Training Hex Offence with your team

Also available in French / en Français

Hex is a new offence which most of your team will not have seen or played before – introducing it can be both fun and exciting, but will certainly come with its challenges. I’ve had experience introducing the offence to a variety of teams and players, from primary schools through University level teams to GB, and along the way have learned plenty about how to make the introduction as enjoyable and productive as possible. I hope to share what I’ve learnt with you in this article.
intro
Before your first session starts some players will be sceptical of the benefits of Hex, some will see no point in learning it, and others will flatly resist change. You can’t always please everybody, but as with any new concept, it’s important to:

  • keep things fun
  • give players achievable aims
  • provide players with challenges

Documentation
The good news is that you can please loads of players! If you direct everybody to the Hex documentation a few days before your first session, you’ll likely get a handful of very keen players excited about learning a new strategy – who will then help the others during the session – making your job much easier. The doc contains the core principles of the offence, which are applicable to players of any level of experience. Memorise the core principles yourself, and repeat them whenever appropriate during training.

From here there are three methods of training Hex offence – explanation, play progression, and drills. There probably won’t be time to run through all three at your first session, so you should choose what to focus on depending on what your team is most receptive to. Different players learn in different ways, so it’s worth running through each method at subsequent sessions so nobody is left behind.

  • Explanation – coach explains the positions, principles, and movement of Hex offence, before the players go into a 7v7 game
  • Play progression method – players play 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, and 7v7 games (in that order), with coach setting a focus between games to learn the principles one-by-one
  • Drills / Exercises – There are a variety of drills which help to reinforce particular key elements of the Hex offence
Explanation

positions
Positions
Start with something which everybody can relate to – positions! Mark these out on a mini-field with cones. The basic setup of Hex can be described as 2-3-2. Instead of positions being called handler / cutter / etc, in Hex they are called:

positions-rotatedWing:- the two wing positions are near to the sideline, but should avoid being within 3 yards of it. They stay connected to the players with / behind the disc, whilst making room for the central player, and not getting ‘disconnected’ from the players further forward (you’ll explain what connected/disconnected mean later on). If the disc is near the sideline, the player in possession is in a ‘wing’ position – as if the shape is rotated. In the top right diagram, the disc could be with any of the ‘back’ or ‘wing’ positions, and the setup would be correct.
Back:- these two positions are the closest to our own end zone. Both ‘back’ positions are behind the disc when it is near the sideline, but otherwise the disc is in the hands of one of the ‘back’ players, whilst the the other ‘back’ is roughly level with them.
Hat:- this central position is connected to all the other positions – when the disc is on the sideline the ‘hat’ is level with it, but the closer to the middle of the pitch the disc is, the more directly in front of the disc the ‘hat’ is.
Forward:- these positions are the closest to our opponent’s end zone – both are in front of & connected to the hat and the wing positions, and must avoid getting disconnected (drifting deep) as this takes away the long option.connected

At this point, explain what you mean by the word ‘connected’ – position a volunteer about 10 yards from you and demonstrate how they can hear your voice, how they’re within easy immediate accurate throwing distance from you, and how they could cut at speed in any direction and receive a pass.

positions-toofarThis distance will vary slightly depending on the size of your players, the average throwing ability of your team, and other factors such as environment.
Demonstrate how if the volunteer is further away from you, they become ‘disconnected’ – it is more difficult to communicate with them, passing to them is more likely to be inaccurate, and if they cut away from you at speed they are harder to hit in stride.

positions-toocloseDemonstrate how when a player stands too close, they are ‘crowding’ the thrower – their defender can cause havoc, and they don’t have space to cut towards the thrower for a pass.

Move them out to ~10 yards again and re-iterate that this is the distance you’re talking about when you say two players are ‘connected’. Wherever the disc is on the field, players should look to be staying connected to each other & maintaining the Hex shape.

Movement
How movement is conducted in Hex is dependant upon the style in which you want to play. The style I teach is based around freedom, fast disc movement, and intelligent innovation by the players. Other teams have had success with more pattern/play-based movements from the Hex setup, or approaches where players switch positions infrequently. Below I explain how to teach the ‘Mexican’ style of the offence which is played by the teams I have coached, and which I believe is particularly suited to the Hex setup.

Immediately clarify – after explaining positions – that there are no set ‘roles’ for a point.  You may start a point as a ‘forward’, and within 5 seconds of team possession you could be in a ‘back’ position, and vice versa. The positions laid out and explained are all filled dynamically, and every player is encouraged to occupy whichever position is appropriate at any given time. Movement occurs when players are aware that positions are unoccupied, and move quickly to occupy them. When you cut, you are often moving into a valid position as well as creating space where your cut originated, so there is no assumption that you need to ‘clear’ back to your original position.

Initial movement is based upon the ‘take what they give you’ principle – both as a thrower, an intended target, and a team mate – awareness of what the defence is allowing your offence, and how to work effectively as a team to highlight and isolate that option – dictates how movement occurs from a static position. The #1 principle is to take the open pass – regardless of yardage / field position / stall count.

Players can simply play as they would when in flow in any other offence – cutting into space as they see it appearing, passing to whoever is free, and creating space for team mates.

 

GB Mixed U23 2015 (Black) playing Hex vs GB Mixed 2015 (White)

Game time
 A couple of players may feel baffled, which is understandable, so give them a final piece advice that they can use whenever they are in doubt: Make triangles.

triangleSet out another ‘connected’ volunteer, and ask a third player get into a position where they are ‘connected’ to both of you – they should make an equilateral triangle. If you’re lost on the field, all you need to do is find two team mates and get connected to both of them without crowding – this will likely put you in a good position.

