can beat their “A-“ game, and if that’s the case and your teams are that closely matched, then maybe you take your chances and hope things break your way.  But if the disparity is more extreme, then your measures need to be more extreme if you’re gonna bridge that gap.

Going toe-to-toe with a team that has better throwers and better athletes is a sub-optimal strategy.  You need to get the other team off their “A” game.  This should be obvious, but how many teams out there all seem to have the same offensive strategy of try isolate their receivers to make vertical cuts while their handlers dink it back and forth… defensively, it’s man-force flick.  There are plenty of good strategies in there.  Unfortunately there are a bunch of teams out there who are better at it than you are.

Every year in Sarasota, if there’s significant wind, there seems to be a Cinderella story of some team that beats their seed on the back of their zone defense.  Florida in 2000?  Fury’s comeback in 2008 in the finals down 10-1.

Didn’t the Condors take down DoG in 2000 thanks in large part to bringing back the out-of-fashion straight up mark?

Don't let them have their first option all day long.

Defensive adjustments are the most obvious way to try throw a kink in an opponent’s plans, but there are offensive looks that will force the other team to adjust.  Maybe you run a split stack.  Maybe you send your deep cuts from the dump position.  Maybe your incuts down the lane clear laterally to a break cut.

One of my most rewarding ultimate experiences was as the 8 seed in the quarters of British College Nationals and upsetting the 1 seed by running a German offense and a 1-3-2-1 zone (Shout out to the Sussex Mohawks!).

Flip the script and make them think about how they play you.

Take risks.  You’re not gonna get enough wide open cuts against a superior opponent.  Throw some hammers.  Get your team used to throwing hucks that tail to the far corner.  Hang discs to the endzone rather than take a marginal dump throw.  Jump out early on a team, have fun doing it, and let them know you’re having fun doing it.

Which brings me to my last point.  There’s a certain level of gamesmanship that can knock an opponent off their game.  I don’t necessarily recommend all of these tactics, but being loud, talking trash, marking hard, getting physical… even making a ton of travel calls… they’ve certainly been a part of more than a few upsets.  Most teams out there have a narrow comfort zone.  Play outside of it.

Good luck to all the teams in the Series.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Saving Sectionals

So with the fall series about to get underway, I’ve been thinking about how to approach Sectionals.  For many club teams in most sections, Sectionals may offer a good game or two on Sunday, but generally there are a lot of blowouts.  How can you keep days like that from being a complete waste of time?  Wiffleball, Yumball, flutterguts, DDC, bocce…?  All good ideas.  Drilling between games?  Running suicides?  Scrimmaging?  It could work.  It depends on your team.

What I’m wondering about though is how to make the games themselves more worthwhile.  Now, if you don’t have a “worthy fucking adversary,” there’s only so much you can do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get something out of it.  What are good areas to focus on when you outmatch your opponent in every way?


On defense, if the other team is gonna cough up the disc in 2 passes no matter what defense you throw at them, then it’s probably not that helpful to work on your clam.  Not saying you don’t throw it, but understand you’re not getting tested.  Some defensive things you can work on and/or stress as points of emphasis:

Individual skills.  I like to stress staying focused against weaker opponents.  Pride yourself on keeping your pulls inbounds, getting down on every pull, not getting broken, etc.  Don’t get lazy about switching too much.

Team skills: Again, this can be tough if the other team is terrible.  One of my favorite things to work on against weak opponents is transition defenses.  To help this out, focus more on the transition (i.e. finding matchups quickly) and less on applying pressure with your cup.  Maybe even count out loud, and yell out, “Go man!” when you transition to queue the other team to start cutting.


Offense is generally easier to work on, and the weaker opponent just means it’s somewhere between a walk through and a scrimmage.

With individual skills, again, try to stress staying focused and not being sloppy.  Can you just get open by running past your slow, overweight defender?  Sure, but pride yourself on still cutting from motion and maximizing gains.

Spacing is great to work on against weaker opponents.  Don't crowd the disc, work to get swings all the way across the field instead of just 25 yards, etc.

Team concepts: Break flow offense, especially the continuation.  Fast break offense.  Set plays.  I like instituting a rule for a half like, “we will always fast break if the disc is on the field proper.”  Or “we always set up and run a play.”

These are just some ideas for team leaders to consider when approaching Sectionals... just don't forget the bocce ball set.