Notes From A Contrarian Coach: Marking Differently (AKA Footblock Propaganda)

The case for introducing footblocks to fundamental marking strategy.

Dena Elimelech got a lot of blocks and altered a lot of throws with her feet at the 2019 D-I College Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford -- UltiPhotos.com
Dena Elimelech got a lot of blocks and altered a lot of throws with her feet at the 2019 D-I College Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

When I was in college, I would sometimes see other teams running three-person marking drills with their hands behind their backs. At the time, I thought this was silly.

Ostensibly, the point of running the drill this way was to force the marker to put their body in the way—they couldn’t use their hands to block a throw, so they had to move their feet. Gone was the temptation to lean over—a taboo of marking1—so their balance would be better.

The problem, as I saw it back then, was that running this drill forces you to mark differently than you would in a game. Sure, the bad temptation to lean is removed, but to actually block or disrupt the throw, you needed to shuffle much farther over than you would if you could use your hands.2 I didn’t like the drill because I didn’t think it was translatable and it could cause bad habits (learning to move farther than required on the mark).

In recent years, my thinking on this has changed drastically.


  1. And rightly so. 

  2. Of course this assumption ignores blocking throws with your feet, though in my defense that was not especially common back in the mid-2000s, at least as I remember them. 

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  1. Ariel Jackson
    Ariel Jackson

    Ariel started playing ultimate in 2001 and has competed for Columbia High School, Rutgers, Pike, Stanford, and Boost FC. He began coaching with Boost FC and the MLU's San Francisco Dogfish, before becoming a two-time national champion coach and two-time Club Coach of the Year for his work with Boston Brute Squad. He has an irrational affection for patches and electroswing; off the field he works in electrochemical energy research.

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