Enough talking! It’s time to start playing. Take any questions people have and then get everyone on the field ready to play.
Try to keep chat on the line down to a minimum for at least the first 3-4 points, and encourage players to learn by playing & trying to get involved. Keep the core principles in mind when looking to advise from the sideline.
As the game develops, if you notice players setting up incorrectly from static – you should interrupt the game and reposition them as appropriate (often when the disc is on the sideline).

Some common scenarios which occur:
positions-crowded
One player gets frustrated as they feel they are crowding their team mates / sideline, and they cannot find the solution.
It’s likely that a team mate several positions away from them has become disconnected from a back player (the far wing player in the diagram example), so when that player gets connected, it sets off a chain reaction which gives the crowded player enough space. It’s important to point out to the crowded player that it’s no real fault of their own – they showed good awareness by feeling uncomfortable when crowded, and the only thing they could’ve done would’ve been to try to communicate with their poorly positioned team mate. Note how in the drone footage above, the 2nd back gets disconnected from the 1st back, and this contributes to the crowding downfield.

pass-to-sidelineWhen you pass forward and to the line from a back position, you are already in a good position so don’t need to ‘clear’ downfield unless you know connected players wish to replace you. Many players have a habit of doing this, which can leave the ‘back’ positions vacant when the disc is on the sideline.

sideline-crowdedWhen the disc is on the line, players often fall into the trap of neglecting the 1st back, 2nd back, and far wing positions. In the diagram on the right, positions 1 / 2 / 3 are important for sustaining possession and initiating flow, however most players will gravitate to area 4 out of habit, or out of an over-desire to score.
One way of fixing this flow-breaking problem is to use a whistle to stop the game when the disc is on the sideline, and check with the players how many of the back / far wing positions are occupied or vacant, and how long it takes them to move to occupy them. When they are occupied it should be clear how many more options are available to both the thrower and the cutters.

Play progression method

This method involves far less talking and much more playing, so it’s particularly useful on cold days, or with teams who are receptive to going outside their comfort zone to try something new without it being fully explained. After a warm up, go immediately into Ultimate games, giving the players small focus points between each round:

2v2: Take the open pass. Players should take the open lateral pass whenever the defenders allow it, which will mean they will often be level with each other, rather than one thrower back and one cutter downfield. When а defender takes the lateral pass away, there is plenty of space for a lead pass downfield. As opposed to a cutter trying to get free of their mark downfield for a pass, the type of movement you want to encourage looks more like this:

 

Brighton City (White) penetrating, vs Brighton Legends (Black) at Regionals 2015.3v3-movement

3v3: Stay connected without crowding – demonstrate what you mean by ‘connected’ (see ‘Explanation’ section on positions), and how it follows that a triangle setup is appropriate from a static disc. Demonstrate staying connected dynamically – if the other cutter cuts away from you, you should move towards them to stay connected, whereas if they cut towards/across you, you should either move away from them or towards where they came from, to avoid crowding.

4-rhombus-flat4-rhombus-pointed4v4: Make equilateral triangles – demonstrate the two possible shapes from a static disc, one where the thrower is part of two triangles, and another where the second triangle is further from the thrower, created by the downfield players. If in doubt, find two players and make an equilateral triangle with them.

5v5 – 7v7: Don’t surround the disc – all players should be within the field of vision of the thrower – so only 3 players should be connected to the thrower.

The remaining players should not set up connected to the disc, but should get connected to non-throwing players to make further triangles.

sideline-180If too many players try to get connected to the thrower, the thrower becomes crowded and / or surrounded by defenders.

Drills / Exercises

There are a number of drills which practice key elements of Hex offence. If players have had a go at Hex then they should be able to relate to the following drills / exercises:

Give-Go-Swill Drill
7-12 players
Focuses: Give-Go moves, Misdirection

drill-give-go-swill-1Players start as illustrated in the diagram on the left. The player at the top is the active ‘O’ player, accompanied by a defender – all other players are static. The active ‘O’ player is aiming to work the disc down to the player at the end of the drill, using at least one static player from the far side.
drill-give-go-swill-2-2The offence is not allowed to throw to a player they are not connected to, and static players may not pass to each other.
The defender is simply trying to stop the offensive player, by containing them / going for an interception / getting a point block. When the disc reaches the furthest player, they throw a long pass back to the start, swilly enough for both the O and the D to be able to make a bid for.
drill-give-go-swill-3
The give-go-swill drill trains misdirection, balance, and using flow and tempo to attack. Players should find that it is more effective to advance the disc through give-go moves – including moves away from the end target – than it is to directly break the force from static. Players also learn to communicate clearly with the static players about when/where they want the disc thrown back to them.

Rotation: The long thrower at the end joins the queue at the top, all the static players zig-zag down one position, the O becomes the first static player, and the defender becomes the active O player.

