Mailbag with Mario: Playing Time, Defense, and Triangle Marking

Mario O'Brien takes on some complex questions in this week's Rise Up mailbag.

RU Logo

This post is sponsored by Rise Up Ultimate.

Hey Ultiworld fans, this is fun and hopefully y’all are finding it useful! Keep the questions coming, either in this discussion thread or to me directly ([email protected]). To get some context on where we’ve been so far, check out the Mailbag with Mario Introduction and Mailbag with Mario #1.



I’m a rookie on my college team and I’m not getting very much playing time. What can I do to stand out over the rest of my team mates in a way that I can help the team?


Hey GO, glad to see you’re gunning to get better. Without knowing a ton of context about you and your team, this one’s tough to answer.  My number one piece of advice would be to tactfully revise your question and then have a candid conversation with your captains or coach about it. Here are some questions that coaches love to hear that could get you on the road to more PT.

  • “Hey captain, our team rules. I love it. I want to help us get better. Do you have some specific things I can be doing to help us win?”
  • “Hey coach, could you watch me during this break-mark drill and give me some feedback? I’m really working on ________ ”
  • “Hey captain, I’m really trying to find my role when we’re on offense. Are there specific things you want me doing that can help us be more successful? Could you maybe watch me this practice and give me some feedback?”

As a captain or a coach I LOVE when players ask me questions like this. This will hopefully get you some feedback on things you can be working on. Then, go work on them. Then keep asking for more feedback. Then do more work. Repeat, repeat, repeat… that’s what will give you the best chance to improve your game, which is exactly how you’ll get more PT.



Hi Mario,

RISE UP S6 Ep2 – Ben Wiggins: “There is a myth that floats around ultimate all the time that is hurting our next generation of defenders […] offense has the advantage in ultimate. The reason this is a problem is not because it’s not true […] but because it doesn’t matter. […] It doesn’t affect how we play.”

RISE UP S6 Ep6 – Nate Castine: “It is important to recognise that as defenders, we are at an inherent disadvantage. […] Disc movement, initiation, everything. It’s really difficult as a defender to step out on that field and say, I’m going to take over this game.”

Is it important to recognize the defensive disadvantage or not? Is it something we should talk about when coaching?


Sam, Sheffield Steal, UK

Hey Sam, fantastic question. That said, you might not like my answer.

You’re asking for the right and wrong (or in your case should we or should we not) of a philosophical question. Both Ben and Nate’s statements make sense to them in the context they’re presenting, meaning they’re both right.

In Ben’s big picture of how he teaches defense, he might not talk about or reference the idea of defensive disadvantage. That said, Ben and the rest of the great offensive players out there know how to create advantages (AKA defensive disadvantages) for themselves on the field. And from Ben’s perspective, teaching that the defense is at a disadvantage isn’t important to helping you become a better defender.

In Nate’s world — the big picture of how he processes and would coach defense — maybe you do need to acknowledge that disadvantage and use it to help inform what you do as a defender. It makes his other ideas and the skills he teaches make sense. It makes sense to him, so he teaches it.

Both Ben and Nate are great leaders and coaches. To me it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about acknowledging that both have found different paths to becoming and coaching effective defenders, and both arguments make sense when put in the context of everything else they teach.

So, should we as coaches recognize the disadvantage? I think the real question is, do YOU think we should? Why? In the way that you coach, in your context and based on what makes sense to you, do you think it’s important to recognize it? Is it critical to your philosophy or just a small piece of the whole? Is it more critical for some situations than others? What do you think is the impact of including or not including this idea in how you coach?

Every coach has their own set of philosophies and beliefs that inform what they say and how they coach.  Best practice in teaching says there are many right ways to teach in order to reach the end goal of learning. I think that’s the case here.

I hope that helps, thanks for your question, and good luck.



Hi guys,

I just watched the triangle marking progression episode from the RISE UP point of attack season. The sequence makes a ton of sense, but I do have a question. As it’s taught, the triangle is as follows:

1) Take away shown throw (the inside)

2) Shuffle to take away 1st pivot (the around)

3) Drop step and shuffle to take away 2nd pivot (inside)

4) Recover

While I feel like this is the sequence against a shown inside or a neutral stance, which is the case majority of the time since the thrower wants to see the field, what if the thrower is threatening an around? That would leave the sequence as:

1) Take away around

2) Shuffle to inside

3) Drop and shuffle to around

4) Recover

The drop step is adding time to react, but with the inside it seems like it takes you into the line of the throw naturally, while on the around it seems like it does not have that advantage. Thoughts?



Hey R,

Glad to see you’re thinking through this.

From my perspective, one reason you drop step away from the thrower is that since the thrower is deciding when to move first, they’re always going to be slightly ahead of you. If you try to mirror the throwers pivots and stay the same distance, they beat you. You’re always just behind. But if you drop away from the thrower just a bit, you have a slightly better chance to take away the most dangerous angle. It’s true that when you drop away, you’re giving up more overall angle (both around or inside), but your goal usually isn’t to take away all break throws. Sometimes it’s just to take away the angle that allows for the biggest gainer on the throw. Also, we’re talking milliseconds and millimeters here.

As a thrower who’s played against a lot of tough marks, I actually like it when marks try to stay close to me and mirror my pivots at the same distance, because they’re predictable and easy to misdirect to get the window I want. The mark that drops or changes spacing is more likely to get me out of my rhythm or comfort zone. That’s another reason these triangle concepts can be effective.

Another thing to think about is that great throwers break marks. Period. Doesn’t matter how good your triangle technique is. The triangle is a guide, but the best markers read a ton of other things about a thrower in order to set an effective mark. So, keep it in your pocket as a tool, but know that the triangle isn’t a rule, its just a helpful guideline to start from.

I hope that was useful. Good luck!

Always Building,


More from Ultiworld
Comments on "Mailbag with Mario: Playing Time, Defense, and Triangle Marking"

Find us on Twitter

Recent Comments

Find us on Facebook

Subscriber Exclusives

  • College Power Rankings, Presented By NUTC [February 21, 2024]
    article with bonus content
  • Presidents’ Day Invite 2024: Tournament Recap (Men’s Div.)
    Subscriber article
  • Presidents’ Day Invite 2024: Tournament Recap (Women’s Div.)
    Subscriber article
  • Huckin’ Eh Subscriber Bonus: Theo’s New 4v4 Rules
    Subscriber podcast