St Andrews – the bright bubble

st-andrews-cathedral-black-and-white

Ruins of the cathedral – Google’s own interpretation of my original photo

Every year, one week before term starts, St Andrews have a “pre-season” week of trainings, and this year I was invited as a guest coach – primarily to disagree with the teachings of their regular coach (Benji Heywood – the tall chap who has been sorting out the UKU’s schedules and competitions for many years).

felix-coaching-st-andrews

Coaching the St Andrews club on their 3G

The city is beautiful, and far smaller than I had imagined. I quickly realised that my distorted view on its size was due to my being enshrouded in the world of Ultimate Frisbee for the last 16 years, and Flatball (the university team at St Andrews) have had a strong presence in the community for the majority of those years. In reality, it feels like everybody knows everybody – bumping into several friends on a night out is standard, and there’s a persistent sense of intellectualism – it was no surprise that the first pub we went to was host to several sets of Go boards & stones. and students refer to the town as “The Bubble”.

st-andrews-castle-houseBenji is the Director of Ultimate at St Andrews – more than just a coach. He invited me to pre-season with the hope that I would disagree with him on various frisbee matters – in order to offer his players an alternative perspective on the game, or beyond that, to show that there were not simply one or two ways of looking at things, and that they could and should form their own perspectives and opinions on the technical and strategic aspects of the game. I found that myself and Benji have, completely independently, come up with several identical drills, methods, and catchphrases which we thought were unique to our own styles. Fortunately we did also disagree on some points, and I was happy to jump in and bring this to the players’ attentions when it happened, and explain my alternative viewpoint and the thinking behind it.

felix-and-benji-on-beachThe players at St Andrews are a driven, enthusiastic, competitive and outgoing bunch. Smack bang in the middle of the training week – just after my day of teaching Flexagon Defence – was the pre-planned social evening. The drinking games were familiar, and although it was the first time I had played “beer pong” with water, soon after we were playing an intense round of SlapCup, and through some genius social engineering on the team’s part I ended up being the loser on the first round despite having an 0.8 ace average. The night was suitably crazy – as you would expect from a town which Hugh Grant has been banned from.

st-andrews-halls-of-residence

Fairly typical halls of residence

Along with the day on Flex (which was the first real ‘Flex Workshop’ – a model I’m exporting Europe-wide now), other sessions I took the lead on were centered around the “neutral stance”, give-go moves, and Hex Offence (which their second team exclusively played last year, getting them wins over Edinburgh and Aberdeen’s first teams).

Benji’s sessions were insightful and reassuring in equal measures, particularly interesting was his take on throwing dynamics, using the resistance force of the disc to exert more energy into the release. I have a lot of time for him and he’s doing fantastic work coordinating the club so they are all on the same page, pulling in the same direction and aware of their own history and development, year upon year.

st-andrews-pool-in-the-sea-2

Had a quick dip in this pool formed by the receding tide

I used to do a similar thing in Sussex, however at Sussex there are no ‘Director of [sport]’ positions, so club-management and continuity is more in the hands of the committee, whereas the coaches are expected to coordinate with the captains to run trainings in a manner conducive to the direction the club wants to go.

Both approaches have positives and negatives – for instance Benji’s more in-control role can potentially lead to a one-track view on the game; hence his decision to introduce an alternative viewpoint to his own at this year’s St Andrew’s pre-season training! Good to see such a holistic approach to training. Thank you Benji for putting it together – a great week with a great group of players, I wish them all the best for this coming UK Uni season and I look forward to seeing what comes of their Hex and Flex training!

 

felix-and-benji-on-bridge

Classic photo on the bridge at the golf course

UKU Club Nationals 2016

UKU Club Nationals 2016 is coming up on 20/21 August, and felixultimate.com can reveal there are some very exciting coverage plans currently being made! The UKU are currently putting together a media team to cover the event, including bringing in the 24/7 trucks which were seen at WUGC 2016 in London!

