Tuesday Tips: Five Great Give-and-Go Situations

The give-and-go is a powerful move in ultimate.

Molly Brown's Jesse Shofner. Photo: Kevin Leclaire -- UltiPhotos.com
Molly Brown’s Jesse Shofner is one of the game’s great give-and-go artists. Photo: Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

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The give-and-go is a powerful move in many sports. It is dynamic, fluid, and has several key advantages for the offense. First, it often catches defenders by surprise. Transitioning from a fairly stagnant, standstill mark to a chasing defender often means trailing by a step. Second, it creates space in new ways, often leading to a power position and a big throw or even an immediate goal. Finally, give-and-go moves are fast and create movement, which helps offensive flow; even if the give-and-go was only a small attack in a safer portion of the field, it can often lead other players to key off the movement, allowing them to open up attacking space or push further afield.

However, just because the give-and-go is a great move much of the time, does not mean it is a great move all of the time.

In fact, many an inexperienced player will get overly excited, immediately attempt to get a pass back after they throw one themselves, and in that moment completely cut off their teammates, clog the lanes, or create unexpected turnovers in tight windows.

So then, be deliberate about when and where to give-and-go. Think about the best situations to do this, plan with your teammates, and practice accordingly.

Here are five great give-and-go situations in ultimate.

1. After the long huck that doesn’t get to the end zone.

The warning-track huck is often a bane of ultimate offenses. It’s such a big yardage gainer, but failure to score on that initial throw can leave offenses in shambles. Too often, with offensive flow completely broken, every person sprints to the end zone, hoping for the quick goal.

In reality, as many veterans know, hitting a teammate running directly past the person with the disc is actually one of the hardest throwing angles to successfully achieve. Therefore, a way better option is to give-and-go, with a quick dump throw.

Most teams don’t like to do this, but having the very first trailer get a dump, instead of going for the score, is the highest percentage option. Not only does it reset the stall, but then the original target can immediately bust into a seven cut (again do not run straight deep) for the score.

This catches defenders off guard as well, as most smart defenders fall off to leave the thrower open. They will be taken unawares as the person they were originally guarding dumps, cuts, and chooses a side for an easy upfield score.

Simple, effective, and a great team strategy to have in your head.

2. For the free side force swing.

Another very easy pass to execute is the open swing to the force side. Most defenses don’t contest it too strongly (some will even poach off it), as they tend not to mind a reset going to the tighter side of the field.

That, therefore, is a very good reason to initiate a give-and-go and catch the defense napping.

If you can throw a wide-open swing to the force side, don’t be complacent, and don’t hesitate. Instead, immediately make an upline strike cut. As crafty as they come, this give-and-go can often give handlers power position if they’re quick enough to make the move. 

A fast dish and fly upfield will at the very least get the defense moving or switching. In the best-case scenario, you’ll get the disc with power position. In the worst-case scenario, you have likely taken initiative over the defense and can cut back for a much more successful centering pass or can initiate a handler weave.

The next time that free swing is on the horizon, both players should be ready for a quick bounce back give-and-go play.

3. After catching the pull.

This is one of the less expected give-and-go opportunities, but if turned into a planned play, it can be extremely effective.

You can actually catch a few AUDL teams doing this with various regularity. The setup goes like this: a very fast player (usually a handler/cutter hybrid) catches the pull and throws a centering pass. The defender of that player, sprinting down in coverage, is then shocked to find that “handler” sprinting deep. This can be especially brutal, not only because it is a big change in direction, but because it doubles the sprint length of the defense.

If the defense doesn’t know your team personnel, even better, as most people covering the pull expect the player catching it to be a fairly passive individual who tends to trot up the field into reset position.

Instead, take off deep. More than half the time, teams will be caught so off guard that an accurate huck can hit someone open by a step or two. Defenses may have last backs looking to guard against immediate hucks, but even if that is the case it will open up free underneath passes to a variety of looks.

4. In the tea party.

The tea party pass game is when two players find themselves both open near each other at the same time. They can then proceed to flip quick dishes back and forth up the field until the defense is able to catch up.

This can happen in a few different situations; perhaps a defender made a big bid and missed a play or someone was caught napping or poaching. Or a defender might be severely behind, chasing the offense. However, this occurs most often when there is a short breakthrough in a zone or poach defense.

In this case, suddenly the offense has outnumbered the defense and is in a fast break behind the zone lines. It can be tempting for players to go deep, excited about a huck. This is most likely exactly what the defense hopes for, as they’ll have a monster last back pleased as punch that you’re throwing right to the end zone.

Instead, see the field and the middle ground of space you have created. Have players away from the disc go deep to stretch the field, but don’t throw it there. Instead, milk the space for as much as its worth, moving up the field quickly before the defenders behind you can catch up.

Beware staying in the tea party for too long, though. Eventually, the defense will find you and clam down, and getting too cute with the disc can not only hog the ball away from other open teammates, but can lead to silly turnovers or very easy blocks from defenders running into the area.

5. For the breakside cutter throwing wide to the force side.

Most cutters don’t want to run give-and-gos. Especially if you’ve just gotten an under cut, you don’t want to run in front of the strong throwers and block those lanes. Likewise, most handlers don’t want to throw-and-go after an upfield throw, as they want the offense to have a chance to possess and advance in flow.

Cutters on the break side, though, have great give-and-go opportunities with their handlers.

Getting the disc on this side of the field likely means your team was already able to circumnavigate or break through some of the defensive pressure. Flow is less likely as well, as most cuts aren’t set up for this kind of attack (although that being said, if you can get cutters with heads-up play who will cut to the break side, and you can continue making those throws, go do it and have the easiest offense you will ever see).

If the situation arises where a cutter has a chance to throw from break side to force side (say in an upfield cross pass or a big swing), this is their time to take off. A clear would be expected anyway, but now you’ll be able to race deep in dead space in the offense. Your fellow teammates will already be running cuts to the other side of the field, so there is little risk of interfering with them. And, you catch your defender unprepared as you use your speed to defeat them.

Keep in mind this is a two-step give-and-go. You likely aren’t going to get the very next pass. Instead, you’ll get the pass after (a hockey assist, if you will). You’ll throw the swing or cross-field, that player will hit an under cut or another swing, and then you’ll be in position. 

Deep space, if open, is beautiful here, as you’ll be racing with hopefully a step or more on your defender. If that doesn’t work, you can get a massive under cut, as you cross the field, plant, and turn back toward the under force side.

Don’t run this maneuver after a short dump. The timing won’t be right, as you’ll likely need three or four passes to get the disc to someone in the right position. Instead, key in on those opportunities where you have a lane deep and have just made a good long throw to take advantage.

Be smart and give-and-go

There you have it. Five clear situations to move quickly after getting rid of the disc.

The more you can practice these with teammates, the better the timing will be as no one will miss an opportunity with the surprise of your speedy movement. Turning a few of these into practiced plays can make scoring opportunities even easier.

With the knowledge and situational awareness, your own offense will be clicking every time.

  1. Alex Rummelhart

    Alex "UBER" Rummelhart is an Ultiworld reporter. He majored in English at the University of Iowa, where he played and captained IHUC. He lives and teaches in Chicago, Illinois, where he has played for several ultimate teams, including the Chicago Wildfire and Chicago Machine. Alex loves writing of all types, especially telling interesting and engaging stories. He is the author of the novel The Ultimate Outsider, one of the first fictional works ever written about ultimate.

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