 

J-Lav running through the Give-Go-Swill drill at GB Mixed U23 2015 training

Keepdisc
8-16 players
Focus: Sustainable possession
Mark out a box which is quite spacious – half a pitch (including end zone) is good for 7v7 – and split players equally into two teams. The aim of the exercise is for the offence to keep possession for as long as possible, playing out of the Hex setup/shape. Possession switches on a turnover as usual. Play starts / stops on the blow of a whistle, and the team in possession when play stops is awarded 1 point. 60 seconds on / 30 seconds off is quite realistic and fairly hard work – you can adjust the timings to suit what you want to achieve with your team.
Keepdisc is tough physical work and it trains sustainable possession – players must be efficient with movements or they will get too tired. It also gets players practicing fundamentals of the offence such as not surrounding the disc (this is the most common cause of turnovers in keepdisc), staying connected without crowding, & taking the open pass.
If you wish to expand on Keepdisc, consider:
– changing the play / break times
– adding an extra defender every 10-20 seconds
– adding 3 or 4 end zones of different colours around the edges of the box, after X seconds of possession then the whistle blower announces a colour – if the offence then score in the corresponding end zone, they get 2 points

Mex Puzzle Drill
6-13 players
Focuses: Communication, Creating space
drill-mex-puzzle-drillSet up 7 marker cones in a regular Hex formation, and add six ‘clearing cones’ around the outside, between the marker cones and further out from the centre. Players can cut to marker or clearing cones at any point and from anywhere in the formation, and they are allowed to hang out on the marker cones – but must continue moving if they are near a clearing cone. Passes should be made from marker cone to marker cone, hitting receivers in stride. The pass should be faked if a receiver arrives too early at a marker cone, if there are two cuts to the same cone, or if the thrower is not happy with making the pass for any other reason.
The disc starts on the edge of the formation, one player cuts to a clearing cone to create space for the first pass, and play continues for 30-60 seconds depending on your team. Players aim to keep flow by creating space for each other & keeping the disc moving. Fakes help the team keep tempo.
Mex Puzzle Drill is probably the hardest drill in the world which doesn’t involve defenders, and as such it can be frustrating – but it is great for teaching dynamic spatial awareness. Players constantly have their heads up, are looking to create space for each other and use it as they see it developing – a very valuable skill which is tricky to learn and tricky to teach.
In order to keep any kind of flow or tempo, the team must also learn to communicate constantly through vocalisation and gesticulation. This teaches them to work together as a team when playing offence, with everybody sharing the responsibility for keeping the disc alive.

Rotation: Mex Puzzle Drill can be very tiring, so regular breaks / multiple subs are recommended. Rolling subs can be waiting to be tagged in near the clearing cones, or the drill can be played in short bursts (although ideally the offence works at a rate they can sustain indefinitely).

 

Mex Puzzle Drill at Brighton City trials, 2015

Mex Huck Drill
8-13 players
Focus: Long throwing from motion, Breaking the force

drill-mex-huck-drill-11Players set up in a rhombus, first cut goes from the open to the break side, the other cutters follow the triangle rotation – break side player goes deep, deep/forward player comes under to the open side. If the break pass is thrown, the under cutter turns to go deep, and the deep cutter turns to come under.
drill-mex-huck-drill-2-21
Catcher of the break pass throws long to the new deep cutter.
If the break pass is not thrown, cutters should improvise to provide a suitable backup option for the thrower – often the initial deep cutter is well placed / has good timing to come under for an open-side under pass, and then throw deep to the original break-side cutter.
If you want to expand on the Mex Huck Drill, consider adding defenders whilst also giving the cutters more freedom to choose the direction of rotation of the triangle. You can also change which cutter initiates the movement downfield – these modifications prevent players from simply ‘running through the motions’ – instead they should start with their hips facing the thrower, being ready to react to space as they see it being created. The setup/shape can also be rotated to create different angles – meaning the long thrower could receive the first pass moving towards as opposed to away from the end zone, or the disc movement could be changed to be lateral (a swinging drill) instead of downfield.

Rotation: New player becomes force, force becomes break-thrower, break-thrower becomes long thrower (starts open side), long thrower becomes deep-to-under cutter (starts deep), deep-to-under cutter becomes under-to-deep cutter (starts break side), under-to-deep cutter joins the queue.

 

Mex Huck Drill at City trials 2015

 

Variation – using open side if no break

Flags
2-7 players
Focus: Identifying space, throwing skill

flags-3pFlags is a simple game which adds training elements to a throw around. It will expose your weaknesses and challenge your strengths. Set out two flags (markers – water bottles are good) a few yards apart, one directly downwind of the other – these mark the goal line – the windier it is, the longer the goal line should be. The higher the skill of the players (and/or the lesser the wind), the narrower the goal line.

2 players: Throw from where you catch, don’t cut for throws but do move to catch them. (1) Throw over the goal line at any height, (2) Throw around the far side of the goal [OI], (3) Throw around the inside of the goal [IO]

3 players: 2v1 – Rolling defender, cutting now encouraged. All players can move freely and pass on either side of the flags, but only passes across the goal line (at any height) count as goals. Goals reset a shot clock to prevent stalling, and the shot clock can be counted by the defender from anywhere on the field.

Felix, Will and Edgars play 3-player Flags.
3v2 / 4v3: More players can be brought in both on offence and defence, and the goal widened.

Experiment with different goal sizes, goal orientation to the wind, restricting the surrounding space with back lines, and so on. I recommend stalling from 4-10, as this is most game-like – mimicking the common situation where a thrower looks for a secondary option at stall 3. Let me know if you come up with some interesting rules or modifications yourself! As it was written on the first frisbee – Play catch. Invent games. Have fun.


