Tuesday Tips: 5 Reasons Your Deep Game Isn’t Working

Struggling to get it going in the deep space?

Brute Squad's Angela Zhu lets go of a backhand huck against the 2018 Eurostars.
Brute Squad’s Angela Zhu lets go of a backhand huck against the 2018 Eurostars. Photo: Burt Granofsky — UltiPhotos.com

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The good ol’ huck: an express pass to scoring opportunities. Why sit in traffic when you can jump in the fast lane? The answer: because if you’re not doing it right, it’s pretty dangerous.

And we all know what that looks like. Some days, the deep game just fails you. All the hucks in your offense seem to go awry. Or perhaps you could never get that part of the offense going to begin with.

Don’t worry. Today, I’ll be Dr. Deep. Step into my office and we’ll go over common causes of Deep Dysfunction.

1. Cuts Are Generating From Too Far Away

This is perhaps the most common cause of issues connecting long. This can be a system issue or an individual one, but both need to be addressed when encountered. Logically, the further the prospective receiver is away from the disc when they start their cut, the further the disc has to travel to reach them. It should also generally be assumed that the longer a huck must travel, the more difficult it is to complete.

To be fair, there are temptations that exist that put cutters in a position to make a deep cut despite suboptimal spacing. If you’re further away, you’re more likely to be fronted by the defender. You’re closer to the end zone. You’re less likely to see a last-back defender roaming behind you. The problem with these thoughts is, while they may be true, they are only about you and your likelihood of being open in the end zone. They do not take into account the requirements on the thrower, who now has a tougher job to get the disc to cover a longer expanse of field in time before the open window evaporates. Not everyone is lucky enough to be playing with someone like Anna Thompson who can casually rip an on-the-money howitzer of a forehand from a standstill to a deep-cutting teammate starting their move already a solid 50 yards away.

The remedy, fortunately, is obvious: start your deep cut from closer. In practice, however, this is a little more complex. In common offensive sets like vertical, horizontal, and side stacks, initiating cutters are often not close to the thrower by design. When a cutter has the initiative and wants to go deep, but is far away, they need to drive their defender under to create the space where they want it.

There aren’t hard rules here — sometimes, you’re poached and far away and you can just go, if only to draw defensive attention that creates opportunities for your teammates. But be mindful of how your spacing impacts the chances of your thrower getting you the disc and thus the glory.

2. Static Huck Syndrome

Deep Dysfunction can be a side effect of Static Huck Syndrome. And while it may look really cool when your favorite star player slings the rock from a standstill in a Captain Marvel-esque show of strength, that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to get things going. There are many reasons why it is better to huck from motion.

The first is separation. Getting open to get the disc is usually accompanied by getting separation from a defender. And when an open cutter gets a disc, there’s a great chance that, for a few seconds, they become an open thrower. This two- or three-second window after catching a pass with separation is the golden zone for bombing it.

The second is momentum. While not every non-static huck has momentum going towards the deep space, many do, and that kinetic energy can be sent up the kinetic chain and into the throw. That sounds fancy and complicated, but your body knows a lot of how to do this already. Just remember to apply that extra force to the torque. The rest can be found in another Tuesday Tips.

Finally, and perhaps most obvious when you think about it, but if the would-be deep thrower is getting the disc downfield — including, and perhaps preferably, on an upline cut by a handler — they are now closer to the space they want to throw to. This can help alleviate issues with cuts starting from too far away.

3. Poorly-Timed Cuts Or Positioned Non-Cutters

Like Static Huck Syndrome, this pair of related problems also tie in to deep cuts which start too far away. Sometimes, those cuts are too far away because they began too early, a common timing mistake for excitable targets. And other times, teammates are close enough to, or simply in, the deep space themselves, which wouldn’t be a problem if that didn’t also bring along their pesky defenders.

Timing cuts is a surprisingly difficult skill to master, especially on teams with a wide variety of skill levels. The platonic ideal is to time your cut with the thrower’s release so that you end up at the longest throwable range while going full speed. While it’s rare to have those stars align, you can practice this, and make sure to be attentive to your teammates when throwing and drilling with them. Get to know their range as a thrower and their speed as a cutter. Show them yours. It can be easy to float through a huck drill, just sprinting and hucking when it’s your turn, without much thought. But by being attentive, you can build a stronger connection between you and your teammates on the field.

Positioning can likewise be practiced. Cutters need to know where to go and urgently vacate space once their cuts expire. Having to run hard under after the sprint that usually makes up a deep cut is hard work, but it is vital to reopen that space for your teammates. But sometimes, it can be as simple as shortening the stack, moving the furthest players downfield closer to the disc, and creating more deep space.1

4. Hucking From the Sideline to the Same Third

The “thirds of the field” paradigm for the deep game has been around a long time, with supporters and detractors. The idea is that, if you divide the width of the field into three parts, you want the disc to start in a different third from where the cut and throw are targeting. This creates less difficult throwing angles.

Related: Tuesday Tips: Crossfield Deep Throwing

While I’m not here to push one side or the other, I will say that many hucks become boundary turnovers because they start on the sideline third and never go to any other viable part of the field. By aiming for a target in the same third, the thrower is opting to play a narrow field and increasing the likelihood of a possession-gifting error.

This is exacerbated greatly by windy conditions, which metaphorically tilt the field so one sideline is the low side and the other the high side. The disc tends to fly towards the low side, like a ball rolling down a hill, making throws from the low sideline particularly ineffective. In these conditions, extra value needs to be placed on throwing deep from the high side.

But in general, hucks straight up the sideline are challenging to execute and should be avoided. One of the thrower, the cutter’s beginning position, or cutter’s ending position should be across the field from the others.

5. Your Deep Throwers Aren’t Developed Enough

No mere mortal is born with the ability to curve a disc 75 yards to hit a target in stride. Different players have varying degrees of deep throwing skill, and sometimes, there just simply isn’t enough of it to execute the type of deep game your cutters are attempting. So when shortening the stack and getting into power position isn’t enough, it’s time to go back to throwing mechanics.

The finer points of extending throwing range and adding edge control are far too extensive to fit here — here’s some tips from Benji Heywood — but here are some common adjustments I’ve seen:

  • The disc should be gripped tightly, even to the point of denting it. The tighter the grip, the more force you can apply to the disc to give it distance and rotation with your wrist snap.
  • Power is generated most importantly by the snap of the wrist, not the swing of the arm.
  • Particularly for longer throws, the outside edge of the disc needs to be lowered, so the disc comes out with the side in the thrower’s hand higher than the opposite side. The disc will naturally flatten out its orientation during flight.
  • For additional power, throwers should twist, with their shoulders and chest initially pointing away from the target, but concluding facing the target.
  • Don’t overthink it. Most of the things you do for short distance throws apply for long-distance throws. It isn’t all that different, just further.

There are many different mechanical issues that could require different solutions, but take care to be attentive to practice habits and build up throwing ability. One way to do this is to first focus on throwing short and medium distances with more spin and more power. If you can throw the disc hard at those ranges, you can probably throw it far with a little practice.

So there you have some armchair diagnoses from Dr. Deep. If these tips don’t help clear up the issue, consult a specialist.

  1. Hint: this can be an effective way to create space to huck to when throwing against the wind. 

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