Regionals having been completed last weekend, below are the Nationals seedings just sent out by the UKU (Full schedules will appear on www.ukunationals.org along with other tournament information!):

Open Bracket:

1 Clapham
2 Manchester
3 Brighton City
4 Fire of London
5 BAF
6 Devon
7 Brighton Legends
8 Ka-Pow!
9 Glasgow
10 Chevron
11 Leeds
12 EMO
13 Reading
14 Flump
15 Bristol
16 Flyght Club

This is the first year that a new system has been employed, whereby the seeds are allocated to regional finishing positions based last year’s nationals results – e.g. because Chevron (N) and Manchester (N) finished 2nd and 10th at Nationals last year, the 1st and 2nd finishers from (N) regionals are seeded 2nd and 10th respectively – and with Manchester beating Chevron at Northern regionals, this means Manchester take the 2nd seed. Exciting pre-quarters to look out for are:

Ka-Pow v Glasgow
Brighton Legends v Chevron
Devon v LLLeeds
BAF v EMO

Leading to (likely) quarters:

Clapham v Ka-Pow/Glasgow
Manchester v Legends/Chevron
Brighton City v Devon/LLLeeds
Fire of London v BAF/EMO

Women’s Pools:

1 Iceni
3 SYC
6 Glasgow
8 Vurve

2 Nice Bristols
4 Leeds
5 Punt
7 Crown Jewels

Mixed Pools:

1 Reading
3 Brighton Breezy
6 SMOG
8 Birmingham

2 Black Eagles
4 JR
5 Thundering Herd
7 Cambridge

The aim is to have one, perhaps two pitches streamed live and in HD all weekend, delivered by the UKU Media Crew. Let us know who you want to hear commentating, and which games you want to see on the show pitch!

Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer

(c) Felix Shardlow v.0.1 12th June 2016
Last update: v0.2 – 26th June 2018

Also available in French / en Français

Part of a series:
Advanced Flex – Principles in Detail
Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication
Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer

For the first 3 seconds of the stall, the offence is looking for flow or continuation options. If the offence is playing well, these options are hard to prevent – nearby defenders should make efforts to contain the offence and prevent flow (or predict it and get a block), whilst other defenders not connected to the play should focus on establishing good positioning. If flow is halted and the stall count hits 3 seconds, the offence will look for a secondary, or reset option. At this point, the defence should already be working as a team to pressure these next options – using switches and sandwiches to ensure every player is marked with good positioning when the thrower looks up after 3 seconds.

With flow halted, if the PoNY defenders used a switch or a sandwich then the clear cutting option would have been denied, and the reset would have been marked quickly.

After stall 6, the offence will look for their reset or backup options, like a hammer, a break, or a yard-losing pass. All defenders should be minimising separation, or be sandwiching any offensive players who are near to each other – working together to be tight enough to all offensive players to apply pressure to the break/overhead/yard-loser that will be considered at stall 6. Reaching stall 6 doesn’t happen all the time, so the defence can afford to put in extra effort when it does.

Flow is stopped, the thrower looks at their reset at stall 3, they are marked out, so further options are looked at at stall 6. If the defence positioned themselves effectively as a team, the thrower would likely be left with no easy option.

If the defenders are all conscious of when the stall count reaches 3 seconds during a point, they can focus their efforts in a coordinated way – using teamwork to attempt to punish the slight offensive error of flow having stopped. By all being on the same page with regard to when / where they should be expending effort, the defence can save energy for the moments when getting interceptions are most likely, and then focus their efforts to generate a block as a team.

Defenders are positioned well and heads-up to switching to limit options. Tightening up late in the stall reduces the chance of flow being re-started after the disc is passed (sustainable defence). The defender with yellow shorts initially stifles the offence, but is a second late in tightening up.

The Force

The force should be ‘loose-tight-loose’ over the 10 seconds of the count – for stalls 1-3, the force should be loose and containing – ready to switch to prevent a give-go or up-line cut, and also preventing a ‘killer’ break throw or penetration move.
Stalls 4, 5 and 6 are when the force should be tight and aggressive – stopping the first ‘alternate look’ from the thrower, and applying pressure.
Stalls 7, 8 and 9 are when the force should loosen up a little again – preventing a ‘killer’ break throw and not allowing the thrower to draw a foul to reset the count.
Downfield, defenders should play tight-smart-tight against cutters – they should aim to be tight to their mark when the disc is caught (stall 0), then, if flow is halted, they should be smart and look for sandwiches / switches on stalls 3, 4 and 5, and if the disc still isn’t passed then they should make sure they are tight again at the end of the stall count when the thrower will be looking for the offensive player with the most separation to create an option.

