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Second Cuts

There is another tactic for offense which is not only loads of fun, but also a very effective attack system. At Princeton we used to call it "second cuts". The idea is that when a pass is completed there should be another person in position instantly to receive a continuation pass. Of course, the only way to do this is to have started the cut before the first pass is thrown.

In a set offense, one person has the disc and six people are looking to get it. Six people going for the disc at once is instant clog, so some plan needs to be made to keep those six from tripping over each other. One solution, of course, is to have five of them stand in a line waiting. This is a stack. Assigning positions, or at least designating handlers, is another, but only a first step. What to the middles do when the handlers are handling and the deeps are deeping?

(Historical note: rather than handlers, middles, and deeps, in the 70's the positions were called movers, hookers, and gawks. I believe these were recognized terms, and not just our team usage)

What they can do is pair up with a handler, running effectively the same cut, but 7-12 meters upfield and 3 steps behind. This way, when a handler gets a pass he can in one continued movement continue the offense to the second cutter, and suddenly the disc is behind half the defense in the open field. With three handlers, one of whom has the disc, and two middles, the middles can each match up with one of the cutting handlers, so a throw to either side has an immediate continuation. The middle should think, "If there is a throw to my handler, where will he want to throw it?", and time his cut to be approaching that spot as the handler makes his catch.

If the first handler cut is not thrown to, often it works to have the handler clear out, the middle cut in, and the handler make a second cut for the middle.

What I see played, especially in a stack, is that the cutter focuses solely on getting the disc. He makes a move, gets free,gets the disc, and then turns and looks upfield to see what is available. This is fine for a pickup or weekend team which has not played much together, but a serious team should be able to flow, and to flow the next step needs to be ready instantly, not in a few seconds.

In Chinese Nationals this year (2009) several teams played a cup zone, and it was very effective. Partly this was because many teams were not used to seeing it, but only partly. The reason I have always sneered at cup zones is because they are helpless against a team which plays a quick moving game. For most teams, when a dump outlet is made, there follows a hesitation as the receiver turns to see where he will throw. This gives the cup the opportunity to recover: unless the receiver should happen to see instantly someone open and react to get a pass there fast, the cup will have recovered, and need to be broken anew.

If, when the handler makes the catch, he turns to throw rather than to look, there is no time for the zone to recover, and in an instant the cup needs to run not a few steps, but across the field - and of course, out there the zone is broken, so the offense should have no trouble continuing.

"Turns to throw" does not, of course, mean he has to throw - of course the receiver/thrower should evaluate the situation and be prepared to abort. But because as he turns he needs only to confirm that his expected continuation is there, rather than having to read the offense and defense and decide whether to make a throw, it is much more likely that the continuation can be made before the defense resets. This continuous offense is hard for any defense to contain, though it is easiest to see its value against a cup.

Basically, I divide offense into three types, depending on how many people are involved. The stack I consider a "1": from when the offense sets there is only a single person trying to advance the disc. A give-and-go style fast offense is a "2". When a handler makes a pass he immediately starts cutting hard to get the disc back. A second cutter offense is a "3+". When the handler passes he immediately starts running like in a "2", but his purpose is to clear out and let one of the others in. He wants to go up and out and be a second cut, or even a third cut if it seems clear which way the play is flowing. Analogously with other sports, this type of offense is a weave.

One of the things I found that really surprised me is that, in Beijing at least, I enjoy indoor ultimate more than outdoor. All teams here like to stack and throw long far more than I think they should. As a result, outdoor games tend to degenerate into picking on the mismatches inevitable in pickup games, or worse yet macho hammer or scoober pissing contests. Indoor games have lots of passing and good flow. If it requires giving up 80% of the field to get a good game, sobeit.

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