Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Drive and Swerve

Hi out there.  Long time, no write.  I’ve taken the past month since Nationals pretty easy:  made it to the gym a handful of times, worked on my winter league recruiting (we're vomit-worthy siiick), played in an early winter tournament, did a footwork workout once or twice, signed up for the Tough Mudder in April, did a 5 mile run on Thanksgiving for charity.  I’ve been telling myself it’s ok to be a bit of a slob for the past month… but it’s been a month, and I can’t really afford to slide too far.  So hopefully that means a return to not only fitness but blogging as well.

I spent a lot of focus in my training this year on SAQ, efficiency, and technique.  While I understand it's the offseason for the club players, I try not to completely neglect game specific skills in the offseason.  So some thoughts on cutting...

With the rise in popularity of ho-stack over the past 8-10 years, the type of cuts I make on the field have changed.  In vert, the classic cut is a buttonhook (run hard, stop and cut back ~180 degrees the other direction).  In ho (as well as in sidestack), you’re more likely to see a cut that drives horizontally at your defender (putting him on his heels) and then a 90 degree turn deep or in.  Not suggesting you wouldn't use either cut in any type of offense - Boston has been beating you to the openside with this cut since the mid-90s.

Does anyone have a name for this cut?  I could have swore i read something from Wiggins where he called it a step-boom cut.  I've also called it a drive and swerve (DS).

I’m a big believer in footwork and feel that’s an under-emphasized aspect in ultimate training.  If you’re serious about your quickness, you should learn how to properly cut.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the finer points of this specific cut and decided to ask an old teammate, MJ, for his thoughts.

A little about MJ:  I played club with Mike from 2001-2003.  Mike was a college trackstar, has an absurd number of summer league championships, and has coached track, football, and basketball for a long time.  He’s also a certified SAQ coach.  After he got the text message about Pike’s run to semis in 2004, he wrote back saying he was so pumped that he went to the track and ran 200s until he puked, which for him I can only imagine was a lot of 200s.

As an aside, what Tim Morrill is doing is the same type of work MJ did for years.  This type of training is gold, and I would encourage anyone serious about their training to seek out the coaching of an expert like MJ or Tim.

Anyway, enough from me.  Here’s an excerpt from my email exchange with MJ.

Mike, i have a cutting question, and i figured you'd be the most qualified person to ask.  I realize this would be much simpler to explain and ask in person, but hopefully you can follow along.

If i'm sprinting forward 5-10 yards and making a 90 degree cut to my right, i've been wondering on the placement and foot angle of my left foot on the turn.  As i run forward, my toes are pointing north.  As i near my break, i chop my feet still with toes pointed north.  On my break, i jab step with my left foot out to my left and slightly in front of me (at about 10 o'clock) and then step east with my right foot (toes pointed east).  Then accelerate.

My question is on that jab step on my break, should that step be at 10 o'clock?  or 9 or 11 or 12 o'clock?  and should the toes of my left foot be pointed north, north-northeast, northeast-east, or east?

And/or should my penultimate step also start to turn my body right/east?

Hope that makes some sense.


Here's Mike's response.

Hey B-Lo,

Glad you asked. I actually made a living on this cut as a deep threat and possession receiver in football (as you know, they complement each other). It’s a basic 10 yd out or crossing pattern over the middle. The key to that cut (in this case, cutting right on a 10 yard out) is to:

1) Gear down at the closest point to the right angle that you can - this varies person to person, but (this is obvious but worth giving deliberate attention to and drilling in and of itself) the longer you can keep full explosive stride and the quicker you can gear down, the less time your defender will have to respond to your cut. You can drill this by doing sprint-to-stop repeat sets. Run to a line at top speed and work on lowering the hips and digging the balls of your feet into the ground for an abrupt stop. Start at 30 yds and keep shortening that distance. Work on selling the arm swing at full cranking motion. Less than full cranking arms is one defensive key that alerts the defender that you're not really going deep.

2) Think of your right foot as the plant foot - NOT the left. This is counter-intuitive as we tend to think of the outside/opposing-force foot as the foot to plant on. It’s actually both feet working in tandem - but we like to overemphasize the underemphasized to sharpen fundamentals. The right foot should plant at 90 degrees in the direction you're heading in as you turn your hips and widen your arms for balance - THEN, you reach and finish the cut with the left foot to 10:00, it's almost instantaneous, but the right foot definitely plants first on a truly violent cut (think scissors), with the left foot finishing the momentum shift and starting the acceleration east.

3) Yes, you're correct about the left foot extending to 10-11:00, but it’s also important that the left toe be pointing toward 4-5:00 because you'll need that backward force to compensate for your residual forward momentum.

4) Lastly, don't think of it as a 90 degree right angle - think of it as an 80 degree acute angle. If you think of it as a right angle, you're likely to end up on an obtuse angle (10 yard cut to 11-12 yards out - not creating as much separation between you and your defender and giving your defender a chance to sneak underneath the cut for a D). If you think of it as an 11 yard cut to a 9 yard out, you'll end-up at 10 yards with separation.

Hope this helps!



  1. This is good stuff.

    I think the plant of the foot depends on where exactly you want your first step to be in relation to the changing conditions on the field.

    As we've discussed, I like to cut on curves rather than straight lines. So, my foot placement on this cut would depends on where I wanted to arc this cut. Flare to break? Center my deep cut on the field? Extra step between my defender's body and the thrower hoping for a little contact? Run my deep cut down the sideline at first?

    If you take subtle angles of variation and use the strength&mobility of your ankles/hips well, you'll gain extra bits of subtle separation depending on your offensive set or the position of the thrower or whatever extra information you have that the defender lacks.

    Love reading MJ's thoughts as always.

  2. i'm practicing this in my cubicle as we speak/write/read

  3. This is great, a video would help out heaps!

  4. I'm not getting the foot placement descriptions:

    "The right foot should plant at 90 degrees in the direction you're heading"

    Could just be a british/american phrasing issue but is that toes north, or toes east?

    "Yes, you're correct about the left foot extending to 10-11:00, but it’s also important that the left toe be pointing toward 4-5:00 "

    So your toes are pointing 180 degrees to the direction your extending?

  5. BCR, (for the sake of being on the same page with terminology, always imagine your body is at the center of the clock/compass)

    My interpretation of this is that if you're running toward 12 o'clock (north), the plant with the right foot has your toes pointing toward 3 o'clock (east).

    Your left foot reaches toward 10-11 o'clock (northwest), with your toes pointed toward 4-5 o'clock (southeast).

    I realized using (inter)cardinal directions and clock directions as well as angles is somewhat confusing.

    Anyway, hope this helps explain a bit more clearly.

  6. Anonymous, i agree these things are easier to explain with visuals, but i'm afraid i can barely find the time to blog, let alone go out and video myself. If someone wants to help me with this, i would love to see it and likely link to it.