Spectrum of Defence: Matchups (Part 1)

Patreon: https://patreon.com/felixultimate

reddit post & comments about this video…
… full transcript …

Spectrum of Defence: Matchups (Part 1)
Spectrum of Defence: Zone (Part 2)
Spectrum of Defence: Flash Poaching (Part 3)
Spectrum of Defence: Sustained Poaching (Part 4)
Spectrum of Defence: Flexagon Defence (Part 5)

Hi everybody, this is the spectrum of defensive coverage, which categorises the degree to which a team is defending space, or defending players. In this video we’re going to look at examples of the different concepts along this spectrum, their pros and cons, and why defences might want to play them at different times. For more info on Flexagon defence, which is my speciality, check out the videos on the felixultimate YouTube and patreon channels.

On the far left of this spectrum is Match defence where each defender matches up against an offensive player and aims to stop that individual getting free. Conventional match defence is extremely individualistic allowing defenders to pick favourable match-ups that correspond to their abilities. The basic teamwork that is happening at this end of the spectrum revolves around the force – the defender marking the thrower is tasked with pressuring particular types of throws or throws to a designated area called the break side, whilst the downfield defenders mark their matchups accordingly, usually by guarding moves to the open side as a priority over moves to the break side.

Offences exploit the reactive nature of match defence by forming vertical and side stacks which lead all the defenders into a small area and leave large open spaces for the offence to cut into. Match defence is also vulnerable as it places a disproportionate responsibility on the person marking the thrower to pressure all break-side throws.Most ultimate players have probably run a 3 person break force drill and have routinely broken the force time and time again, try this drill with your eyes closed on disc and you may be surprised at how successful you can be. [Insert video of blindfold breakforce, record one at next disc golf sesh] This means that break side throws are common in almost all high and intermediate level ultimate games.

Few high level teams play pure 1 to 1 match defence nowadays, most encourage a level of flash poaching and reactive switching in situations where a score must be stopped, or where a turnover can be generated. The more that players can lock on to a 1 to 1 match-up, the less on-field teamwork is used, which simplifies the task for defenders and allows them to focus on shutting down their matchup. This leads to a sustained level of pressure over time, with many bids possible from an athletic team. Teams that tend to have an athletic advantage over their opponents like Clapham, Fury and Grut have used match defence to great success as they can consistently shut out their match-ups without the need for team Defence.

If you think I’m doing worthwhile work and you’re benefiting from my videos, and if you want to see the rest of the Spectrum videos without delay, become a patron for any amount. If you want me to analyse footage of you or your team, my rates are very affordable right now because as a coach and cameraman, I need the work – get in touch with what you’d like to see. I’m glad you’re enjoying the videos and I appreciate any support!

What is Flexagon Defence?

In this short video I introduce Flexagon Defence and break it down to show how Flexing defenders can use dynamic teamwork to cause trouble for predictable offences, plus a video example of Flex in action.

reddit post & comments about this video…
… full transcript …

Flexagon defence is a hybrid defence – if you plot a spectrum from matchup-based 1-to-1 defence, to area-based zone defence, Flex lies somewhere in the middle. Sometimes it can resemble 1-to-1 coverage, and at other times it can resemble a zone, but it shouldn’t be described as being one or the other.
All the concepts on this Spectrum of Defensive Coverage are explained with examples in another video linked in the description below, be sure to check it out. This video focuses solely on Flexagon Defence.
Defenders in Flex switch marks as early and as often as they can, and they surround clusters of players including stacks. When the offensive players are spread out or isolated, defenders in flex mark 1-to-1. These coordinated team actions are executed mid-possession, triggered by particular offensive movements, and require strong awareness and communication skills from the flexing defenders. Defenders train to recognise when it’s appropriate to switch, to surround, or to mark 1-to-1, and they keep a constant on-field communication channel open so they can reposition, adjust, and adapt as a team accordingly.
The default force in Flex is towards the middle when the disc is near the middle, and toward the sideline when the disc is near the sideline.

This footage is taken from an indoor regional semi-final, though Flex is usually played outdoors. Reading form a tight stack in the centre of the space, the flexing Sussex defenders surround, and pick up players to mark 1-to-1 as they begin to cut. On the right hand side Zach picks his moment to switch off his mark and catch the interception.
The initial setup ensures little double-coverage as the defenders guard the open space. Despite an initial double-commit, there is quick communication and re-adjustment made before the offence are able to capitalise. Once all the offensive players are cutting, the defenders are marking 1-to-1 whilst looking to help each other. If the offence were to cluster together again, the defenders would return to surrounding them.