Part of a series:
Advanced Flex – Principles in Detail
Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication
Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer

Source video of NexGen-Pony gifs:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVQ4l3zh73s

Macedonia – a land of red / yellow & green

intro

Macedonia is a complicated country politically, formerly part of Yugoslavia and with political tensions that fuel daily protests in the capital where I was staying; Skopje. I won’t attempt to explain the political situation, suffice to say it touches on US / EU relations, accusations against both the current government and the former government (now the opposition), and although everyone has an opinion, the strength and leaning of these opinions tends to vary – there are counter-protests alongside the protests.

The politics run deep – the newly constructed (in neoclassical style) buildings look impressive, but to the locals they often (but not always) symbolise mis-spent government money used to cover-up the countries problems, or re-write history from a nationalist perspective, or to put pressure on Greece for denying their place at the NATO table due to a naming dispute.
protest

Every night there are protests which run through the city, with hundreds of people, flags, and whistles. A few days before my arrival the presidential office was broken into and ransacked, and evidence of the protesting was shown by colourful vandalisation of the neoclassical architecture. At one point I was nearly caught between riot police and protesters – more photos in my Google Photos album.

map

 

Frisbee

The Ultimate scene in Macedonia is in its infancy – there are a small group of ~10-15 players (the Falcons) who get together to play when they can. There are a few other players in the capital who are also occasionally heard from, but nothing regular. The nearest countries with some Ultimate activity are Bulgaria, Croatia, and Serbia, each with relatively small scenes.

My trip was organised by 10 Million Discs, a worldwide youth sports charity headed by Trent Simmons. “We work primarily with the sport of Ultimate frisbee as it is the only sport in the world to have conflict resolution built into the rules, and is the first sport without referees to have received permanent recognition by the International Olympic Committee.” They got in touch with Krenar Qoku, founder of the Youth Council of the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, who took over coordination of the project in Macedonia on the ground. He found two local players keen to spread Ultimate – Borjan and Adi – set up a number of sessions in various high schools across the city, and then got in touch with the UKU about the possibility of a qualified coach coming over on the 10MD budget. The UKU got in touch with me, and then Krenar set about packing my 9-day schedule with as many productive opportunities as possible!

High school sessions

60 pupils at one of the high school sessions in Skopje

The high school pupils in Skopje are all enthusiastic and keen to learn & play a new sport played with a frisbee. Sessions would vary in size, with greater numbers at the schools in less privileged areas where options for extracurricular activities are limited. One of the benefits of Ultimate is the limited equipment needed – one disc can give a good game to 14+ players, however a few more are needed for drills. 10MD are in the process of getting 300 discs to Macedonia, but these hadn’t arrived by the time of my visit, so I packed 12 discs in my luggage and used these at the sessions.

Zef Lush Marku high school learning about throwing

Most sessions consisted of throwing around (with a couple of technique tips), a lead pass drill (where I throw out in front of the receivers, so everyone gets the opportunity to chase down a disc), and a game of Ultimate. Most of the students could understand basic English, or their classmates would translate for them, but if not then Borjan & Adi were able to translate. Running the sessions was partly about introducing Ultimate to the pupils, but mostly about giving Borjan & Adi some ideas for approaching the sessions which they can use in the future (as the project continues after my visit ends).

Explaining the basic rules to a local Youth group

The high school sessions were leading up to a tournament between the various high schools, to be held in a few weeks. Students really appreciate the opportunity to compete against other schools in a new sport where the playing field is effectively levelled.

As well as high schools, Krenar also arranged for me to meet various local youth groups, peace corps, and all other connections he had which might help spread the game further.

Macedonia Ultimate Federation?

