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Is There Any Hope For The Specialist?

by Seth Wiggins

I started playing for Seattle's Sockeye in the Spring of 2007. Among the great athletes and throwers and minds one thing stood out the most—an almost singular obsession on beating their main rival, Vancouver's Furious George. Throwers needed to have five options because at nationals, against Furious, you could be sure four would not be open. Three-step separations were not enough, because Oscar and Alex could make it one. Running trap zone? With Savage and Cruickshank with the disc? Not likely. Any man-to-man against a cutter like MG would need a lot of help on the mark. 

Cool story Hansel, but what's the point? That Seattle team had players who using solely what they do best could walk to semis at nationals. Disc to Ben to CK x 15 x 5. But what would happen when they got there? What happens when that team comes up against another that can stop their best option? 

If you can beat a team going to your number one option over and over again then that team, relative to yours, is bad. Either they don't have the personnel to match your athleticism, experience, or whatever it is you are beating them with, or they are not smart enough to make that necessary adjustment to stop getting beat. Either way; they're bad. So bad, in fact, that you probably would be able to beat that team using any strategy you choose—what's winning the game isn't just your one play or move, rather it's your 'specialty' combined with the threat of everything else you could do. 

Think about elimination games between two close teams—how many times does one team actually use their 'specialty'? The top handler throwing long to the best receiver works, if they are both playing great, maybe three times. Significant, yes, but they still need 12 other ways to score. Deeps will be backed (defender positioned between the player and the endzone), and throwers will be faced straight-up. The best one-on-one defenders, who already get beat plenty, can stop only their assignment; there are six others. This applies just as well to team's specializing in using players solely to their strengths: Teams that live on breaking the mark find non-mark defenders adjusting to the dead side. A team's best defensive line playing their best defense will generate maybe two or three additional blocks a game - which probably isn't enough as it is, and they only have those seven players to score. 

During those games, being a 'specialist' in this sport really means that other parts of you game will be proportionally easier. The better your specialty, the more your opponent will give up to stop it, but remember—good teams always will be able to. Then what? The backed deep threat will be given cuts back to the disc. But to be effective, first their cut has to be well-timed, and then they have to be able to throw the disc somewhere. Being able to make well-timed cuts either away or back to the disc, and being able to throw afterwards? Sounds fairly all-around to me. A great zone defensive team will soon find the opposing team's best throwers making the majority of the throws, and be forced to defend person-to-person, necessitating the ability to do both. The best mark-breaker will be countered not only with better marks, but also more effort preventing them from catching the disc, either by greater athleticism in their defender, poaching, or both. Again, both the players and teams involved are all dependent on both their relative strengths and weaknesses. Against a good team, neither the team nor individual is good enough to rely on their specialty alone. 

Of course conversely, the better your opponent, the less they will need to sacrifice in order to take away your strength. Further, its easier for your opponent to focus on stopping your strength than your next options. Seattle knew that while relying on their best option would work early in tournaments, in those last two games, there would be teams with players that could stop it. What led to their successes was their singular focus on beating teams with players able to stop what they otherwise would do. Or, in other words, becoming an all-around team, filled with all-around players. 

huddle Issue 15 Roles Players

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Roles Can Be Difficult To Observe
by Jeff Eastham-Anderson

Build From Versatile, Athletic Players
by Lindsey Hack

Needs Of The Team And The Individual
by Greg Husak

Use All Of Your Players
by Peri Kurshan

Roles From Necessity
by Kirk Savage

What Is A Role Player?
by Charlie Reznikoff

Using The Best Part Of Each Player
by Miranda Roth

Is There Any Hope For The Specialist?
by Seth Wiggins




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