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Use On-Field Cues

by Gwen Ambler

Cutting from the middle of the flat stack requires good field sense. In my mind, good field sense involves the ability to accurately read three things simultaneously: reading the defense, reading the thrower, and reading the spaces on the field. 

I'm sure everyone has heard the phrase "take what the defense gives you." This important concept necessitates knowing what your defender is trying to take away at any given moment. At its most basic level, you have to recognize the force and figure out which direction your D is trying to push your cut (e.g. towards or away from the disc). The next level is understanding whether your defender is really taking away what her positioning indicates she is. If a defender is caught flat-footed, you can blow by her in a direction, even if she has an initial "headstart" by positioning herself with a buffer in that direction. Good cutters have developed a series of jukes or moves to help freeze their defenders into the dreaded flat-footed position. An especially easy one to master is driving directly towards your defense to close the distance between you two, making her have to react to small movements like a shoulder fake or stutter step. If you can't get a defender on her heels, you have to get her to commit her hips and momentum in one direction so that you can change directions and gain separtion. 

Against even the best defenders, it is important to remember that from any position in the middle of the field there are always at least three different directions to cut and get the disc. To be positioned correctly, there will always be space for in-cuts to both the open and break side as well as deep. Mediocre defenders may take away one of these options and good to great defenders can take away two, but no one can take away everything. Your job as a cutter is to recognize which of your three options is open, position yourself and set-up your cut to maximize the throwing window in that space, and then attack. 

Reading the thrower involves both knowing your teammates' comfort level with various throws and recognizing the clues from your thrower that communicate when to change direction. Knowing that your thrower doesn't have a long forehand doesn't mean that you can't cut to that space, but it does mean that you have to consciously sell that cut (possibly by starting out closer to the disc to make the deep space seem more dangerous) in order to set up another cut underneath. If you are able to set up cuts for the pass the thrower most wants to throw, you are instantly increasing the odds you'll get hit as soon as you are open. 

At some point or another, everyone has probably seen a thrower point to a direction she wants her receiver to cut to. That's one way for a thrower to communicate with a cutter, although not the most effective. I am a big proponent of using disc fakes to simultaneously move the mark and communicate for a cutter to change direction. As a cutter in the middle of the horizontal stack, if I'm cutting in one direction and see the thrower fake that throw, I know she wants me to change direction and she will hit me on my new cut. A cutter needs to work hard to get open on her cuts, but ultimately you are at the mercy of the thrower and if she doesn't want to hit you on a certain cut, you need to change direction to offer up a new angle. Note that some people are not in favor of backhand fakes that require you to pivot. A thrower can still communicate to her cutter with shoulder fakes and wrist snaps without fully pivoting. 

Last, but not least, a cutter needs to read the spaces available on the field based on where her teammates and their defenders are positioned and/or moving. Often the best cut a primary middle cutter can make is to clear space for her teammate to get the disc uncontested. Additionally, often the worse cut someone can make is one where she's gotten open on her defender right into the space where her teammate is also open--rendering neither of them hit-able. I think that cutting in a vertical stack offense puts a premimum on timing while cutting in a horizontal offense puts a premium on spacing. Know what space you are expected to use for your cuts (likely the middle lane on the field) and know which of your teammates is also expecting to be cutting in to empty parts of that lane as well. 

The horizontal stack offense allows for a lot of improvisation and creativity on the part of the downfield cutters. Just like in theatrical improv, to be good at it you have to be able to use the cues available to you. On the ultimate field, that includes clues from your defender, the thrower, and your fellow cutters.

huddle Issue 11 Cutting From The Middle Of A Ho Stack

Thursday, November 20th, 2008
Use On-Field Cues
by Gwen Ambler

Five Easy Steps
by Dusty Becker

It All Comes Back To Throwing
by Lou Burruss

Sockeye's Wheelhouse
by Mike Caldwell

Understanding Offensive Priorities
by Greg Husak

Everything Should Be Intentional
by Bryn Martyna

Three Keys To Being A Good Middle
by Chelsea Putnam

Downfield 1-On-1 Defense
by Seth Wiggins




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