More from this series coming soon – for a classroom breakdown of Flexagon Defence check out the felixultimate patreon, and I’ll see you again soon!

Group Hex – Non-stop Hex footage analysed by coaches

A group of coaches look at non-stop footage of Hexagon Offence being played by different teams around the world, discuss the pros/cons, field questions from the YouTube chat, and provide critical analysis!

How to play Hex: Max Options using Balance and Shape, with Hammertron Prime

Featuring a sequence with 10 passes in 22 seconds in the New Zealand Mixed Nationals Semi-Final, we analyse Hammertron Prime’s use of balance and shape to maximise their options and generate goals.

Hammertron Hex – Hammertron Prime run Hexagon Offence vs Mix Tape at NZ Nationals 2019

How to play Hex: Flow – Analysis of 14 passes in flow from Stevens IoT

Analysis of 14 passes in flow from US College team Stevens IoT playing Hexagon Offence – 3rd video in the ‘How to play Hex’ series!

… read transcript / summary …

Full 3hr analysis session with Stevens Tech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ufyd8oe0aN8

Also from the How to play Hex series:
Hex Movement Decision Tree: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUTyrYrPCq0
Analysis of Outbreak’s Hex Shape: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvEaqAuN3Cg

Hey everyone!
Here’s some analysis of a US College team playing Hexagon Offence. It came about after I met TJ Stanton at the tryouts for New York Empire – his college coach Jason Thompson was already considering introducing Hex to Stevens Institute of Technology (as well as some other teams he’s involved with), and he knew they had to give it a shot after speaking to TJ.
This footage is from the final of the D3 Metro East Conference Championship, Stevens are in white against the college of New Jersey.

This point involves 14 passes in flow leading up to a score. I’m going to focus first on Stevens’ STRUCTURE and then on their MOVEMENT – not touching too much on their TECHNIQUE.
The three principles in Hex are to maintain shape, sustain flow, and control balance. Let’s stop the video here to look at Stevens’ offensive shape on the field during flow. Here are where their players are, and these are the hex shape points for this disc position near the far sideline. Around five of the seven players are near hex points, and there is no significant overload in any area as the player at the back can fill in here, and this player isn’t too far away from this prong position connected to the disc. 5 out of 7 with no overload is actually pretty good shape, bearing in mind shape is constantly deforming during play and shape maintenance is an ongoing task.
These players are then almost all immediately involved in the play, and although the opportunity for a pass to the near sideline is missed, the central position is filled in from afar and flow is sustained with another quick pass.

If we stop again, let’s look at offensive positioning, and compare to the hex shape points for this disc position. Around four of the team are near to shape points, the three prong positions are pretty much occupied, the only issue is that there is some overcrowding deep.
The fairly good shape facilitates the subsequent good flow. The upline cut has some separation that isn’t cashed in on, and the disc immediately moves across the pitch again. The shape is now really good, just needing small adjustments for the new disc position.

Now let’s look at the movement of the offence. The movement in hex is explained via the hex movement decision tree, which basically says take the first open pass in front of you, and face the centre of the space if nothing is developing.
If we pause here, Chris has just caught the disc and there is no option immediately open in front of him. He will turn immediately to face infield, where the centre of the shape is, which would have been slightly quicker if he had turned inwards rather than outwards after catching.
As the disc moves, Ronnie is moving across the field towards a hex shape point, which would have sustained flow nicely, however he turns away and clears, meaning the option the thrower takes is a little more risky.

If the pass had been made to the sideline and the catcher had turned inwards, they would have also seen the central player quickly, and been able to use them with a pass, or a very effective fake.

As the disc is passed, TJ immediately moves downfield, and provides a stall zero option in the direction the new thrower is facing during their catch.
Flow is sustained as the disc moves to the centre again, and Blake has two options available in front of him. After moving to the side, the disc flows all the way back across the field, continuing its path through the hex shape points smoothly.
Ronnie catches facing the backfield, and should turn inwards to face the centre of the space. He turns outwards but doesn’t waste any energy on an outwards auto-fake (which would be counter-productive for flow), instead finding the central option in good time and keeping the disc moving well.

The score is generated as TJ executes a well timed power move from the back across Kyle’s immediate field of view after catching, and TJ is able to throw whatever he wants towards the end zone for one second.

