(c) Felix Shardlow v.1.01 29th March 2017
Also available in French / en Français (v0.97)
Flexagon Defence is not a zone, nor is it strictly person-to-person defence. Flex employs local positioning guidelines to reduce offensive advantage wherever possible. Where zonal marking utilises role-based teamwork and dynamic positioning; person-to-person defence employs simple positioning rules and focuses on athleticism; Flex utilises a set of principles which encourage defenders to work as a team, dynamically recognising any offensive mistakes or inefficiencies and attempting to punish them to gain advantage.
In Ultimate, offence by default has a huge advantage, and if they play very well then it’s very difficult for any defence to stop them from scoring. Actively gaining advantage on defence requires the ability to recognise offensive mistakes, and then utilise a combination of teamwork, positioning, and athleticism to capitalise.
The 3 Flex Principles
- Switch / surround where appropriate
- Cover all offensive players as a team
- eye contact – keep your head up – positional information is shared & acknowledged, chances for miscommunication reduced
- gesticulation – keep your eyes open – pointing, indicating
- vocalisation – keep your ears open – push/pull shouts to move teammates
Never concede a point in silence
Switch / surround where appropriate
- Prepare to switch marks early – pre-empt offensive movement if possible, as late / reactive switches only limit damage – they do not necessarily gain advantage for the defence
- Prepare to switch marks when opponents move towards occupied areas
- Switch if mutually beneficial for defenders
- Only leave your mark if you know they will be covered, and you know who you will be covering next
- Surround offensive players when there is no space between two or more opponents
- Surround with the same number of defenders as there are offensive players
- If there is space between all offensive players, and their movement cannot be punished with switches, mark person-to-person until the opportunity to switch or surround arises
Offensive players who are double-covering space or moving towards occupied areas are making mistakes – be prepared to punish them to gain advantage!
Cover all offensive players as a team
- All individuals should be marking one specific player unless surrounding
- Leave no offensive player unmarked
- Get help if trying to cover two players
- Avoid defensive double-coverage
- Avoid poaching (leaving a player unmarked)
- Poaches are false-positive signals to other defenders which cause a breakdown of Flex due to chain reaction
The offensive team have the same number of players as the defence – and one of their players isn’t allowed to move!
Flex doesn’t have a prescribed shape or formation, as the local positioning of the defenders is entirely dependant upon the positioning of the offensive players. However, if the theory of both offence and defence in Ultimate are explored to depths, a hexagon (or rotatable 2-3-2) shape emerges as most efficient use of space by 7 players.
Calling initial positions can be useful if a Flex team is not finding enough opportunities to switch or surround the opposition, as it puts them into a more ‘zone-like’ mindset where they will be more actively looking for switching and surrounding opportunities. Conversely, if a Flex team is surrounding too loosely, or is reduced to poaching, calling initial match-ups on the line can encourage them to adopt a more person-to-person mindset.
If calling positions, by default: 2 forwards, 2 wings, 2 backs, 1 hat (central player).
If your opponent is playing horizontal stack it’s recommended you start with person-to-person marking, but if calling positions: 3 forwards, 2 wings, 1 hat, 1 back.
The terms “forward” and “back” refer to how you see the field when on the line before a point – “forwards” are comparable to “handler marks”, “backs” are comparable to “deeps”.
Remember that Flex is not a zone, and position calling should only be used to encourage more switching and surrounding – not as an excuse for poaching, which directly goes against the principle of covering all offensive players as a team.
The force – recommended: if the disc is near the middle force straight-up, if the disc is near the sideline force towards the line – this leaves defenders on either shoulder of the force in all situations. The force is not a critical part of Flex – it can often be left til last when making sure all offensive players are covered, and it can change depending on opponents / conditions. As Flex is not a zone, there should certainly not be a player chasing the disc and putting on multiple forces in a row (unless you have incorporated an advanced switching system into your Flex).
Flex in action against FWD at Europeans – fast forward to 37:48: