Coach’s Notebook: Assorted Thoughts From U23 Worlds

Various thoughts on the Under-23 Championships from Brummie.

The livestream from U23 Worlds was fantastically well-received and provided lots of entertainment for ultimate fans worldwide. Here are some notes from watching the live games, in hopes of sparking some strategic conversation:

Great Britain, Generally.

As many of you know, I’ve played for and coached Team Great Britain, so I always watch their games — especially those against US teams — with extra focus:

– The importance of simply catching cannot be understated. Two handed clap catches need to be drilled, as one-handed drops seemed to be far too prevalent. The opening game between GB and USA Open is a case in point. Nervousness about drops led to some USA receivers slowing on their catches; credit to the GB D-line for getting some huge layout blocks when this happened:

gb layout block

– The USA looked smoother and were able to generate more flow. GB seemed to prefer to isolate a single cutter at a time, making it easy for USA to poach effectively. USA ran a poach set off the GB side stack and it was very effective; GB failed to move the poaches or swing the disc.

usa poach

– In contrast, USA were moving the disc around the back very well, even when GB were shutting down all cuts from the stack. In their later semi final, GB played mostly vertical and horizontal against the USA, with more success.

– If GB Open could ever start a game properly, they’d have had a strong shot at the gold. In their semifinal, they yet again dug a huge hole for themselves; the same happened in their showcase games against the USA and Austria. In quarters v. Germany, they started strong and were able to get the upset victory. GB is a team that has highs and lows, moments of genius and madness; they are a team that lives by the sword and dies by the sword. It’s extremely exciting for the neutral, but they are not yet consistent enough to do the job. They consistently proved their ability to come back from a deficit, and might well have had the best D-line of any team at the tournament.

– Austria Open’s receivers brought down every 50/50 disc in the first half against GB, often under a lot of pressure.  They were really riding their luck in the first few points vs GB with some good backup play:

riding their luck, tip catch

– The switching poach zone from Austria was very effective at slowing down GB. GB not reacting well to the poaches, allowing Austria to put double or triple coverage onto the main GB receiver at times without ever punishing it by hitting the open player.

– Austria’s O-line showing a great blend of quick handler movement, strong 1-on-1 cutters, and “German” throws to the break side, but they were guilty of some other no-pivot throws bouncing over receivers:

incomplete no pivot flick

– Maybe they’ve been paying too much attention to Benji! I thought the Austria-O line started to get a little over-confident, leading to some poor options and a reduction in active cuts downfield. They had no answer for GB’s William Rowledge, and the Austrian O-line in general struggled to run with GB. Conditioning was an obvious difference in the second half; Austria just did not have the legs.

Fundamentals!

– Fantastic fundamentals from India; great pivoting and super aggressive offence! Sure, it doesn’t always work, but I’d absolutely encourage them to keep playing their style:

aggressive offense india

– Again, some poor concentration drops in the Germany v. Australia Women’s game. I thought catching skills were generally poor across all divisions. Drops are the easiest thing to fix and really players should be aiming for no-drop tournaments at this level. Definitely read Zip’s Tips for more on this.

– Beautiful flow from the Aussie Stingrays against Germany; even Sockeye was impressed:

flow from aussies 

Game of the Tournament — It’s Not USA v. Japan!:

– The game of the tournament for me was Australia vs Canada (Mixed). The Aussies were BIG, but the Canadians matched them physically. Strong reset defence and blustery conditions led to a high turnover game but a very entertaining one.

– Pulling from both sides was poor. If you can’t get the disc past the brick then you’re better off just blading / rolling it out the side.

– The Aussies played a hybrid zone where the women poached and the men played tight. It was fairly ineffective as the Canadian women were completely killing it in this game; they were open underneath for big yards all game long and excellent against poaches and zone.

excellent against poaches

– Far more effective was the five-person cup which was designed to prevent the give-go; see some excellent crashing by Aussie #24:

excellent crashing

– There was a layout handblock then a contested stall on double game point. This was a HUGE call for a Game Advisor to be part of. The fact that the call was ultimately retracted showed fantastic application of SOTG at the very highest level.

layout handblock

About that US – Japan Final…

– In the Women’s final, Japan looked to narrow the lanes, using wing handler marks to clog lanes and occasionally drop into the cutting position to double team. Narrow lanes meant more difficult throws, and the USA fell into the trap of trying to squeeze throws between poaches early on:

squeeze through poaches

– The Japanese ran textbook Cyclone offence with multiple options. For a detailed description of Cyclone, see my previous article on Buzz Bullets:

cyclone offense

– Japan’s pivoting was superb, and very well practiced. They catch and instantly pivot forwards, making it difficult to guard, and they pivot backwards to hit swings. Difficult for the marker to stop both options.

– However, we didn’t see USA adjust to the (far more dangerous) inside throw all game. Since Japan weren’t high percentage on those big around flicks, I’m surprised we didn’t see that adjustment from USA.

– Japan had the safest hands of any team at the tournament, by a mile. Team-wide, they made fantastic reaction catches to quick throws over short distances, often laying out at the same time. Impressive, and a huge contrast to some of the other teams.

– This is a spectacular huck from the USA’s Jesse Shofner. The really special part is the way that the disc slows and sits for the receiver (Jaclyn Verzuh) to run onto (or should I say jog). It doesn’t get easier than this for a receiver:

shofner huck

– Japan really struggled against the zone, coughing up the disc again and again and taking more and more speculative options; they were broken three times at game point. One reason for their struggles is that Japan often failed to have any players attacking the space behind the cup, leaving them with just one option: to swing and chip away. Because the US cup was so loose, this was no easy feat.

General Tournament Notes

– Levke Wal of the German Mixed squad only started playing a year ago. This year she plays not only with the German U19 & U23 squads, but also the senior German mixed team going to the European Championships this week in Copenhagen. Seriously impressive!

– There’s some ridiculous speed & athleticism on India too; I was loving the match up with the Irish high jumper!

layout d

– Game Advisors aren’t able to make active calls, and that seems to be a source of confusion for a lot of players. But they seem to be doing a good job so far on two points: they are keeping the games moving, and ensuring the correct application of the rules. For a spectator, it’s been great.

– I might be biased, but I loved the commentary (I’m sure I’m not alone): excited when appropriate, calm and informative otherwise, and none of the usual “what is ultimate?” nonsense that we’re bombarded with on ESPN.

– I LOVE the backflip celebration. Seriously awesome!

backflip

  1. Sion "Brummie" Scone
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    Sion "Brummie" Scone coached GB Open from 2010-2012, and also coached the GB World Games team in 2013, and the u24 Men in 2018. He has been running skills clinics in the UK and around the world since 2005. He played GB Open 2007-12, and GB World Games 2009. He lives in Birmingham, UK. You can reach him by email (sionscone@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@sionscone).

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