Most uninformed Ultimate players will learn **[the throws](https://www.coachup.com/resources/ultimate/the-backhand-in-depth)**, **[the positions](https://www.coachup.com/resources/ultimate/positional-insight-handler)**, and **[the rules](https://www.coachup.com/resources/ultimate/guide-to-ultimate)** and then assume that they're done in their training, but they've really only just started. Only at very low levels of Ultimate are you able to get away with running around without any sort of strategy and deliberate execution. This, of course, is where the Vertical stack offense comes into play -- the most basic and simple set a team can run.
Designed to open up the field and keep the clutter down, the Vert stack strives to make offense easier for teams. So, if you're just learning Ultimate for the very first time, this is the article for you! Take CoachUp's guide to the Vert stack with you and learn how to fit the offense in important ways!
![Vertical Stack Ultimate Frisbee](http://i.imgur.com/iOeQZnU.gif)
The general idea behind the stack offense is that it sets up in a shape similar to an uppercase "L" -- in which, the five cutters/Mids, line up in a straight formation down the field starting about fifteen yards away from the two Handlers. These Handlers will make up the bottom of the "L" by standing horizontally apart in order to quickly pass back and forth if need be. Although this may seem simple in concept, it takes some very deliberate execution in order to defeat defenders and work your way up the field. It doesn't matter if you're a Handler or a Mid, learning the special responsibilities and movements of each position is key to truly finding success in the Vert stack.
The number one best trait a Handler can have no matter the offensive set or situation is patience. As the Mids are cutting in, out, left, or right, the main responsibility falls on the Handler to make good decisions, find the open target, and resist temptations to bomb the disc down the field. Although the old adage is that the best offense is the good defense, it also works the other way as well -- your opponent cannot score if you're not surrendering possession. And, unlike football or basketball, there is no shot clock forcing your hand other than the stall-count. In this regard, do not be afraid to look for your co-Handler to dump to so you can reset the clock and begin searching for an upfield target once more.
Novice Handlers often panic quickly and chuck the disc away when faced with a high stall-count, so try looking for your Handler earlier rather than as a last-ditch effort. If you trust your teammates, and you should, then your partner-in-crime should be just as adept at finding an appropriate man in the stack. Move the disc and you'll get it back just as quickly! As for throwing, look for targets downfield that have a few steps on their defender or plenty of space to run into. Theoretically, the Handlers must be responsible with the disc and the cutters should take care of the rest.
Above all else, each of these cutters must be intelligent about their movement -- if you haven't read our insight on that position, we highly recommend it, and it can be found **[here.](https://www.coachup.com/admin/articles/positional-insight-cutter)** The Vert stack is particularly interesting because it relies on purposeful running instead of selfish playmaking. Athletes must wait their turn, only move into open space, and keep their eye on Handlers that need help. Additionally, make sure the cutters are moving effectively away from the Handlers -- it hurts the collective offense to have all five going deep at once. A quick, helpful conversation pre-pull should be more than enough time to get everybody on the same page.
Once the disc is in play, the first offensive player will make a pre-designed in-cut into open space. If the Handler does not like the cut, for whatever reason, that player will cycle quickly out of the field's open space and out of the way. As soon as that player rejoins the stack, the next player must be ready and making another cut. This repeats for the entire possession, with a few deep cuts mixed in, so it's imperative that the cutters work hard and don't get lazy. As soon as the cutters stop working, the entire offense falls apart. Then, once you've received the disc, quickly scan the field for a chain cut up-field or a dump pass to the Handler as the stack resets again.
#####Playing Defense against the Vert Stack
In a sense, defenders only have a few major responsibilities to handle while against a Vert stack -- the first, and perhaps biggest, can fall upon whomever is guarding the disc directly. More often than not, they will be in charge of the force. The force is a simple defensive tactic that attempts to eliminate a large chunk of the field for the offense. Think of it like the Seattle Seahawks and Richard Sherman -- their defense is so effective because teams are afraid to throw towards Sherman's side of coverage. This allows the rest of the defense to focus on other areas and the force is very similar as well in Ultimate.
Relatively speaking, there are two ways to force -- home or away. Home refers to the side of the field in which the substitutes stand and away is for the empty sideline. So, when somebody says they're forcing home, it means that they're standing directly on the side of the Handler that makes him throw towards the bench area. Typically, man-to-man defense sees defenders in the middle on the Handler, attempting to react or block any movement -- this means that a good Handler could find options to the right or left. However, the force makes it so that the Handler must throw towards a particular side -- so, in the aforementioned example in which home is on the left side of the field, you'd guard the Handler on the right side and force him left. Then, defenders guarding players in the stack, can stand on their mark's right side because, thanks to the force, the direction of their cut is dictated to the right and towards the bench sideline.
For those guarding the Handler, it's incredibly important not to get broken and allow a throw to the right side in this situation because suddenly all your teammates will be on the wrong side of their defenders. So, at all costs, allow a throw to the left side and trust that your teammates will do the rest. Furthermore, if you're guarding an offensive player that catches a disc, continue forcing them in the pre-determined direction. It's important to continue the force even if you're not guarding a Handler so, of course, your teammates are not left on the wrong side of an opponent.
*(Related: Read about excelling in the Horizontal stack [here.](https://www.coachup.com/resources/ultimate/excelling-in-the-horizontal-stack))*
Now, we're aware that all that information at once might be a little daunting, but CoachUp promises that it'll make much more sense once you're out on the field doing it. Like riding a bike, once you learn it, you'll know it forever -- but it'll take some concentrated effort and practice in the interim. Soon, both offense and defense in the Vertical stack will become muscle memory and clockwork -- you'll know where to force, defend, or make accurate and efficient cuts.
If you're looking for a more hands-on approach to the Vertical stack, consider booking one of CoachUp's private trainers to help you out along the way. Our talented team will walk you through all angles of the stack -- offensively and defensively -- and turn you into an all-around player that can be trusted in any situation -- what are you waiting for?
*(Thanks to Major League Ultimate for the gif!)*
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