The Myth of Shutdown Defense

Feature photo by Christina Schmidt –

The single most import thing to remember when playing defense is positioning yourself to take away the space the other team is trying to attack. As defenders, we need to make sure we are always in an athletic position to move when our offenders do. Take away space by being able to move to it before the cutter does or being able to challenge it away with your feet foot speed.

Shutting down 100% of a player’s cuts is impractical. For starters, it’s impossible to block 360 degrees of space around a player. Second, if you do manage to get a turn you’re going to have a team full of zombies trying to generate a break. Intelligent defense starts with seeing the field and being able to apply pressure to your cutter when he is next in line. For instance, if you know the other team is going to be looking to send the disc away, you need to be able to see the field so that you recognize when the disc is most likely to be hucked. Personally, I like giving up the away because I’m fast enough to make up the steps and I play fairly well in the air. If your offender is faster than you then you should focus more on the movement of the disc and shutting down and timing/space rather than on him. You can still play effective man defense even if you aren’t glued to his hip.

A lot of people call this triangle defense: setting yourself up to see the disc, your man, and the space that exists. Doing it is easier said than done, but a good starting point is the idea that you should try to see two of the three at all times. For me, those two are usually my man and the disc. Knowing where the disc is and how it’s moving across the field helps me put myself into a better position to not work as hard while still taking away what I want. I also steal peeks at the disc as much as possible so I know what’s happening. If my cutter is resetting to the stack I can afford a half second look to see where the disc is and where it will most likely go next, and I can then position myself accordingly.

Regardless of how you choose to play (physically or not) you need to make sure that your hips are aligned to your man. If you choose to set up away from your offender then you need to make sure that you are mirroring his steps while maintaining an athletic position. Most offensive cutters will wait until their defender opens their hips before making a decision about where they want to go. As defenders if we can delay that until that last possible second it gives us the advantage of not losing that step.

If I’m going 100% lock down defense I’m going to get up in my guy’s grill and make sure they know what I’m okay giving up (the away or the under). I’m going to push them in a direction and then I’m going to learn from the way they cut. If they took the inside on me to get open I’m going to make them take the outside. If they rounded their cut I’m going to take an extra step inside to cut off the angle for a possible layout. If I see the handler likes the inside out, I’m going to set them up to go there and then make a play on the disc.

Issue No. 1 | Defensive Positioning

July 13, 2013

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