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

Hex Movement Decision Tree

 

 

… read transcript / summary …

Hex Movement Decision Tree: Brief explanation / shortened transcript of video

The way I’ve been looking at offence recently is to break it into three elements; Movement, Structure, and Technique.
This decision tree is a guideline for how to sustain and generate movement of the disc. The left side pertains to movement of the disc, and the right side is more focused on players who are off-disc.

If you have the disc in your hands then you have three questions; Is someone open in front of you?, Is the previous thrower open?, and Can you continue the path of the disc? If the answer is Yes to any of these three questions then you take the open pass, and look for the return pass, before returning to the start of the decision tree. If the return pass is successful then you enter a loop on the top left of the tree, which is where give-go / dribbling moves thrive.

If the answer to any of the three ‘open’ questions is Maybe, then you fake. The answer could be ‘maybe’ because you’re not confident with the distance or type of throw the option is asking of you, or because the defender is half-covering the throw, or for any reason you’re not happy with the option – in this case, fake, and return to asking “Is someone open in front of you?” – which may be the player you just faked an option to.

In some situations it’s better to look to continue the path of the disc before looking back to the previous thrower. Looking back to previous thrower lends itself to a more dribbling-style of Hex, but looking first to continue the path of the disc fits in quite nicely with techniques players have learnt from conventional offences.
If all then ‘open’ answers are ‘No’, then you should face the centre of the space. In Hex, this means you face where the Hat position is (the central player), and you should have all your team mates within your field of view. At this point you return to asking yourself if anyone is open in front of you.

Let’s say you go for the return pass and don’t get the disc back into your hands. The first question to ask yourself is ‘Am I in good hex shape?‘. The details about hex shape / structure are defined in another video, but if you decide you are not in good hex shape then you should reposition – with urgency. Repositioning moves are like cuts, and simply repositioning may well provide the thrower with a viable passing option.

If you are in good hex shape, ask yourself if you are open. If you are, communicate with the thrower by gesticulation or vocalisation, to let the thrower know you are a potential option for them to hit or fake to.

If you aren’t open, see if the thrower is looking at you. If they are, you should try to generate an option for them to either hit or fake to – by moving, or by gesticulating towards space. This will create further options for your team mates.

If you’re in good hex shape, not open, and the thrower is not looking at you, then you should see whether you can create useful space for a team mate. This means looking around to take note of your team mates positions and their defenders relative positions, and working out whether you moving in any direction could create a space, or occupy another defender, which would be useful for your team mate. If you can, then you should generate this option.

If none of these things are the case, then you should chill – don’t stress or feel pressure to create an option, because if everyone on your team is going through the same decision process then the thrower will be faking to half-options, looking at players to generate options, and so on, and the options will come. Continue monitoring the situation to see if you can create useful space for a team mate, to make sure you’re in good hex shape (as a team), and to see if you’re free or if the thrower is looking at you, but aim to become comfortable being in the position of sustaining offensive possession as a team.

Advanced Flex – Principles in Detail

(c) Felix Shardlow v.1.03 8th July 2021

Also available in French / en Français (v0.97)

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

Be sure to also check out the Flexplanation page which includes videos of the basic concepts of Flex.

Considering sharing this page with your team? Before you do, please first read through the Hive Ultimate Content Sharing Policy, as this page is technically patrons-only.

Intro

Flexagon Defence is not a zone, nor is it strictly 1-to-1 defence. Flex employs local positioning guidelines to reduce offensive advantage wherever possible. Where zonal marking utilises role-based teamwork and dynamic positioning; 1-to-1 defence employs simple positioning rules and focuses on athleticism; Flex utilises a set of principles which encourage defenders to work as a team, dynamically recognising any offensive mistakes or inefficiencies and attempting to punish them to gain advantage.

