Don’t teach your Beginners Stack

Article written by Noah Brinkworth

You probably know by now that we’re not massive fans of stacks here at Hive Ultimate. But there are specific and important reasons why stacks (particularly vertical and side stack – horizontal is not quite as bad) are detrimental to teach to beginners.

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How can we characterise offensive and defensive systems?

This article was written by guest authors Marie and Florian Gailliegue and is an excerpt from their book Ultimate in Motion: Balance and Dynamism, available from their website or currently part of the $25/mo Hive Swarm Tier deal.

Any situation in any spot of the field can be objectively characterised. Many factors combine – spatial (proximity to an endzone), positional (centering on the field), material (distribution of players) and initiative (separation / velocity, or other ability to dictate the tempo). During the game, each team will seek to tilt the advantages in their favour.

Strategy is long-term planning, and tactics are a sequence of calculated actions. Philosophy is from where one or more strategies flow. Structure guides how a strategy can be deployed effectively. Tactics are put at the service of the previous pillars to achieve the overall aim.

A structure is defined by the set of positions occupied by the players of a team. With 7 players, we can imagine a nearly infinite array of possibilities. When a strategy is decided upon, there are several structures that can be chosen to ensure the strategic goals are achieved. No matter the structure, the whole tactical toolbox remains at one’s disposal. The ensemble {Strategy, Structure, Tactics} creates a system. For the team to be as efficient as possible, the chosen system must match the philosophy.

ultimate systems

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Yina Cartagena talks BENT, Revo Pro and Becoming a World Class Player

Este artículo también está disponible en español

Yina Cartagena has been a stalwart member of Revolution Ultimate for over a decade. She has been a part of a Revolution side that have won the 11 consecutive national titles, the US Open in 2017, and the inaugural PUL championship in 2019. She has also represented Colombia numerous times, being a key part of Colombia’s strong 2017 World Games team, and lead in stats by far in the Colombian Women’s team that reached the 2016 WUGC final.

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How to Play Ultimate

How to Play Ultimate – by @ultimatekeira

How to Layout

How to Layout – by @ultimatekeira

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Ultiworld / EuroZone interview with Felix Shardlow

Head over to Ultiworld to catch the latest EuroZone Podcast, which includes an interview with Felix!

Click for more info / the topics covered!

0:00 Ravi & Liam talk about PELT’s Movember campaign
7:30 Ravi introduces me, begin lockdown chat
8:50 Story about the first time I played ultimate
11:50 Why I could already jump high when I started playing
12:50 Ravi asks about my playing history
17:25 Liam asks where I think I would be if I quit in 2010, we talk about Roller Derby for a while
18:25 Ravi asks ‘What is Flex?’ (I don’t give a very good explanation imo! At least compared to the videos)
23:00 Why I’ve been releasing my strategic ideas publicly and how they have been received (innovation in defence vs innovation in offence)
24:45 The importance of communication & field awareness in Flex
26:15 Liam asks “When you’re coming up with these new strategies, are you ever scared of being ‘Franked'”?
29:00 Ravi asks which clubs are using hex/flex philosophies in Europe / NA – I completely fail to mention the Sussex Uni team I coach
31:00 Talking about the development of offence in ultimate (American Football influence vs what it’d look like with more Soccer influence, Japan’s alternative style getting results)
32:55 Ravi asks about being a content creator – how did I get into video analysis etc? (I talk about how the “Japan v USA – Every Turnover of the match analysed” video came about)
36:40 Talking about the livestream series
37:30 Talking about what it’s like to work production crew at a tournament
38:40 Ravi asks why I stopped the livestreams
41:10 Ravi asks if I have any tips for people who might want to get into content creation
42:25 Liam asks how I find interaction with social media, where is the best reception and what do I find weird
44:15 felixultimate TikTok?
45:00 Rocket League tournament upcoming & Disc Space developments
48:00 Ravi & Liam talk about the Queen’s Gambit netflix show

I’m still scratching my head wondering how, when Ravi asked about teams that adopted hex/flex, I completely failed to mention the Sussex Uni club I’ve been coaching for 17 years, and who won Nationals in 2010, 2011, 2017 & 2019. Without training that club and running those sessions, a lot of the hex/flex stuff would still be theoretical and very untested. Implementing the ideas with Sussex week upon week, developing some ideas and throwing others out, and seeing how the teams perform against the others in the region and the country year upon year has kept the ideas fresh and allowed them to mature far beyond theory, to a point where I’m confident enough to produce videos on them. Can’t believe I barely mentioned Sussex – perhaps they’re somehow so close that I overlooked them? Probably just interview nerves. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the listen!

Colombia v USA @ World Games 2017: Choco’s story behind the Universe point call

#52 Mauricio ‘Choco’ Martinez speaks about the climactic play during universe point at the World Games 2017, where George Stubbs calls a foul on a layout D from Choco. This audio was recorded during the post-film session beehive Q&A / hangout on the felixultimate Discord – apologies for the audio quality. To join the discord server and get involved with future post-film-session Q&As, join the felixultimate beehive here.

Review: The Aria Uno disc

felixultimate reviews the new Aria Uno disc to hit the scene.
Aria website: https://www.aria-discs.com/
Discraft/Wham-O vote article: http://skydmagazine.com/2014/04/vote-wham-o-discraft/

… read transcript …

Transcript:

Hey everybody, in this video I’m going to be looking at the Aria disc which has recently hit the scene, and comparing it against the classic Discraft Ultrastar, with the brand new felixultimate design. The Eurodisc which has been around for a few years also makes an appearance. Let’s start by having a look at what people thought about the Aria.

Joe Butler: Feels a bit firmer around the rim
James Wortherspoon: A little tougher, actually
Anastastia Riordan-Eva: The rim feels slightly thicker
Joe: Very slight, but definitely not a negative difference
Starzy: Almost like there’s a dip here and then a dip here
Dan Cozens: I can safely say that after 20 years of playing, it feels no different whatsoever
Spoon: Pretty similar. The Aria flew nicer – might’ve been the wind because it’s quite gusty
Starzy: Feels good, feels like something you could use
Joe: Feels nice
Dan: Feels fine, I quite like this, it’s nice

People tended to like the feel of the Aria – there’s a slight difference in the rim. If I put them up like this you can see there’s slightly more angle on the Aria. You can barely tell when you’re holding it. You can see that the Aria is more see-through than the Ultrastar, which means that maybe the plastic in the middle is a bit thinner, but you can’t really feel that.
After throwing around a lot with the Aria, the Ultrastar feels a tiny bit more like a plate… it’s hard to explain… the weight is distributed more towards the edge in the Aria.
The Aria has some bend to it, it’s smooth, has a deep sound – the Ultrastar has a similar bend and deep sound. The Eurodisc has less bend, the plastic isn’t as shiny – it’s a bit matted, and the sound is a little bit higher pitch. The plastic is noticably different in the Eurodisc compared to the Aria & Ultrastar. I haven’t tried the Aria in extreme weather conditions so it’s hard to say how it behaves in those conditions – maybe that’s for a future video.
In the wind it was behaving very similar – maybe slightly more stable.

Let’s have a look at some throws.
The first throw I try out is an outside-in sidearm, mid-range, quite high and loopy so it drifts down. The flight paths are very similar but the Aria flattens out a bit more – which could just be the throw.
Next I try some hammers – quite often upsidedown throws can reveal the dynamics of a disc very well, in this instance all the throws look very similar, especially the shortest two, so no distinguishable difference whatsoever.
Next onto a flick which S-curves, to see how stable the disc is. If a disc is overstable, it’ll turn to the right here a lot quicker and dramatically than the Ultrastar, but the flight patterns are pretty much identical between all three discs.
Short/mid-range flat backhands going into a goal: the Aria, Eurodisc and Ultrastar were all very similar in this test.
Then long backhands – these are the throws where the Eurodisc would go slightly more inside-out towards the end. I thought the Aria might be overstable, and it may be by a fraction, but I wouldn’t say for certain – high level throwers would not notice that in a game.
Try some hammers… You can see the Aria has a bit more swing to it, but that could just be the throw.
Then long backhands downwind, as far as possible – I throw the Aria a bit higher and it ends up going further. Over all my testing, my throws were around 5% longer with the Aria, if I had to put a number on it – they definitely weren’t shorter.

So in summary: there’s a barely noticable difference in the shape – it’s not like when you catch a disc in a game and go to fake and realise what you’re holding is not an Ultrastar – with the Aria you can’t tell. I’ve introduced it in throwarounds where people haven’t noticed we’re not throwing with an Ultrastar. The flight path is practically identical to the Ultrastar, possibly slightly more overstable.
An Ultrastar can feel different when old & muddy & scratched up, although I’ve used the Aria a lot I haven’t got it to that point yet so it’s hard to say how it’d behave in those conditions.

Naturally I’m a bit hesitant about new discs because there’s nothing “wrong” with the Discraft Ultrastar – a new disc might mean I just need to relearn my throws a little bit, but there weren’t any problems with the Aria because the disc flies very similarly to the Ultrastar.
A little history lesson: Wham-O used to be the #1 disc supplier and the only official disc, right up until 1991 when there was a vote in America and it swayed to Discraft to be the official manufacturer, 7-6 in the vote. The deciding factor in that was: in 1988 there was a tournament where WhamO shipped a load of discs which were domed – they had been warped by the temperatures in their new manufacturing plant in Mexico, so they were unplayable and the tournament took a big loss because they couldn’t sell any discs, and people had to play games with the discs they had in their bags. After that, the TD was on the voting board when they voted between Discraft / Wham-O, and he told everybody what had happened at that tournament and swayed a couple of the voters – it’s only been since 1991 that Discraft has been the official disc for Ultimate.