Students from the Faculty of Physical Education

Krenar and I met Vladimir Vuksanovic and another colleague at the Faculty of Physical Education to talk about the high-level structure of sport in Macedonia, and how Ultimate could be officially started. The meeting was very promising – they had had experience starting sports in the country already from scratch, such as field hockey, so were confident in their knowledge of the processes.

Vasil Antevski Dren high school – Krenar is at the back with me, Borjan on far right next to Adi, with the school principal centre-front

To start an Ultimate Frisbee federation, at least 5 non-governmental organisations need to be associated with the sport first, and they had contacts for NGOs that might be interested. I ran a session with the pupils at the Faculty which went really well, and Vladimir & his colleague seemed very enthusiastic about the sport and it’s self-refereed nature. Hopefully this was the start of the process of the sport to being officially recognised & supported by the authorities in Macedonia!

Delivering the coach education course

Coaching Qualification Course

As a qualified UKU Coach Educator, I ran two longer sessions which Krenar had arranged for the weekend. On Saturday, I introduced the game to a group of local teachers, players, and interested individuals by running a session where I talked through throwing / catching techniques, and then ran many drills (with many mid-drill modifications) to give the participants a good idea of drills they can run with their pupils / teams to develop them as Ultimate players.

On the Sunday, I ran a coach qualification course, using UKU material but presenting a certificate on behalf of 10 Million Discs.

8 newly qualified coaches from Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia

For these sessions we were also joined by players from Croatia and Serbia who made the long journey to Macedonia. It was a pleasure meeting them and they ensured I stayed out far too late on Saturday night. They were already strong players, so I hope they will take the coaching knowledge back with them to help develop the scenes in their countries – they are now almost certainly the only certified Ultimate coaches there!

The Falcons -Skopje’s active local players

The Falcons

Towards the end of my stay I was invited to run a session with the Falcons. They are active players in Skopje who meet up when they can to play some Ultimate – usually only enough for 4v4, with no warmup or drills.

I took the offer as an opportunity to give the active players an idea of how the top teams train in the UK. After a warm up (which ended in competitive sprints), I demonstrated backhand and sidearm technique, giving each player some pointers for improvements whilst letting them know the strength of their current techniques.

Selfie with some of the Falcons

We went into a break force drill next (hit a cutter on the break side), which was something very new for a lot of the players, and then onto a down-line-to-huck drill, which flowed really smoothly. During the game a few strategies were introduced whilst we all slipped around on wet grass in our trainers! The benefits of studded boots were talked about at the end, after a traditional spirit circle.

 

Skopje nature

The streets in Skopje have plenty of stray dogs and cats. The cats mind their own business and are not interested in human interaction, merely concerned with survival – effectively living wild. The dogs on the other hand are keen to say hello and accompany you on your walk home – like your own personal guard dog, or just some friendly company for a short walk. In 1963 an earthquake hit Skopje and destroyed 75% of the city – many years later, there were so many stray dogs that they begun travelling in packs and attacking humans. They were all rounded up, tagged, neutered, and released back onto the streets. This has now allowed stray cat numbers to escalate.

Skopje is overlooked by a mountain, upon which a huge cross shines over the city at night (top right). I decided to venture to the top.

Many options for routes – I chose red, the steepest, and had to use my hands to climb at some points, but was able to run at others

This was a path near the bottom of the mountain

Looking back on Skopje before getting half way up. I walked from one of the high rise buildings on the far right of this photo just above the bush

Over half way up, looking back at Skopje

topofmountain

Incredible views from the top, plus getting to see what the Millennium Cross looks like up-close. For full pictures & photo-sphere versions, see my Google Photos album.

Ottoman-influenced architecture

Octagon-themed, rather than hexagonal

viewofvodno

Another morning, I was running on the other side of the city, able to see Vodno and the Millennium Cross in the distance before going over the crest

Looking away from Skopje had a sort of Japanese feel to it

Mountains in the far distance shrouded by clouds, and luckily a bird passing by

 

Round-up

Borjan Gerasimovski receiving his coach certificate & qualification

The visit just scratched the surface of properly introducing Ultimate to Macedonia, however some great connections were made, and some good methods for running all kinds of sessions were passed on. The newly qualified coaches have the potential to increase the player base hugely, and with some administrative work there is a route for an Ultimate Federation of Macedonia to be set up. If I visit again, I can see delivering more coaching courses would be hugely beneficial, especially if we coordinate with all the contacts made during this trip to ensure the courses are well attended by people who a sure to spread the sport wherever they go.