In Ultimate, offence by default has a huge advantage, and if they play very well then it’s very difficult for any defence to stop them from scoring. Actively gaining advantage on defence requires the ability to recognise offensive mistakes, and then utilise a combination of teamwork, positioning, and athleticism to capitalise.

Basic Flex Movement Decision Tree

The 3 Flex Principles

  • Communicate
  • Switch / surround where appropriate
  • Cover all offensive players as a team

Communicate

Aim to open a communication channel with nearby teammates as soon as they are within range, so it can be used instantly when opponents move. There are three main ways of opening & using a communication channel:

  • eye contact – keep your head up – positional information is shared & acknowledged, chances for miscommunication reduced
  • gesticulation – keep your eyes open – pointing, indicating
  • vocalisation – keep your ears open – use names, inflection, and directional shouts to move teammates

See, sign, say. Opening a communication channel with your teammates ensures immediate feedback and facilitates learning from each play on the field. Communicating is a valuable skill which can be learned through practice, will help your team get on the same page, and fosters a growth mindset. As players become more familiar with each other, communication moves from vocalisation to gesticulation, and on to the point where simple eye contact will communicate a significant amount of information and initiate teamwork on defence.

Players and teams will naturally develop their own lexicon once they apply the Flex principles and make efforts to communicate. To read more about the specific words and phrases which we have found to be useful in Flex, see Advanced Flex Part II: Communication and Flex Part 4: Communication.

Switch / surround where appropriate

  • Proximity is the trigger you are looking for, to indicate switching/surrounding is appropriate
  • When facing a stack, use your communication channels and reposition as a team to surround
  • Surround with the same number of defenders as there are offensive players
  • The fewer players involved in the stack, the closer the defenders should position
  • Cutting players should be marked 1-to-1, whilst the remaining surrounding defenders reposition & tighten up to keep the stack covered
  • If there is space between all offensive players, and their movement cannot be punished with switches, mark 1-to-1 until the opportunity to switch or surround arises
  • Prepare to switch marks early – pre-empt offensive movement if possible, as late / reactive switches only limit damage – they do not necessarily gain advantage for the defence
  • Prepare to switch marks when opponents move towards occupied or busy areas
  • Switch if mutually beneficial for defenders, and both offensive players can be easier covered
  • Both players must move quickly to cover their new marks

Offensive players who are occupying the same space as each other, or moving towards occupied areas, are making mistakes – be prepared to punish them to gain advantage!

Cover all offensive players as a team

By default, Flex does not involve poaching. Poaching indicates an individual’s decision to leave their mark – this can be applied as an advanced or emergency tactic to good effect, but by default the defence in Flex involves coordinated teamplay, rather than individualistic poaches.

  • All individuals should be marking one specific player, or be part of a balanced surrounding setup
  • Surrounding setups should have equal numbers of offence and defence
  • Leave no offensive player unmarked
  • Get help if trying to cover two players
  • Avoid defensive double-coverage
  • Solo poaches send false signals to other defenders, and can cause a breakdown of Flex due to chain reaction

The offensive team have the same number of players as the defence – and one of their players isn’t allowed to move!

Global Positioning

Flex doesn’t really have a prescribed shape or formation, as the local positioning of the defenders is entirely dependant upon the positioning of the offensive players. If you find players are marking too much like 1-to-1, not looking for enough switches or surrounding opportunities, then players can be assigned initial positions. Players should be very willing to switch positions mid-point and stick with players 1-to-1 where appropriate, otherwise the defence turns into a zone / poaching, and many of the above principles are broken. Calling positions in Flex should be used as a tool to change the way your team is approaching the defence and get them playing more as a team – conversely, calling 1-to-1 matchups should be used as a tool to stop your players from poaching and apply more individual pressure. A well played Flex sits squarely in-between 1-to-1 and zone, adjusting as the situation dictates.

