Yesterday at practice we had a guest lecture from Kathy on Brute Squad about the basics of cutting! How exciting and pertinent to my frisbee goal this spring! :) In any level of ultimate, college or club, fundamentals are key and will do wonders for your game. Plus, the demos and drills she had us do were really helpful so I will share her wisdom with you:
1. Change in direction and change in speed
Cutting is all about putting space between you and your defender so that you can get the disc. How do you do that? Two ways: (1) change in direction, and (2) change in speed.
Change in direction is pretty obvious because part of cutting is tricking your defender into thinking you're going in one direction when you really want to go the other. The drill for this is a simple in-cut in the shape of a V towards a thrower. The key to this kind of cutting is to make a hard plant at the "vertex" of the V (no curved cuts or banana-shaped cuts!). Practice running the first "leg" of the V at different speeds, like 85% or 100% of your top speed. Running at 85% of your speed tricks your defender into a "comfortable" speed and then you can take off and they'll never know what hit her ;) Then the second "leg" of the V should be 100% accelerating towards the disc.
Another tactic on getting open is changing your speed. This has many variations like, starting off at a jogging pace and then suddenly sprinting towards or away from the disc, or the stutter step - where you start sprinting, stop suddenly and throw in a quick shoulder/hip fake, and then sprint off again. I personally love the stutter step - low effort and high success rate. :) The drill for this is to set up two cones in front of a thrower (similar to the Grr Drill but with another cone between the line and the thrower. Have players practice different changes in speed at the second cone, like start 85%, end at 100% or start off jogging and then suddenly sprint when you get to the cone.
2. Cutting at your defender
The goal of cutting at your defender is to get your defender on their heels so that they're off-balance. People who are off-balance need some time to get back in their athletic stance to chase after you. (And by that time, you've already gotten the disc!) The drill is a one-on-one offense/defense drill, which is pretty self-explanatory... one person on O, one person on D and the person on O tries to get open, either on an "in-cut" or "away-cut." The defender can chose to force the offense "in" or "out." Have the offense take the more challenging cut (i.e. if the defense is forcing you out, try to cut in, and vice versa). Make sure people practice cuts for both forehands and backhands. Also, the other goal of cutting at your defender is to get the defense to turn their hips. As Shakira says, "hips don't lie" and so it's much easier to get open on a defender whose hips are already turned in one direction. When I first started on sMITe, someone told me to try running straight at your defender and plant your foot right in between her feet (or as close as you can get), before making your cut.
3. Use your body (that's what she said)
Basketball players do this a lot, but basically, you want your defender behind you because she can't go through you to get the disc. If she wants to get the disc, she's going to have to go around you (which takes a lot of time/speed) or through you (which is a foul). The key to this is to turn your hips toward the disc so that your defender is on your back/butt. This applies to both "in-cuts" and "away-cuts." For in-cuts Kathy talked about shifting your body slightly to the "outside" (where your defender is) so you can catch the disc on the "inside" of your body.
For away-cuts and floaty discs, keep your defender on your back and then you can reach up and grab the disc at the last second. This is particularly helpful when your defender is taller than you. I get really excited when I can actually do this correctly. I did it once in yesterday's scrimmage for Meri's huck and Anna(?) was defending me but I didn't catch the disc. :(
One last point about cutting away: make sure you make space for you and your thrower by making your cuts curve away towards the break-side. Kathy said it was an e^x curve... ... Anyway, making room on your away cuts is essential in (1) being able to see the disc and (2) giving the thrower ample space to throw the huck. Everyone has had the experience of running directly under the disc before... it hurts your neck and you can't see the angle of the disc and thus which way it's going to fall. Curving away on your away cuts allows you to see the disc from an angle and thus know where it's going to tilt. And secondly, make it easier for your thrower to huck something pretty to you. If you cut right along the sideline, there is no wriggle room for the thrower to huck and the hucks have to be pretty much spot-on. Curving away gives you space to run the disc down and meet the disc wherever it ends up. Drill for this is cuts from the front of the stack towards the breakside, a.k.a. "the Jesus cut" as Smeri likes to call it (because it's shaped like a J).
Ok everyone, happy cutting :) And thanks Kathy for coming out to teach us!