Hex offence is still very new, so there are plenty of alternative ways to train it which have yet to be discovered – the ones included in this article are some of the methods which Felix has utilised whilst coaching Hex over the last few years, but are by no means perfected or exhaustive. I recommend experimenting with new drills, exercises and games which are suited to your team’s needs – working from the Hex setup & core principles.
Good luck implementing the strategy – I hope you enjoy playing it as much as the teams and players I’ve coached do! If you have any questions, just get in touch.

For videos of full games with Hexagon offence, check out the Hexagon Ultimate YouTube and Facebook pages.

Felix is planning a UK & European Tour of workshops on Hex Ultimate in late 2016, where you can participate in drills and games with experienced Hex players (including Felix) who will be imparting their knowledge to you at all times. There will also be a classroom session where Felix will break down the core principles before progressing through to the advanced concepts of both Hex offence and Flexagon defence – why they are effective, how you can teach them, and how to excel at playing them. Join the notification list to hear about the locations / dates of the Hex Tour.

Related:
Hex offence documentation
Offences vs Defences: Training to counter your opponent effectively
Hexagon Ultimate YouTube
Hexagon Ultimate Facebook
Reddit discussion on this article

FelixUltimate.com

Catching / Throwing Technique

Clap catching:

Clap catch at chest is most reliable catch when you have time and space

  • Aim for perfection – both hands touch the center of the disc at the same time, fingers splayed, watch disc into hands
  • Use legs to move body / jump / go to ground to get the centre of your chest behind the disc
  • Angle of the disc determines which hand goes on top
  • When catching at chest, body acts as a backboard in case the catch is slightly missed
  • When catching out to the side, your palm/wrist should act as the backboard

Most people have a preferred way of clap catching – practice the other way until you are comfortable with both

Touch Throwing:

Adding ‘touch’ (spin relative to speed) to you throws makes them more stable, and makes them fly slower through the air

  • Makes the disc easier to catch
  • Means you can lead receivers more by throwing to space
  • Inaccuracy is less likely to result in a turnover
  • Opens up many more throwing options

Practice adding touch by pulling your arm back as you release your throws

Felix’s Guide to Catching & Throwing

Felix’s Guide to Catching & Throwing
v1.1 10/04/2017

Almost all scores and turnovers in well-matched Ultimate games are down to throws & catches. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time over the years throwing around, and yet I still learn something new every time I go out for a chuck around. For the purposes of improving your throwing and catching, the most important things I’ve learnt are:
(1) make throwing around a habit,
(2) have an idea of what ‘ideal’ technique is,
(3) know how to learn & improve effectively.


Habit:
Throw Every Day
Even if just for a minute or two, even if you just throw to yourself in your bedroom – get some hand-on-disc time every day, and make a mental note if you miss a day. You can throw casually or intensely, work on something new or practice something learnt, throw with randoms or with team mates, so long as you make throwing around a habit, you will have taken the first big step to becoming a much improved thrower & catcher. Find out what motivates you and run with it – perhaps meeting up with someone in particular to throw, perhaps getting some sun towards the end of the day – whatever will be sustainable motivation for you.

Focus
Once you’re out and throwing around regularly, the second step is to give yourself purpose – are you trying to throw & catch with perfect technique, or are you pushing your limits / experimenting with variety? Are you still weaker catching with your non-dominant hand? Can you clap catch equally well with either hand on top of the disc?



Throwing technique:

Train for what will be best in a game, including practicing faking before throwing
Perfect practice makes perfect”, so your ‘ideal’ technique must be as balanced and efficient as possible. Variety can help shore up your technique and make you better at adapting to non-standard situations – as defenders always create these – but you should always be aware of what the ideal technique is in a standard situation, and aim to be able to replicate it flawlessly, both for catching and throwing. Practicing faking before throwing is important too – faking different throws to different places before executing a variety of throws will get your body familiar with making game-like movements.

Start every fake or throw from the power stance / neutral stance
The power stance is where you stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, disc held flat at your waist, with hands at 11 and 1’o’clock, and all fingers on both hands tucked under the rim. This means you are already coiled to throw quick lefty or righty backhands, and ready to pivot / set up your body for regular backhands / flicks / hammers / off-hand backhands in a balanced manner.
By training to throw every throw from the power stance, and conditioning yourself to get into the power stance whenever you catch the disc in a game, you are normalising game situations (bringing them as close to throw-around situations) as much as possible whilst also maximising your options on the field.

Finish throws in a balanced stance
After releasing the disc, hold your final stance for three seconds, to emphasise balance. If you are releasing the disc from a balanced position then your consistency and ability to adapt or turn the throw into a fake goes way up. Make sure you can perform every type of throw finishing in a balanced position. Once you’ve got the hang of this, practice doing the opposite – practice pushing off and running as soon & as fast as you can after each release.

Throwing motion technique
4 consecutive stages to work on, whether you’re a beginner or experienced – it’s always worth revisiting these stages one by one:

