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Tricks Of The Trade

by Patrick Mooney

 As a player who is in all honesty not the most gifted and speedy athlete in the game, getting defensive turnovers with monster layouts and big skies is not always the best strategy for me. I learned early on however that I can still have a huge effect on the defensive side of the game by simply focusing on putting on a solid mark on the player I'm covering (or trying to cover) once they have the disc. Here are some of the tricks I use and some of those I've seen others use with success. 

1. Don't use the marks as a time to rest. Be active.
Too many players, at all levels of the game, use the mark as an opportunity to rest for 10 seconds in order to conserve some energy for their next trip out into the lanes. The trick is to do both; catch your breath while marking hard. Deep breaths and energy recovery and a focused mark are not exclusive events. Each stall count affords you a great chance to take a nice deep breath and all the while you can keep those arms and legs moving. 

2. Consider your distance from the thrower.
One of the things I focus on during every marking opportunity is controlling my distance from the thrower. It's a lesson I learned early on playing college ultimate against more experienced guys who would tell me to stop dry humping their leg for 10 seconds every time I marked them. I would crash the mark and stay in close while clutching and grabbing at the disc every opportunity I had thinking that an aggressive mark is a good mark. This isn't always true and often leads to foul calls all game, or at inopportune times late in the stall count. Here is my default strategy for maintaining proper distance now that I have a bit more experience: 

Early stalls (1-3): Crash the mark and keep your distance close. Some might say this is a blatant infraction of the rules, but at the elite level it is common and widely accepted. Good throwers will take this as an opportunity to take an uncontested shot and good defensive players use this as a way to take away an easy look and to slow the offense down a bit. 

Middle stalls (4-7): Back up a bit and get active. Move your feet and hands and act like the disc is a fly and your hands and feet are fly swatters. Be aware of your surroundings and the throwers best options, and do your best to make them think twice. 

High stalls (8-10): Give extra room to avoid a crafty veteran player from looking to generate contact and a foul but don't stop applying pressure especially against weaker throwers. These are the stalls where I feel a marker can be the most dynamic. 

3. Know your opponent. Studying a team, and more specifically the exact match-ups you are going to have against a given team in a given game, to gain knowledge of throwing habits as well as strengths and weaknesses in advance will help you a great deal in planning your marking strategy. When I watch UltiVillage clips (shout out to Rob) or when I'm playing these teams and players these are some of the things I consider:

  • Q1: Does this team or player rely on making big breaks to run their offense?
  • Q2: Does he/she look for contact and cheap fouls at high counts?
  • Q3: Does he like his flick bomb or his backhand?
  • Q4: Do they like to throw and go, or do they want to hold the disc and look for a bigger and better option?
  • Q5: Are they a strong or weak thrower?

When you start to be more thoughtful and proactive when it comes to marking you can start to apply a great deal of pressure with your mark—no matter who you are playing against. 

4. Don't be afraid to be more dynamic on the mark.
At the start of every point of every game we are told what the force is, and as anyone playing elite ultimate knows, good team defense relies on holding that force. However, too often I see players give up easy throws at late counts just because they are doing what they "should do."" Some of the best markers, in my opinion, will abandon the force at late stall counts and high-pressure situations to stay with the thrower and try to take away his best option in an attempt to make them turn up field at stall 8 and throw something they didn't want to. This is especially true of weaker throwers. Use your brain, be smart and take chances to force high-pressure looks for the offense. Force your opponent to make the one throw he is least comfortable making. 

If every player on a team marks effectively, forcing the opposition to make numerous high pressure decisions and throws, it allows all the other players on their team to have a better chance at making the big play or their opposition to make a bad one. Good team defense begins with the mark.


huddle Issue 25 Tips On Marking

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

by Gwen Ambler

Twice, No More
by Lou Burruss

Two Simple Steps
by Matt Dufort

by Adam Goff

Tips & Insights
by Peri Kurshan

Preventative vs. Deceptive
by Brett Matzuka

Tricks Of The Trade
by Patrick Mooney

Team Marking
by Charlie Reznikoff

Defending The Area Around The Thrower
by Kirk Savage

Beyond The Fundamentals
by Ben van Heuvelen





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