The stall count does not rise above 3 for the fourteen passes leading up to the score. Stevens’ shape throughout is fairly good, which facilitates their ability to sustain flow and advance the disc forwards both directly and indirectly.

Now, if you’ve been watching this video wondering what on earth I’m going on about when I speak of things like hex shape points, here’s a little explanation of how hexagon offence works:

There are three main elements to all offensive play – structure, movement, and technique. Each are equally important as the other, usually an offence is defined by its structure so that’s what I’ll talk about first.

-Structure:
The hexagonal structure is made of equilateral triangles, the points of which are a comfortable distance away from each other – around 12 yards. If it’s windy, or if players are smaller, slower, or can’t throw very accurately over distance, the distance between these points reduces. You want this distance to be comfortable so that a player can sprint towards or away from the disc and be able to receive a pass in stride.

The structure is a shape rather than a formation – as the disc position changes, a formation such as horizontal or vertical stacks will shift and warp, whereas the hex shape stays constant and rotates relative to the available space. The thrower is usually on the edge of the shape, to avoid 1-to-1 defenders surrounding the disc and provide a second level of continuation on a fundamental level. The “hat” is a useful point to keep track of, as it acts as a balance point for the shape, so everyone one the field should be aware of it, maintain it, and build the shape around it. When the disc is on the side, the shape extends perpendicular from the sideline, utilising the space most effectively. The shape will naturally deform during play, so all players should be making efforts to maintain the shape when they are not directly involved in the play around the disc.
In order to best maintain shape, all players should have knowledge of where the hex points are for the disc position, and should each gravitate towards these points. As the disc moves and as the stall count rises, populating the hex shape points will give your team good shape, which facilitates good flow and maximises options. Gravitating towards the hex shape points to occupy them whenever you have any individual down-time is step one, communicating and staying connected to your teammates in order to create good shape as a team is the next level.
These movements to maintain the shape after it has deformed can often be considered as cuts which can be passed to.

-Movement:
The shape is the supporting structure for the movement. The stall count should be kept as low as possible, so the decisions and actions of a player as the disc is coming towards them, when is in their hands, and what they do immediately after it leaves their hands, are critically important to the movement of the offence.
The movement is based around principles and guidelines, rather than cutting orders and patterns.

Movement in hex best explained through the Hex Movement Decision Tree, so check out the video linked in the description below to learn more about that, and expect a video in the future about techniques, such as dribbling, which are best suited to flow-based offences like hex.

Let’s have a quick look at a few more scores from Stevens Tech in this game. Here we see a turnover from TCNJ, Stevens pass the disc quickly and keep it moving by taking the first available options, their shape is pretty good after some initial downfield overloading and they sustain flow fairly well, finishing it off with a long throw to space.
Here you see the hex setup as the disc is walked up after a turnover, TJ in the hat wrongfoots his defender and goes deep, no switch from the defence means a comfortable long throw, Chris has also chased it down and is clear to catch the scoring pass.

Now this is a good move from Ronnie to offer a stall 1 option, when typically the offence and defence would spend the valuable first three seconds of the stall focusing on the area in front of the disc. Instead, each of the poached players is used, and the discs swings to the far side. In particular, a smart defender like Ben Katz would typically poach off Joe here at the back and cause trouble downfield, knowing they won’t be involved in the play for a while, but against hex that doesn’t work as the moving disc finds them very quickly and turns that separation into a threat.
This is similar to the first clip, but in this case TJ comes under towards the hex point to continue flow. He turns inwards and finds a pass to the centre, which is all very nice. The next pass tears open the defence, changing the angle of attack so drastically that is TJ instantly free for the score.

That’s all for now, congrats to Stevens for winning the final, and also congratulations to Belgian team Helgtre who recently got silver at the Belgian National Championships playing hex and flex strategies. Click Subscribe if you haven’t already and I’ll see you again soon!

Extended Analysis – Blue Devils 2018 Live Analysis Session

Recording of a Live Online Video Analysis session between felixultimate.com and the Blue Devils U22 2018 Australia ultimate frisbee team.
Blue Devils had been learning Hex Offence, with a few players having played it before on club/uni teams.

Hexagon Offence v2.31

v 2.31 – February 2020
Concept first published 1st Jan 2013
Older version also available en Français (v2.1)

Hex is a natural and organic offence in ultimate frisbee. If you want to win and have fun, follow these three guidelines:

1. Keep the disc moving (movement)
2. Maintain team shape (spacing)
3. Control your balance (technique)

Understanding and implementing these principles creates a fast-moving, flow-based offence which doesn’t give the defence a chance to set, maximises options, constantly changes the angles of attack, generates plenty of scoring opportunities, and is a lot of fun to play – for beginners and experienced players alike!

