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Depends On The Offensive System

by Ben Van Heuvelen

The value of the sideline space depends on the offense. In a horizontal offense, the sideline limits your options. In a vertical offense, it's a great place to be—until it isn't. 


From a downfield cutter's perspective, one unique benefit of the horizontal offense is that it lets you make cuts across the mark. With so much uncrowded horizontal space between the cutters and the thrower, you can threaten an open-side cut, then change direction to receive a breakmark pass. (Even a great defender cannot take away the open side and the break side, and a good thrower will be able to open up either the i/o or around break.) Some teams call this a "stop cut"—a short-yardage cut across the field and back, where the cutter often gains the disc with a 1-2 second unmarked throwing window. It's a great way to get a horizontal offense flowing. 

With the disc on the sideline in a horizontal offense, however, you lose the option of cutting across the mark. From a cutter's perspective, there are fewer "sweet spots" on the field where a thrower can likely deliver an accurate pass. From a defender's perspective, you have a much better idea of where your man wants to cut. Advantage defense. This isn't to say that your horizontal offense can't make lemonade from sideline lemons. (Indeed, any offense will end up on the sideline, so you should learn how to make the best of it—and I'm sure some other Huddle contributors have given good ideas to this effect.) But, in my experience, it's easiest to deal with problems, whenever possible, by avoiding them. 

I place the responsibility largely on the handlers. Good defenses will recognize that the middle of the field is more dangerous to them, so they'll often use a dump defender to poach the passing lane. One possible response is for the offense to swing the disc to the poached sideline handler. A better response, though, is to have your handlers cut towards the middle of the field. For example, if you're being forced forehand, and your forehand-side handler is being poached, send him on a 20-yard sprint from the sideline, behind the thrower, to the break side: the thrower pivots to the backfield, keeps his hips between the marker and the break side, and delivers a little flip pass to the streaking handler, who receives the disc ahead of his defender, open for a 1-2 second unmarked breakside throwing window. Even if the defense recovers, you've reset the stall and maintained possession at midfield. As a downfield cutter, I like the look of this setup much better than a narrower sideline cutting lane. 

Another easy adjustment is to create terminology that emphasizes how much you like the middle of the field. When we're running horizontal, my team calls the middle 20 yards of the field "on stage," and the 10 yards closest to each sideline "off stage." We want the disc on the stage. (As an aside: we also want no more than two cutters on the stage at a time.) If the disc is off stage, we want to get it back on stage. If you have the disc on stage, then you can look downfield an extra second or two before you look to reset. If you receive the disc off stage, you look flow for a second or so, then get the disc back to the stage right away. 


In a vertical offense, the sideline is like a good party—you can have a great time, but if you stay too long, you'll wear out your welcome. 

Again, I look at this from a downfield cutter's perspective. If my teammates and I are clearing space effectively (a big "if," which even many elite teams fail to achieve), then every downfield throw goes to a cut that originates in the vertical center of the field. This means that the cutter can choose the angle that will seal his defender from a play on the disc, and it means the thrower has a high margin for error, since a cutter can change his angle to account for an overthrow or underthrow. (If a cutter is entirely vertical to the thrower, on the other hand, he can only account for a throwing error by running faster or jumping higher.) As long as our cuts are originating from the middle of the field, we're going to have good angles and high completion percentages. If we work it up a single sideline, and every cut comes from the vertical center of the field, then I'm happy with our offense—even if every single pass is received within 5 yards of the same sideline. It's all about the percentages. 

Vertical offenses break down when cutters don't recycle fast enough. If the disc advances and cutters fail to push far enough downfield ahead of the disc, then defenders can back their man, knowing that the offense won't benefit much from a 5-yard in-cut jammed to the sideline. Similarly, if cutters fail to recycle to the vertical midfield (i.e., if they crowd the flow-side sideline), then their cuts (deep or underneath) will have no horizontal angle to the thrower, and the completion percentages will fall. At this point, it's the handlers' job to reset the offense. If you have a smart and hardworking corps of cutters, then all the handlers need is to throw a pass or two. (Swinging the disc to the opposite side of the field is always a good thing, but not essential.) Mainly, the handlers are buying time, keeping the stall count fresh, while the cutters recycle, create passing lanes, and put themselves in position to enter the lanes on good angles. Then, whether we're attacking a new side of the field or not, we are cutting on angles that give us high downfield completion percentages. 

huddle Issue 16 Using The Sideline

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The Extra Defender
by Jeff Eastham-Anderson

Attack Both Sidelines
by Adam Goff

No Room For Error
by Lindsey Hack

Three Lane Theory
by Greg Husak

Paraphrasing Parinella & Zazlow
by Ted Munter

Drilling For The Sideline Trap
by Charlie Reznikoff

Field Spacing & Offense
by Kirk Savage

Yardage Opportunities
by Chris Talarico

Depends On The Offensive System...
by Ben van Heuvelen




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