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Cutting Thoughts & Techniques

by Bart Watson

Becoming a great cutter, like any ultimate skill, requires more than simply athleticism (though work at the track won't hurt). It requires plenty of skill, thought, and practice. I think about cutting broken down into two components: the technique of the cut itself and cutting within an offensive system. 

Cutting technique: As you start to work on your cutting technique, it's useful to think about your strengths and role as a cutter. While there are some fundamental aspects of cutting that are universal across body types and positions, like driving your defender away from where you want to go to set up your cut, how you accomplish these fundamentals will vary both by cutting style and by what you are hoping to accomplish. Let's consider first the fundamentals, and then we can focus on how to alter these strategies for position, body type, etc. I will highlight four fundamental techniques to cutting. All of these can and should be worked on consciously, both at practices and in your workouts. 

1. Control your defender
Controlling your defender is the most important part of good cutting. Good offense beats good defense. Why? Simple, the offense knows where it is going. However, offensive players shouldn't take this for granted, but rather use it to their advantage. In cutting, the best way to accomplish this is by pushing or pulling your defender in ways that set up your cut. Sometimes this will take the form of driving right at your defender to get them on their heels before a change of direction. This type of cut works well as a lane cut. I like to think about stepping between a defenders feet right before making a hard cut, putting them on their heels. The second way to set up a defender is to pull them to a space that makes defense more difficult. If you want to cut break side, jog them to the open side to open up more space for the thrower to put the disc into. If you want to cut across the field on the open side, move them further to the break side and start calling for the disc before shooting across. The key is to be in control of your defender, not vice-versa. If you can get them to turn their hips away from where you want to go, you've won. 

2. Stay low through turns and chop your feet.
Form is critical. Offense often has an initial advantage on cuts, but without good form, this is easily lost. Good cutting technique involves getting low with your hips, chopping your feet, and pumping your arms as you attack your turn. Shuttles, plyos, and speed ladders are good ways to work on this form. Don't forget the arms, as they are equally important as quick feet in getting in and out of turns. Finally, with turns, find angles that allow you to keep some of your speed. If you come out of a turn with speed and the defender doesn't, you'll open up more space. 

3. Use fakes; they aren't just for throwers
Fakes are a good way to accomplish goal #1, controlling your defender. Just like with throws, fakes set up your defender and allow you to open space on your cut. Head and other upper body fakes are a great way to do this. Practice turning your upper body away from where you want to go a second before you change direction and watch how your defender reacts. Change of speed, or stutter-step, fakes are another way to control your defender. On deep cuts, slow your pace to one second to freeze your defender, before continuing deep at full speed. 

4. Keep moving.
Young players biggest cutting problems typically stem from viewing it as an entirely stop and go enterprise. Good defenders will use any stoppage to reset their positioning, reducing your advantage. How you continue to move will depend on the offensive system you are playing in, but in any case, once a point begins never allow your defender to reset. If you are playing in a stack, keep making short cuts, adjusting your position, forcing the defender to lose disc-man vision. In a horizontal, you may have more freedom to job in your lane. In any case, continue to move, hopefully in a way that puts you in position for your next big gainer (more on this in a minute). If you do come to a stop, find moments when your defender looks away in order to start moving again. Any time a defender turns their head, when they turn back you should be in a new place. 

All of the above rules need to be tailored to your cutting style and offensive role. Thinking about this individually will also help you to pick role models for cutting. Some players are able to use their quickness or explosiveness to rapidly change directions and so can accomplish goal #1 simply by cutting for a step or two before changing directions. Josh Zipperstein of Chain, Josh Wiseman of Revolver, and Damien Scott of Jam are good examples of these shorter cutting styles. Josh Z. and Damien show that this can be done in different ways, where Josh uses very quick feet and Damien uses a more powerful driving approach. This style of cutting will apply more to handlers, who often have to get open more rapidly late in the stall count. 

Downfield cutters and cutters that focus on speed more than quickness should work on elongating their cuts, driving their defenders further, and creating more space in which to use their speed. Many of the Sockeye lane cutters, like MC, are very effective at this style of cutting. 

Cutting within an offense: Perhaps equally, if not more important, than individual cutting form is effective cutting within your team's offense. A good cutter with bad timing is going to get far fewer discs than a lesser individual who knows his/her team's system. While this is obviously going to be very team specific, here are two general issues that you can think about: 

1. Knowing the flow of the disc and using it to your advantage.
You know where the disc should go in your offense and the defender doesn't. This presents several tactical advantages. The first is in relation to point number #1, controlling your defender. If your team is working on getting the disc on the break side for hucks, set up your defender by making in cuts to the offensive side, improving your positioning for the eventual break side bomb. Second, this allows you to move before the disc moves, making your defender lose disc-man vision and improving your knowledge of the field relative to them. If you know your team always dumps at 6, try starting to set up a cut for the dump at 5 and trust it will get there. Your defender has to defend you based on the first thrower, making it that much easier to get open for the second. 

2. Taking what the defense gives you vs. breaking the defense
One of the classic offensive debates is whether to take what the defense gives you versus trying to actively break the defense. While this often gets a lot of discussion in relation to the mark, it's equally applicable to cutting. Defenders will normally take away chunks of the field. In addition to the open side, defenders will often position themselves to prevent the deep or in cuts. Cutters should vary their strategies based both on their successes/strengths and in order to keep the defense off balance. If a defender is giving you the disc in, take a couple of these easy in-cuts, before setting up a double-move: mimic your in-cut for a few seconds, wait for your defender to recognize and commit, and then break deep. The less predictable you are as a cutter to your defender, the harder it will be for them to know whether you are setting them up or making a real cut. 

In all, cutting requires as much practice, skill, timing, and thought as throwing. You should think about where you want to attack, how you will set up your defender in order to attack that space, and the form you need to complete the cut. The rest is just hard work, but remember, if you do it right, your hard work beats the defender's hard work. 

huddle Issue 21 Team USA On Specialities

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Well-Rounded Deep Threats
by Gwen Ambler

What Else Makes A Good Handler?
by Cara Crouch

Handling: Vision
by Deb Cussen

Defensive Handlers I Admire
by Kathy Dobson

Schwa's D-Handler
by Chelsea Putnam

Handling: Doing The Little Things
by Jon Remucal

D-Line Handlers
by Adam Simon

Deep Cutting
by Dylan Tunnell

Cutting Thoughts & Techniques
by Bart Watson

Defense From The Handler Spot
by Seth Wiggins





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