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Letter to team

In 2013 I was coaching Bazinga, a team whose core was from Jingmao Daxue (China University of International Trade). There were people their who had played some elsewhere and objected to the limitations I put on the team in practice. I wrote the following letter which a friend helped me translate and send to the team. It didn't work; the team shortly broke up, Lianda (Beijing United University) asking me to coach and the remainder (as I feared) broke up further, the experienced people joined another team and the others stopped playing.

The letter (in English)

Maybe because of the language issue, or maybe because I just haven't explained it well, I think people may not understand what my purpose is in trying to restrict the offense we play in practice to straight, hard passes. I hope I can clarify just what I am hoping to see, what we are headed towards, and why I believe this is the best thing for us to do now.

Last week a few people questioned me after throwing nice passes for goals. One pass was a hammer to an open person in the end zone, and two others were nice lead passes to someone running up the sideline, curving out of bounds and coming in for the receiver to catch in stride ahead of the defender. These were all nicely thrown passes, successful, and within the skill level of the throwers, especially during a practice. So why don't I want to see them?

The answer is I do want to see them, but not now. These cuts and passes are good in an individual offense. They rely on the cutter making a cut to an open position and the thrower having the ability to see the cut in time to throw. But this is backwards from what we want to do.

How does the offense I want us to play differ from a stack? I have given several reasons (better use of field space, better use of all 7 players, and better use of the stall count), but now I want to look at the root of the difference between our offense and a stack.

One difference I think people have heard me say is that a stack is designed for 1-on-1 players, for athletes who can get away from their defenders and make the catch, daring the defenders to do anything about it. For this reason, the trick to a successful stack is how to keep the other 5 people out of the way of the 1 who is cutting. Also, this means a stack offense is directed and run by the receiver. The team strategy determines who will make the cut, and that person then controls where and when the pass will be made by choosing where to run and when to cut. The thrower's job is to be ready when the cut is made, and get the disc there.

The root difference between our offense and a stack is that in our offense the thrower decides where and when the pass will be made, not the cutter. He makes his decision based on what he sees on the field - on where he has space to make a good throw. The receivers' responsiblity now is to recognize where the thrower could be looking and to make a cut there. Effectively, the patterns on the field serve as a communication medium between the thrower and the cutters.

Now look at the role of the others on the offense. Their job is not just stay out of the way, it is to mesh actively with the other cutters to assure that there are frequent cuts in the 4 main targets on the field (forehand, backhand, left outlet, right outlet). In addition they also should coordinate with each other so even before a catch is made the receiver already has a good idea where he will pass the disc once he has made the catch.

So why is this useful? What's wrong with doing a stack, or at least a receiver-controlled offense like almost everyone else does?

First, as everyone probably knows, I don't consider it suitable for our player type. Individual-style offenses rely on the skills and physical ability of the players, so for very experienced and athletic teams who can expect they will be as fast or faster than their opponents this type of offense may be a good fit. We are not that type of team.

Another good reason is that it is hard to defend, especially since no one has played much against it. The standard tactics of defending - where you play your man, forcing, and in particular cup zone - work differently or do not work against this type of offense.

If this offense is so good, why doesn't anyone else play it? Partly for the same reason we are not doing it in practice: it is easier and more instantly gratifying for players to rely on their skills and the skills of their teammates connecting in pairs, without having to make the investment of time to develop a team style. The "best players" on a team enjoy leading the team through their ability to get open, to throw long, or to outjump a defender. Also, team leaders teach the offense they are most familiar with that has worked for them, and (since team leaders tend to be the skilled athletes) that is almost always an individual offense.

So, in the situations last week when the players threw those passes I disapproved of, what should they have done? They should have looked where the defensive setup made them want to throw and waited for a cutter to go there. They also could have actively directed the cutters to go there - when the cutter went down the line, rather than giving the lead pass, the thrower should have called him back and pointed where he wanted to throw it.

