Flow is that magical thing that happens to teams sometimes where the game looks easy, where every thrower has a wide-open receiver on stall zero, and the whole offence just smoothly moves up the field.
But actually, it’s not magic at all. It can be learnt, and quite easily. The key thing is to understand what makes it happen, and what doesn’t. It’s very tempting to think that flow comes from timing – that you cut at exactly the right moment to be in exactly the right place, cutting in exactly the right direction, just as the thrower is ready to throw.
But that’s wrong. Perfect timing might get you to the right spot, but there’s no reason it won’t get your defender there too. The ‘right place to be’ is the worst place to be, if you haven’t beaten your defender. You’ll just be in the way.
What matters instead is causing your defender such a problem that wherever you happen to be at the moment the thrower looks up, you can get free somewhere useful. The exact place you cut to is far less important than being open.
Flow is not a series of predetermined cuts to predetermined places, executed with perfect timing. That’s a pull play, not a recipe for the kind of flow that keeps on happening throughout a game. Flow is having an open receiver somewhere, almost anywhere, on stall zero, before the force is set.
How do you do that?
There’s a distinction to be made between a cut made with a static disc, after a turnover or stoppage (what we might call a ‘1st cut’) and the cuts which follow that (‘continuation cuts’). First-cutting is hard, but that’s not our focus in this post. Continuation cutting is easy. Why?
Think about it from a defender’s point of view. What information do they need? And what differs from the first cut to the continuation? Amongst the ton of stuff a defender needs to take into account (wind, receiver’s skill/height/speed, team plan, thrower’s skill, force, and many more) one major thing always changes – the position of the disc. Wherever the defender intends to position himself, to prevent whichever cut he thinks is most dangerous, he needs to know where the disc is to do that. And whenever the disc moves and he doesn’t, he’s out of position. He’s no longer in the way of some simple passes or cuts that he was previously blocking, and all sorts of new options appear for the cutter (click on the image for an example). Any half-decent receiver can take advantage of this.
Let’s look at how NOT to take advantage. What does the defender most want to do? He wants to be able to see where the disc has gone, work out the best place to position himself again, and then move to that position. He wants to set up where he can see both you and the thrower, enabling him to note where the disc went without losing you, and enabling him to quickly set up properly again. So if you stand still and just watch the 1st cut happen, you have no informational advantage over the defender – you’re both watching it, and he can adjust pretty much as quickly as you can. Any opportunity you have to take advantage of the moving disc is likely to be fleeting.
So instead, you have to make sure that he can’t see BOTH you AND the disc. Either:
a) Get his full attention on you (before the disc even moves), so he has no idea where the disc is going and can’t be in the right position to defend, or
b) force him to look completely away from you to check the location of the disc, giving you the chance to go anywhere you like while he’s not looking.
Getting him to focus on either you or the disc can be anything, from simply being on your toes and looking like a threat, to moving constantly into his blind spot, to making proper, sprinted fake cuts. But the key is to bear in mind your goal – do not let him get the information he needs. When the first cut does move the disc, you want the defender to be either unaware of it, or unaware of you.
Continuation cutting is not a race – it’s not a game of run & chase. It’s a game of information. Unless he knows where both you and the disc are, he can’t tell if a fake cut is to a viable area or not; he can’t tell where to be to block simple open-side passes; he can’t know whether or not to trust his team-mate’s force (usually there isn’t much of a force, if the disc has just been caught); he can’t defend.
So making your team better at flowing down the field comes down to one thing – never standing still and flat-footed in the stack. Be on your toes; jump into his blind spot continually. Make your defender think; make him worry about what you’re doing, and what might be happening behind him while you’re doing it. Grab his attention. Don’t let him settle. And then, when the disc does move, it’s an absolute cake-walk to run into a threatening space that the defender doesn’t even know about yet.
Make sure your defender has less information than he needs.
Everything else is easy.