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Reading Between the Lines

Whether you’re a player, a captain or a coach, you will have invariably dealt with lines – either being called or calling them.

I think there are 4 scenarios for calling lines which depend on the type of game you’re playing:

  1. If you are playing a team that is either stronger or weaker than you, I think it’s a good idea to call positions and rotate among lines.
  2. If you are playing an evenly matched team and you will end up trading points most of the game, I think it’s a good idea to call O and D lines.
  3. You can take a hybrid approach but always be aware and adjust accordingly.
  4. Upwind/downwind lines

This can also be made more tricky if you have more than 21 players on your team since trying to create an O and a D line will generally mean that you have 10 players on the O line and 11 players on the D line, which is a lot. I think the ideal number of players on a team is 2 lines plus a few extra subs s0 around 18-19 players but it’s always good to carry a few more so the new players can gain some experience, they can feel a part of something and in case you have injuries, you will not run your top players into the ground before the finals.

Scenario #1: Uneven teams, not trading points

In this case, your team will either be scoring a lot of points in a row or having points in a row being scored against you. You will want to try and create even lines based on handlers, mids and deeps (the most simplistic way to do it). You can even meld the mids and deeps together and just call them cutters. For this scenario, I would recommend calling 5-7 handlers and make sure that you always have 3 of those handlers on at a time throw add in 4 cutters. You can even work in pairs of cutters so you can put on 2 pairs of cutters on each line. This is effective if you have certain skills of players you’d like to put together or if you’d like to try and make sure that your players are getting played equally. It’s just a useful way to manage lines I find as well.

Scenario #2: Evenly matched teams, trading points

Generally the more competitive, advanced teams will run O and D lines and this can be useful in a tight game that is back and forth. By having a dedicated O line, you can put more players on your D line, keep the fresh legs going to help wear out their O line and in a game of possession, try to build your O line to be as high percentage as possible. You will want to keep the O line small – 8-9 players I would recommend and have the rest on the D line. Your O line should be players who will make the high percentage throws, won’t drop little throws and will have patience to work the disc up the field if necessary. Your O line should score everytime they’re on the field as a general goal to aim for. Obviously this isn’t always the case, but it will help you structure your O line to be as close to that goal as possible. You want to have some good throwers, some good mids and some good deeps. Everyone else will be on the D line. The point of D is to force a turnover and then score so you’ll also need good throwers/mids and deeps on D. I was a D line player because I could pull, I was good at marking the thrower/mid/deep and I was a good thrower.

Scenario #3:  A mix of Scenarios #1 and #2

If the game is a mix of back and forth and a lot of points being scored in a row, then you will need to have the foresight and the flexibility to adjust. If you don’t, then you will get in situations where the other team goes on runs simply because you have the wrong personnel on the field. For example, if the other team scores and you then send out your O line, which proceeds to turn over and get scored on. So you leave your O line out for the next point and they again turn the disc over and get scored on…and so it goes. You need to give them maybe 2 chances and then change up the lines. Throw the D line on for a point.

Scenario #4: Upwind/downwind lines

Many times the difference between winning and losing comes down to who can score upwind. Being able to control the disc, maintain possession and work the disc up the field upwind is a skill that can help your team win or lose games. In order to make upwind and downwind lines, it’s important to have throwers on the field who can work the disc up the field but also put up a throw into the wind when they have a receiver open. Not every handler has the ability to throw upwind – it requires putting a lot of spin on the disc, throwing at the right angle and having the consistency on your throw to put the disc where your receivers can get it. As someone who can throw upwind, I was always on the upwind line – I like being called on to be that guy but I also was grateful when I had guys on my line who had the ability to catch and throw upwind. It’s a skill that comes from a lot of practice. If you don’t know how much skill it takes yet, you’re probably not on the upwind line…

There are multiple approaches to running lines. Some captains/coaches with in pod systems. Some teams will sit a group of different players every game and have those players instead be sideline players – talking to the onfield players, recognizing what O/D the other team is playing, etc…

How do you approach calling lines?

Written by Ultimate Rob

Rob McLeod is a disc sports competitor, a 13 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 in 2009.


so what makes you an upwinder /downwinder? being able to throw well? since you re in need of those downwind points do you send your best seven to secure this "easy" points. Or do you send your second 7 (with the risk of getting scored on)  and try to go for the upwind break?


i love this topic and think you could go into detail a little more.

Thanks for sharing this!


Seems like there is a trend of up and down wind lines. 



 I heard about this after our season was over. So I have yet to try it out. I have heard several team used it at Club Nationals last year. Off the top of my head, I would assume you would make sure you would have someone who could huck up wind in every upwind point and receivers that can get floaters (taller players and players who read the disc well). Down wind you would want some one who is fast enough chase down wind aided throws. May want to think about who breaks the mark with high releases and who breaks it with low (high being down wind and low upwind).  Also taller players are better targets on in cuts up wind and in zones when that disc gets blown up they just reach for it, when little people have to jump and reach their little arms for the disc.


Sometimes people can just play better up wind, so put them in with people they play well with.


I thought I remember hearing Double Wide did this at Nationals. 


robmcleod moderator

 @mcm2 That's another element to for sure

robmcleod moderator

 @mcm2  @xy_fr Great points and I do agree that working in some upwind players is important. You'll want throwers who know how to control a disc in the wind, who can get a big throw off into the wind and who are also patient and can be controlled enough to work the disc up the field in an upwind situation. Some games are so tight that scoring 1 upwind point could be the difference between winning and losing.