If the theory of both offence and defence in Ultimate are explored to depths, a hexagon (rotatable 2-3-2) shape emerges as most efficient use of space by 7 players. The hex shape is only utilised in Flex defence in three circumstances:

  • When playing against Hex offence – shape knowledge will help the defence to pre-empt offensive movement and punish positioning / movement mistakes
  • When the team are very experienced with playing Flex, and wish to employ more advanced ideas related to global switching & surrounding
  • If the defensive team are not switching or surrounding enough during normal play – calling initial positions can be useful as it puts defenders into a more ‘zone-like’ mindset, where they will be more actively looking to connect with team mates and essentially switch and surround the offence.

If a Flex team is surrounding too loosely, blowing switches often, or if poaching becomes an issue, calling initial match-ups on the line can encourage the defence to adopt a more 1-to-1-like mindset.

If calling positions, by default: 2 forwards, 2 wings, 2 backs, 1 hat (central player).
If your opponent is playing horizontal stack it’s recommended you start with person-to-person marking, but if calling positions: 3 forwards, 2 wings, 1 hat, 1 back. For more on playing Flex against specific offensive strategies, see Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
The terms “forward” and “back” refer to how you see the field when on the line before a point – “forwards” are comparable to “handler marks”, “backs” are comparable to “deeps”.
Remember that Flex is not a zone, and position calling should only be used in the three situations listed above.

The force – recommended: if the disc is near the middle force middle, if the disc is near the sideline force towards the line – this leaves defenders on either shoulder of the force in all situations. The force is not a critical part of Flex – it can often be left til last when making sure all offensive players are covered, and it can change depending on opponents / conditions. There should certainly not be a player chasing the disc and putting on multiple forces in a row (unless you have incorporated an advanced switching system into your Flex).

How to Train Flex

Understanding the theory is one thing, but training players to apply the principles in game situations requires focused work at trainings. Felix has been coaching these principles since 2012 and has a number of drills which are effective at developing players communication and field awareness skills so they can effectively switch and surround in game situations. The content is presented in a number of Flex drill videos, which are available on the $8 patreon tier.

Next parts in this series

Advanced Flex Part I: Counter-Strategies
Advanced Flex Part II: Communication
Advanced Flex Part III: The Stall 3 Game-Changer

Considering sharing this page with your team? Before you do, please first read through the Hive Ultimate Content Sharing Policy, as this page is technically patrons-only.


Optional video examples

Zoney Flex in action against FWD at Europeans – fast forward to 37:48:

More recently, Hammertron Prime played a zoney version of Flex at NZ Nationals 2019 (as well as playing Hex Offence):

GB Mixed U23’s played a zoney version of Flex at Worlds in 2015 – below is a video of the first time it was introduced to the team:

Hex/Flex in action against Japan at Worlds:

Hexagon Offence v2.21

v 2.21 – 31st August 2018
Concept first published 1st Jan 2013
Also available in French / en Français (v2.1)

Note: Updated (2020) documentation here: https://felixultimate.com/2018/10/14/hexagon-offence-v2-3/

This page is an old version, not all concepts are represented as clearly and concisely as in version 2.31!

Ultimate is a team-based field sport, and as such Movement, Positioning, and Technique/Skillset are the major elements for strategic consideration. Hex Offence’s movement is comparable to Spain’s tiki-taka quick passing style of soccer play. Hex’s positioning is spread like a network – maximising connections between players, and as such maximising options. Technique / skill sets which are suited to Hex include staying balanced and ready to throw or run anywhere at all times, communicating and reacting to your team mates, having spatial and field awareness, and being in control of your acceleration / deceleration at all times.

Hex can be explained through three simple principles:

1. Keep the disc moving (higher value than gaining yards)
2. Maintain the shape (a hexagon)
3. Create space for your team mates, use space as you see it developing

Abiding by these principles creates a fast-moving, flow-based offence which doesn’t give the defence a chance to set, maximises the offensive options available, constantly changes the angles of attack, and is a lot of fun to play.

