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Summary: Using a center of the field vertical stack offence to create better forward throwing opportunities.

Compared with standard horizontal offense, the center of the field vertical offense has fallen out of fashion in recent years. There are exceptions, as one elite mens team favors its structure to create opportunities. Of note, there are teams that shift the center of the field vertical stack to a sideline (side stack) or start on the sideline to create bigger spaces for cutters and throwers. Either of these options improve throwing percentages and give the offence multiple isolated cutters with which to advance the disk under low(er) risk conditions. A centre of the field vertical creates two decent sized lanes for cutters to receive throws, while the strength of the vertical side stack is one massive area, allowing throwers to more easily break their mark. The goal is to combine the attributes of center of the field and side stack vertical offensive structures to help create more forward throwing opportunities per cutter – defender pair.

This article will explain the basic mechanics of a vertical offence that is neither a center of the field or sideline stack, but something more dynamic which combines the best of both philosophies. The offspring will create the same high percentage throws to downfield cutters through strategic isolation of cutters but alleviate the main weaknesses of the parents. One advantage of a dynamic vertical over center of the field vertical is that the offense can advance the disc downfield for 3 or 4 passes before the sideline impacts flow. The only flaws of a vertical side stack are the lost opportunities to advance the disc while resetting the stack, or if the stack stays on one sideline, the handlers are required to work very hard to actively keep the disc in a space that is advantageous rather than using a simple dump-swing. It is agreed that a patient team executing any offense well, will generate goals and frustrate their opponents defensive teams.

The first step combining centre of the field and side stack vertical structures is to have an imaginary boundary centred within the width of the field within which the vertical can shift laterally (Figure 1). A boundary that is too narrow is not productive mainly because the cutters will not be optimally isolated and, similar to center of the field vertical, the offense will end up on the sideline in one to two passes. Using a very wide imaginary boundary, similar in size to a side stack, may result in a loss of cohesiveness of the cutters as they become jumbled across the field forcing high-stall throws (potentially riskier throws) and picks. A vertical stack that adjusts within an optimal boundary, relative to the position of the disc on the field, will be able to make multiple throws while keeping cutters away from the sideline, which disrupts flow.

Basically, if the disc moves laterally in one direction, the vertical stack shifts in the opposite direction. If a dump-swing maneuver moves left to right, the stack will shift right to left relative to the position of the disc and end up at the opposite boundary (Figures 2a and 2b). The cue for the stack to shift laterally is when the disc is about to progress into the dump position of dump-swing. To be clear, the stack can stay where it is if a dump cutter is able to cut upline and gain yardage (Figure 2c). The wider the dump swing, the less distance the stack has to shift away from the disc. Narrower dump swings (which are fine) require the stack to shift to the maximum limit of the imaginary boundary. The speed at which players move when resetting the stack (shift laterally) isn’t as important as the integrity of the stack. The defenders of the players closest to the handlers will impact the throwers options if they are unable to clear far enough or quickly enough. Stress the importance of moving quickly but under control and ready to take advantage of poaches from the front of the stack.

The state of the disc is either in play (standard flow – see above paragraph and Figures 2a-c), starting from a dead disc or immediately upon receiving a pull. Figure 3 shows a pull that has been fielded in bounds with the defenders earning excellent coverage. In the case of the dead disc (brick, for example), the vertical stack can shift in either direction, but shifting towards the open or force side will help set up an easy break side throw (aka poor man’s breakmark throw) to any of your receivers (Figure 4). To prevent picks and gain the most yards, initiate using the cutter furthest from the disc. The cutter furthest from the disc can receive a pass in two distinct places on the field (Figure 5).

In summary, the idea and the simple mechanics of a dynamic vertical stack have been explained. To learn and apply this structure in a game will take a few hours of practice, however the benefits are worth the expenditure. The initial shift of the stack into the open side will set your offense up with a difficult to defend (and relatively low risk) breakside throw. Next, several ideas for throwers and cutters to generate multiple continuation throws prior to resetting the disc.

Written by Keith Krieger

Keith has been playing ultimate for close to a decade. He’s had the opportunity to play both formally and informally with teams the west and east coast of Canada. His main focus has been playing with Wreckhouse from St. John’s NL. Like most, he plays ultimate for the competition, fitness and strategy.