Coaches Corner Four ways to improve your cutting by Lochlan Wise

Cutting isn't just about running hard. Use these tips to maximise your effectiveness downfield.

“Always Expect to Get It”

The biggest asset offence has is the availability of space. No matter how tall, agile, experienced or
quick your defender is, they will never be able to cover all the space around you. Knowing the defence has to prioritise which spaces means you can start exploiting the area they aren’t focusing cuts on areas they haven’t prioritised. (Note: Establishing Defensive Priorities)

When starting out in ultimate, we are typically taught to cut either “out” or “in”, and as a result there seems to be two universal zones cutters will expect to receive the disc in. Similarly, defenders are taught to defend those two spaces. As we play at a higher level we begin to realise that the field space needs to be looked at as lots of smaller zones based on defensive positions, and this leaves the majority of the field wide open, or with a low defensive priority. When you begin to identify these areas, you will realise how many options you have as a cutter, and how few of them a defender can stop. See Fig. 1; rather than just thinking about a simple straight line cut into areas ‘X’ or ‘Y’, we can start to think about making multiple cuts to attack spaces ‘Z1’, ‘Z2’ or ‘Z3’.

Fig. 1: Dotted lines represent possible cutting paths; do whatever you have to do to get open

During a cut, the biggest difference between elite players and the rest is an expectation to get the
disc at any time and in any direction. If you watch the top teams, you will start to notice that some of the most effective cuts come from a sudden change of direction, and almost every movement is at 100%
pace. At lower levels, cuts may start at 100% but quickly drop to 70% as the cutter becomes unsure of
what the thrower wants or which space they should move to. Essentially, the cutter stops expecting
to have the disc thrown to them at any time, and this hesitation leads to a slower cutting pace which is exactly what the defence wants. From the throwers perspective, as soon as a cutter isn’t moving at 100% it makes the option look dangerous to throw to.

Another key component of expecting to catch the disc is realising where the thrower can place it. A
good cut is not about where you want to catch the disc but where the thrower can put the disc. So
when you’re sprinting in a cut ask yourself “is there a big space to my side that the thrower
can float the disc out to?” if the answer is yes, try a sharp change of angle, or be ready to catch!

Take away message: Be decisive and confident when cutting. Cut at 100% and be ready for the disc to come at any time.

“The last 3 Steps of a cut are the most important”

Changing direction as a cutter gives you an advantage, as the defender always has to react to where
you move. With the exception of being significantly faster than your opponent, most cuts are
successful due to the time it takes for a defender to adjust when their cutter changes direction.

During a good cut, you sprint 100%, turn suddenly (which a defender has a delay responding to) then
sprint 100% in a new direction. After feeling the separation of the initial turn, many inexperienced cutters start to slow down. This could be either to save energy or, because they start thinking about where the thrower is going to throw the disc. Meanwhile, the defender can narrow their focus to just your current cut, and if you slow down they have a chance for a bid on any throw to you. If you don’t want to get blocked, you need to be going 100% until you have caught the disc.

Takeaway message: Make a focused effort to accelerate on the last three steps before catching to prevent a defender getting a block.

“Some of the best cuts are letting a team mate cut”

People can get absorb in their own role or cutting pattern that they forget it’s a team sport. When
you’re cutting you need to be sprinting at 100%, before cutting it’s critical to ensure you’re not
about to ruin 2 cuts (your own & a teammates). Being a good team cutter is a hard skill to master
and will change with each combination of different players, all who will bring different styles and
levels of chemistry. The basics are always look before you head in a direction and if someone is
coming towards a space at pace leave the space for them.

When in the stack, your attention needs to be split 3 ways:

  1. Focus on what your defender is doing. Either drag them out of the space and keep them focused on you or, if they aren’t near you, go and get the disc or move into a space so someone else can.
  2. Pay attention to your team mates. If you can see someone running deep, if they don’t get the disc, chances are they will come under, so give them time to finish their cuts; they’ve dragged their defender deep and created a huge space to attack under, so staying out of the way can result in them getting a big gain on the under cut.
  3. If defenders setting up a switch, see if your voice can draw them away from the space or at least focus on you instead of a team mate. Just yelling “POACH” can alert the thrower and make the defenders think twice.
  4. Observe the thrower. In the stack you can be a great option for a break-throw or reset. When the stall gets high, you can be a bailout. However, if someone has spent 6 seconds going long to make a big under cut the worst thing you can do is jump out in front of them. Blindly running into a cutting path brings your defender into the space and ruins two options for the thrower. Similarly, if the thrower wants to float one out to a dump don’t crowd their space by running into it. Learn to be patient even at high stalls, getting in an athletic stance and ready to dart out in any direction can be the most effective option.

Takeaway message: Cutting is a team activity, so help make your team mate’s cuts more effective

“If you have 2 defenders, the longer you keep this the better”

The only time you shouldn’t be sprinting at 100% during a cut, is if you see a defensive switch
occurring. That can be the perfect time to reduce the speed or even add a slow turn to keep both
the defenders focused on you.

Typically, if a defender poaches from the back of the stack and you see them poaching, the more you slow down, the more likely your own defender will come with you. This creates several seconds of double coverage, leaving a teammate wide open.

This is illustrated in Fig. 2:

  • ‘X’ represents the “Sprint Zone”; cut at 100% here to generate separation
  • ‘Y’ represents the “Go Slow Zone”; at this point you’ve recognised that you’ve drawn a second defender, and your objective is to keep them busy. Shout the name of poached offensive player (C) so your team mate (A) knows not to throw to you.
  • ‘Z’ represents the “Keep Them Busy Zone”; adjust your speed and/or angle to keep both defenders busy. The longer you can keep them busy, the longer your team mate (C) has to get open. Note that while in this space, no-one else can cut deep without risking being covered by D1 and D2 who are already in the deep space. A should therefore look to cut under soon.

Fig. 2: If B cuts deep and draws D2 as well as their own defender D1, B can keep both defenders busy to allow C to get the disc

However, when doing this voice becomes critical. A good cutter will be able to see a poacher before the thrower; you need use your voice to let your thrower know not to throw to you, but instead to find the poached player.

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