Photo by Kristina Geddert for Ultiphotos
What ultimate frisbee position are you best suited for?
When you first start playing ultimate it can be hard to find your place on the field. Where do I go? What are people talking about? There’s a lot of jargon!
So here’s a quick post to get you up to speed. By focusing on the position you’re best suited to, you can gain skill and confidence on the ultimate field more quickly!
A lot of us learn to play frisbee through league or with other people who already know what’s going on. If you’ve been on the field a few times, but are a bit confused, this is for you!
Here are the ultimate frisbee positions.
Read on and find out which might be best for you!
When the other team is playing person-to-person defense, your team will likely play either a vertical stack or horizontal stack offense. Either way, there will be two basic positions - handers and cutters
A handler in ultimate frisbee is someone who has good disc skills. They will be responsible for fielding the pull, keeping possession of the disc, and running the offense. Handlers are usually the ones who will call plays off a stopped disc or near the endzone.
At beginner levels of play, handlers will typically touch the disc more often than cutters. They must be good decisions makers as well as throwers in order for the offense to keep possession of the frisbee.
There are many ways to be a good handler. Some handlers specialize in breaking the mark. Some handlers can huck the disc really far. And other handlers specialize in being more like a point guard in basketball - knowing how to run an offense and distribute the frisbee where it needs to go.
You might make a good handler if you…
- Enjoy practicing your throws - a lot!
- Can stay calm under pressure
- Have good agility - you can change direction quickly in small spaces
- If you are shorter than average or not as fast, you may have more opportunities in the field as a handler if you can develop above average throwing skills.
A cutter is someone who will typically be downfield of the disc and the handlers. When the pull comes, cutters need to get downfield and start preparing to cut for the disc. Usually they will do this by getting into a particular offensive formation or executing a set play - which is a series of predetermined cuts in a particular order.
Once the disc is in motion cutters continue to move downfield and look for opportunities to get the disc either from their cutters or from the handlers.
Beginning ultimate frisbee players will often start out as cutters due to a lack of throwing skill. But cutting is not a simple position. Cutters need good field awareness so that they are not getting in each other's way. Good cutter knows when and where to go to make the throwers job as easy as possible.
Some cutters specialize in making the first cut from the pull or stopped disc. Other cutters specialize in being good at continuing the flow of the disc. Some cutters are especially good at making deep cuts into the endzone and getting the disc using their speed, disc reading skills, or vertical jumping abilities.
You might make a good cutter if you…
- Are faster than average
- Are taller than average
- Can develop good field awareness - you know when to create space for other cutters as well as how to make a cut and get the disc.
- If you are not obsessed with throwing practice, then you may find more opportunities on the field as a cutter if you can develop above average athleticism or field awareness.
If the opposing team plays zone defense, your team will likely switch to a zone offense formation.
Zone offense creates a few more positions. You will still have handlers. But now the downfield players will often be separated into the positions of poppers and wings.
Poppers are cutters who will tend to stay closer to the handlers. Against a zone defense, the poppers are looking for quick opportunities like throws through or over the cup.
Poppers will often engage in give-and-go sequences of quick passes with the handlers.
When poppers get the disc past the first line of defense, they may also make deeper shots toward the wings or deeps.
You will excel at popping if you have good spatial awareness and if you can catch and release the disc quickly. Being quick, but not hurried is the sign of a good popper.
Teams may call this position a “wing” or “deep” position. These players will usually be further downfield and also toward sidelines versus the middle of the field.
Wings will be patient and opportunistic. Wings will be aware of where the deep defender is at all times. They will often will work with the other wing to split the deep defender’s attention. It is often the case that a wing might not receive the disc during a point, but contributes to the team scoring by forcing the deep defender to pay attention to them instead of the other wing or players closer to the disc.
A wing can cut forward to gain yards when the disc swings to their side of the field. Alternatively, a wing might hang out deeper in the field. A wing in space deeper in the field can wait for longer throws over the cup, like hammers or blades. It is helpful if a wing is confident catching these types of throws.
Because zone defense is often played in windy conditions, it is helpful if the wing has confidence jumping for discs that might float in the air or reading discs with messy flight patterns.
In zone defense, players guard and pay attention to spaces rather than specific players. Positions in zone defense include the cup, short deep, monster, and wings.
Players in the cup will often be physically fit. The cup will likely be running the most during the point and they also need to stay relatively close to one another. A team might play a zone defense with three or four players in the cup depending on the defensive structure.
In the cup, you will have one person marking the disc, one or two people in the middle of the cup, and one person on the end of the cup. The mark should have a good mark against a variety of handler types. The mark in a zone offense is sometimes called the “rabbit” or the “chase.” It is helpful if the mark is fast so that they can get to the disc and set up a mark as quickly as possible.
The middle of the cup is trying to prevent throws downfield and to the poppers. The middle of the cup will want to know where the poppers are and which throws might be most dangerous.
The end of the cup may be preventing downfield throws or may be preventing lateral swing passes depending on the team’s objective for the defense. This player should be most aware of the position of the handler on the open side of the field.
Short Deep/Middle Flat
This position will have different names depending on what part of the country or what part of the world you are playing in. Short Deep and Middle Flat are most common, but some places will have other names for this position.
The short deep will be behind the cup and toward the center of the field. They will often be switching which players they are defending based on which option looks most dangerous. The short deep will likely be making the highest number of decisions on the field so it is helpful if they have a high game IQ and good field sense. Being quick in order to change direction and cover a lot of space can also be helpful to have in a short deep.
The monster is responsible for the endzone and longer throws. They will likely hang out closest to the endzone or only as close to the disc as they can be while still being able to reach the deepest offensive player if the disc is thrown.
Because the monster can see all of the players on the field, they are responsible for communicating with the wings and with the short deep. They may call one of the wings back to help in the deep space if the opposing team’s wings are spread out too far to cover both of them at once. The monster may also provide information to the middle flat to help them make decisions about who or what to cover.
A good monster will be able to cover a lot of space, read discs that float, and communicate loudly to other players on the field. The monster will often be the person who decides and communicates when the team should switch from zone defense to person-to-person defense.
Wings in a zone defense will be most aware of their counterparts, the wings in a zone offense. The wings will be closest to the sidelines.
Teams often put newer players in the wing position because it can be played successfully with fewer decisions required. A wing positioned with their back to the sideline can easily see both the disc and the offensive wing. Thus, they require less field sense to gather the information needed to play the position. The primary responsibility of the defensive wing is the other team’s offensive wing. They should also be ready to listen to instruction from the monster.
Though the position is often played by newer players, a wing with higher game IQ can be deadly. A smart wing can flexible and help the defense out in a variety of ways. They can cheat in toward the middle to help the middle flat, they might intercept a swing to an unsuspecting handler, or they can be proactive in helping in the deep space when necessary. A wing with high game IQ can cover their space while finding creative ways to disrupt the opposing team’s offense. A trustworthy wing knows how to balance the risk vs reward of their positioning decisions.
How to choose
When you first start playing, your coach or team will likely decide your position for you.I hope this article helps you understand why you’re being placed where you are. As you look to play other positions, start thinking about what skills or ultimate frisbee game knowledge you’ll need in order to play other positions too! Your ability to play other ultimate frisbee positions will be determined by a combination of physical abilities and game IQ.
If you’re ready to get serious about improving your physical performance, join our Strength and Conditioning program. If you need more knowledge of how the game works, consider our Coaching and Game IQ membership.
Good luck this season. And know that any position on the field is a place where you can make a contribution to the team if you play your position well.