Fifteen years ago, if you wanted to learn how to play ultimate, your options were pretty limited. Good coaches were few and far between, game footage was limited to a handful of grainy reels a year, and the full catalog of written instruction could be read in a matter of hours by breezing through a couple books and surfing some stray early blogs. If you weren’t lucky enough to enter the sport within an existing hotbed, trying to improve your skills was as much a challenge of locating information as it was of consuming, understanding, and putting it into practice.
In 2007, two coaches in Seattle — Ben Wiggins and Andy Lovseth — set out to change that, collecting the wisdom and experience of top players and presenting it on a site they called The Huddle. Every few weeks, they’d come up with a new topic to explore and solicit thoughts from a cadre of high-level coaches and players, finally giving aspiring talent access to the brainpower of the game’s elite.
In the decade since The Huddle went dormant, the thirst for strategic insight and learning tools has only accelerated. Coaching resources, video projects, training camps, and YouTube channels have all proliferated to try to sate that thirst. Heck, Tuesday Tips remains one of the most popular columns on our site. But despite the explosion in ultimate content, it’s still not often that newer or younger players get to hear directly from the biggest stars in the sport about how they approach or think about the game.
To fill the void, we’ve launched The Play Call, a new resource that aims to once again democratize the expertise of world-class players on how they improve specific skills or what they’re thinking about and focusing on in specific in-game situations. This month, we’re tackling the topic of how and when to switch or poach on defense.
Taking after some of the most successful programs of the last few decades, offenses throughout the country and at all levels of the sport have found ways to put their players in big isolated spaces and let them go to work in one-on-one matchups. Defenses have begun to implement schemes to combat this strategy, though they are not yet widespread or even fully understood. How do teams structure their defense to make use of smart switches, poaches, and help scenarios without getting punished?
To tease out the accumulated wisdom of our player panel on this topic, we gave our authors the following prompt:
One-on-one matchup defense is just not working for you this game. Either you’re outmatched athletically or your opponents are too dialed in with their throws or their cutting system is just too polished to not get stuck in impossible isolations. How do you set up your defense to know when and how and who to poach or switch so you aren’t always facing just seven one-on-one battles?
Here’s what some of the top players in the game today had to say.
The Play Call: Issue 3 – Help Defense is only available to Ultiworld Subscribers
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