I know that story because I have the book – “Ultimate: The First Four Decades” by Tony Leonardo (and Adam Zagoria) – really cool and full of interesting stories about Ultimate which are worth checking out if you love this game as I do!

Nowadays there are a few discs which are officially recognised by WFDF and the Aria is one of them, so you might be seeing it in competition soon.

This disc is called the Aria Uno. Aria is a company which is made by one of the Five Ultimate siblings (each of them have their own company in Ultimate now I think). Aria think that Ultimate is good for the world. They have a bunch of social partners, so every time you buy a disc they donate a disc to one of their social partners. You can read more about them on their website.

I hope you liked this review – if you want to buy one of the Aria discs you can head over to their website, or if you prefer the classic Ultrastar and you like the new felixultimate design (which is designed to look cool when it’s spinning) then head over to felixultimate.com where they’re on sale now!

I know it’s long & discordant as I recorded different bits at different times. I hope you enjoyed the different ways I looked at the different discs, if you did like this video then please give it a little like on YouTube, and subscribe if you want to see more!

Flags

Flags
2-7 players

flags-3pFlags is a simple game which adds training elements to a throw around. It will expose your weaknesses and challenge your strengths. Set out two markers (water bottles are good) a few yards apart, one directly downwind of the other – these mark the goal line – the windier it is, the longer the goal line should be. The higher the skill of the players (and/or the lesser the wind), the narrower the goal line.

2 players: Throw from where you catch, don’t cut for throws but do move to catch them. (1) Throw over the goal line at any height, (2) Throw around the far side of the goal [OI], (3) Throw around the inside of the goal [IO]

3 players: 2v1 – Rolling defender, cutting now encouraged. All players can move freely and pass on either side of the flags, but only passes across the goal line (at any height) count as goals. Goals reset a shot clock to prevent stalling, and the shot clock can be counted by the defender from anywhere on the field.

Felix, Will and Edgars play 3-player Flags.
3v2 / 4v3: More players can be brought in both on offence and defence, and the goal widened.

Experiment with different goal sizes, goal orientation to the wind, restricting the surrounding space with back lines, and so on. I recommend stalling from 4-10, as this is most game-like – mimicking the common situation where a thrower looks for a secondary option at stall 3. Let me know if you come up with some interesting rules or modifications yourself! As it was written on the back of the first frisbee – Play catch. Invent games. Have fun.

Intuitive v Analytic players

I was just reading an article from 2015 on Skyd about Intuitive vs. Analytical Thinking in Ultimate [link], where the author (Alex Davis) places players in two categories;

The Intuitive is everybody’s favourite kind of athlete. Team sports culture celebrates intuition, and true geniuses of the archetype attract lofty accolades: they have “natural athleticism,” “potential,” and “strong instincts,” as if their qualities stemmed from some unknowable magic. They defy more concrete description because–frankly–they simply don’t work according to concrete, well-articulated methods. They feel their way through the game, often without explanation. Quick-thinking and coordinated, the Intuitives perceive the playing field according to shades of instinct, reflex, and experiential knowledge. In team sports in general–and ultimate in particular–we eagerly recruit for this seemingly unteachable intuition, and we then try to equip it with sport-specific tools and skills.

On the opposite end of the spectrum dwell those I’ll call the Analysts. Characteristically methodical, deliberate, and hard-working creatures, they think in firm, defined terms. They value correctness over quickness. They fight temptations and external pressures. They thrive on well-defined frameworks, rules, and mechanisms, informed by their accumulated experience. What they may lack in spontaneity or instinct, they usually make up for with sheer effort. Unlike the Intuitives, their mindset demands a degree of explanation, detail, and investment that coaches often struggle to satisfy.

As an Intuitive-player-turned-coach, I  have found the process of learning how to teach others to be very enlightening for all areas of my game. Analysing my intuition-led on-field actions in depth led me to a greater understanding of those actions, which has made passing on that knowledge / understanding possible & successful.

coachy-cliopboard

Not making notes of which players are Analysts and which are Intuitive

For example, slow fakes with the disc – they feel good and are fun to do, but when I look deeper I realise they serve many purposes – a slow fake has the status of potentially being a throw for a long time, meaning downfield defenders must commit and stay committed to stopping a throw which could come at any point, which makes them more likely to either over-commit or to bite on the wrist snap at the end. If the defender isn’t watching then a slow fake (or slow wind-up) opens a communication channel with the receiver and gets them on the same page as the thrower, in sync and able to cut for the throw or react immediately to the fake as appropriate. Until I stop and think about the nuances, slow fakes are simply approved of and encouraged by the pattern recognition area of my brain, and become part of my style.

