v 2.34 – July 2021
Concept first published 1st Jan 2013
Older version also available en Français (v2.1)
Hex is a naturally fast-paced offence, which flows organically and is a lot of fun to play. It is easy for beginners to pick up, and liberating for experienced players to play. Here’s what a well played Hex looks like:
If you want to win and have fun, follow these three guidelines:
1. Control your balance (technique)
2. Keep the disc moving (movement)
3. Maintain team shape (spacing)
Players work together as a team to maximise options, meaning there are tons of opportunities to get involved in the play. For beginners this means more disc time, less restrictions, and more fun. For high level teams this means the offence can adapt quickly to defensive change by utilising the spread nature and changing the angle of attack with quick disc movement. Training Hex will typically develop intuitive, well-rounded players who are comfortable with the disc and have a versatile skillset.
Here’s a 35 minute video (available to $1+ patrons) where Felix introduces Hex from scratch – where it came from, why teams are playing it, how it differs from stack, where it’s going, and how it fits into the landscape of modern ultimate frisbee strategy. This video serves as an “academic base” to help players learning hex to gain a fuller understanding and get on the same page as each other. Originally recorded in 2019, remastered for 2021.
1. Control your balance
In terms of individual technique, being in control of your balance whilst catching and throwing means you are in control of your body’s acceleration and deceleration as well as the flow/direction of the disc – a powerful combination!
When used to counter defensive imbalance and/or exploit space, a thrower who is prepared to throw’n’go in any direction after catching can generate flow and penetrate through defensive setups.
There are two basic types of throw: the pivot-throw, and the throw’n’go (or half-pivot). Pivot throws leave the throwers static, throw’n’go moves end with the thrower running. Pivot throws are useful for getting the disc around a defender and adding power, throw’n’go moves are useful for getting separation after releasing the disc, and offering an immediate return option to keep the disc moving. Pivot throws are more suited to low-tempo, isolation-based offences such as side stack, throw’n’go moves are more suited to high-tempo, flow-based offences such as Hex.
When give-go moves are strung together and the active player changes direction with the disc in their hands, this becomes dribbling. When done without travelling, and when supported by an offensive structure that spreads players around the field, dribble moves can be very difficult to stop and can result in uncontested scoring passes. Check out this analysis of Tyler Kinley from Sockeye dribbling against the champions at the time, Revolver:
2. Keep the disc moving
Sustained flow is very valuable and hard to defend against, so players should take any open pass available to them without hesitation, prioritising keeping the disc moving above gaining yards. The decision tree below is a guideline for how players should move, and where they should look, in order to have the best shot at keeping the disc moving. Hex players should try to internalise this decision tree, as it covers 95% of the situations they will face during a point on the field.
full image of the Hex Movement Decision Tree
In this video from 2018 I walk viewers through the steps of movement decision tree, and look at a point of hex being played from it’s perspective.
3. Maintain team shape
Most offences are defined by their structure (vertical stack, horizontal stack, side stack) as adherence to the structure is of utmost importance to the offence being successful. Hex prioritises quick disc movement, which is facilitated by maintaining good team shape. Players should keep good spacing between each other and the disc throughout their possession, as this will maximise their options for sustaining flow. Locally, players should make equilateral triangles, the overall team shape that forms with 7 players is a hexagon;
When a team focuses on maintaining their shape and keeping the disc moving, they can generate and sustain flow – as explained in this analysis of USA D3 team Stevens IoT;
Players should gravitate towards shape positions during play and when flow has stopped. Most of the off-disc movement in hex is purposeful repositioning to maintain shape and create space for each other, rather than cutting to get the disc or clearing to an inactive area. The shape will deform naturally whenever the disc or players move – it doesn’t need to be perfect, but shape maintenance is an ongoing task for each player which will benefit the team. “Shape Police” can be designated, whose task it is to oversee the shape during a point. The “hat” is the name for the central point in the shape, which dictates where the shape lies on the field relative to the disc. Note that the player in “hat” is expected to change frequently and fluidly during a possession.
