Tuesday Tips: Pulling Strategies For Any Wind

Quality pulls can make a huge difference for your defense's chances to earn a break.

UNC's Jon Nethercutt pulls. Photo: Alex Fraser -- UltiPhotos.com
UNC’s Jon Nethercutt pulls. Photo: Alex Fraser — UltiPhotos.com

Pulling is an underrated, incredibly important, and frequently difficult task for one of the seven players on every defensive line of a game. If you’re pulling for your team, you should be constantly reading both the wind and other team’s offense to try and learn what the best type of pull is to get their offense to a slow or disrupted start.

Unless your coach specifically asks you to do so for some particular defensive strategy, you never want to be bricking the pull. The golden rule of pulling is that it should land in-bounds; secondary considerations to that are distance, hang time, proximity to the sideline, etc. It doesn’t do your team any good if your pull almost landed precisely in the back corner of the endzone.

Here are some scenarios outlined with optimal pulling strategies.1

No Wind/Downwind

The no wind or downwind scenario offers the simplest pull with the most room for creativity.

These two types of conditions are grouped because any wind you have at your back will only help accentuate your pull. Generally, you should be able to get at least 5-6 seconds of hang time on a deep inside-out backhand pull when throwing downwind. Set up near the left sideline, and aim diagonally across the field to the right side of the far endzone. Assuming the pull is properly IO, the endzone is large enough that you have reasonable room for it to land inbounds. Ideally it will float long enough to allow your teammates to run down and have a defense set by the time the pull is caught. Reid Koss and Nick Lance provide excellent examples of this standard type of pull.

http://gfycat.com/SorrowfulSnoopyCopepod

http://gfycat.com/OrdinaryIdleHoopoe

Both #11s set up near the left sideline, and both of their pulls land near the front right cone of the endzone. Textbook.

When you have a stronger wind at your back, you can use it to aggressively force the offense to start on their own goal line. Brodie Smith employs this strategy (discussed in more detail below) pulling against Ironside in the 2012 National semifinal.

http://gfycat.com/AstonishingMetallicGraysquirrel

In a game where the first point took the better part of 20 minutes, this type of pull has several advantages. First, it forces Ironside to start from a dead disc with the defense already set (no free centering pass) and fight the full 70 yards upwind. Second, it allows the Doublewide defense to easily jog down on the pull instead of sprinting. This may seem like a negligible difference, but over the course of a upwind/downwind battle where teams either huck and play D, or try to grind out 50 passes for a goal, saving your team that early full-field sprint helps conserve energy for the rest of the game.

All that being said, some pullers prefer the deep OI backhand, spinning pull, or some other personal variation when in no wind or downwind. Whatever technique you use, so long as it lands in bounds and preferably hinders the offense from quickly eating up free yards, you will be an effective puller.

Crosswind (Right to Left)

Depending on the severity of the crosswind, you might still be able to get away with a hanging IO backhand. The risk that you run with this strategy (especially in stronger crosswinds) is two-fold: first, the underside of the disc could become caught on a gust and carry downwind out of bounds. If you try to avoid this trap by aiming your pull farther upwind to start, it could hurt you by potentially landing out of bounds on the upwind side. A different option is blading a forehand pull.

Blading pulls are primarily used to force the other team into one of the following options: a dangerous catch, a body block to stop the roll, or a sideline start, usually trapping that sideline. If you choose to flick blade a pull in this type of wind, you have a couple choices. You can set up near the right (upwind) sideline, and aim toward the middle or left side of the field. This gives you margin for error, but also gives the offense an opportunity to knock down the roll before it gets to the sideline. The other option is shown below. This pull from Ring of Fire’s Noah Saul accomplishes the goal of trapping Boston on the sideline to start, but concedes significant yardage to do so.

http://gfycat.com/FrayedTameGreyhounddog

If you have a powerful IO flick, that could be another effective method to both get your pull to float as well as mitigate the risk of landing OB. Keeping the upwind edge of the disc down with an IO forehand allows the disc to fly without being pushed downwind in the manner of an IO backhand.

Crosswind (Left to Right)

Boston’s excellent pull here significantly hurts Raleigh’s O line before they even pick up the disc. Taking advantage of both the crosswind as well as Ring’s line standing closer to the upwind sideline, Boston’s puller lasers a huge backhand blade to the downwind side, allowing Ironside time to set up a sideline force on the goal line; while the first pass is completed, it is forced to be fast and low to avoid the risk of being caught in the wind, and only a great bid prevents the first-throw turnover.

http://gfycat.com/ExcellentChubbyFalcon

The same logic as above applies here as well; in weaker winds, an IO backhand could work to prevent a flatter pull being carried out of bounds.

Upwind

Pulling into the wind can be the toughest task a puller faces. Throw too high and the disc floats entirely out of your control; too low, and you reward the offense with a short pull. Watch what happens on Doublewide’s first upwind pull in the 2012 semifinal.

http://gfycat.com/WatchfulFixedHorsefly

Tim Gehret releases the disc too low and flat, causing it to turn over early, turf and give Ironside an opportunity to score by only working half the field. The initial error is corrected on the next pull, which is released with more IO and air underneath the disc.

http://gfycat.com/TeemingThreadbareHerald

This pull almost makes it to the other goal line, an extremely impressive pull given the wind velocity against Gehret. Body torque also becomes much more important when pulling upwind.

Dylan Freechild does a good job of getting his entire body behind the throw in the following pull.

http://gfycat.com/HeftyFlamboyantGaur

Releasing the pull OI becomes an attractive option if the wind is simply too hard to put up a flat pull for any reasonable distance, but in most light wind, you will simply need to accept the shorter pull and use rolls or lateral placement to try and offset the yardage loss. Once winds get to around 15-20mph, pulls are going to turn over no matter how much IO you try to put on them.

I also highly recommend watching footage from this weekend’s AUDL Championship for more examples of good pulls. Madison and San Jose especially had some terrific pulls that really took advantage of the crosswind inside the stadium.

Takeaways

– When possible, always use the wind to help you (especially with a crosswind)

– Wind at your back will accentuate any touch on your pull

– Blades are useful options when trying to trap a team deep, on the sideline, or when the wind is simply too strong in any direction

– With a crosswind, a forehand can sometimes be preferable to a backhand

– Past a certain wind speed, there’s only so much anyone can do upwind


  1. When referring to forehands and backhands, I assume a right-handed puller. Apologies to all you southpaws out there. 

  1. Steven Wartinbee
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    Steven Wartinbee graduated Georgetown University in the class of 2015, where he captained the men's team, Catholic Justice. He currently lives and works in Arlington. You can contact him at swartinbee@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter @swartinbee.

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