Saying ‘I’m not sure why this works’ or ‘Do this because it feels right’ is better than guessing at a reason and then teaching it as fact, but true understanding should be sought by all coaches, and comes from analysis. Intuitives and Analysts working together make great coaching teams, providing they can communicate. Gaining deeper understanding has helped to guide my intuition further, including giving me the knowledge of when to control it for the benefit of the team, and strengthens me as a player year upon year. Once the analysis of a technique such as slow fakes has been done, I am more able to consciously recognise situations where I can suck defenders in or open communication channels with cutters, and construct mental models of the play beyond just that fake or throw.

pointing-diff-directions

Pointing in different directions – Analyst vs Intuitive?

There are a few players who I struggle to connect fully with as a coach, who I now realise are on the Analyst end of the spectrum, and I put the lack of connection down to the relatively unexplored nature of some of what I have been trying to teach. When trying to convince players to change the way they approach the vast arenas of offence or defence, the lack of a clear positive example (such as an elite team winning a championship with what I’m trying to teach) immediately makes everybody sceptical. When teaching particular throwing technique – such as getting a player to shift focus to spin rather than power in order to increase the distance of their throws – the results of the change are often immediate and clear, so any initial scepticism can be quickly either upheld or discarded. When teaching an offence or defence as a whole, the plethora of nuances involved and the ambiguity in evaluating the results (a turnover or a score happens, but what were the real causes?), means that Analysts possibly struggle to build a complete working mental model of the systems – requiring all sorts of assumptions, and it doesn’t make sense to them to take the ‘leap of faith’ needed to cross the unexplored areas & onto the unproven ground.

Intuitive-types will ‘feel’ positive (or negative) results of offensive or defensive changes almost immediately – they can sense the improvement of their team’s game regardless of scores or turnovers, and be keen to explore the ideas further in order to perpetuate these positive feelings (or vice-versa). They do not need full understanding, trust in a coach, or ‘proof’, as their evaluation is not related to a fully working mental model, tangible results, or the experiences of others.

fieldwithlines

A non-flow offence with potential flow moves drawn on by Frank

For example – when attempting to convey the merits of initiating flow – a player has a choice between taking an immediate yard-losing open pass, or looking downfield for a few seconds. Regardless of which option they take, it’s unlikely they will turn over immediately, and either one could fairly quickly result in a score. The immediate shot to the end zone for the goal is the quickest validation, but for flow fans that would be a false positive. If they take the open pass, it’s possible the disc will continue moving and then turn over a few passes later without even an attempt to score or break the force – but the opposite outcome for all these situations is also possible, as it is dependant upon a huge variety of other factors (including the defence). Given the difficulty of analysing the merits of either approach with any level of clarity or certainty, it’s natural for Analytic players to look at championship-winning teams for an idea of which approach is ‘correct’, whereas Intuitive players prefer to experiment with either approach and judge which one ‘feels’ right to them – being far less concerned with attempting to analyse the outcomes (immune to false positives), not depending on trust in their coach, and not desiring to look to the championship-winning teams for guidance.

felix-pp-reacharound2

Analyze This

Intuition is relied upon over analysis whilst a new strategy / tactic / technique is being played and developed, as it guides the direction of development through uncharted territory using the powerful pattern-recognition ability of humans. However, intuition is not perfect and can be very much a trial-and-error process, so whilst a strategy is in its development stage the coach cannot (and should not attempt to) fully explain it – which can come across as weakness or uncertainty, and is an unsatisfactory way of training for Analysts. It therefore makes sense that the status quo is usually perpetuated, and it takes a long time for overarching strategic changes to be adopted. Only after a strategy has matured is it possible to develop a full understanding of it, and therefore be in a position to convey this understanding in a way that satisfies both Analytic and Intuitive players alike at trainings.

It’s quite possible that the majority of those who decide whether or not to implement strategies – team leaders, training organisers, coaches – are Analysts, whilst Intuitive-types simply focus on playing the game and are generally less inclined to coaching or leadership roles (although if their talent stands out, they are often put into these positions and begin by leading by example). It’s also possible the status-quo strategies drive away some talented Intuitive-types to other sports which ‘feel’ better to them – where they’re not asked to stack up / focus solely on their mark, or enforce other traditional Ultimate tactics which feel counter-intuitive and are unseen in other team sports. The athletes I’ve introduced to Ultimate from other sports tend to relish flow and have a disdain for stacking – perhaps the majority are Intuitive players.

hammer-layI recommend you check out the original article – Intuitive vs. Analytical Thinking in Ultimate [link], where Alex (an Analyst) talks more about the science behind the different personality types, and describes his frustrating attempts to learn how to cut effectively from an Intuitive player, plus the impact that conversation had on him as a player and a coach over the course of the following few years!

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