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The Right Adjustments

by Adam Goff

In a person defense, getting the right matchups can be critically important. It can also require some trial and error. Teams which face each other all the time get to try out a number of different approaches until they get most comfortable. Teams that don't see each other often have a challenge at the start—but fortunately both teams have that challenge. The team that figures out how to neutralize (or at least slow down) the key threat from the other team the fastest can get an advantage early in the game. 

I don't believe that there is any 'best' defender on a team. I think that this is situational. For example, if the other team has a handler driven offense—especially if it focuses on 1-2 key handlers—then you will likely need a different defender than if the team plays a wide open offense that relies on 1-2 key upfield cutters to make the action happen. 

Therefore, I believe, early in the game, it's important to see if you are simply "better" than the other team. Try to match up your strength against their strength down the line. Best upfield defender on the best upfield cutter for the other team. Best handler defender on the best handler defender of the other team. If it is working, don't change it. Win the game and get a beer. What if it isn't working? What levers do I pull now? 

A. Defensive Call. Even in a person-defense, there are choices which I try usually before swapping matchups. The team is killing our forehand force with breakmarks, go to backhand. You might just make your defenders a step better by changing the mark. Try a Zone. ("Never lose without trying a zone defense"—just ask Fury about that.) Try changing the distance on the mark. 

B. Get Fresh. Ultimate games are long. Did you ever watch Pete Sampras play tennis? He won his service games. That was practically a given. (And you need your offense to be similar if the game is close.) When he was receiving serve, he often looked horrible. He'd step into the court and try to crush a few returns. If he missed, he lost at love. If he got the first two, then he kept at it and won. Set over. You don't have to get every defensive point. Rest your studs, or a few of them, on a few of the points. Get everyone as strong as possible and make a run at the next point. 

C. Switch Some Matchups. Sometimes your key defender is not at his/her best. Switch an on field matchup. But your best on their second option and your second on their best option. Maybe a help D shows up. 

D. Think About How You Are Getting Beat. Is the other team getting deep shots? Are they squirreling up field? Put your best defenders in a position to stop what's working. If they are winning with deep shots, and you have a tall stud, use a defense that keeps him/her in center field. If your best defender has a shut down mark, get that mark on the disc so those deep shots aren't quite as good or don't get up at all. 

Defensive matchups aren't prescriptive. Like so much else in Ultimate, it's the team that makes the right adjustment the fastest that will win the close ones.

huddle Issue 17 Using Defensive Matchups

Tuesday, April 27th, 2009

May The Best Man Win
by Tully Beatty

Three-Legged Stool
by Lou Burruss

The Right Adjustments
by Adam Goff

To Rotate Or Not To Rotate?
by Lindsey Hack

Limitations To Matchup Theory
by Greg Husak

Maximizing Defensive Assets
by Kris Kelly

Maximizing Impact
by Brett Matzuka

Who Should Guard Their Best Player?
by Ted Munter

Matching Up With Defensive Characteristics
by Kama Siegel

Give Your Defenders A Chance
by Shane Steward

A Theoretically Helpful Exercise
by Seth Wiggins





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