Footwork > Grip > Release > Spin

Footwork: for both backhand and flick – step perpendicular to your target, point both feet towards the direction of your step (or slightly towards the side of your throwing hand), and bend your knees to get your hips / centre of mass close to the floor. Stay balanced.
Grip: for backhand, all fingertips should be under the rim, resting in the crease between the rim and the underside of the disc. When changing to flick, it is most efficient if the tips of the index and middle fingers do not move – so when the disc is cocked back, the tips of the index and middle finger are still resting in the crease, the thumb stays clamped down on the top of the disc, and the ring and pinky shift to clamp the outside of the rim for stability. Changing grip from backhand to sidearm & back must be practiced, and can be practiced virtually anywhere*, until it feels smooth and controlled. The forward movement of a flick should begin as soon as the grip has changed – do not hesitate with the disc in a flick grip – this means the ring and pinky finger sometimes do not get involved.
* there are many productive things you can do with a frisbee whilst waiting for food to cook or watching an episode of something: smooth grip changing, clap catching both ways, clap catch transitioning into backhand grip, flick muscle training, and generally becoming familiar with the size, shape, weight, and rigidity of the disc helps with catching.
Release: the meat of a throw comes from the core, with a fairly relaxed arm/wrist only adding fine adjustments – make sure you are rotating your core/shoulders for both flick and backhand. When fully wound up, the disc should be at the same angle and on the same plane you want the release to be, and as you bring it forward, the disc should move in a straight line towards the target & not change angle – this transfers your energy into the velocity in the most efficient manner, and reduces the negative effect of an accidental early or late release. You should wind up as you are stepping, and release just after your foot hits the floor – “step-throw” not “step, throw” or “stepthrow”.
Spin: once you’ve been through the above stages, one remains: Spin. Keep adding more and more spin to your throw. You can’t put too much spin on an accurate throw. “Touch” video.

Technique for a fake should be identical to technique for a throw, as the realism is directly related to how effective the fake is on the field.
The “perfect” area to aim for on your receiver is the neck – this is the mid-way point between the ground and the extent of their reach when they jump, so this is the point which has the highest margin for error, therefore the safest throw.

Reduce baggage
From your power stance to the furthest back point of your wind-up, the disc should be taking the most direct path, without changing orientation or hesitating at any point. If you rotate the disc on any axis not perpendicular to the ground during your wind-up, hesitate with your flick cocked back, move the disc up and down, hold your backhand far away from your body whilst winding up, or do anything else unnecessary with the disc or your body, you have “baggage” on your throw and you should be working to get rid of it to maximise the efficiency of your throwing technique.



Catching technique: Get your body behind the disc, with shoulders facing the point of catch

The clap catch is the safest way to catch, and Ultimate is a possession game. Different situations require different types of clap catch – you should always provide a ‘backboard’ for the disc, stopping its velocity with your body or your wrist even if it were to continue past your hands – this affects which hand you should place on top. For example, a flat disc which is going to pass at head height a meter to your right should be caught with right hand on top, so your right wrist acts as a backboard. If the disc is passing on your right at thigh height, left hand on top will mean your right wrist acts as a backboard again. Grip transition times are negligible compared to the importance of making sure of the catch.
Another variable which affects the way to clap catch is the angle of the disc. Position your body so the disc will be coming straight towards you (rather than slicing across), and if the disc is tilting to the left, catch left hand on top – if tilting right, catch right hand on top. This avoids you having to twist your arms and wrists awkwardly. Aim for perfection – have both hands contacting the disc at the exact same time, in the centre of the disc, without changing the angle the disc was flying at.

Crab catch with two hands:
Crab catching is the quickest way to catch, so is critical in any pressure situations. If the disc is still above face height when you are at the top of your jump, crab catch with thumbs under the disc. If it is still below hip height when you crouch, crab catch with thumbs on top of the disc.
To make your crab catches safer and easier, align your shoulders with the angle of the disc. For example if a slightly bladey righty hammer comes in high (tilting to the left), you want to rotate at your core so your left shoulder is lower than your right, thus both arms can be at full symmetrical extension with no extra wrist/shoulder rotation needed when you catch. Where possible, get your eyes on the same plane & tilt as the disc too.


How to learn & improve effectively:

Technique, range, variety and reps are key elements to effective throwing & catching practice. Simply working on technique + reps is useful for consistency in ‘perfect’ conditions, but won’t make you a great catcher/thrower. Working on range & variety – developing versatile and well-rounded skills – will make you more consistent in all situations on the Ultimate field. There are so many variables which can affect the situation in a game that ‘perfect’ conditions are not common. “Perfect practice” in this case actually involves preparing yourself for non-standard situations. Here are a few methods for improvement which I’ve found particularly helpful:

Overcompensation
This is far and away the best & fastest way to improve your throwing and catching on your own accord. If you tend to do something one way, or if a throw goes wrong in a particular way, overcompensate and make sure you do it to the opposite extreme – do it wrong the other way – and you will quickly find the middle ground. If it goes wrong three times in the same way, get it wrong three times in the opposite way before continuing – try to even out your errors to 50% either way.
The rule of overcompensation applies to pretty much everything, from specific details (if your throws often go outside-in, try extreme inside-out angled throws), to wide-ranging statements (if you don’t clap catch enough, try to clap catch too much – where a crab catch would be appropriate). A list of throwing/catching modifications to experiment with, and ways in which to overcompensate, can be found at the end of this article.

“In the zone” catches
Athletes are able to pull off seemingly impossible moves because they plan and visualise them before they execute them, and then make minor adjustments to their plan dynamically whilst executing them – simplifying the whole process, which has the effect of making it seem like reality is happening in slow-motion in their minds. It’s called being ‘in the zone’ and it’s a fantastic feeling. Here’s how to do it:
As soon as the disc is thrown, read it and make a detailed plan for the catch. Decide (a) exactly how you are going to catch it – what angle it will be at, what type of catch you are going to execute, where on the disc your contact will be, and even what parts of your hands are going to touch it first, (b) exactly where you are going to catch it – are you going as high/early as possible, as safe as possible (chest behind clap catch), as early / late as possible, or something else – this changes how you approach it. Plan out each step you are going to take before the catch and begin to execute that plan immediately.
In the second after the disc is thrown, you will get a better read, and will have to make modifications to your plan – make these changes as early as possible, so that they can be as slight as possible, and the overall plan becomes clearer as it doesn’t have to change very much. These modifications continue right up until the catch, and get smaller and smaller. A benefit of knowing what the ‘ideal’ technique is that you won’t need to abandon your plan if it goes slightly wrong – you’ll just need to make a modification (unless something unexpected happens). By the time your hands contact the disc, you will have subconsciously prepared so well that the catch will look easy.