The thrower controls the offense, it is up to the receivers to go to the location the thrower wants. If they don't, especially in a practice, the thrower should call and point. This is the only way we can learn where people want the play to go. If we don't do this we will always be like other teams, relying on our best 2 or 3 players to run the offense. If we are going to be a competitive team we will need a contribution from everyone on the field, from our #1, 2, 3 players, but also from
4, 5, 6, and 7. We won't develop this by throwing hammers. We don't do many drills, but our practices are practices, not pickup games. We should be working on what makes the team better, not trying to win a meaningless game against mismatched opponents.

There are 4 basic skills needed on offense: throwing, catching, getting open, and reading the field. The first 2 are the same for all offenses, but the second 2 aren't. Why is Liu Hou (circle drill, monkey in the middle) the only team drill I have all my teams (Bazinga, Hangtime, Air Kazak) do, and no other team does it? Because I think it is a great drill for learning how to read the defense, learning to judge how much space you need to get a pass through. In Liu Hou we learn how to see a gap in the defense, in practice games we should be developing a team concept of how to cut and how to cooperate with others in the offense.

Throwing lead passes (or hammers) can be done while warming up or in small groups, developing a team understanding of how the offense should flow can only be done in practice games. This is what I am trying to get across. There is a time and a place for everything. When we are at universe point against Tianjin in China Nationals and there is someone wide open behind the defense, by all means throw a hammer if you think that is the best pass. When we are a new team of inexperienced players trying to develop into first a respectable and then a feared opponent, we need to develop a style that will let us beat teams that think they are better than us. Let's work on that style now.

russell

The letter (in Chinese)

或许因为语言问题,或许因为我不曾解释清楚,我觉得大家似乎还没有明白我的在训练时候的对于进攻的期望是直接和坚决的传递.我希望我能够说明白什么是我希望看到的,什么是我们的方向,并且为什么这是我们目前最正确的选择.

上周,有几个队友在扔出了漂亮的传盘 (Pass)并得分之后和我有一些商榷.其中一个传盘是Hammer传递给了一个在禁区(End Zone)无人盯防(open)的队友; 另外还有两个长盘助攻(Lead Pass),传到了在边线跑动的球员, 在界外划出弧线并飞回界内,由接盘队员(Receiver)抢在防守队员之前拿到了飞盘. 这些传盘扔的都很漂亮,也成功了, 是传盘队员( Thrower ) 技能范围之内的,而且还是在训练中.那为什么我不希望看到这样的进攻呢?

答案是:我其实非常期望看到这样的进攻.但,不是现在.这些切入(cut)和传盘(pass)对于个人进攻(individual offence)来说都是很好的.这依赖于切入者(cutter)切入了一个无人的位置(Open Position), 发盘者(Thrower)有能力看到这次切入并及时传盘.但这,与我们期望要做的南辕北辙.

我期望的进攻方式,与排队(Stack)究竟有何不同?我给出过一些理由(诸如更好的利用场地空间;更好的让七个队员都发挥作用;更好的利用持盘计数时间(Stall Count)等等), 但是现在,我希望从根本上分析我们的进攻和Stack之间的差异.

其中一个不同是,大家都已经听我说过了,Stack是为一对一的运动员设计的,是为那些能够摆脱自己的防守者,接盘,敢于在防守者面前做各种动作和表现的人设计的.基于这个理由,成功的Stack的本质,其实是如何让其他的五人在这个人切入的时候,统统躲到一边.同事,这也意味着Stack进攻是由接盘者发起和主导的.这个战术决定谁来切入,这个人就通过何时切入到何处,来控制何时发盘到何处.发盘者的职责就是在他切入的时候,及时把盘送到那里.

我们的进攻和Stack之间根本的区别是,我们的进攻,是发盘者决定何时把盘发到何处,而非切入的接盘者决定.发盘者基于他在场地上看到的情形,基于哪里对于他有个更好的空间传盘来做出自己的决定,接盘者的职责现在是判断发盘者可能会看到的位置,然后切入到那里.这个套路(Pattern)在场地上作为发盘者和切入者沟通的准则而发挥作用.

