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
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.
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
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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.
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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.
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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!
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…
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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!
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Hey everyone, in this 4th and final part of this series we’re going to break down the last 3 points of the USA 2019 National Final, including a couple of contested hucks, an inward pivot leading to some nice flow from Sockeye, and pass-by-pass analysis of the all-important universe point to decide the US Men’s Champions. In the last two minutes of the video we’ll summarise how Machine’s comeback unfolded and was ultimately brought to an end by Sockeye. We rejoin the match at 11-11, Machine having just scored 5 points in a row.
Sockeye’s fielding of the pull looks nervous as Montague centers to Dixon. They waste no time in getting the disc away from their end zone, as Trent Dillon goes deep. Dixon puts the disc in the air but the Machine defenders are ready for it and Goff gets the block. The moderate deep separation that Dillon gets on Goff doesn’t matter in the end as Nelson and Graffy are poaching 10 and 20 yards off their marks respectively, leaving Dillon with too much to do. If the huck had been faked, then an overhead to Rehder here in all that space could’ve got opened up an opportunity for Sockeye to flow towards the end zone. After 5 points in a row by Machine, it’s possible Sockeye were snatching too keenly at the opportunity for a quick score, abandoning their usual flow in favour of backing their receivers in the long game and throwing to percentages. Machine’s defence is too solid for that, with downfield defenders very aware and ready to drop onto deep threats, especially early on in the possession. Also note how the defenders around the disc pinch the throwing lane – Bansfield early on, followed by the flash of a foot from Gibson. The foot forces Dixon to use quite a high release for the huck, adding float which allows the defenders time to make up the ground on Dillon. If Goff had managed to catch this block then Machine would’ve had a 3v1 with the nearest other defender last seen 30 yards away.
Machine’s setup from this static disc looks like an iso on Goff, but the movement looks more like clearing or flooding to one side for Bansfield to come under. Kosednar puts Gibson off the early pass to Bansfield and then Graffy goes down with an injury. There was contact with Dillon which was just at an unfortunate angle, and the game stops for 120 seconds as Graffy is helped off.
Machine’s offence is far from smooth as Gibson, Bansfield, and Nelson keep the disc alive on high stall counts. Kanner touches the disc for the first time in the possession and rips it deep. Joe White arrives as backup but is unable to secure the catch. Bansfield started to go deep from the far side early, but the disc takes too long to move – resting in Machine’s hands for an average of [ 31:30-39:15 = 7.8s | 40:00-46:00 = 6s | 46:36-49:36 = 3s | 50:30-53:23 = 2.9s | 7.8+6+3+2.9 /4 = 4.9 ] 4.9 seconds per player for this possession, so Bansfield has to delay his deep cut until Kanner gets the disc and looks up. Whilst he’s eyeing up space for a run-up jump, White, Dillon, and Matt Russel arrive, meaning he can’t bid early without it being a dangerous play and he pulls out. White gets up high between two defenders, and the disc actually bounces out of his hand, in what could’ve been the defining catch of the game for this young player very new on the Club scene. Charlie Eisenhood said before the game that the result could rest on the performance of White, and although he’s had a good game, a catch here would’ve made a big difference late in the game for Machine. White had actually started to cut deep, but saw Bansfield cut deep from arguably too deep a position, which makes him hesitate. Dillon keeps his eye on the thrower for the release, gets a great early read, and burns past White to get early position. In the end Dillon can’t bid as early as he wants either because he’d flatten Dixon. White gets the best take-off but it’s just too hectic to secure the catch this time and Sockeye get possession.
Bansfield pinches the throwing lane as Sockeye work the disc around the back. Gibson gives Freechild a bit of a push to let him know he’s there. Freechild comes under and has to go to ground for a left handed catch, Rehder sets off deep and Goff and Kanner expertly switch to neutralise the threat – Dixon spots this early and fakes the huck. Dillon is in space as White was sucked in by the huck fake. After the disc rests in Dillon’s hands for 4.3 seconds, Sockeye flow smoothly to the endzone, each player holding onto the disc for an average of just [ 3.48-8.04:(4.16=4.3s) – 9:05-12:09:(3.04=3.1s) – 13:12-15:07:(1.55=1.9s) – 16:18-16:55:(0.37=0.6s) – AVG = 3.1+1.9+0.6 /3 = 1.9s ] 1.9 seconds.
But how come they had stall zero options? Bansfield has extended his leash on Dixon, trusting that he can switch with a teammate and efficiently stay in the space near the disc. After the switch Nelson looks to help deep briefly, but because Matt Russell pivots inwards as he catches the disc, he is able to release the crossfield disc within 1.9 seconds, and hit Dixon directly. White is now out of position due to the quick disc movement changing the angle of attack so quickly, and his bid on the scoring pass is as good as it can be without causing contact – Dillon holding his ground and not opening a window for the D by shying away. This is the third time in this point a player has adjusted their bid to avoid dangerous contact with an opponent, it’s great to see players at this level using their athleticism not only to make bids, but also to avoid risking the safety of their opponents – White here having to make a late adjustment on his last step to avoid contact.