The disc should be on the outside of the shape, and as the disc position moves across the field, the shape rotates a full 180 degrees – so when the disc is on the sideline, the central “hat” point is directly towards the centre of the field. In this analysis of Australian club team Outbreak Mountain playing Hex, you can see their shape deforms as their players gravitate towards more traditional areas like where a vertical stack would be, rather than maintaining their spacing and the hex shape;
Combine and train these three elements – technique, movement, and shape – with freedom, creativity, and teamplay – and you’ll not only enjoy training and playing more, but your team will develop faster and start to see great results. Youth coaches in particular often contact us to say their players have begun communicating and working together far more than they have done previously, and are enjoying the discovery process of implementing a more freeform offence. Elite teams are building upon the fundamentals of Hex, training transitions, recurring sequences, and moves which revolve around dribbling and quick disc movement, rather than cutting patterns and orders.
Here’s analysis of Japan using excellent technique, movement, and spacing to score a point against an elite US team at the World Championships:
Once a player learns how to play Hex well, their field awareness and game-sense develops to a point where transitioning to a more conventional, yards-based offence is a relatively easy step, and the two styles can even be combined in the same possession. Teaching players who have learned conventional stack-style for a few years how to play Hex can have it’s challenges, as there are many “fundamentals” which apply to one style but are counter-productive to the other. Traditional drills and techniques are designed with stack-style in mind, so training your team to play Hex means switching to incorporate flow-centric drills, techniques, and exercises. We have many years of experience with training Hex, and have documented a number of tried-and-tested drills and exercises which you can find linked below in our Training program.
You are also invited to join our Discord community ($1/mo pledge), where players and coaches familiar with Hex are actively discussing how to play, challenges during practices, sharing ideas, and asking questions.
When training hex, ensure you are dedicating time to the three main elements of the offence: Technique, Movement, and Shape. Hex (and ultimate itself) are in relatively early stages of development, so there are a limited number of tried-and-tested drills to train hex-style play. The training resources linked below are what we have been using since 2012 to efficiently and effectively train teams to play good hex – the How to Train Hex series should make your life as a coach much easier, and is available to $8/mo Training Tier patrons;
To get Hive Ultimate more directly involved with the development of your team – either to have a 1-to-1 chat, or to collaborate with planning elements of your trainings & your season, check out the higher tiers on Patreon. If you wish your team to all get on the same page at the same time, we can also look into running a Hex Clinic in your city. Emailto begin a conversation.
Optional: Key points for experienced players
- Shape: Avoid flooding downfield when the disc is on the sideline – “rotate” backwards so two players are behind the line of the disc, two players are level with the disc, and two players are downfield. This is easily the most common shape mistake as players are used to clearing downfield, but it can be helped by the thrower facing directly infield rather than looking down the sideline. The backfield should look a lot more like it does in football/soccer than it does in traditional ultimate, and aggressive attacking moves can start from behind the disc.
- Movement: Aim to release the disc in 1 second. Take the early open pass regardless of yardage or field position, and look to get the disc back as soon as possible. De-prioritise gaining yards, prioritise initiating and sustaining flow. Avoid looking downfield for plays to develop – holding onto the disc longer than 3 seconds is damaging for the offence.
- Technique: Follow your throw – when the disc is in your hands, instead of viewing nearby spaces as areas for your receivers to cut to, view them as areas which you can attack immediately after releasing a pass. Take the easy early option, and attack the space with your off-disc movement to receive a return pass.
Optional: Extra Videos
Here’s analysis of Manuela Cardenas from Revolution / Colombia, using throw’n’go techniques and dribbling;
This video shows New Zealand team Hammertron using their shape and balance control to provide multiple options to keep the disc moving;
What is Dribbling, and can it change the way the game is played? Motion Offence pioneer Frank Huguenard tries to explain how he sees it.
Do you still have questions, like: “How does hex handle a defensive look where the main cutting space is covered and cutters are being passed between defenders?” Felix’s Q&A answers that question and more:
Non-stop footage of Hex Offence in action
Footage taken from multiple different teams over a wide span of years.