现在我们看看在进攻时其他人的角色吧.他们的职责可不是"别挡路"那么简单, 他们的职责是充分的与其他Cutter协作,确保在四个主要的位置(正手位,反手位,左侧,右侧),能够创造多次切入的机会.除此之外,他们还应该在传盘之间就要彼此协作,在接盘之前,接盘者就应该对于他拿到飞盘之后马上传到什么地方早有了主意.

那,为什么这样更有用?Stack有什么错? 或者说是有接盘者控制的进攻,就像绝大多数的人的打法那样的进攻,有什么错?

首先,正如大家都或许知道的,我不认为这适合我们的队伍.个人为核心的进攻,严重依赖于运动员的技能和体能水平. 故而,对于非常有经验,体力很好的,可以确保自己比自己的对手只强不弱的队伍来说,应该是一种好的战术.但我们不是这样的队伍.

还有一个好的理由是,这样很难转换防守,更何况很多人并非飞盘老手.你打人盯人(man), 逼迫(Force),特别是杯子区域防守(cup zone)这些标准防守战术时, 需要的位置和打法,和Stack这样的进攻法,风马牛不相及.

如果这样的进攻方式很好,为什么别的队伍不都这么玩呢?某种程度上其实也就是我们为什么不在训练中这样做的原因: 让队员依靠其个人的能力,依靠那个和自己搭伴(Pair)的队员的能力,相比去培养整个队伍的风格打法来说,要简单和愉悦得多.队伍里的"最佳队员"享受于带领队伍跑到空挡,扔的远,跳得高.同时,队伍的领袖也教给大家自己最熟悉的,对自己最有效的进攻方式(正因为队伍的领导都基本上是玩得最好的运动员), 故而就基本上都是依赖个人的进攻方式.

所以,在上周的情况当中,队员们发出那些我不认可的传盘,那我们本应如何呢?他们应该看出当前防守阵型下,他希望扔到的地方,并且等待一个cutter切入到这里.他们也应该更主动的引导cutter切到那里去--当cutter直奔底线的时候,不要尝试直接长传助攻,而应该喊他们回来,指着他希望扔盘的地方让他们切过去.

发盘手控制进攻,而由接盘手跑到发盘手期望的地点去.如果他们没有跑到发盘手希望的地方, 尤其是在训练当中, 扔盘手应该喊出来,并且指给他们.这是让我们学习和了解别人如何希望飞盘运动下去的不二法门.如果我们不这样做,我们只能一辈子和其他队一样,依靠队伍最佳的两三个选手进攻.如果我们希望成为一支有竞争力的强队,我们必须依靠队伍里每一个人的贡献,从一二三号,当然还有我们的
四五六七号队员.靠扔Hammer,我们无从提高这一点.

进攻有四项基本原则:扔盘,接盘,拉开空挡,分析场上形势.前两项对于所有进攻方法都是一样的,后两项则不然.为什么而其他队伍不"溜猴",而我(Russell)让我所有的队伍都要去做的(Bazinga Ultimate, HangTime, Air Kazak)?因为我认为这是一个非常好的训练,可以练习读懂防守, 学习判断你需要多少空间可以把盘穿过去.在溜猴当中,我们学会如何找到防守中的空挡, 在训练赛中,我们就应该培养队伍的这种概念,如何切入,如何与其他队员在进攻中协作.

长盘 ( 或者 Hammer ) 可以在热身的时候,少数几个人的时候练习. 让一个队伍学会进攻的流转传递,只能够在训练赛的时候练习.这就是我需要让大家明白的.总有一个时间和场合是无所顾忌的.当我们在中国公开赛打天津决胜( Universe Point ) 的时候, 有人在防守队员身后有很大的空挡, 如果你认为这是个好机会, 尽可能扔个漂亮的Hammer吧.当我们是一个新手组成的新队,我们期望首先有所提高让人尊重,然后让人敬畏, 我们需要创立自己的风格,击败那些自认为比我们强大的对手.那就让我们创立我们的风格吧.

by Russell Young . Nick Cheng翻译

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