This post contains a lesson that will be familiar to many Ultimate players. It is a lesson that I learnt the hard way, on the field in an important game. Hopefully I can help newer players avoid the hard lesson by providing an easy one!
Put simply, if you are playing defense on a point and have a chance to bid on the disc your primary goal is to catch and control the disc. Although it is easier (and fun!) to smack the disc out its flight path this is a dangerous option as you are not actually exerting very much control on the disc. It can end up going anywhere on the field.
After being hit out of the air the disc will rarely go straight into the ground. It is more likely to continue flying, just in another direction. The offense will have another chance to gain control of the disc.
It is much safer to catch the disc and get it into your control, robbing your opposition of any opportunity to regain possession.
As mentioned, I learned this lesson in an important games. It is one of those memories that stick out in my mind as a harsh reminder of a play that had the potential to be awesome, but ended up failing miserably. Memories like this are important and they make you a better player but I really wish it hadn’t happened!
The game was late in the third day of last year’s Australian Mixed Ultimate Championships. Our team hadn’t done well during the pool play and we were getting to the point in the tournament where we finally faced opponents that we had a chance to beat. We were about three-quarters of the way through the game. I can’t remember the specific score. We were down, but not by much.
I was about a third of the way up the field near the left sideline when I saw a forehand huck go up from the opposite sideline, heading towards the middle of the front of the end-zone. I also noticed that there were a number of offensive players already in the area and not many of ours! I felt like I had the legs to get to the disc so I took off, weaved through a bunch of players and jumped clear of the pack with my left hand up to smack into the disc.
The disc rebounded off the palm of my hand. As I came down out of the air I saw that I’d slowed it down but it was spinning enough to continue moving in a slow, easily catchable, arc towards the back of the end zone. Upon landing I turned just in time to see an offensive player running around the back of the pack to clean up with a score, sliding along on his knees.
Given the disc hit the palm of my hand it was certainly catchable. I’m not sure why I didn’t catch it, but I really wish I had. I lost a bit of momentum after that, and then later on I lost some more when I allowed a break-force throw out after committing to my team that I wouldn’t. It was a tough game, and the lessons stick with me. We ended up finishing the tournament with no wins on the board.
Surprisingly, I often have time to recall that memory on the field these days when chasing down a disc. The memory provides plenty of incentive for me to focus on catching the disc, not just disrupting it from its destination.
So I am hoping my experience can help some of you in avoiding the mistakes I have made. To further illustrate my point here’s a video demonstrating exactly what I’m referring to:
Finally, Rob has some more great advice on defense in a post titled 5 Quick Tips to Improve Your Defense.