Throwing for distance
For distance, you either need more inside-out angle on your technique, or you need more power on your throw. If your ‘long’ throws are turning outside-in, change your technique to release the disc more inside-out, focusing on spin, aiming to get the disc landing at an inside-out angle. When your long throws begin landing inside-out, you can then focus on adding power to the throw – until they are turning outside-in again. Add power by dropping your shoulder, rotating your core, and ‘snapping’ your core (rotationally) as powerfully as you can. Repeat this two-stage process indefinitely to increase the distance of your throws.

Expand your range and variety
Push your limits in every way you can think of – for every limit you can think of, there is an overcompensation limit you can also push, and it will all help you be a well-rounded and versatile thrower & catcher. I’ve listed some below (print & take to your throw-around), however this is by no means an exhaustive list and I recommend you come up with your own!


Throwing:
Long throws | Short throws
Outside-in | Inside-out
[extreme inside-out or outside-in throws are hard to read and/or catch for your throwing partner, but are good practice for both]
Neutral balanced | Directionally balanced
Spin | Speed
Spin | No Spin
Speed | No Speed
Release wide as possible | Release close to your body
Release as quick as possible | Release in slow motion
Core only | Arm only | Wrist only
Catcher doesn’t have to move hands | Catcher has to read & sprint instantly
High release | Low release
Forward pivot | Backwards pivot
Quick release | Slow release

Catching:
As high as possible | As low as possible
RH on top clap | LH on top clap
Clap | Crab
Close to body | Far from body
Early catch | Safe catch
Early move | Late move
Positioning for jump | for chest-high clap | for ankle-high catch
“Correct” catching | “Incorrect” catching
Zero preparation | Excess preparation
Early static positioning | Three-step-approach jump
Three-step-approach jump: Towards disc | Perpendicular to | In the direction the disc is travelling

General:
Work on weaknesses | Work on strengths
Totally sober | Not sober
Exerting maximum energy | Exerting minimum energy
Max number of discs – quick thinking | One disc aiming for perfection – pressure


If you prefer more structure to your throw-around sessions, you can print & follow the “Throwing for Greatness” doc copied below, created by Megan Hurst & Felix Shardlow around 2013:

Throwing for Greatness
Warm Up
Comfortable, warming up throws but still focused – ie. proper pivots, moving body to make catches, making EFFORT. No sloppy throwing. No sloppy catching either: use the correct hand, clap catching or two-handed crab when you can.
Platinum 100s – stand 15m apart, circle around each other gradually, and each throw:
10x flat backhands, 10x flat sidearms
10x outside-in (rollcurve) backhands, 10x outside-in sidearms
10x inside-out backhands, 10x inside-out sidearms
10x hammers
Then, at a distance you are comfortable with:
10x scoobers
10x pop passes (spread fingers under disc and lift as you throw backhand – also called toss pass)
10x off-hand backhands (do not pivot outwards, throw lefty if you’re right handed & vice versa)

1. FOCUS on: Release points
Your completion rate should drop in this section – it’s about pushing yourself past your limits. Throws are meant to feel awkward. View this as good catching practice as well!
10 sidearms, 10 backhands released…
– as low as you can
– as far away from your body as you can
– as high as you can

2. FOCUS on: Catching the frisbee-disc
Awkward 40s:
10x sidearms to off-hand catches
10x backhands to off-hand catches
10x roll-curves to awkward (but correct) clapcatches

Jump ball – standing slightly less than your hucking distance apart, throw long, high discs to each other. Throw roll-curve and IO, practice attacking these and catching at the peak of your jump, or on your way down.
It’s better to have a few go over your head before you catch one correctly, than to constantly catch them safely. Read the disc early, plan your approach, jump to your max.

20x catch attempts (discount poor throws)

3. FOCUS on: Faking before throwing
Fake on opposite side before each throw. Make sure your fakes are believable – sharp snap of the wrist on fake, wide pivot and low as possible for both, try to remain balanced.
20x sidearms, 20x backhands.

Stretch to warm down afterwards.

If you’re pushed for time, chop out one of the sections, but make sure you don’t always chop the same one.

Optional extras: pulling practice, hucking practice. If you want to huck or pull in games you will need to practice it between trainings. For these bigger throws, make sure you warm up your arms a little more beforehand.

Hexagon Offence v2.1

First published 1st Jan 2013
v 2.1 – 15/7/14
Also available in French / en Français

NB: This documentation is now out of date – please see the links from the menu for the most up-to-date version

“Hex Offence” covers any offence which plays to the hexagon shape on the field as described in the “Formation” section below. Currently there is only one known offence which utilises this shape – Mexican Offence, or Mex for short – which is a flow-based offence operating on principles (as opposed to e.g. patterns). This article describes Mex Offence.

