Hexagon Offence v2.34

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:

Is this good offence or bad defence? Check out our analysis of the defence in this clip

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.

If you’d like to introduce Hex Offence to your team, check out this video and join the Training Tier of our Patreon to receive a new training drill video every month!


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.

Training

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.

Further reading:

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.


Next: How to Train Hex

Amsterdam Hex Clinic

Amsterdam Hex Clinic, 29-30th September 2018

Last weekend saw players from all over Netherlands and Belgium come together to learn Hex Offence and Flex Defence at the Amsterdam Hex Clinic, put together with help from Sjoerd Druven. The clinic started with a classroom session on Flexagon Defence theory – the group discussed common offensive mistakes and shortcomings, and thought about which were the most noticed, and which are rarely considered to contribute to turnovers. Then we looked at how defence could change to take advantage of the less noticed offensive shortcomings, and how such a defence could be trained.

… read more & see videos of drills …

We headed out onto the field after lunch to put into practice what we had been talking about – running a few drills without a disc involved, focusing on defensive movement. Here are clips from Trent’s Drill (credit to Trent Simmons from 10milliondiscs.org) and the Surrounding Stack Drill, which aim to get players used to moving and reacting to multiple offensive players in a group, rather than just 1-to-1 marking.



Casper / ulti.tv filmed the first outdoors session, so when we went inside we were able to immediately use the footage for video analysis! This was really beneficial to everyone – to be able to replay exactly what happened and consider alternative actions is a great way to learn quickly. After the analysis session we headed out again for the Triple-Sandwich drill, and more games!

Saturday night we had a meal at a Turkish restaurant and played some Dobble before going out for a couple of drinks & then back to Sjoerd’s house (picturesque – next to a canal).

Sunday was Hexagon Offence day – starting again with a classroom session where we looked at the history of offence, broke down the shared fundamental elements of offence, and looked at how different offensive systems prioritise different values – and how Hex fits into the picture. Hex, which values flow above all else, was explained through Movement, Shape, and Technique – each of which are very different compared to conventional stack offences.

Then we headed out onto the field again! We trained technique first, emphasising the throw-and-go / dribble-throw technique, and had a Dribble Slalom Race:


Then we incorporated the dribble technique into the Brilliance Box Drill, which adds some more game-like realism:


After everyone got some practice building shape, we went into games, and the offence worked smoothly – it was tough to defend against and everyone was discovering new throws and movements in the fast-moving style. The most common feedback was that it was surprisingly good FUN to play!

ulti.tv filming with a pole cam

Ulti.tv were filming again, so we were able to go inside and immediately have an analysis session. During this session I noticed that everyone was analysing their own play – I didn’t really need to contribute much because the theory knowledge from earlier was being put into action, and everyone could see what they could do better in any situation, and what was working well.

Although it was quite a light turnout this time around, we had 7v7 and I felt the clinic was a huge success. Everyone understood the theory, implemented it well, saw another side of ultimate strategy, and many players said they were keen to take the O/D back to their teams.

I learnt more about how to teach the strategies and implemented a few new drills with great success. Most importantly though, everybody had FUN playing Hex & Flex!