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Ultimate strategy is still in a very young, new stage of development. Only in the past 10 or 20 years have teams begun to develop strategies any deeper than "run fast" or "work hard". Many teams still continue to abide by the notion of "play hard, party harder", however with the burgeoning number of elite teams and experienced players, ultimate strategy is beginning to become much more fleshed out.


[edit] Basic Ultimate Strategy

To win a game of ultimate, a team must score more points than its opponents, therefore any offensive strategy must eventually result in a method for scoring goals. Forward progression while in possession of the disc is pivotal (and hopefully obvious), but can be achieved in many, many ways.

For defensive strategy, the same axioms hold true (only reversed). Teams need to prevent their opponents from scoring goals, and a wide variety of tactics and plays can be used to do so. Although stopping the forward motion of the disc at all costs may not be the best strategy used, somewhere along the way, stopping the other team from scoring has to be part of the strategy.

[edit] Low Skill Level Strategy

Players of low-skill levels will probably face more challenges from themselves than their opponents. Inability to throw the disc, not knowing the basic rules of the game, and being unaware of how to cut or to use open space are all things to consider when devising strategies for playing. Low-level teams should address these matters first, and devise a strategy around them.

  • Player/Skill Progression - For many beginner teams, winning is not the ultimate objective, and an emphasis is placed on developing player skills and confidence. These teams will generally allow all players to catch and throw the disc in as many different situations as possible.
  • Playing to Win - This is generally not the wisest of strategies for beginning players. Given limited experience, more athletic players may dominate and new players can quickly lose a desire for further playing ultimate. Using this strategy however would dictate that any player(s) with stronger disc skills should maximize the amount of time they are in possession of the disc. A simple pass-and-dump routine would be ideal. By utilizing faster, taller and/or more athletic players, teams should isolate these players (see Iso, while other players attempt to create as much open field space as possible.

[edit] Intermediate Skill Level Strategy

Teams of intermediate skill level begin to have many more options when developing strategies for ultimate. Teams should now be much more capable of deep strikes, accurate mid-range throws, and creating open space or running set plays.

Teams can begin to develop player positions as well (see Positions for more on this). Strategies may still revolve around minimizing team miscues and mistakes, however teams may have the skill set to begin modifying strategies and tactics based on opponent abilities. Defense also becomes a more defined aspect of a team's strategy, as teams should now be able to identify opponent weaknesses and adjust their defensive tactics accordingly.

  • Player Roles - Teams can begin to work within set positions, utilizing handlers, mids and deep players.
  • Adaptive Offensive/Defensive Strategies - Teams are able to recognize different factors involved in a game (weather, opponent strength and weaknesses, etc.) and adapt their offensive and defensive strategies accordingly.

[edit] Tenets of Ultimate Strategy

In all situations, from the individual matchups such as marker vs. thrower to teams tactics such as Zone Offense vs. Zone Defense there are a few principles that apply broadly.

  • The defense cannot take away everything - Defensive tactics and strategies will never completely shut down every option for the offense. The goal is to limit specific options that the offense has a major advantage in.
  • For everything the defense tries to take away, it will also give something up. - A corollary to the above. e.g. A marker can take away a deep throw by forcing straight up, but then he gives up an easy swing. A Zone Defense will take away upfield passes but give up easy side to side passes.
  • If the defense is set on taking one thing away, the offense must use what the defense is giving up. - e.g. if the marker is playing straight up and the defenders in the field cover their men deep, the thrower is more or less forced to throw short throws. However, they will be incredibly easy to complete.
  • If the defense is trying to take multiple things away, the offense can fake until they get what they want. -e.g. if a defender in the field is trying to guard against a receiver cutting in, but not willing to completely give up the deep cut, the defender will play underneath the receiver but be ready to sprint deep if the receiver cuts that way. The receiver can fake deep until the defender sprints deep and then cut back in for an open pass.
  • The Cat and Mouse Game - The offense is constantly probing the defense to find weaknesses: A good thrower will constantly be looking for ways to break mark; A good cutter will constantly be looking for ways to create an open cut where they want to go; A good team offense will constantly be looking for plays which take advantage of mismatches, weak spots, and opportunities. If the offense is able to find and capitalize on those holes, it will be able to score repeatedly. Therefore, the defense must adapt its tactics and strategies to change and disguise what it is taking away and what it is giving up at any given time to prevent the offense from finding a singular strategy to score: A good marker who has just been broken may take a step further away next time he marks; a good field defender who just got beat deep may guard deeper next point; a good team defense whose zone just got shredded may switch to person-to-person. And the offense once again begins to probe for weaknesses.

[edit] Tactics

[edit] Set Plays

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