1. Keep the disc moving – take the open pass

The flow chart in the video below is a guideline for the decisions you should be making on the field when playing Hex.

Direct link to the Hex Movement Decision Tree image

Ways this style of play differs from conventional offence:

  • Take the open pass regardless of field position, yardage, or stall count – if the open pass is behind you, take it. Don’t wait to see if there’s another open pass which can gain you yards, simply take the open pass you are aware of at that point in time. If you have an open pass on stall 1, don’t hold onto the disc to see if anything else will present itself later in the stall – simply take the open pass as soon as you see it.
  • Face infield – by facing towards the centre of the space, you are also facing towards the centre of the shape, so you are able to see open passes develop anywhere on the field at any time.
  • Aim to initiate & maintain flow – two quick passes can be enough to initiate flow, and once flowing, sustain it for as long as possible by continuing to take the open passes. Do not sacrifice flow in order to look for yardage gaining passes.

Faking
Some of the decision pathways above are yellow – this means an option isn’t definitely open, but it isn’t definitely marked out either. This could be due to a loose defender, due to not being confident with the type of throw or the distance involved, or any other reason the thrower isn’t totally happy with the option. In this circumstance, fake.

Faking should always be realistic and purposeful. There are three main purposes for faking, in order of importance:
a) To move downfield defenders around – if you have seen a potential option, then the good defenders on the field will also have seen it, so a realistic fake will get them committing to cover this option, and open up other options for the offence elsewhere on the field.
b) To communicate with your team – when you fake to a potential throwing option, you communicate to that player that you have recognised the option they are providing, but that you are not going to throw it for whatever reason. This serves as a prompt for them to provide an option elsewhere on the field. The rest of your team are also party to this communication, and should respond appropriately. An effect of a good purposeful fake is that the team are brought onto the same page, into sync, and are then able to establish a rhythm to their offence and control the tempo.
c) To move your mark – useful to make a particular throw easier, and often considered the primary reason for faking, sometimes fakes for this purpose are not aimed at viable options and thus can cause miscommunication and disconnection between the thrower and their team mates. When there are enough offensive options available, faking solely for this purpose is no longer productive.

2. Maintain the shape

In the Hex Movement Decision Tree, if you don’t have the disc in your hands then you must ask yourself “Am I in good hex shape?” – to know the answer, you must first know the shape!
Here is a video where I analyse an Australian team (Outbreak) playing Hex, with particular focus on how they should be maintaining shape during the possession.

The shape (a hexagon) stays the same regardless of the location of the disc – rotating as it nears the sideline in order to keep all players inside the playing field & away from the sideline, as illustrated here. The shape cannot and need not always be perfect during a point, but all players should make efforts and work as a team to maintain the shape when they can, especially if they are not involved in the immediate play.

Some guidelines to help with maintaining shape during a point:

    • Stay connected – when in good shape, each player is connected to (within 8-12 yards of) three team mates. The distance between any two players in the shape is guided by the team’s average throwing ability, or wind conditions – it should be a comfortable pass if the player moves towards the thrower as quickly as possible, or if they move away from the thrower as quickly as possible (a long pass). The three players connected to the thrower occupy the centre of the comfortable distances the thrower can pass, and keep the same distance away from each other.
    • Make triangles – the shape consists of six equilateral triangles, so if players focus locally on maintaining these triangles, the hexagon shape forms naturally.
    • Keep equidistant – locally, ensure the triangles are equilateral. These equal distances make it much easier to ensure everyone is connected, and to establish rhythm and tempo control as an offence, as well as setting a standard for pass-length that players can become familiar and comfortable with.
    • Avoid the narrow channel – when moving up past a player with the disc, take the path on the wider side of the field – avoid the space between the thrower and the sideline.

  • Don’t surround the disc – against person-to-person marking, surrounding the disc (i.e. having the thrower in the centre of the shape, or having a ‘reset’ on the opposite side of the disc to ‘cutters’) will often lead to turnovers and should be avoided. Against zonal defence, surrounding the disc can be beneficial.

