What Is The Force?

Forcing is a strategic attempt, by the defense, to force the thrower to throw the disc into an area of the defense’s choosing or to pressure the thrower into making an error. As such the defender forcing the disc has a large responsibility. Forcing is also the basis of team defense, which will be covered later. Many players appear to see forcing as an opportunity to rest before continuing to play defense. This is definitely not the case: forcing well requires a lot of focus, application and physical effort.  Trusting your teammates is an important element of forcing as well – if ever defender did their best to not get broken, then it would help the team – forcing is difficult when one defender poaches and tries to do too much on their own instead of trusting their teammates.

The art of forcing is an attempt to dictate which areas of the field a thrower can and cannot throw to. Communication is key to forcing successfully. A team must establish a simple ‘call’ which distinguishes one side of the field from the other. Left and right do no work well because teams change ends every point so the left and right sidelines change also: this can be confusing. One of the simplest and best ways is to use ‘Home’ and ‘Away’; where home is the sideline on which the team has put all of its gear. Many teams, however, use geographical landmarks e.g. trees, roads, etc. Use whichever the players can most easily recognize when the call is made. One player misunderstanding, for even a few seconds, is enough to have the offense break and render the defensive strategy useless.

Types of forces: home & away, straight up, backhand, flick, line (usually for 1 throw), middle

A defender creates a strong force by being balanced, active and attentive. It is not enough for a defender to stand in front of a thrower, arms wide, and expect to inhibit the thrower. A forcing defender must focus intently on what the thrower is trying to do, yet at the same time apply their team’s defensive strategy, be aware of the field situation, and be communicating with teammates. The key facets of a strong mark are:

  • Getting into the correct position to force, as quickly as possible
    • Therefore defenders must:
      • Approach from the correct direction i.e. along the passing lane(s) to the areas that the defense is seeking to deny
      • If approaching from the wrong direction i.e. if the marker is trailing the receiver but needs to prevent the continuation pass, they must not over-pursue: this is no better than getting there too late! They can jump into the lane to take away the big huck and then move in on the thrower to set up the mark.
  • If the force is going to be different from the previous throw, defenders should shout the new direction before being close enough to commence stalling. It is good practice for this to be done on every mark, but is vital when the force is going to change, as some downfield defenders may not be looking at the disc. One way to let the up field defenders know is by calling the directions clearly when the force will change (i.e. ‘forcing line for 1’ meaning that the defender is switching the force for one throw).
  • Assuming a good stance, i.e. one that will enable the defender to cover any move that threatens to break the force
  • Staying mobile: players should move their feet and bend from the knee (bending from the waist can cause a loss of balance)
  • Focusing on maintaining the force and not on getting point blocks (unless that’s the team plan)
  • Listening for help from teammates
  • Always shouting “UP” as soon as the disc is thrown
  • If you are on the wrong side of the force, ‘swoop’ into the force side first to cut off a throw and then close the space with the thrower

The thrower’s exact position will depend on the direction of the force that the defense has elected. However, a defender should attempt to position themselves such that they make downfield throws as difficult as possible, whilst ensuring that they do not over-commit and allow the thrower to break the force. This position is very dynamic and requires constant adjustments if the marker is to constrain the thrower.

It is not possible for a defender to maintain the desired force and harass every throw: the defense is prepared to concede lateral passes in the direction it is forcing and also dumps, so long as the continuation pass into the closed side is prevented.

A team may apply various different forces depending on the type of defense they favour, the direction of the wind or the offensive proclivities of the opposition. However once a team is committed to forcing, in any direction, the markers rely on the forcer to maintain that force. A force allows markers to ‘cheat’ to the open side, safe in the knowledge that the forcer will make it difficult to throw any pass into the area that they are leaving less well guarded. If the force is broken then the markers will be on the wrong side of their player and the offense will have an easy ride.

The term “broken” applies to a thrower breaking/beating the force. If a thrower makes an inside out or a hammer, against the force, the markers will often have a chance to make a play on the disc or at least prevent the subsequent pass. However, when a thrower steps around the mark, due to poor positioning or insufficient effort by the forcer, the offensive possibilities tend to be much more significant. A thrower should never be allowed to step around the mark.

About Ultimate Rob

Rob McLeod is a disc sports competitor, a 12 time World Record holder (including 6 Guinness World Records), 10-time World Champion, 2 time Quadruped title holder and currently holds the Canadian Distance Record. He created ultimaterob.com in 2009.

7 thoughts on “What Is The Force?

  1. These are all excellent points that I’ve seen many people struggle with when learning to force (myself included). I hadn’t actually considered the approach as significant before, so I think I’ll have to work on that next. One other aspect not mentioned is how far the defender should stand from the thrower with the disc. I’ve had people try to cover me too close, which can actually make it easier to step around them to break a force, and I don’t need to smell your last meal on your breath, thank you very much. A little distance can actually make it easier to block or prevent throws in certain directions. Too far, of course, and the angle you can effectively cover shrinks.

    1. @JonathanWhiteley I meant to respond to this comment months ago, but I definitely agree with your point Jonathan. It’s why good goalies in hockey and soccer will come out of their net when a player is approaching – it cuts down the angle and makes it harder for the player to score.

  2. Rob,

    Other things being equal, which way would you recommend forcing when there is a moderate side-wind? I like forcing in the direction the wind is going, with the goal of trapping the offense on the sideline so that any future throws will have to come back into the wind. Also with throws being forced to the side where the wind is going, throws are more likely to be pushed out of bounds. Some of my teammates disagree, but I forget their reasons. What do you think?

    Max

    1. @mamaxmax That’s a great question Max.I don’t think there is a wrong answer here – with what you and your teammates have said, as long as you can come up with a reason for doing it that makes sense for your team, then do it.As you say, the benefit of forcing to the side where the wind is going will make the other team be more aware of their throws – so if you’re playing a team who is weak on throwing, it might be a good idea to force them to throw in the direction of the wind and they will probably throw away quite a bit. They will also more than likely get stuck on the sideline as they will probably not try to break force to get to the other side of the field.However, if you are playing a team who are strong throwers, it might make more sense to mark them tighter and play hard upfield marks to force them to throw good crisp throws. Or even frontside and force them to huck.The point is, try something that makes sense for your team. If it works, stick with it. If it doesn’t, adjust.

    2. @mamaxmax That’s a great question Max.

      I don’t think there is a wrong answer here – with what you and your teammates have said, as long as you can come up with a reason for doing it that makes sense for your team, then do it.

      As you say, the benefit of forcing to the side where the wind is going will make the other team be more aware of their throws – so if you’re playing a team who is weak on throwing, it might be a good idea to force them to throw in the direction of the wind and they will probably throw away quite a bit. They will also more than likely get stuck on the sideline as they will probably not try to break force to get to the other side of the field.

      However, if you are playing a team who are strong throwers, it might make more sense to mark them tighter and play hard upfield marks to force them to throw good crisp throws. Or even frontside and force them to huck.

      The point is, try something that makes sense for your team. If it works, stick with it. If it doesn’t, adjust.

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