Handler Defense

In Strategy on November 30, 2009 at 3:16 pm
  • Priority: do not get beat upline

With that as the bedrock of good handler defense, these follow:

  • Take away the swing

Since I’m stopping the upline, I’m giving up the dump. But “giving up” has to be qualified. I need to be in a position where:

  • I am able to contest a bad dump throw (high release, off target, etc).

Assuming they look dump after ‘4’ in the stall count i can expect my marking teammate to shift and make the dump more difficult so that the throw is at least at a 45 degree angle backfield if not steeper.

  • I see the dump in progress and (if I don’t have a play on the disc) alter my course to stop the swing.

My first move is to cut off the around swing (Forehand force: I stop the backhand). My second move is to stop the inside swing. This is accomplished by me ‘aeroplaning’ in on the mark. I start further (up to 10 feet) away stopping the around swing and then ‘aeroplane’ in to stop the inside swing and at about stall 2-3 I am now in a normal marking position.

Common Mistakes:

  • Playing too close to your man. As a handler, I find it easy to beat my man just by faking if he is right up on me. if he chooses to bump me, I am able to put him on his heels and have my way.
  • Playing too close to thrower (who will throw to my man). Often, I see a defender who is close enough on the upline cut, but his momentum is going up the field and a layout does nothing. If you can position yourself in such a way that you stop the upline cut by moving more horizontally, you have a better play on the upline throw because your movement is advantageous to a layout. So, position yourself the ‘correct’ horizontal distance from the thrower.

When things breakdown, I just want to give my teammates more time to adjust to the new placement on the field. In my mind I think “slow them down”, I do whatever I can to slow down disc movement. I want the swing (I let off) to be angled backfield, or to airbounce, be off target, etc.

Playing defense alone is never successful. You must communicate with teammates (especially in handler defense). I am constantly chattering to the mark if I am on the immediate handler.

Matt Tsang: The Man Behind the Fury (Part 2)

In News, Teams on November 24, 2009 at 11:24 am

How has Fury’s rivalry with Riot shaped the women’s division? Is there anything special Fury does when approaching its games versus Riot? What was it like facing Riot in Semifinals?

It’s up for debate whether having just 2 dominant teams for the past 3 years is good for the women’s division. My hope is that we’ve played good ultimate that will translate into raising the level of women’s ultimate.  We’ve still got a ways to go to match the parity that occurs in the open division.

There are few surprises when we play each Riot.  We know each other really well.  I like playing Riot because it gives us the truest measure of where we are as team.   A coaching approach I sometimes take since I feel like I know their personnel really well is that I imagine that I am the coach of Riot.  Given what I know about Fury’s strengths and weaknesses what would I do?  Now, what would I do to combat it? It’s like playing chess against yourself and leads to circular thinking and sleepless nights.

I think it worked to our advantage seeing Riot in Semi’s. For them, losing to the Capitals and as a result having to play us in semis when they probably had visualized playing us in Finals was a mental double whammy.  I remember halfway through the 1st half of our game feeling like we had won the mental game. It was odd, since although I liked how our team was playing energetically, I didn’t think the quality of our play warranted a mental shift in our opponent.


What is the most important thing you remind Fury of offensively? Does it change throughout the season? Will it change for next year?

I have a general offensive philosophy that doesn’t change.

How it is expressed, and the strategy with which we will accomplish it changes throughout the season and from year to year.  This year was particularly different because of our young team with a remarkably different skill set.  A couple phrases from the end of the season that I would use on offense:


“The quality of our score is just as important as the point itself”

We have an athletic team that probably could come out ahead in many 50/50 battles, but if we score with our receiver open by 5-10 yards, this point is worth more to our team than the 50/50 one because of the mental pressure it puts on our opponent. The team that lost the 50/50 battle still says “good bid” to the defender.  Wide-open scores generate doubt and blame in the other team.


“Play for your team not for yourself”

It’s important to realize what makes your team good at offense. For us it was moving the disc. If we moved the disc it would take care of a lot of our offensive problems. We had a lot of new cutters this year. We had an experience corps of handlers who love to huck and throw I/O’s. We had a huge disconnect on offense between our cutters and handlers because handlers were holding the disc looking for their favorite throw that they had gotten in the past.  After a lot of frustration we realized that moving the disc quickly made our whole team better. As a result, some of our long throwers had fewer hucks this year, and we missed some breakmark opportunities but we became a more potent offensive team.  As a defender you might be able to focus on Julie, Alex, and Nancy as the big throwers that you need match ups on. If we move the disc quickly suddenly you have 7 throwing threats because any one of the 7 on the line can throw a 40 yard gainer with separation from their mark.  We become a more resilient and dangerous offensive team.

Fury employed a cornucopia of defensive styles throughout the past four years.  Do you see your coaching style as defensively minded? Who creates the defenses we see?

I don’t necessarily see my coaching style as defensive but I have focused a lot on D because when I started coaching Fury, I felt that good person D was lacking and not focused on enough in the women’s game.  Specifically, I have felt that the under cut is conceded too easily.

Before games, in addition to warming up our offense with throwing and cutting drills, we will warm up our D with a footwork or situational D drill.

Our defenses arise in two ways and are developed by our strategy group, which was this year, the 2 captains, coach, and 2 players.

We will often devise a defense to stop an offensive look of our opponent.  For example, Vancouver’s handlers traditionally have had really great forehand I/O’s, or Riot generates a lot of long aggressive throws up the sideline.  We develop the D for a specific opponent, but then add it to our rotation of defensive looks

The other way defenses are developed is we try to learn D’s that our opponents have used that have been effective against us.  We learn the D so that our Offense can practice breaking it. If we get good enough at the D we add it to the bag of tricks.

It was nice this year that we had 3-4 D’s that look very similar on many parts of the field but had different focus on where we wanted to generate a block or a poor decision by our opponent.

What player, outside of Fury, does the most for her team?

This year it was to see the hard work of Cara Crouch and Showdown pay off in Florida.  Now the south gets to show what they’ve got on an international stage in Prague.

What is next for you? Are you planning to continue on coaching?

I am committed to focusing on juniors ultimate. I would love to see the juniors program in the Bay Area grow to rival those in Seattle and Boston.  In terms of Fury I would love to coach next year. As I mentioned before this year’s team was the most talented team I’ve been a part of.   If this group is able to stay together, I believe we have just scratched the surface of what the team can achieve.  However I still need to discuss it with my wife.  If she plays, I’m definitely in!


In Tournaments on November 24, 2009 at 12:10 am

Some great stuff going on in Colombia, no joke.  Check it out here



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