Theoretical shape movement – without defenders, the most efficient way to advance the disc down the field whilst maintaining shape would be to pass the disc down the sideline whilst the hex rotates like a wheel rolling down the line – as illustrated in this animation.
In practice, defenders prevent the most efficient offensive movement, and so although globally the structure effectively rotates as it moves down the sideline, not all local situations will reflect this rotation directly, and players will interchange between positions regularly.
When the disc is passed forwards through the middle, players behind and lateral with the disc must push up to avoid surrounding the disc (whilst avoiding the narrow channel), as illustrated in this animation and this animation.

“Hexagon” technically refers to the shape used in this offence, which could be considered as separate to the disc movement, technique, and style of play this article lays out. For simplicity, I am combining the shape, the movement, the technique and the style in this article and under the name Hexagon Offence, as no other offences currently exist which use the Hex shape (though the positions in Frank Huguenard’s Motion Offence are similar). If plenty more Hex-based offences spring up over time then the combined ideas of shape & movement & technique/style may be renamed to something more personal, such as Shardlow Offence, Felix O, etc.

3. Create space for your team mates, use space as you see it developing

The final part on the Hex Movement Decision Tree reads “Can you create useful space for a teammate?” – knowing the answer to this requires having good spatial and field awareness, and understanding how your teammates can use space which you create. Keep you head up and always be aware of where the defenders and the offensive players are positioned, and, if appropriate, move accordingly. You can create space for your teammates even when you are closely covered, and it is acceptable to distort the shape in order to generate an option.

As space opens on the field, make use of it by moving into it. This also helps your team maintain shape. Take what your defender gives you, or make them give you something you want.

Here’s a clip of UK team SMOG playing Hex at Windmill 2018, where they are applying most of the principles explained above fairly well:


Scoring

Scoring in all Ultimate usually happens in one of two ways: (1) from a deep throw, or (2) from flow towards the end zone. When the disc is around the area of the brick mark, the deep throw is a significant threat, so defenders must not allow the offence players to streak free towards the zone. This allows the offence more chances to be free coming back towards the disc, for shorter passes which can be used to initiate flow. Hardly any turnovers happen when the disc is thrown from near the brick mark.
As the disc gets closer to the end zone, the deep throw is no longer a threat, so the defence can apply more pressure to shorter passes. When flow stops outside the end zone, the odds of the offence scoring decreases significantly.
When in this situation, it is still relatively easy for the offence to initiate flow – if they are moving away from the end zone. The offence should coordinate flowing away from the zone – towards the brick mark – whilst vacating all players from the end zone (staying connected), as this will quickly open up the deep throw again as an immediate scoring option, and put them in a good position to direct their flow back towards the end zone.
The ideal distance to which you should flow away from the end zone depends on the players on your team – far enough so that all defenders are out of the end zone, but not so far that your players cannot reach the end zone with a long throw.

Resources

felixultimate Patreon – Hex training videos released each month to Roo tier patrons, access to livestream analysis archive for all patrons, pledge any amount!

Training Hex Offence with your team – contains some diagrams & descriptions of drills, and tips on how to introduce the offence to your team.
Mex Offence v2.1 – an older version of this doc – more verbose.
Full game footage of Hexagon Offence being played is available at pushpass.co.uk – see any of Brighton City’s games from UKU Nationals 2012/13/14, XEUCF 2013, EUCF 2014, or any Sussex Mohawks 1 or Brighton Panthers games from Uni Regionals 2014. For clips of Hexagon Offence see the Hexagon Ultimate YouTube channel – here are some samples from the channel of Hex in action, taken in 2013.

NB: The play in these videos is by no means a perfect display of Hex, and in the football ones I did get a bit overzealous on drawing triangles over the pitch…



Full drone cam footage of GB U23X v GB Mixed 2015



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

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

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