At match point Sockeye, their first pull in 6 points goes sailing out of bounds. At the moment of the check, they’re marking 1-to-1 against a tight vert stack, and poaching off Yiding Hou in the reset position, who is interestingly setting up downfield of the disc which enables Machine to immediately make use of the space. Keegan North pulls two defenders deep, allowing Arters to get free under. North makes a nice layout to keep the disc alive, and the Sockeye defence is revealed to be force-middle. Friedman bites on the inside fake and White pivots aggressively inwards after catching, but the Sockeye defence is doing well to stifle the stall zero options and force the disc to continue moving across the back.
Hou throws and immediately accelerates crossfield. North turns inwards on his catch and accelerates out of his throw, using excellent technique and balance control. On defence Snell recognises the crossfield threat and switches to stifle North’s move. Machine’s attack immediately changes direction, as North turns the crossfield move into a fake and attacks upline. Kulczak and Snell switch to also neutralise this move, which leaves a pocket of space in front of Arters. If Hou had continued his move after reversing the flow, then it would have been dangerous for Sockeye with or without the second switch. Instead he sets up in the conventional static dump position, allowing Friedman a rare opportunity to reposition.
Janas touches the disc for the first time since bricking the pull, fakes the flick continuation before throwing the around break backhand to a well timed cut from Hou. The fake keeps Friedman occupied for just long enough, moves the mark over to the open side, and gives Hou something to synchronise his cut with. Machine’s vertical stack counters the force-middle from Sockeye nicely as it opens up around break channels towards the sidelines.
7 points ago Sockeye were up 11-6, after a 6-1 comeback run by Machine it’s now 12-12 – Universe Point in the Men’s Final of 2019 USAU Club Nationals, with Seattle Sockeye receiving the pull.
Sockeye set up a stack whilst Kanner poaches off the dump to disrupt the throwing lane. Montague breaks to Janin and Kanner continues to roam into the downfield throwing lane, so the disc swings back over to Murray, who continues to Russell for yards on the far sideline. There’s some unfortunate hand to face contact between Gibson and Montague, and the play stops for 35 seconds, giving the players a chance to re-assess the field.
Rehder uses his separation to cut into the backfield and Bansfield forces an unfavorable backwards inside-break throw. This extreme force allows Russell to take off deep, but this move is negated by a pick.
20 seconds of stoppage later, with a rising stall count it begins to look like Freechild is in trouble, but Rehder is surprisingly free up the line. Freechild follows his throw to receive a return pass in the narrow channel, Goff switches to help and Freechild dishes to Janin for the winning score. Check out Janin’s footwork as he throws off Weaver to get free at the front corner.
How was Rehder so free up the line for Freechild at a high stall count? Late in the stall, Goff flash poaches into the backfield space, gambling on the disc being released but allowing Rehder to get free downfield. Rehder and Weis crossing paths is an indication that a switch could’ve worked here, but Gibson has already committed under and it’s outside his field of vision. Kanner also thinks about the switch and flash poaches in sync with Freechild’s pivot – but doesn’t follow through. The switch was an option due to Rehder crossing paths with Murray – if this trigger had been recognised and acted upon early by Kanner then Goff could’ve easily picked up Murray, and neutralised all of Sockeye’s options late in the stall.
When Freechild receives the return pass, instead of automatically pivoting and faking down the sideline, he adopts a neutral stance looking infield. This means the defence has to mark honest whilst he keeps his cards close to his chest. Freechild’s use of these critical first few moments after catching the disc, combined with Janin’s excellent footwork, create a window which is only just big enough and only just kept open long enough for the scoring pass.
9 points ago, with Sockeye leading 10-6, they started to falter with overthrows. Machine’s clogging, flash poaching, and highly aware defence was always ready to pounce, taking away Sockeye’s confidence, causing them to hesitate, and punishing them for predictable moves.
When Machine scored it was usually from 1 or 2 passes after a turnover, or Gibson and Bansfield patiently looking for opportunities from the back. White, Kanner, and Hou also made big contributions to Machine’s late run on offence, but they did give Sockeye the disc back a couple of times.
With the game tied at 11s, Sockeye faked the long throws which hadn’t been working out for them, worked the disc under, and took advantage of Machine’s clogging and flash poaching with patience on high stalls and quick disc movement on low stalls. The last point saw Freechild following his throw to get into a powerful position outside the end zone, where some great footwork by both the thrower and catcher secured Sockeye’s first USAU Nationals victory in 12 years.
I hope you enjoyed this series, stay tuned for more and I’ll see you again soon!
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