Friday, August 14, 2009



(Or, Generation H and the Search for a Stackless O)

Okay, I don't play much ultimate anymore. Five tournaments in the past year: Sandblast (does that count?), GrandMasters '09, Masters '08, Masters Regionals '08, Masters Worlds '08. I do still think about disc, and have watched a bit of good play at those tournaments, however.

The sport is certainly maturing. Observations which were lessons 10 years ago are now common knowledge to even middling teams. (Examples: communicating switches, help from the sideline, calling the danger spot, getting inside of the cutter, high count marking behavior.) Also, you can now assume that every decent team takes its athleticism seriously. In light of this, I feel I have little concrete intellectual content to offer -- hence the bloglessness, even when I *am* thinking about the game. (Plus, Facebook has proven itself *the* welcoming home for all of our psychoanalytical exhibitionism.)

Do we see significant differences between teams? Experts will tell us we do, but that's because they are able to look with a keener eye. The fact that we even need a keen eye to discern among top teams is a testament to the convergence of play.
I don't think the "Turnover Compact" (archives: 8/14/05) is still valid. Good teams have a more refined sense of probabilities and expected outcomes, and have eliminated most unnecessary turnovers. In short, "Generation H" (archives: 8/10/05) is all growed up. What does it look like?

It's about 6' 2", muscular (it does CrossFit), does ulty on-line and off, with all pistons blaring. Smart about the game. It's on a team that plays Ho stack on 90% of points. It gets open by using said pistons, juking up and back, outhustling its hapless defender. (There are other cuts, too, but this is the one that serves my purpose.) Here's my only beef: too many teams are racing down the same path toward victory. There is a fixed skill-and-muscle set which will help them down that path. The team which better develops these skills --- *these* skills --- will win the race.

But what if there's another path?

Don't get me wrong: I don't claim to have found it, and I don't claim to have been on a team that found it. I do think there is something to be said for valuing innovation, and I don't think we have had a significant innovation since the Ho stack arrived. I mentioned previously (archives: "The Moral Relativist and the Ho," 7/17/08) that a stack is more of a mindset, or framework, for thinking about offensive structures and spacing. Having a paradigm is great, and being able to shift paradigms is even better ("paradigm shift" or "game changer" is the Holy Grail of business, politics... sports). So why not move between one and another?

So this is both a lament -- that we don't see teams wielding a full arsenal of weapons -- and a challenge, to find the Stackless O, a dynamic offense that instantly locates and exploits *any* viable space on the field. This would require a team to seamlessly move into (whatever) formation is best, shifting on a dime the way a flock of geese do. I'm not saying they're Canada geese.. or condors. Or fish, which also exhibit nice group behavior. They're certainly not packs of DoGs. I don't know what they are. Never seen them on the disc field. Just herds of magic unicorns, I guess. (Not goats.)

(Maybe they're already there. Tell me about them.)

you should have seen revolver this weekend.
cue frank.
CK -- ?

Sorry, I'm from the pre-Twitter generation. Inside jokes are lost on me (and my blog). Care to elaborate?
Hmmm... I seem to be signed in under my 2-year-old daughter's e-mail account. That last post (and this one) was indeed from me. -zaz
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paradigm shift.

Teach players how to play point guard. Apply Basketball ideologies, learn give and go moves, play action plays and misdirection plays.

These innovations wreck ultimate. They ruin the game.
Frank, if I understand your comment, you are *advocating* teaching give-and-go techniques and *not* saying that those innovations wreck ultimate. That is, the antecedent of your "these" should be read as "stack innovations," not "basketball ideologies."

To that, I will agree that give-and-go and other hot-box style moves are effective. They should be part of every player's offensive repertoire. But they are local formations and maneuvers. The global offensive structure still needs to be addressed. Kinda like Brazilian soccer, which has similar aspects to what you describe. Even in the beautiful game, there is motion and structure far from the ball. (Basketball has less global structure because the court is so small. Now if teams would only play 92 feet of defense....)

(Regarding basketball techniques: on the flip side, good ultimate markers can get a surprising number of point blocks in *basketball.* The "rock," after all, moves a lot more slowly than the disc.)
Not really. I'm saying that if you taught players how to be triple threats (i.e. taught how to incorporate balance and explosiveness into handling the disc), it wrecks ultimate. The game becomes trivial. Not that it's not hard work, but when you master the ability to break down a defense, there's not much left to the game.

HotBox? You can't be serious. And NOBODY has any decent give and go moves. They are highly illegal and completely off balance.

Yes, global motion is all part of my offense. That's why I call it a motion offense. Moving 'without the ball' as they say in hoops.

Speaking of hoops, I'm off to Golden Gate park to play some Dischoops!!! Have a great day
I wonder Frank, why you always talk about how these innovations "wreck" ultimate and allow you to dominate yet I have seen video of you and your acolytes playing in tournaments and you guys don't even really compete, let alone dominate and "wreck" ultimate. How do you explain this?
You can ask Rob of Ultivillate to post the Potlatch video from 2008. He went down there to film me fall on my face and instead, as advertised, I dominated. As Chase put it after the game 'dude, you embarrassed us'.

Adding the triple threat philosophy to ultimate ruins the game. It trivializes it.
I am from Taiwan! Si vous voulez visiter Taiwan, bienvenue sur mon site et des visites Zhijiao, je vais proposer divers types de visites guidées et visites guidées ...

I am from Taiwan! If you want to visit Taiwan, welcome to my site visits and Zhijiao, I will provide various guided tours and guided tours .

Ich komme aus Taiwan! Wenn Sie nach Taiwan besuchen möchten, herzlich willkommen auf meiner Besuche vor Ort und Zhijiao, werde ich verschiedene geführte Touren bieten und Führungen ...

Isn't the Hostack already a move toward the "stackless O"? The only reason it has the word stack is because "vertical stack" came before it. Many/most hostacks or spread offenses don't peel cutters out of the deadspace in any real definable order.

If you have a dynamic spread offense where cutters and handlers may interchange freely, and you seek to constantly put pressure on both the middle of the field and the deep space, you're playing something resembling a "stackless O".

As far as innovations since the arrival of the hostack, I think the biggest strategic changes have been:

1) The maturation of various other spread sets, such as the split stack, as well as various different clearing and spacing schemes within the hostack. At this point, saying your team runs a "ho" is not really sufficient to describe it.

2) Various defensive responses to horizontals and spread O have become more entrenched. Teams are much more organized at how they defend set dumps and how/when they poach and switch to cut off access to the best real estate.

I don't think the next great evolution will be to stop running hostacks or spreads. I think various spread offenses offer a fundamentally superior way to play against a smart, switching defense, and they're here to stay. I think over the coming years we will see greater and greater refinement of various active/poaching/switching defenses, and the best ways to beat them.
You all seem to be missing the point here.

There is an entire element completely missing from the modern game.

What's required for a football team to run play action passes? You need a legitimate running game other wise the defense just laughs at you. This running game is exactly what's missing in ultimate.

The running game is predicated on a comprehensive set of penetration moves while throwing the disc. Nobody has this and I mean NOBODY. Not legal and not balanced. It is amazing that this one element is completely AWOL.

When you have a team that can execute play action passes, misdirection plays, counter plays, sweeps, funnels, pick and rolls (yes, they are legal in ultimate outside the 9'10" boundary), you completely wreck the game. A solid motion offense makes a mockery of Ultimate Frisbay and when you finally come to that realization, there's really only one thing left for you to do.

Play Dischoops!!

It's fun.
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