Introduction
This document explains the basics of Hexagon Offence in Ultimate. Hex was first played in the summer of 2012 in a pickup game in Brighton, introduced by Felix Shardlow. The strategy quickly gained support and became the favourite amongst many players, who recognised its potential and enjoyed its freedom. These players would each feed ideas back and forth, discovering new ways to unlock its potential, and figuring out the most effective principles which should be applied. A history of how it stood up to tests in it’s early days is at the bottom of this page.

This offence can be played effectively in high level Ultimate, or be the first offence taught to beginners – who will quickly pick up on the fundamentals of the game with a style that encourages involvement and offers constant opportunities to contribute to plays.

Hex can also be played with fewer players – although the overall shape changes, the principles remain the same and the effectiveness is not compromised.

This doc is written so a beginner can pick it up and understand how to play offence in Ultimate without any prior experience. Experienced players may have picked up habits and principles from other offences which can hinder Hex, so clear your mind and try not to make any assumptions. The information in this document is very basic – deliberately open to the interpretation that best suits your team.

Principles

On-disc:

  • Always take the open pass / what the defenders give you, regardless of:
    – yardage / field position
    – stall count
    – personnel
  • Face infield so you can see all of your team & all of the movement / passing options available
  • Fake to cuts you cannot, for any reason, complete a pass to

Off-disc:

  • Create space for your team mates by moving, even when closely covered
  • Make equilateral triangles
  • Do not [allow defenders to] surround the disc
  • Stay connected to your team mates without crowding them
  • Take what your defender gives you – move & signal with hands
  • Move quickly into space as you see it developing
  • Be constantly heads-up, on your toes, and aware of the play & your surroundings
  • Communicate
  • Respond to fakes – change direction, clear space

 

Formation
Firstly, this formation is not a structure which must be strictly followed at all times – it is a guideline for the shape the players should be looking to maintain during fluid play, or the areas which players should be aiming to move towards / to clear for team mates – a meta-structure, if you will, to keep in the back of your minds whilst the offence moves fluidly. Players could either be taking the initiative and moving into / clearing space at all times, sticking more rigidly to positions, or running set plays – this depends on the style of your team.

The disc should be on the edge of the formation – this prevents surrounding the disc, and gives continuation options after the first pass is made. The shape extends from the disc towards the centre of the space available – so when the disc is on the sideline, the formation extends directly off the line into the centre of the field. This animation shows how the shape is applied when the disc is in different field positions – essential viewing.

The shape consists of six equilateral triangles creating a hexagon. The use of triangles means players are spread across the field in the most efficient manner – each player has as much space as possible, whilst remaining connected to as many team mates as possible. Maintaining these triangles and thus the ‘connections’ between players is crucial to the effectiveness of the formation – if disconnected, flow will stutter and may stop.

The distance between each player should be equal distance to the average player’s comfortable, reliable, and accurate throwing distance – usually between 5 and 15 yards. The triangles are the crux of the shape so must not be neglected – the overall formation acts as a guideline for the space we should be looking to use during fluid play.

Movement
How the movement from the Hex setup works is largely down to how your team wants to play. Expansive moves create space which can immediately be used by the surrounding players, so can be used to initiate play. Moving rapidly to the end zone is possible from many positions on the field, and the space directly around the disc is always available to be used. Give and go moves work well, and set plays are possible in every situation – three players cutting in a triangle shape, for instance, presents three viable options every couple of seconds.

For efficient movement when the disc is in flow, a few rules of thumb can help. If the disc is flowing up the sideline, the formation should ‘roll’ up that sideline – players behind the disc should push out wide away from the disc and then fast downfield, and players in front of the disc should attack the space in front of the disc on the active sideline – as per this animation.

If the disc is passed to the central player, players behind the disc (surrounding it) should push wide and downfield immediately, and players downfield should look to move into the space created in the centre, in front of the disc. This animation shows movement after a simple pass to the central player, and this animation shows movement when the central player receives the disc towards the side of the field.

Scoring
Scoring usually happens in one of two ways: (1) from a deep throw, or (2) from flow towards the end zone.
Static, stop-start situations near to the opposing teams end zone are difficult due to the defenders having a very small space to cover – the deep throw is no longer a viable threat.
When a comfortable distance away from the end zone, deep throws are possible from many positions, and rapid moves to the end zone are able to come from almost any player at any time.
Flow towards the end zone can be started by flowing with the disc in any direction, moving the defenders out of position, and then taking advantage of the space to generate a scoring opportunity. If flow stops without a score being generated, then the team should focus on re-starting the flow – either by moving the disc across the field, or – more easily when very near the end zone – by flowing back away from the end zone. After flow away from the end zone has been achieved, once again the deep throw will be a viable threat (assuming your team has retained their shape), as well as the possibility of re-generating flow towards the opposing teams end zone.

The ideal distance to which you should flow away from the end zone depends on the players on your team – far enough so that all defenders are out of the end zone, but not so far that your players cannot reach the end zone with a long throw.

History
The Hexagon Offence was created by Felix Shardlow in 2012 and the original content can be found here: http://goo.gl/miR1Jj. Felix had many influences in the 12 years he played Ultimate before writing up Hex, including strategic talks with Sam “Scando” Webber, reading content from Jim Parinella, but most notably with regard to Hex was Frank Huguenard, who would persistently post on forums about how antiquated current offensive thinking in Ultimate was, and relentlessly promote his Motion Offense.

Although Hex was experimented with occasionally by the Brighton City offence line through 2012-2013, it was only at UKU Tour 3 2013 where it blossomed. The Brighton City offence line decided to come straight out with it in their first game, against Euro Champions Clapham – who beat Brighton 15-8 at UKU Nationals 2012.

