Tuesday Tips: Identifying Opportunities to Lay Out on Defense

Cornell’s Lilly Mendoza and Stanford’s Aminata Kalokoh layout for the disc at the 2018 College Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

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This article was written by Lauren Ficek, a Case Western Reserve alumna, and submitted as part of our Tuesday Tip Jar program.

So you’ve learned how to lay out to catch a disc (or, if you haven’t, check out this past Tuesday Tips). That’s great! If you’re like me, you’re comfortable laying out to save a disc on offense but have some difficulty recognizing opportunities on defense. While baiting layout Ds should not replace good team defense, learning to lay out on D can bring your defensive game to the next level.

Layout Block

Before I break it down, let me preface with a few observations to keep in mind while reading:

  1. For the safest, most space-effective way to lay out on defense, be running in the same trajectory as the offensive player. For poachy Ds, make sure your layout angle avoids body contact with other players.
  2. Many layout Ds are a result of baiting, being on the break side of the offender, the offense miscommunicating about the force, or being just a step behind the offender. This is not a suggestion for good team defense, just an observation.
  3. It’s really hard to get a layout D if you are only faceguarding. Tracking where the disc is and when it is in the air is important.

In this article, gifs will be used to illustrate seven common ways to get layout blocks, keeping the three above observations in mind. Note: “inside space” is defined as the space between the thrower and cutter and “outside space” is anything else.

Defending Under Cuts: Taking the Inside Space

The most common layout D I see is on under cuts, with the defender taking the inside lane, initially positioning themselves on the break side of the offensive player:

Layout D on Under Cut

In this clip, it is difficult to tell what the force is supposed to be, but for the sake of my point, let’s assume it is force forehand. The defender (white) starts out behind her mark on the break side, positioning herself in such a way that she triangulates with her offender and the disc. As the disc swings, she is already one or two steps behind as her player makes an under cut. She starts out two steps behind, and to close that space, she has to lay out. Notice how she knows where her player is but is more closely watching where the disc is and when it is thrown. As soon as the disc goes up, all her attention is on getting a hand on the disc, knowing that her body will be between the offender and the thrower.

Layout D on Under Cut #2

This clip is fairly similar to the one above: the defender is slightly behind and on the inside hip of his mark, but he uses that opportunity to lay out. The main reason I included this clip was because it shows how the defender (blue) closes the gap. As soon as the throw goes up, he speeds up and has a clean layout D.

In both clips, a better throw may have yielded a completion, but that will likely be true in almost any scenario in which a layout D takes place!

Both of these examples display a defender who ends up positioned on the break side of their offensive cover. While typical downfield defense focuses on taking away the force side, these defenders are allowing their players a seemingly open force side cut, managing to close the gap before the throw is completed. If strongly guarding the force side downfield, it is also possible to get a layout D in the inside space by going around the offender or pausing to let them get a step ahead. Timing in this situation is crucial and difficult, though. Allow enough time to gain speed before the throw goes up, otherwise the disc will be too far away to get a viable layout D.

Defending an Under Cut: Taking the Outside Space

Layout D on Under Cut #3

If force-side positioning is maintained, as seen by the cutter defender (white) above, it is possible to get a layout D from the outside shoulder of the cutter. This can be tricky, especially if your offender does a good job of putting themselves between you and the disc. The more vertical1 the cut, the easier it is to get a layout D from this position. Although this clip doesn’t show the setup of the cut, it shows how early the defender left her feet. She appears to only be half a step behind her player, but watch her arm positioning at the time of the D. She reaches the disc a full forearm ahead of her offender!

It is advantageous to recognize that the offender has to get her entire hand around the disc while the defender only needs touch the disc enough to knock it away. The other part to this strategy is that your arm may enter the space in front of your offender. Be careful to avoid unnecessary contact!

