Positional Insight: Cutter

It wouldn’t be an overreaction to call the cutters the most important athletes on the field at any given point in time. Now, that might seem odd, but try thinking of it this way — without cutters, the handlers would have no targets and the deeps would have no space to go long either. Simply put, cutters are the glue that holds it altogether — from offense strategy, to space creation, to moving the disc upfield, ultimately, it all falls on the shoulders of the cutters. Additionally, to the untrained eye, it may look as if the cutter has the simplest job — run, jump, catch, throw back to the Handler, repeat — easy, right? However, the best cutters have subtle movement, nuanced runs, and advanced body control. In fact, it may be easier to think of them similarly to NFL Wide Receivers as their routes must be perfect and their footwork even better to fool their fast, agile, and intelligent marks. So, if you’re looking to become a reliable cutter or just need a tune-up on what it takes to be an effective athlete on the field, take a peek at CoachUp’s insight on the position below!

Fitting Formation

Whether or not you’re the type of cutter that likes to move in, out, left, right, deep, short, whatever — there’s one crucially important skill to have and it happens before even stepping on the field. Any elite cutter knows their place in the formation, when to move, and where. It will make no difference to use a killer cut if you’re running into occupied space, defenders, or even your teammates — crowded space is deadly for offenses. So, be sure to know your offense and the opposing team’s defenses like clockwork. If your team is using the Vertical stack against man-to-man defense, make sure you’re waiting your turn, controlling your movement, and not using up other people’s space. Furthermore, if you’re using the Horizontal stack against a 3-3-1 zone defense, be sure to make efficient runs, which would include popping through the cup to provide instant relief and a reset stall count.

In the end, being situationally aware is one of the most key attributes a cutter can have — there’s absolutely no sense in running yourself ragged on runs that have no chance of completion. You want to know when the defenses are most vulnerable and how you can most effectively attack it. Running around aimlessly might work at the game’s lowest levels, but will be useless when faced with a competent defense. If you’re part of a Ho stack that focuses on pairs of cutters acting like pistons, as we outlined in our Horizontal stack article, here, then make sure that you’re working in tandem to open up the field as much as possible. You can’t score without catching the disc, and you can’t catch the disc without getting open, and you can’t get open without making great cuts, and you can’t make great cuts unless you’re playing intelligently.

Sleight Of Hand

At the crux of cutting, it should be no surprise to find an athlete’s ability to create space as an undeniably necessary skill. Additionally, your opposing defenders cannot fully anticipate your movement before you do it, so it’s imperative that you take advantage. This, of course, boils down to being an unpredictable player on the field, so be flexible and fluid. It’s fairly easy for defenders to realize when a player only likes to run deep, or even notice patterns in your cuts and movement. If you often make a cut in, followed by a direct sprint deep over and over, then your defender will notice and take advantage of this telegraphed move. Never show your hand too early — don’t just be a north to south player and utilize all open areas of the field when possible.

Remember, defenders can’t react until you do, so use all of your power to catch them off-guard, trip them up, or throw them something they haven’t seen before. Variety is the spice of life and it works the exact same way in Ultimate as well. More or less, the worst thing you can do is let an opponent have an easier time against you. You’re not truly doing your job if the defender is having a clean, simple time in defense. Ideally, you want the opposing player sweaty, dirty, exhausted, and begging for a substitute.

Box Them Out

Just as you would shield a player  from the ball in soccer or box a player out while going for a rebound during a basketball game, the same principle exists in Ultimate as well. If you want to stop somebody from getting the disc, what’s the best way to do so without physically grabbing them and holding them back? You’ll need to position yourself in a way that makes yourself an impenetrable wall — that if they want the disc, they’ll have to go through you.

The easiest way to make this happen is by making diagonal cuts instead of just north to south or east to west — this way, opposing players have a less direct line to the disc and your Handler has more open space to throw into. These diagonal cuts ensure that your defender is always chasing you and this discouraging nature will only lead to frustration. Above all, if you position yourself correctly, they’ll often have no choice but to foul you to stop the smooth transition of offense.

Know Your Role

At the end of the day, it’s perhaps most important to know your role within the team. There’s nothing worse than a cutter who receives the disc and then throws the plan out the window. If your job is to cut, get the disc, and then dump it back to a Handler — then do it. If you’ve got the Handler skills down pat, or see an absolutely wide open teammate, then feel free to take a quick scan of the field before dumping it. Do not stagnate your offense by holding the disc late into the stall count — by all means, you should be catching, dumping, and getting back into your position in the stack as quickly as possible. A fluid offense that gives the defense no chance to catch their breath will often create and take more opportunities on the field. Know yourself, your abilities, your shortcomings, and work with them in order to keep a fast-moving offense and your team will reap the benefits. *

(Related: Read about throwing a smooth and effective backhand here.)

Huddle Up

Now, hopefully, you understand how difficult and nuanced the cutter is — only the most controlled, executed, and purposeful movements are rewarded. Any sloppy or half-hearted cuts will be swallowed up by defenders or looked off by your Handler. If you make sure you stay out of other’s space, move as a unit, box out your opponent, and know your role, you’ll be contributing to your team like never before.

If you’re still struggling with any of these abilities or traits, consider booking one of CoachUp’s private trainers to set you on the path for success. Our experienced team has the knowledge to make you a more intelligent cutter by teaching you about space and how to exploit it. If you’re an athlete looking for their niche on a team, look no further, our squad will have you impressing and dominating in no time — what are you waiting for?

(Thanks to Major League Ultimate for the gif!)

Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field. 

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