Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Make your mark

Marking! It's a pretty important part of defense -- you're preventing throws to half of the field with an effective mark!

The underlying goal of marking is to force the thrower to throw to where you're allowing them to throw (the open side). There are many things that are related to that, but I think that if you can dictate where the thrower throws, you've done most of what you're supposed to do as a mark.

From that, these are a few things I think a great mark will do:
- Pressure the thrower into making mistakes
- Communicate to the rest of her team when the disc is thrown (by yelling "UP") and where the disc is going (if the mark is broken and the disc is traveling down the breakside, yell "BROKEN!")
- Keep her ears open and listening for instructions from her teammates (shifting "inside" or "around" or preventing a huck "no huck")

So, how to be a great mark:

1. Know the force!
It sounds trivial, but if you don't know what the force is, you can't be a good mark! As a very confused rookie at Northwestern, it took me almost a year to learn force. And the little saying everyone kept repeating to rookies was "Butt to away unless you're on the mark" (if the force was "away") and vice versa for home. That means... when you're defending someone in the stack, you're butt or back is facing the force side. It's a silly saying but it helped me a lot!


Make sure you're stalling when you're marking! You can start stalling when you're within 10 feet of the thrower. Don't say "stall" in between numbers, it slows you down (don't say "stall 2, stall 3, stall 4..." You can get LOUDER as the stall count gets higher to let your teammates know what the stall count is so the defense can play tighter D. If it's an inexperienced thrower you can even sound more frantic as the stall count gets higher. But please don't scream in the throwers' ear - that's just bad sportsmanship (*ahem* Ozone *ahem*) Actually, some people have told me that they get softer during higher stall counts so the offense doesn't know what the stall count is. Eh.

3. Athletic stance: Stay on your toes and bend your knees
Marking is hard work! A mark is not a stationary stance but an active, dynamic position where you are bending your knees (while keeping your back straight) and staying on your toes. This means, you should be TIRED after 10 seconds of marking! (Or maybe you shouldn't be, if you've been lifting! :) ) Bending your knees is important in keeping a low center of gravity so that you can move quickly without falling over. Staying on your toes is important in being mobile and having a fast reaction time. It's hard to be quick like a fox if you're flat-footed with your heels on the ground, which leads me to my next point:

4. Shuffling
Shuffling is moving your LEGS not leaning your body towards one side or another. To shuffle towards your left, move your right leg towards your left leg, then your left leg over. In other words, don't move your left leg first or else you might get caught in a situation where your feet are too far apart and you can't move quickly. A few years ago someone told me to "mark with my feet" and shuffling embodies that. You're much more effective moving your feet (and your body with them) rather than lunging or leaning to try and block the disc.

5. Arms out - "It's like hugging a fat person."

Position your arms away from your body, shoulders closed a little bit, like you're hugging a tree (or fat person). If you're playing a non-man defense and you're always marking, make sure you don't run in this position... in other words, while you're running from one marking position to the next, run like you would normally run and when you get there, put your arms out to mark.

6. Where to look? "Why are you always staring at their boobs?"

A lot of people look at the disc when they're marking, which is normally directly in front of the thrower's body, which makes it look like you're staring right at their chest while you mark. I used to do this. And Bryan made fun of me A LOT. So I started looking at their eyes, because people normally throw to where they are looking. But then everyone else started making fun of me a lot. It freaks throwers out to have their mark staring them down for 10 seconds. But as a thrower, I don't notice my mark at all so I don't think it'll work on me.

Eugene says, "Never never look at their shoulders." Shoulder-fakes work wonders :) One quick little jerk of your shoulders to one direction will send a mark flying in that direction if the mark is looking at the shoulders and quick to bite.

Another place to look is the throwers hips. It's a pretty good indication of where they're going to throw. Be mindful of what's happening on the field. You can shift your mark to cover the dump better if you see out of the corner of your eye that the dump is setting up and that your thrower is getting antsy to get rid of the disc.

7. Communication
Marking is a team effort defense. Listen for calls from on-field players or sideline like "no inside" or "no around" to cover the I/O throw or the around break throw. Calls like "no big" or "no huck" means stand directly in front of the thrower, take a step off, and be big to prevent a huck. And when the disc is thrown, tell your teammates by yelling "UP."

8. You're not done
Just because the disc is thrown doesn't mean that your job as a defender/mark is done. A lot of good handlers will move immediately after throwing the disc to get the dish so be ready to move with them!

Did I miss anything? I probably missed a lot of things, so you should read this: http://the-huddle.org/issues/25/

Tomorrow we have a game at Harvard. 7-9pm in the bubble, come watch us!