Defending the Deep Space

Deep Layout D

Most of the principles for the deep space are the same as with the outside under cut example. Here, the defender (white) is multiple steps behind the offender, but her closing speed and full extension allows her to meet the disc before her mark. Many times, there is enough space between players that a layout is not necessary. Since there is typically more time to chase down a deep throw, the best principle to follow is simply to reach the disc first!

Defending the Upline: Taking the Outside Space

Upline Layout #1

Here is another example of going to the outside of the offensive player — this time on an upline cut. I recommend slowing this clip down and paying attention to the defender’s (red) right arm. Because it’s a relatively short cut and the two players are roughly the same height, the defender is in step with her player more than the previous under cut examples. The important part is that just her arm is ahead of her offender’s as she lays out, and she deftly avoids body contact.

Defending the Upline: Taking the Inside Space

Upline Layout #2

Here is another example of a layout D on an upline cut. You can see the defender (black) keeping his body directly between the thrower and the offender at all times, forcing the reset handler upline. As the handler commits to the upline cut, the defender turns his shuffling steps into a quick sprint to maintain his positioning between the offender and the disc. The defender is a step behind when the disc goes up, so to ensure he gets a hand on the disc first, the defender lays out.


Marking Layout

This layout D is quite different from the above examples. While the mark (white) is not running, notice the angle that she takes. The mark jumps horizontally, relative to the field, leading with her right hand as if she was planning to land on her right shoulder. There are three reasons for this.

The first is that the window of opportunity is really short, so by necessity it is faster to get there compared to laying out with her chest parallel to the ground. The other two reasons have to do with how the body is shaped. When the mark’s palm is facing the thrower, there is more surface area to block the disc. Additionally, with her eyes pointed towards the thrower, she can keep track of where the disc is for that brief moment. While this layout block would also be possible if the mark were forcing hard no-around backhand, you can see that she is marking straight up. Notice also how she pushes off her inside foot, giving her more power into the layout.

While this is no substitute for holding the force in traditional, fundamental team defense, some teams may opt to force straight up for a variety of strategic reasons: preventing deep throws, forcing the disc to be thrown to a less experienced handler, forcing difficult upwind throws, flustering a newer thrower, to name a few. In these situations, players on the mark can keep their eyes out for layout D opportunities.

These kinds of blocks are very rare and best attempted only if you’re confident the throw is going up: otherwise, you’re on the ground leaving the thrower unencumbered!

Poach Ds

Finally, here are two similar poach layout D examples. Take a look at both clips.

Poach Layout #1

Poach Layout #2

In both clips, the poach comes from the same area of the field, and the trajectory of the two throws are nearly identical. Do you notice anything about the execution? Take a look at the different angles each defender takes to get the D.

In the first clip, the defender comes in for the block from a similar angle as the intended receiver, but it varied just enough that he caused a collision. Along with that, he goes for the D from behind the receiver’s shoulder, right in her blind spot. The player in red has no opportunity to alter her path. Additionally, the defender’s contact causes the offender to spin out, and she hits the back of her head on the ground.

The second clip is a much better example of a safe poach layout D. The defender is coming from a completely different angle than the intended receiver, but here the defender is not diving directly into the path of the cutter. The angle of the camera makes it difficult to tell just how much space there is when the defender goes for the D, but contact is fully avoided.

Poach blocks have a lot of potential to be dangerous, and it is everyone’s responsibility to avoid making dangerous plays. The angle and timing of the second layout D gives enough time for the offender to change her momentum and keep this a safe play.


This article, of course, does not cover all situations and opportunities for getting a layout D. But hopefully it is easier for you to recognize opportunities to lay out! In summary, remember that running in the same trajectory as your offender, using those out-of-position situations strategically, and keeping an eye on the disc are three important steps to achieving a safe, clean layout D. Oh, and don’t be afraid to go for it even if you can’t quite get to the disc. In some cases, just your sudden laying out presence will make it more difficult for the offender to make the catch.

Keep practicing and one day you can make a play like this:

Layout D Opi

  1. towards the thrower, not a sideline 

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