1. Keep the disc moving

Sustained flow is very valuable and hard to defend against, so players should take any open pass available to them without hesitation. The decision tree in the video below is a guideline for how players should move, and where they should look, in order to have the best shot at keeping the disc moving.

full image of the Hex Movement Decision Tree

2. Maintain team shape

Players should maintain good spacing between each other and the disc throughout their possession, as this will maximise their options. This is an ongoing task – shape doesn’t need to be perfect, and it will deform whenever the disc or players move – but paying attention to spacing goes a long way. The overall shape is a hexagon made of equilateral triangles, with the thrower on one of the corners, this forms when every player has good spacing. Players should gravitate to shape positions when flow has stopped – something Outbreak could do a little better in this video illustrating hex shape:

2.5. Flow – the product of good movement, spacing, and decision making

3. Control your balance

In terms of individual technique, being in control of your balance whilst catching and throwing means you are in control of your acceleration and deceleration as well as the direction of the disc – a powerful combination! When used to counter defensive imbalance and/or exploit space, a thrower (who is part of an offence with good shape) can generate flow and penetrate through defensive setups.

There are two basic types of throw: the dribble-throw and the pivot-throw. At the moment of release, a thrower’s acceleration is near zero for a pivot-throw, and maximised for a dribble-throw. Pivot-throws are useful for getting the disc around a defender, but leave a defender between the previous thrower and the new thrower. Dribble-throws are useful for moving (with the disc) past or away from a defender, but are more difficult to execute.

More Hex Technique videos coming soon!


Combine and train these three elements – movement, shape, and technique – with freedom, creativity, and spirit – to win whilst enjoying the sport of ultimate frisbee to its fullest!

Extra notes for players who are familiar with / trained in stack offences:

  • De-prioritise gaining yards – hex values flow over yardage, so take the open pass regardless of yardage, field position, or stall count. Look to initiate and continue flow, instead of looking downfield to potentially gain yards
  • Spread out – clumping together in a stack maximises space at the expense of options, which does not work well with a flow-based offence. Make equilateral triangles locally, and resist the temptation to flood (or ‘clear’) downfield when the disc is on the sideline (50% of the players should be behind the disc to keep balanced shape)
  • Follow your throw – when throwing, instead of viewing nearby space as just areas for your receivers to cut to, view them as areas which you can attack immediately after releasing the disc, receive passes back to, and then use the momentum of your defender against them
  • Face infield – the centre of the space – soon after catching the disc, instead of looking downfield

Further reading:

Video examples:

Hex Coaching:

If you want your team to have a crash course on Hex in preparation for the season ahead, felixultimate.com can run a Hex Clinic in your city – this will get everyone on the same page and able to play hex within one weekend. If your team is already playing hex and wants to improve, you can book a live online video analysis session with Felix. At the time of writing, 7 Hex Clinics and 14 live online video analysis sessions have taken place. To arrange a live online analysis session or a hex clinic in your city, contact felix at felixultimate.com

Amsterdam Hex Clinic

Amsterdam Hex Clinic, 29-30th September 2018

Last weekend saw players from all over Netherlands and Belgium come together to learn Hex Offence and Flex Defence at the Amsterdam Hex Clinic, put together with help from Sjoerd Druven. The clinic started with a classroom session on Flexagon Defence theory – the group discussed common offensive mistakes and shortcomings, and thought about which were the most noticed, and which are rarely considered to contribute to turnovers. Then we looked at how defence could change to take advantage of the less noticed offensive shortcomings, and how such a defence could be trained.

… read more & see videos of drills …

We headed out onto the field after lunch to put into practice what we had been talking about – running a few drills without a disc involved, focusing on defensive movement. Here are clips from Trent’s Drill (credit to Trent Simmons from 10milliondiscs.org) and the Surrounding Stack Drill, which aim to get players used to moving and reacting to multiple offensive players in a group, rather than just 1-to-1 marking.



Casper / ulti.tv filmed the first outdoors session, so when we went inside we were able to immediately use the footage for video analysis! This was really beneficial to everyone – to be able to replay exactly what happened and consider alternative actions is a great way to learn quickly. After the analysis session we headed out again for the Triple-Sandwich drill, and more games!

