What is your definition of a good D?
If your frame of reference is a Youtube highlight reel (like many who are learning to play these days) then it’s a chest-high layout block or an end-zone sky over the pack.
But are these highlights teaching us the wrong skills?
In my opinion, the best D is a stall-out - a total team shutdown where the thrower can’t see anyone who looks even close to free. So why are stall-outs not celebrated or talked about by many coaches? Sometimes the situation calls for a high-risk D to generate a turn, but I believe this should be the change-up play, not the default.
Changing your mindset
I am currently a part of a team that has re-framed our defensive goals, from blocks & scores, to stall-9 holds. Why stall-9 holds? That’s because even good throwers will throw something risky at stall 9.5, and we want to reward our D for forcing these high-risk, panic throws even if the offense get lucky and manage to complete the pass. We reward the action and not the outcome, allowing us to build pressure over the course of a game.
This re-frame, from individual highlights to a team-focused defense that values shutdowns, has done three things for our team and could do the same for yours:
It has stopped players over-committing on run-through blocks (and feeling good when they ‘almost’ get them)
It has made players think more about their positioning on an upfield defender by encouraging making cutters ‘look’ covered in order to deter the throw
It has made players more conscious of playing D as a team
Clarifying your goals
It is important to clearly define your defensive objectives before any game but if you are aiming for stall-9 holds, then you will most likely be pushing upfield players deep and staying very tight on the handlers. It is key to run through these defensive positions in isolation during training to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect from their fellow defenders.
On this note, prompt whoever is on the disc to count the stall LOUDLY. Not only does this provide some faux pressure on the handler, but also communicates to your team where in the stall count you are as a team.
Lastly, as your defensive line will hopefully be generating a number of high-stall desperation throws, emphasise the importance of getting bodies under the disc. Stall-9 throws often result in a poorly executed huck and the more players you have under/around the disc, the greater your chances of getting a block or forcing a turn. It’s worth prompting your upfield defenders to play with their heads up in the last few seconds of a count as this is when a pressure throw/huck is most likely to occur.
Layout blocks and skies are cool but rare and largely out of your control as a team. Try using stall-9 as a focus for your team and I can almost guarantee that your defensive line will be rewarded with more disc.