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Get Position Relative To Your Opponent

by Ryan Morgan

Being a receiver, this scenario is one of my favorite moments in ultimate. The adrenaline kicks in and it dawns on you that it's your turn to make the play you have been training all season. My training regimen is focused on maximizing acceleration and jumping ability, both of which are essential to getting the block in this scenario. But before putting those skills to use, you have to look up quickly and find the disc. In this brief glance you must do three things: 

1. Confirm that the throw is, in fact, to your man. 

2. Check to see if the disc is under-thrown. 

3. Identify if the throw is forehand or backhand—this will tell you which of your shoulders the disc will come over as well as the spin on the disc. All this information has to be ascertained instantly. 

The next step, and I really don't think the importance of this can be understated, is to get position on the other player. Unless you are a giant or have a 45" vertical, an advantageous position relative to the other player is the single best thing you can do to get the block. 

When I first started playing club ultimate, I was fortunate enough to play with Kevin Kusy on a successful Mixed team called BRU. Kusy is a great receiver who won a college championship with the 1999 NC State team. He was a bit bigger, a bit taller, and much more experienced than I was but we went up against each other all the time in practice. At first he absolutely tooled me on these types of plays. After a while I learned that getting position on him was more important than reading the disc perfectly and attempting to catch it at the height of my jump. Eventually, I started bringing down some discs against him by first establishing position. 

I learned that the first step in getting position is to get ahead of the other player as soon as possible. This is where the acceleration comes in. If you can beat the player downfield you can have first choice of position and that is hugely important. Additionally, once in front, you can dictate where the other player goes or does not go. You can steer him or her away from where you can make a play on the disc (within the scope of the rules, of course). If required, this is where the jumping ability comes in. 

Assuming I have position, as the disc is approaching I am thinking about how to make the play while keeping the other player "locked up," usually on my shoulder. For example, if it's a flick huck down the sideline, I would take a line on the disc that pushed the other player towards the middle of the field (again, obviously, within the scope of the rules). As the disc approached, I would adjust my speed to his in order to keep him locked up on my left shoulder so he couldn't get around me to make a play. My last two steps would be strong towards the disc to make the block with an outstretched right arm. 

A ending tangent on acceptable levels of contact in receiving situations: I think that the undeniable increase in contact that goes uncalled in these situations at the elite level is due to the mutual respect players have for one another. It comes from a mutual desire to play as hard as possible and to leave everything on the field. Additionally it takes a mutual understanding that playing at that level necessarily requires a certain amount of contact that the rules, under some interpretations, may not allow. Oftentimes at the elite level, players chose to interpret the rules in a way that allows almost any receiving contact that does not truly affect the outcome of the play. In an extreme example, Kevin Kusy was playing with Ring of Fire in the semifinals of Club Nationals in 2003 against Furious George. A throw went up to his man, Andrew Lugsdin, in the endzone. Both players charged hard toward the disc and made so much contact that Kusy broke his clavicle on the play. Lugsdin caught the goal and no foul was called. 

I understand that this may seem unnecessarily dangerous to some. But I find it extremely satisfying to be able to battle with an opponent and take some hits knowing that I can hit right back without fearing a foul call. One of my favorite players to play against is Taylor Pope of Ring of Fire. When he guards me its always very physical. But the physical contact between us is never intended to gain an unfair advantage (e.g. tugging at shirts, intentional hacking on the mark, pushing, tripping). We both thrive on the challenge that physical play presents, but we also both understand where to draw the line. As such, I have a huge amount of respect for him. I suspect it is this combination of a mutual desire to play as hard as possible and a mutual respect for other players, that accounts for the level of acceptable contact at the elite level.

huddle Issue 4 The Up Call

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Body Mechanics
by Jeff Eastham-Anderson

Go Get It
by Andrew Fleming

Changing Defensive Speed
by Greg Husak

Calculate Quickly Based On The Throw
by Ron Kubalanza

Get Position Relative To Your Opponent
by Ryan Morgan

A Progression Of Thoughts
by Jonathan Potts

Play The Player First, Then The Dis
by Miranda Roth

Get In Front
by Kirk Savage

Use Your Body As The Cut Starts
by Chris Talarico

Train For The Launch Pad
by Ben van Heuvelen

A Texas Hold'em Analogy
by Ben Wiggins




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