Andrijana Kolevska receiving her coach certificate & qualification

I introduced the sport to ~150 12-18 year olds whilst in Skopje, hopefully they will be able to support future projects in some way, and possibly with the introduction of discs from 10milliondiscs.org and the excitement of the tournament, they will end up starting their own teams at very low cost.

krenar-certificate

Krenar Qoku receiving his coach certificate & qualification

My advice to the local players was to create a regular day of the week for practice to encourage the playerbase to grow, and aim towards a particular competition – possibly EUCR-East next year. I hope Borjan and Adi keep up their efforts to build the scene, and I remain keen to help them in any way I can!

After this positive experience, I look forward to my next opportunity to introduce Ultimate & coaching techniques abroad (and explore the nature nearby)!

Serbian & Croatian players who attended the coaching course weekend

Thanks to Trent, Krenar, Borjan, Adi, and all the teachers, pupils and faculty members that made the journey possible & enjoyable. I hope the good work continues and I hope to see you again soon!

All photos from the trip are available here – including photo-spheres of some amazing areas!

Flexagon Défence (Français)

(c) Felix Shardlow v.0.97 28/04/2015 – translated by Florian Gailliegue

Followed by:
Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication

Intro

La Flexagon appréhende la défense sous un nouvel angle, en combinant des éléments de défense individuelle et de défense de zone. La Flex n’est ni une « indiv » ni une « zone », c’est un hybride avec ses propres règles et principes. À l’ultimate, l’attaque a l’avantage, et prendre l’ascendant en défense requiert une combinaison d’athlétisme, de positionnement et de travail d’équipe. La défense individuelle est orientée vers l’athlétisme et la zone sur le positionnement, la Flexagon quant à elle met l’accent sur le travail d’équipe avant de capitaliser sur tout mouvement ou positionnement inefficace de l’équipe en attaque

Les 3 Principes Flex

  • Communiquer
    • Eye contact – rester en alerte
    • Utiliser des gestes
    • Utiliser des mots
  • Switcher / Encadrer avec un partenaire lorsqu’approprié
    • Être prêt à changer de marque (switcher) – anticiper les déplacements de l’attaque si possible
    • Ne jamais laisser le joueur sur lequel vous défendez sauf avec la certitude qu’il sera couvert, et si vous savez sur qui vous devrez défendre dorénavant
    • Encadrer (« sandwicher ») des joueurs près l’un de l’autre
  • Couvrir tous les attaquants en équipe
    • Chaque défenseur doit marquer un joueur spécifique sauf si encadrement (ne pas défendre un espace ou une position)
    • Ne pas laisser d’attaquant non défendu
    • Recevoir de l’aide si vous essayer de défendre plusieurs joueurs
    • Éviter les surnombres défensifs

 

Positionnement

flex1

Les positions sont grandement flexibles parce que largement dépendantes des positions prises par les attaquants, cependant la structure sous-jacente peut être décrite comme un 2-3-2.

  • 2 forwards (avants)
  • 2 wings (ailiers)
  • 2 backs (arrières)
  • 1 hat (joueur central)

Les termes de « forward » et « back » font référence au sens dans lequel vous voyez le terrain avant un point; les « forwards » sont comparables à des « défenseurs de handlers », et les « back » à des « deeps sur une défense de zone »

Les positions peuvent et devraient changer durant une possession ; fréquemment il est plus logique pour un défenseur de suivre sa marque tandis qu’il se déplace sur le terrain plutôt que de switcher ; les autres défenseurs doivent s’ajuster en fonction. Un défenseur peut débuter un point en tant que « back » et finir « forward » en passant par « hat ». Respecter les principes rend ces changements de postes dynamiques possibles.

Si l’attaque adopte une formation 3-4 alors la Flex ressemblera aussi à une formation 3-4 ; plus à ce sujet dans « Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies ».

