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Strategies for 3 on 3 Ultimate

About a month ago, I received an email from an ultimate player. His name is Daniel and he was wondering what offensive and defensive strategies I would suggest for 3 on 3 since he had a tournament coming up and had only ever played normal 7 on 7 before. I’ve included my response below along along with some observations and feedback from Daniel after the tournament (his team lost in the championship game).

Ultimate Rob

With 3 players, I would suggest that you should always have 2 people working the disc and the 3rd person cutting to get open. It’s super important to have a backup handler because you never want to get stalled out so you should always have a reset while the 3rd player works to get a cut that gains yards or even goes deep to the endzone.

I would keep the passes short…do lots of give-gos and when you have the chance to put the disc up, do it since you have a fast team with a tall average height.

On defense, you could attempt to try and work a zone depending on what offense the other team was running but you would have to be able to melt into a man to man very quickly.


[The tournament] Went pretty well! We placed second. Our most successful offense came from a “vertical stack” of sorts with no dump and one cutter receiving a short throw and hucking to the other cutter on some sort of continuation. The field was only 35 yards long, so anyone had the ability to huck. We also had quite a few points off pure 50/50 throws to the end zone exploiting a match-up if there was one (because anyone could get it to the end zone at any time).

The only defense we experimented with other than man was a mark on the thrower and the other two defenders bracketing the other two players. It was effective, but we mostly used it against vastly inferior teams and stuck with man in our closer games. We also attempted a desperation 2 man cup and safety in the championship down 7-4 in a game to 9 and not having stopped them a single time. It actually worked well, possibly just because we took them by surprise. We defaulted back to man for some reason after a turn or two and lost 9-6.

As far as what didn’t work well, honestly we out talented every team we played until the championship so our games were mostly very efficient (9-2, 9-3, etc.). The championship found our hucks landing just outside the end zone instead of in it as they had all day. We were a combined few yards from putting as much pressure on the other team as they did on us, but their familiarity and quickness with the give and go beat out our 1-2 throws and huck strategy. A quick first step with the amount of open space that 3v3 provides is almost unstoppable.

I really love the takeaways from Daniel’s last email to me. When Daniel first emailed me, he already had an idea in his head of what could work based on his team being above average height (6’2″) and relatively fast. It’s always tough not being challenged until the final game as you can see from Daniel’s summary. Hucks are much easier when there isn’t a lot of pressure put on the thrower – so in the final, against a better team, when there is more pressure, hucks are rushed and throws are not released as cleanly.

My question for you is this: Have you played 3 on 3 before? What offensive and defensive strategies did you find worked well?

2 thoughts on “Strategies for 3 on 3 Ultimate”

  1. 3v3 strategies depends very much on the field size. If it is played on something like a normal indoor field (20×40 meters. This is at least the norm in Norway 😉 ), there is a _lot_ of space available, and it is going to be very hard for the defense to stop both in-cuts and deep-cuts. I’d set up in either a 2-1 or a 1-2, and use give-and-go and handler play a lot, until there are openings deep, which there is going to be. I don’t know how to defend effectively against this… Maybe an almost straight up force to force the O into making more passes..?
    We usually play a bit with a much narrower field when we are few people to practice. This is more fun, and more balanced between offense and defense. Here you need to be very mindful of the space and not running in each others way. Zone defenses can often be effective. Good practice for tight playing with quick passes (e.g. against zone D) 🙂

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