The previous article described using a vertical stack that would shift to a position, within an arbitrary boundary, that was opposite the field position of the disc.  The rationale behind the lateral shift is to take advantage of the strengths of both centre of the field vertical and vertical side stack offences, while reducing the impact of their major weaknesses.  The advantages of centre and side stack vertical are large throwing lanes and isolated cutters.  The purpose of this article is to explore the options available to throwers, cutters and continuation cutters in order to execute a low risk, yet effective offensive strategy.

Ideally, the offense can isolate cutters in time and space to improve completion percentages and reduce the number of high risk throws an offense has to complete.  The dynamic centre of the field vertical, allows the offense to take advantage of multiple throwing options for a single receiver.  Depending upon the position of their respective defender, a single receiver can cut to the inside, outside or deep space available on the field (Figure 1).  How your team defines risk, the present matchups, as well as how well particular players work together, will influence which opportunities a thrower-receiver pair will avail.

The values of the dynamic vertical are the throwing options per thrower-receiver pair and, inherently, the almost ideal spacing for the options.  Due to the improvisational nature of both the offense and defense, not all throwing options will be available at all times. Poor spacing, timing and communication will be the reasons why certain options are chronically unavailable.  The three throwing options may not be available due to poor timing of cuts after a dump swing.  Specifically, the receiver leaves well before the disc has been swung, which results in throws too close to the sideline if thrown to the outside, or too close to the position of the dump cutter if thrown to the inside (Figure 2).  The deep throw may not be an option if the stack drifts too far downfield.  To prevent the stack from drifting too deep, the first player in the stack can start 10 yards downfield, with respect to the position of the handler.  Lastly, when receivers are not open to the inside, the stack may not be creating adequate space and will have to shift laterally a few more yards or receivers are choosing to cut inside before clearing away from the stack.

Because of the difficulty of maintaining a tight vertical stack, the likelihood that the primary receiver, or initiation cut, will be open for a deep strike is quite low.  Put another way, the option is available, but does the spacing increase or decrease the risk of a turnover?  Rather, it is more likely that a continuation cutter will be able earn separation to set up a deep strike.  In this case, the last back is cutting towards the disc and the next receiver in line will have the more viable opportunity for a deep strike (Figure 3a and 3b).  Always be conscious of your position in the stack (Am I the new last back?  Or, know that it is your job to cut for a particular person in the stack) and use your legs to give your team mate the best chance for a completion.  A rule of thumb for downfield continuation-cutters is to sprint deep a minimum of 10 to 15 yards prior to changing directions to cut back towards the player with the disc.  This gives your teammate an opportunity to huck (as the opportunity presents) and to force your check to commit their hips to your cut.

In practice, and in games for that matter, it is useful to organize cutters in order of cuts.  Establishing an initiator and each subsequent cut will help introduce flow into your downfield game as well as prevent excessive clutter from interfering with the progression of the disc.  This is fairly regimented for two reasons: first, it is a great way to ensure everyone gets to touch the disc because you can vary the downfield participants, and, second, the most difficult offenses to defend are ones that clearly utilize the offenses inherent advantage (the offensive player knows when the race starts and where the race finishes, while the defensive player has to guess) in one-on-one situations.  To prevent predictability of the offense (ie after a turnover or upon receiving the pull) initiate from different spots in the stack.  Remember, once the disc is in play, the last back is the optimal cutter to become the continuation.

In summary, isolating cutters in big spaces, giving throwers multiple options and opportunities for multiple continuation throws is one way to run a successful offense.  A center of the field dynamic vertical stack will help create two and sometimes three throwing options per thrower-receiver pair.  Be mindful of the traps (the same traps in every system – poor timing, understanding and spacing) that can prevent this structure from operating to your teams benefit.  The last installment will cover a few odds and ends that didn’t seem to fit in the first two parts.

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.