La force, si le disque est près du milieu alors la force est « middle », si le disque est près d’une sideline alors la force est « line », ça laisse des joueurs de chaque côté de la force dans les deux situations. Ce n’est pas systématiquement un « forward » qui place la force, quand le disque est près d’une ligne il est plus probable qu’un « wing » s’en occupe, selon les positions occupées par les joueurs sur le terrain.

Switcher / Sandwicher

Quand les attaquants sont proches les uns des autres, ils ne sont pas positionnés efficacement, et la défense se doit de punir cela en les encadrant (“sandwitchant”) tout en Assurant d’être autant de défenseurs qu’il y a d’attaquants. Si au contraire les attaquants sont répartis sur le terrain en utilisant l’espace à leur disposition, une défense serrée est plus adaptée. Il ne faut pas tenter de sandwicher.

Lorsque des attaquants se déplacent l’un vers l’autre ou vers les défenseurs, la défense doit punir ces mouvements inefficaces en switchant leur marque. Cela conserve l’énergie et créer des opportunités de block puisque le défenseur arrivera d’un angle inattendu. Si les attaquants se déplacent vers un espace il n’est pas conseillé de switcher.


Pour aller plus loin

Des articles sur la Flex avancée son ten train d’être publié;
Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication

Vous souhaitez des vidéos montrant la Flex en action, ou des explications orales et autres? Restez informez en souscrivant à Hexagon Ultimate YouTube channel.

La Flex en action face à FWD aux championnats européens – avancez jusqu’à 37:48:

GB Mixed U23’s utilisa cette défense aux mondiaux 2015, plus de vidéos de Felix expliquant la Flex à l’équipe seront uploadées sur la chaine Hexagon Ultimate sous peu (en dessous une vidéo de la première fois que cette défense a été présentée à l’équipe).

La Hex/Flex en action contre le Japon aux mondiaux:

Advanced Flex – Part II: Communication

(c) Felix Shardlow v.0.2 4th May 2016
Last updated: 9th July 2021

Also available in French / en Français

Part of a series:
Advanced Flex – Principles in Detail
Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication
Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer

Good communication within a team is essential for good teamwork, combined with trust in your team mates communications. When you receive communication from a team mate, you should immediately act on it, and then re-assess the situation. Very rarely should communication from a team mate be assessed before being put into action.

Communication should be near-constant during a point of Flex, when team mates are within range of each other. If any of the principles are being disobeyed then there should be a lot of noise on the field – if an offensive player is unmarked, all defenders should know about it and be working together constantly to remedy the situation. If it’s becoming possible to surround the opposition, or if their positioning indicates a switch may be possible soon, communication should already be happening.

The 3 ways to communicate in Flex

  • Eye-contact – opens the channel of communication between two defenders
  • Gesticulation – directs attention to a particular area or person
  • Vocalisation – gives detailed information or instructions

Eye-contact between defenders should happen whenever they have the opportunity – usually when their marks are not moving and they are re-assessing the situation. A moment of eye-contact has multiple immediate benefits:

  1. Communication channel is opened. If there is anything you or your team mate wish to communicate to each other, you have each others attention so are able to do so, through facial expressions, gesticulation, or vocalisation. A neutral look saying “everything is OK” is useful in itself.
  2. Each defender gets knowledge of their teammate’s position, and the position of their teammate’s mark. They also know that their teammate is aware of their situation – which pre-empts opportunities for switches or sandwiches.
  3. Defenders are put “on the same page”. The chance for miscommunication is minimised, and a good base for teamwork is established.

Gesticulation conveys more specific information, and can be recognised by many defenders at the same time. Usually the meaning of any gesticulation is self-explanatory when combined with player movement – here are some examples:

  1. Pointing to an offence player or players – depending on the context, this can either mean you are marking them, or that your team mate should mark them. Pointing to two or three players (by using two or three fingers) is a quick way of initiating a surrounding setup with teammate(s).
  2. Open-hand gesturing can be used to indicate what area you are covering in a surrounding setup, and to move defending team mates around to improve coverage.
  3. During a switch, pointing is best used to indicate the player you are leaving (who your team mate should immediately mark tightly), but can also be used to indicate the player you are picking up. Your movement serves as an instant clarification – the fact that you are making an effort to communicate indicates to your teammate that they should react to your movement.

