In most ultimate games players will spend part of their time on the sideline. Time spent off the playing field allows a player to recuperate, hydrate and tend to any other personal matters as required. That said, it is important to recognise that you are still part of a team who is currently involved in a game and that you have an important role to play even though you’re on the sideline.
Put another way, players on the sideline have a role to play in the same way that on-field players will be called upon to fulfil a role during any given point. The role of a player on the sideline can vary and some of the responsibilities of that role are as follows:
Sort yourself out and re-engage with the game
Firstly, sort yourself out. Grab your drink bottle, change your clothes, grab a sweatband, swallow some pain killers or do whatever else you need to do to keep yourself comfortable during the game. The key is to sort yourself out efficiently so that you can re-engage with the game and help out your team. A good aim is to have yourself sorted and back observing the game from the sideline before the pull goes up.
Watch the point unfold
A player on the sideline has a great perspective of a point as it unfolds. You can see more of the field than your on-field teammates which contributes to a better vision of structure, tactics, flow and risks. Keep your eyes peeled and gather information where you can. This might include the behaviour of your opponent or observations that form the basis of feedback for your own team.
Given you are watching the point unfold from a different perspective you will be gathering intel that will be useful for your teammates on the field. When on the sideline your biggest asset is your ability to tell your on-field teammates things that they don’t know. Who is poached? Who is open? Who is cutting long? Who has a mismatch? Communicate useful information clearly to your teammates. This will often involve walking the sideline as the play moves up and down the field. Encouragement is also extremely valuable, supporting your teammates.
Remember and learn
The knowledge you obtain on the sideline can be used in future points. You can put this into play yourself, or communicate with your other teammates if something helpful is identified. For example, if you notice an opponent who is continuously throwing high-release backhands you might want to ensure their marker is aware of this trend and is ready to defend appropriately.
In addition to those general responsibilities some specifics examples apply depending on whether your team is currently playing offence or defence. Whilst not exhaustive, here are some examples of very useful contributions a sideline team member can make in each scenario:
When your team is on offense you can watch for, and communicate when:
- A player has cut into space – “Smith is open!”
- A huck has gone up – “Left, left left!”
- The disc is about to be brought into play – “Cuts now!”
- The force changes.
- The defence transitions.
- A foul, pick or other infraction is called.
When your team is on defence you can watch for, and communicate when:
- An opponent gets into space on the force-side – “Strike!”
- An opponent gets into space on the break-side – “No breaks!”
- A teammate is currently covering the deepest threat – “Smith, you’re deepest”
- An opponent crashes the cup – “Crash!”
Hopefully this information helps to formalise the role of a sideline player during a game. I’d be interested to hear other perspectives on this important role so please leave your feedback and advice in the comments below.