Saturday night we had a meal at a Turkish restaurant and played some Dobble before going out for a couple of drinks & then back to Sjoerd’s house (picturesque – next to a canal).

Sunday was Hexagon Offence day – starting again with a classroom session where we looked at the history of offence, broke down the shared fundamental elements of offence, and looked at how different offensive systems prioritise different values – and how Hex fits into the picture. Hex, which values flow above all else, was explained through Movement, Shape, and Technique – each of which are very different compared to conventional stack offences.

Then we headed out onto the field again! We trained technique first, emphasising the throw-and-go / dribble-throw technique, and had a Dribble Slalom Race:


Then we incorporated the dribble technique into the Brilliance Box Drill, which adds some more game-like realism:


After everyone got some practice building shape, we went into games, and the offence worked smoothly – it was tough to defend against and everyone was discovering new throws and movements in the fast-moving style. The most common feedback was that it was surprisingly good FUN to play!

ulti.tv filming with a pole cam

Ulti.tv were filming again, so we were able to go inside and immediately have an analysis session. During this session I noticed that everyone was analysing their own play – I didn’t really need to contribute much because the theory knowledge from earlier was being put into action, and everyone could see what they could do better in any situation, and what was working well.

Although it was quite a light turnout this time around, we had 7v7 and I felt the clinic was a huge success. Everyone understood the theory, implemented it well, saw another side of ultimate strategy, and many players said they were keen to take the O/D back to their teams.

I learnt more about how to teach the strategies and implemented a few new drills with great success. Most importantly though, everybody had FUN playing Hex & Flex!

Hex Movement Decision Tree

Hex Movement Decision Tree.png

… read transcript / summary …

Hex Movement Decision Tree: Brief explanation / shortened transcript of video

The way I’ve been looking at offence recently is to break it into three elements; Movement, Structure, and Technique.
This decision tree is a guideline for how to sustain and generate movement of the disc. The left side pertains to movement of the disc, and the right side is more focused on players who are off-disc.

If you have the disc in your hands then you have three questions; Is someone open in front of you?, Is the previous thrower open?, and Can you continue the path of the disc? If the answer is Yes to any of these three questions then you take the open pass, and look for the return pass, before returning to the start of the decision tree. If the return pass is successful then you enter a loop on the top left of the tree, which is where give-go / dribbling moves thrive.

If the answer to any of the three ‘open’ questions is Maybe, then you fake. The answer could be ‘maybe’ because you’re not confident with the distance or type of throw the option is asking of you, or because the defender is half-covering the throw, or for any reason you’re not happy with the option – in this case, fake, and return to asking “Is someone open in front of you?” – which may be the player you just faked an option to.

In some situations it’s better to look to continue the path of the disc before looking back to the previous thrower. Looking back to previous thrower lends itself to a more dribbling-style of Hex, but looking first to continue the path of the disc fits in quite nicely with techniques players have learnt from conventional offences.
If all then ‘open’ answers are ‘No’, then you should face the centre of the space. In Hex, this means you face where the Hat position is (the central player), and you should have all your team mates within your field of view. At this point you return to asking yourself if anyone is open in front of you.

Let’s say you go for the return pass and don’t get the disc back into your hands. The first question to ask yourself is ‘Am I in good hex shape?‘. The details about hex shape / structure are defined in another video, but if you decide you are not in good hex shape then you should reposition – with urgency. Repositioning moves are like cuts, and simply repositioning may well provide the thrower with a viable passing option.

If you are in good hex shape, ask yourself if you are open. If you are, communicate with the thrower by gesticulation or vocalisation, to let the thrower know you are a potential option for them to hit or fake to.

If you aren’t open, see if the thrower is looking at you. If they are, you should try to generate an option for them to either hit or fake to – by moving, or by gesticulating towards space. This will create further options for your team mates.

If you’re in good hex shape, not open, and the thrower is not looking at you, then you should see whether you can create useful space for a team mate. This means looking around to take note of your team mates positions and their defenders relative positions, and working out whether you moving in any direction could create a space, or occupy another defender, which would be useful for your team mate. If you can, then you should generate this option.

If none of these things are the case, then you should chill – don’t stress or feel pressure to create an option, because if everyone on your team is going through the same decision process then the thrower will be faking to half-options, looking at players to generate options, and so on, and the options will come. Continue monitoring the situation to see if you can create useful space for a team mate, to make sure you’re in good hex shape (as a team), and to see if you’re free or if the thrower is looking at you, but aim to become comfortable being in the position of sustaining offensive possession as a team.