Vocalisation is the most flexible form of communication, and can be reach all defenders within earshot, essential when they are occupied or when their back is turned. Any information conveyed vocally also carries with it information about where on the field the shout is coming from, and the tone / volume of the shout indicates the level of urgency. Shouts should be accompanied by gesticulation where possible, to give more specific information to team mates who have you in their field of view, or who turn to look when they hear the shout. Here are some shouts which have proved to be useful in Flex:

  • “[name]” / “yours” / “mine” / “I’m here” / “you’re there” – most direct way to get a teammates’ attention is to shout their name, when combined with gesticulation the intention is usually clear. Other short phrases are used to clarify basic responsibilities quickly, and to let your teammates know you are prepared to switch or surround.
  • “1”, “2”, “3” etc – indicates the number of offensive players you are covering. If the player you are marking is isolated or you wish to stick 1-to-1 to them for any other reason, a shout of “1” will clarify this with your team mates. If two offensive players are positioned in close proximity, a shout of “2” indicates the defence can form a two person bracket, and should be echoed with a “2” shout from the other defender. Similarly, a shout of “3” or more should be echoed by the other defenders who are involved in the surrounding setup.
  • “Count” – if defenders are being too quiet in a surrounding setup, and you are looking for reassurance that they are on the same page, “count” encourages them to assess the situation and shout a number (even if they decide on “1”).
  • “Surround” – as soon as you notice an opportunity to surround, bring it to everyone’s attention.
  • “Push” – used to move nearby defenders away from you. This is useful when you realise you are both covering the same space, when the surrounding setup needs to be adjusted, or when you see an unmarked offensive player the other side of a team mate. When you hear “Push”, you should initially move directly away from where the voice came from, before reassessing the situation. Example animation here.
  • “Pull” – the opposite to ‘Push’, use “Pull” when you want defenders to come towards you, or to an area near you. This is useful when you find yourself covering two or more players, or when you can see an unmarked offensive player nearby. When you hear “Pull”, you should initially move towards where the voice came from, before reassessing the situation. Example animation here.
  • “Left/right” – can be used to move a team mate when you are out of their line of sight. If a team mate has their back to you, your left is their left, so directing them with left/right shouts is relatively straightforward. When they are facing you, gesticulation is more effective. Left/right shouts are also useful for communicating with the force.
  • “Switch” – a ‘switch’ call is common and used when two defenders wish to swap their marks. Switches are ideally called when you know (a) who your new mark will be, and (b) that your old mark will be covered, and often the movement to cover a cut will happen before the utterance of “switch”. Silent switches should be avoided, unless they are pre-empted.

Sideline

Most communication in Flex is done on-field because everything happens so quickly and dynamically. There are a number of ways the sideline can help:

  1. Up shouts for every pass. The length and tone of the “Up” shout can help convey the type of pass made. This is very useful for players who aren’t in a position to actually see the pass being made – it lets them know the angle of attack is changing, the stall count is resetting (see Advanced Flex Part IV: The Stall-3 Game Changer), and that the disc is momentarily in the air so an immediate throw is not possible (a good opportunity to check disc position).
  2. Identify and alert players to any situations where an offensive player is left unmarked, a surrounding setup is unbalanced, or a defender is marking two players.
  3. The thrower’s focus – let the defender nearest to where the thrower is focusing their attention know that the thrower is looking, so they can be extra vigilant. Shout the name of the defender of the next player you think will be looked at.
  4. High stall counts – lots of noise & “here it comes” from the sideline to let defenders know a pass is coming very soon, so they should tighten up to their mark and be ready for the unexpected. See Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer to learn more about how the defence should change the way they are marking depending on the stall count.

Part of a series:
Advanced Flex – Principles in Detail
Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication
Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer

Felix going to Macedonia

Felix will be flying to Macedonia on 3rd-12th May 2016, to run a few workshops with teachers / students, and several sessions in high schools in Skopje, under a program put together between 10milliondiscs.org and the US Embassy in Macedonia. The Ultimate scene is just beginning over there, so Felix will be bringing over some discs and talking to players, coaches and organisers about how to play, how to coach, and how to set up sustainable systems for Ultimate clubs, leagues, and tournaments in the country. He’ll also be discussing his experiences in the UK University scene, and what can be used from these to build a scene in Macedonia!