Clapham started out with man-to-man defence, but Brighton scored relatively easily with long throws. Clapham then threw a tight zone defence – but without modifying their offence, Brighton scored in a few passes. Clapham then put on a loose zone, and Brighton scored in 5 or 6 passes to make it 6-6.

Although Brighton’s D line hadn’t converted any turns, Clapham felt like they were on the ropes, called their second time-out, and came out with a very physical, tight man-to-man defence. They edged the game away, winning 15-11 in the end – the best result Brighton have had against them for years. After the game, Marc “Britney” Guilbert – Clapham and GB Open captain – said how impressed he was with the way we created and used the space on the field, that we were doing it in a way which Clapham aspired to.

Brighton City finished 3rd at UKU Nationals 2013 using this offence 90% of the time on both lines. However, the offence is not limited to top-level play. The principles at work in Hex are more similar to other sports than any other offence in Ultimate, and Hex has been easily and successfully taught to university freshers from both Sussex and Brighton Universities – new players who have only ever played Hex are already showing a great understanding of Ultimate and excelling in the Club scene.

In 2014, Brighton City’s play has become more ingrained – our movement within Hex requires less thinking and happens more naturally, and as such Hex was a big part of our taking Clapham’s D line to sudden death at Tour 2. Brighton continue to play the offence through the 2015 & 2016 seasons, finishing 3rd at UK Nationals 2015.

In 2015, the Great Britain U23 Mixed team played solely Hex at the World Championships in London. Beating Japan and runners-up Australia along the way, they finished a very respectable 5th.

Resources
Full game footage of Hexagon Offence being played is available here – see any of Brighton City’s games from UKU Nationals 2012/13/14, XEUCF 2013, EUCF 2014, or any Sussex Mohawks 1 or Brighton Panthers games from Uni Regionals 2014. For clips of Hexagon Offence see the Hexagon Ultimate YouTube channel – here are some samples from the channel of Hex in action, taken in 2013.

NB: The play in these videos is by no means a perfect display of Hex, and in the football ones I did get a bit overzealous on drawing triangles over the pitch…


Flexagon Defence

(c) Felix Shardlow v.0.97 28/04/2015

Also available in French / en Français

Part of a series:
Flexagon Defence
Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication
Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer

Intro

Flexagon approaches defence from a new angle, bringing together elements of person-to-person defence and zonal defence. Flex is neither “man” nor “zone” – it’s a hybrid, with its own set of principles. In Ultimate, offence has the advantage, and gaining the upper hand on defence requires utilising a combination of athleticism, positioning, and teamwork. Person defence is weighted towards athleticism, zonal defence is weighted towards positioning, whilst Flexagon defence is weighted towards using teamwork to capitalise on any inefficient movement or positioning by the offence.

The 3 Flex Principles

  • Communicate
    • eye contact – keep your head up
    • gesticulation
    • vocalisation
  • Switch / sandwich with a team mate where appropriate
    • Prepare to switch marks early – pre-empt offensive movement if possible
    • Only leave your mark if you know they will be covered, and you know who you will be covering next
    • Surround (sandwich) offensive players who are near each other
  • Cover all offensive players as a team 
    • All individuals should be marking one specific player unless sandwiching (not marking a space/position)
    • Leave no offensive player unmarked
    • Get help if trying to cover two players
    • Avoid defensive double-coverage

Positioning

flex1Positions are highly flexible as they are largely dependant upon the position of the offensive players, however the underlying structure can be described as a 2-3-2.

  • 2 forwards
  • 2 wings
  • 2 backs
  • 1 hat (central player)

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”.

Positions can and should switch during a possession – quite often it makes more sense for a defender to stick with their mark as they move across the field, rather than to switch – other defenders should adjust accordingly. A defender may start as a ‘back’, then transition into the ‘hat’ position, and end up as a ‘forward’. Abiding by the principles makes these dynamic positional switches possible.

If the offence sets up in a 3-4 formation, then the Flex will also resemble a 3-4 formation – more on this in Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies.

The force – if the disc is near the middle then force towards the middle, if the disc is near the sideline then force towards the line – this leaves defenders on either shoulder of the force in both situations. It’s not always a ‘forward’ player that puts the force on – when the disc is near the line, it’s likely that a ‘wing’ will put the force on – depending on the position of the other offensive and defensive players.

Switching / Sandwiching

When offensive players are near to each other, they are inefficiently positioned, and the defence should look to punish this by surrounding (sandwiching) them – ensuring they are using the same number of defenders as there are offensive players. If the offensive players are spread out & utilising the space on the field, the defence is best positioned tighter to the players, and should not attempt to sandwich.

When offensive players move towards each other, or towards defenders, they are moving inefficiently, and the defence should look to punish by switching their marks. This conserves energy, and creates an opportunity for a block as the defence is approaching from an unexpected angle. If the offensive players are moving to space, then the defenders should not attempt to switch marks.


Further Reading

Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication
Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer

Want videos of Flex in action, or vocal explanations and stuff? Keep updated through the Hexagon Ultimate YouTube channel.

Flex in action against FWD at Europeans – fast forward to 37:48:

GB Mixed U23’s played this defence at Worlds in 2015 – more videos of Felix explaining it to the team will be uploaded to the Hexagon Ultimate channel shortly (below is a video of the first time it was introduced to the team):

Hex/Flex in action against Japan at Worlds: