Surrounding Stacks (Flex Defence Part 3)


Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/felixultimate
Part 3 of the Flexagon Defence series, focusing on surrounding stacks – initial positioning, and then how to react to offensive movement. Felix explains in detail with help from animated illustrations, and video examples with analysis.

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Sustained Poaching (Spectrum of D pt 4)



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Sustained poaching is the technique of covering a space on the field that is particularly valuable to the offence. If an offence makes disproportionate use of deep throws for example, then a poaching defender in the deep space can increase the difficulty of a deep throw, and force the offence to make shorter passes. The deep poach also allows 1 to 1 defenders to take away the under aggressively in the knowledge that the deep poach will help if they get beat deep. Similar tactics can be used with a poach in the open side lane, with other defenders aggressively covering the deep space, or a combination of a sustained under poach and a deep poach, often seen utilised against vertical stacks.

Combatting sustained poaching comes in two main styles. Either an offence continues to create options in the poached area by running through that space and drawing the poaching player out of position, leaving the space free for a cut. Alternatively the offence can look to use other areas of the field to work the disc up to the endzone. When a team uses a sustained poach it also requires other downfield defenders to switch off their mark and onto the poached player when they make a cut, which requires communication and field awareness. If the defence chooses not to do this when the poached player cuts away from the poach, they generate a large amount of separation and the space is left exposed.

In the 2019 EUCF final CUSB La Fotta used sustained poaching against Clapham to take away both the deep and under space at different parts in the game. Here you can see Justin Ford cut deep only to see a deep poach and look visibly frustrated, and here is a near poach d from Bruno Mine as he lingers in the under space. Check out full analysis of the game in 4 part series on the felixultimate channel.

How to Train Hex: Brilliance Box Drill

Latest training video from the How to Train Hex series available to $8 patrons and above – 7 videos are now available in the archive:

Brilliance Box Drill

  • UKU Phase B (no defence)
  • 4-8 players
  • Accelerating out of throw
  • Decelerating into catch
  • Changing direction with disc in hands
  • 2-person dribbling
Training players ability to throw’n’go in a game-like situation – accelerate out of their throws, decelerate into their catches, and change direction with the disc in their hands. A progression of the drill also introduces dribbling with 2 active players. Watch video.

Flash Poaching (Spectrum of D pt 3)


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Flash Poaching is the technique that’s the first step away from purely marking players that teams use to generate turns. Aware defenders flash poach ahead of a cut when they believe they know which player will imminently be thrown to. A flash poaching player can dive into that space early to discourage the throw or late and potentially get a D. Flash poaching is great for adding a bit of chaos into your defence that throwers need to consider when deciding if a player is free enough to throw to; a more difficult task than deciding if a 1 to 1 marked player is free.

Flash Poaches do however leave a player with separation that can cut away from the flash poach and get very free. Flash Poaches also require a lot of field awareness as flash poaching an option that wasn’t going to be thrown to has no upside and means the player poached off of is even more likely to receive the disc. Flash poaching can encourage watching the disc to determine if a cut will be thrown to instead of keeping focus on your match-up, which can add a split second to a defenders reaction to their match-up cutting.

New York Pony are a team that have used flash poaching very effectively, specifically in the 2018 season, leading to wins at the Pro Championship Finals and USAU Club Nationals. Pony’s defence was excellent at recognising when their match-up was inactive, surveying the field, and attacking the space where an active player was cutting into. More analysis of Pony’s defensive strategy can be found in this analysis video from the Pro championship finals and these livestreams with coach of Pony, Bryan Jones as we go over Pony’s nationals win in 2018.

Justin Foord’s Masterclass in How to React to the Thrower on the Force

Justin Foord’s Masterclass in How to React to the Thrower on the Force from r/ultimate

Here’s the link to the full video analysis of this turnover from the UK Nationals Open Final between Clapham and Chevron in 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15Lc-dPLvDs

Let’s talk about 3000 subscribers

Japan v USA p08: Pointing, Field Balancing, & Player Counting from Koike

Extremely detailed analysis of a few seconds from the Worlds final in 2016 – breaking down Japan’s unique defence. In this clip Koike appears to player-count and then move to ensure the field is balanced, meaning every defender has a nearby offense player to mark. High levels of communication and field awareness are seen in Japan’s not-quite-zone defence.
Takeaways: (1) Point to communicate! (2) As a central defender deciding whether to push under or deep, count the players on the field to ensure your movement keeps the field balanced!
Part of the Japan v USA WUGC 2016 Analysis Series!

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The first thing I notice is the Japanese defender #3 Yasuo Takahashi at the top of the screen, passing off an offensive player (Schlacket) as they run down the wing – pointing in their direction as #81 Masatsune Miyazaki picks them up.

Watching #81 Miyazaki from the start (on the very left of the screen), you notice he allows an offensive player to move away from him across the width of the field, but he points in the general direction they went, which alerts #19 (Koike) to the potentially unmarked player. Miyazaki tracks Schlacket for the remainder of the clip, continually checking in with the disc and the other defenders around him.

#19 Koike in the centre also points towards Schlacket as he moves down the line, and later gesticulates towards the deep space as he moves towards it. Why does he prioritise the deep space? In the backfield at that moment there are three defensive and three offensive players, meaning the situation is balanced. In the deep space however there are 4 offensive players and 3 defenders – until he arrives to help. I believe Koike is player-counting, and that this is an important job for whoever finds themselves in the central defender position. By keeping track of the ratio of downfield vs backfield players, the central defender is able to position themselves to keep the field balanced, and prevent a heavy concentration in any particular area – which often leads to a defensive breakdown. It is of course critical for them to stay in constant communication with the rest of the team whilst doing this, as they act like the central node in a network.

A fairly clear ‘rule of thumb’ for the Japanese defence which we can extrapolate from this clip is one which we also identified in a previous clip: communicate the location of offensive players through gesticulation and vocalisation – especially important if those players are potentially unmarked (i.e. when you let your mark leave you). This would fall under the general defensive principle of: communicate. Less clearly, it appears the central defender is trying to maintain the balance of players on the field by player-counting and adjusting his positioning accordingly, which essentially leads to every defender having a mark / every offensive player being covered / no area being overloaded. Whether this is a rule of thumb, a principle, or part of a more general principle being adhered to is currently unclear, although the next clip I will analyse shows it is definitely an area of focus for Japan.

These two elements of the Japanese defence work very well together – through each defender communicating where the potentially free offensive players are moving around the field, and trying to maintain field balance, the team can work together like a network, and is able to flex in order to cover the offensive team’s movement & positioning, as commentator Bryan Jones makes note of during this point. This level of teamwork lifts the ceiling off what is usually expected from traditional approaches to defence.

How to Switch (Flex Defence Part 2)


Part 2 of the Flexagon Defence series, focusing on switching – early vs late, the triggers you can look for on the field, reactive vs proactive, and pre-empting switches. Felix explains in detail with help from animated illustrations, and video examples of 8 different switches with analysis.
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Fundamentals of Switching: • Two or more defenders change who they are marking • Cover offensive movement more efficiently and more effectively • Higher stall counts • Opportunities for blocks Early switches: • Increase efficiency • Neutralise cuts Late switches: • Generate blocks • Harder to recover from • Surprise the offence Pre-empting switches: • Spot opportunities • Connect with teammates • Decide together Triggers: • Cutters cross paths • Path takes them past your teammate or vice versa • Space aimed at is closer to a teammate or vice versa Reactive switches: • Most common • Damage limitation tactic • Independent decision making Part of the upcoming Flexagon Defence Series by felixultimate available to Patrons: What is Flexagon Defence? (Flex Defence Part 1) How to Switch Marks (Flex Defence Part 2) How to Surround Stacks (Flex Defence Part 3) Field Awareness & Communication (Flex Defence Part 4) How to Counter Flex (Flex Defence Part 5) How to Counter Hex (Flex Defence Part 6) How to Train Sandwiches How to Train Switches

Spectrum of Defence: Zone (Part 2)

Full Spectrum video on Patreon: https://patreon.com/felixultimate

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Let’s take a look at the other side of the spectrum- Zone defence. In zones, defenders take up a position relative to the disc and then cover that space. Zones tend to have one of two goals. Either zones pressure shorter options and bait throwers into attempting high risk throws, or, zones leave easier options in the backfield open, and contain downfield options in the hope that over many throws the offence will make an unforced error. Zones thrive in poor weather conditions where the likelihood of routine mistakes and difficulty of expansive throws both dramatically increase.

The key problem that zones face is that it’s almost impossible to take away all the options when players take up positions instead of marking players. Therefore zones tend to rely on the offence’s poor decision making or execution errors to generate turns. Zones also require communication and awareness from defenders – keeping track of the disc position, restricting the space on the field in coordination with your teammates and avoiding double coverage – all complex processes which leave plenty of opportunity for critical errors, even in the very best zones.

Few teams play zone defence as a primary strategy in modern day ultimate. Throwers are so proficient at making precise and patient throws that zones may slow the tempo an offence but rarely cause consistent turns. Of course zone defence in adverse weather situations remains prevalent but transition zones are becoming more and more popular. Teams like Raleigh Ring of Fire and recently New York Pony may play zone for the first few passes or until the disc passes a certain point on the field before snapping to 1-1 matchups.

Japan v USA p07: Japan Pointing & Shouting but leaving Schlachet Unmarked



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Japan don’t care about marking players who are behind the disc – you can see #17 look around to find alternate marking options when his player occupies the backfield. He does however make a mistake at the end of the clip by paying too much attention to the thrower and biting on a backfield threat.
#3 Yasuo Takahashi, top left, bumps into Beau early on in the clip, then points and shouts in order to pass him off to a deeper defender. When #19 Mickle comes near to him, he takes him as a mark, but doesn’t follow him into the backfield – instead takes the force.

#19 Masashi Koike as the central defender is the first to point and shout to pass off an offence player who is jogging deep. Note how often he looks at the disc, checks the space around him, points to any nearby offensive options, and closes down offensive players when they are potential threats (depending on the status of the disc).

#7 Yuta Inomata enters screen left after a few seconds, and is also clearly conditioned to point and shout at any nearby offensive players, as he does three times in these first few seconds of defense. He makes a mistake however – not marking #4 Schlacket, who receives the “zone-busting” pass at the end of the clip (though I would not call this defence a ‘zone’).

The reason Inomata did not mark Schlacket was two-fold – firstly, he was in a zonal mindset, (falsely) trusting that #19 Koike would pick up any player in the middle of the field.
Secondly, he was drawn towards drawn towards a deeper offensive player who must have posed a threat (we can’t say for certain as we can’t see the deep marking). #19 Koike, who starts as a central defender, was occupied with a live offensive threat on the sideline, however by slightly poaching he sent a false-positive signal to #7 Inomata that he could cover a central offensive threat, hence why this player was left unmarked.

If the deep marking was tighter then this would have sent Koike a positive signal that he could commit to marking Schlacket and not worry about the deeper threat. Of course the tighter deep marking would have increased the risk of a USA huck – which was likely against the general Japanese team-strategy for this game.

The interesting positive theme of this clip is the repeated pointing and shouting whenever a Japanese defender identifies a potential offensive threat – even if it isn’t always directed towards a specific teammate. This is clearly a cornerstone of the defence – communicate the location of offensive players through gesticulation and vocalisation.

What could be improved, is making sure every offensive player is covered, as this would help prevent the “zone-buster” to Schlacket. It’s worth noting the root cause of the offensive player being unmarked was a knock-on effect of poaching (by #19 and the deep defenders), meaning #7 Inomata felt he could pass off Schlacket rather than mark him.