Mixed Tour 2 2016

Videos from Mixed Tour 2 2016 are up, including the FINAL between JR and Brighton Breezy – follow ‘Videos -> FelixUltimate YouTube’ through the menus.

Uni Nationals 2016 Footage online

Push Pass have just published 18 games from Uni Nationals 2016 online, follow the Push Pass Videos link in our menu.

Advanced Flex – Part I: Counter-Strategies

Also available in French / en Français

Last updated: 8th July 2021

Part of a series:
Advanced Flex – Principles in Detail
Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication
Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer

Flex vs Vertical Stack

If the opponents create a tight vertical stack, you should surround the stack.

The 5 players guarding the stack are basically playing a 5v5 surrounding game. When an offensive player cuts out of the stack, a defender marks them tightly, and the other defenders communicate and reposition to account for the fact it’s now a 4v4 situation. This transition happens as soon as there is space between the offensive players, and the sandwiching/surrounding players in the 4v4 should continue to be ready to switch with the defender in the 1v1 – for example if the offensive player cuts deep for a few steps and then comes under, a defender towards the front of the stack should be prepared to switch onto the isolated cutter if appropriate.

At the front of the stack, the defender on the break side should be marking tight to the front, whereas the defender on the open side can take a few steps off. This prevents the quick pass to the break side, and puts the open side defender in a good position to mark whichever player cuts open side first.

The faster the defence can reposition after each cut, the less chance the offence has to exploit holes in the setup. Avoid having two defensive players mark one cutting player, as this creates an unbalanced sandwiching situation (e.g. 3v4), which is a weakness for the defence.

The players marking the stack can choose to split duties, for example from a 5v5 sandwich, into two sandwiches – 2v2 and 3v3. They might choose to do this in the case of a pre-existing imbalance, such as the offence having a few ‘superstar’ players, or when playing mixed gender ultimate.

As players clear out and rejoin the stack, the 1-to-1 defenders should rejoin the surrounding setup. As the number of players in the stack reduces, the surrounding defenders should tighten up – when there are only 2 players in the stack, the defenders should only be a couple of steps away from them, but when there are 5 players in the stack, the defenders can be five steps away.

Flex vs Horizontal Stack

Horizontal stack from the centre of the field has fairly good spacing, so an initial surrounding setup is not appropriate. Trying to have a deep & under poach when the disc is in the middle of the field leaves the offence with too much space, which they can use to split defenders and create separation. Defenders should start tight to their marks, and look for switches after the first cuts are made. The typical peppermill or diamond cutting patterns from horizontal stack have a weakness which can be exploited through proactive switching – more details on how to train players to spot these opportunities is in an $8 Training Tier video – the Conical Switching Drill.

If the disc is being brought into play from the sideline, the two deepest offensive players on the far side are so disconnected from the play that it is possible to bracket them effectively.

Flex vs Side Stack

Similar to marking vert stack, but use the sideline as your friend as the offence can’t cut in that direction. Advanced: nominate a deep poach who is looking to help out when an isolated cutter goes deep. The fact that the defenders have to cover 50% fewer angles from the stack means that the defence can afford to have one defender leaving the stack to stifle the space deep. This is not strictly part of Flex defence, but a specific poaching tactic which can be used effectively against side stacks. Communication and awareness of all the defenders on the field will have extra challenges when a deep poach is added, as when the stack breaks down the poaching defender needs to find their mark, and the defenders marking the stack are outnumbered.

Flex vs Stack in the endzone

When the opponents work the disc up the field against Flex and approach the end zone, often they will transition into a vertical stack to try to open up the space. Flexing defenders should automatically surround this stack as they would against a typical vertical stack offence, overloading the front slightly more than usual, stifling the space, and generating confusion & chaos.

Part of a series:
Advanced Flex – Principles in Detail
Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication
Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer