How do you create sufficient separation from your defender to receive a pass?
First off, your defender has a reaction time of about .2 of a second, give or take. No matter what you do, it’ll take him that long to notice and react – this is a fundamental fact of the human senses. We want to make the most of this .2 seconds, so clearly we want to give nothing away in our posture about our intentions, and then we want to accelerate as hard as we can in our chosen direction. You might not be far away after .2 of a second, but the benefits of being slightly more accelerated than your defender are cumulative – if it takes 1 second to get up close to full speed, then for 1.2 seconds you’ll be consistently going faster than your defender. This might translate to 1 or 2 metres’ advantage if you do it right.
A lot of beginners tend to be tentative on the first few steps, looking at the thrower to see if they’ve made the kind of run that the thrower wants – this is a complete waste of your advantage over your defender. At all times, at all costs, go hard for the first 3 yards and then think about whether or not it worked. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be looking at the thrower whenever possible – you should – but you shouldn’t be looking at them expecting cues until you’ve made that initial burst. Then you can assess whether they’re likely to throw it.
But there is also a way to get more than that .2 of a second advantage, and that comes from turning sharply. When you’re running, you spend a significant amount of time with both feet off the ground, and even when your feet are down they’re behind you – you can’t use them to slow down until the next step.
And you’re very unlikely to be running absolutely in sync with your defender. So when you suddenly stop and turn, there’s a good chance he’s in mid-air when he notices and has to take one more step, throwing one of his feet forward, before he can decelerate.
How many times per second do your feet hit the floor when running hard? Data from the Olympic 100 metres says a little over 4 times per second. Hard to imagine that many ultimate players have a vastly higher cadence than these guys…
So you can gain up to about .25 of a second by turning properly, on top of the .2 reaction time.
What that means is that if you can get your defender up to full running speed, and then turn properly, you can get up to double the advantage as when you just sprint from a standstill. And that’s a fact of physics and physiology, and nothing to do with your skills. You can make the most of it by using good technique in the turn and the acceleration, but it’s unavoidable that cutting after another cut is generally somewhere towards twice as effective as cutting from a standstill. Again, beginners have a tendency to stop and think, or to jog to a halt, at the end of a cut; a terrible idea. It doesn’t matter where you go to next – as long as you go there hard, after a sharp turn, you’ll be more free than you were. You need to play within your team’s offensive plan, of course, but if your sole aim is to get separation, just turn and run somewhere…
There are a couple of caveats:
– your first cut has to be viable (to a place where the defender can believe you’ll receive the disc) otherwise they won’t ‘bite’ and you don’t gain anything. If they’re just jogging casually after you as you run to somewhere pointless, you’re not going to beat them when you turn. (Of course, if they don’t bite on a viable cut, just keep going and get the disc – don’t fake for the sake of faking!) So your starting position is important – you must have a number of viable options for your first cut so as to give your defender a problem stopping them all.
– your first cut cannot be so long that it is no longer viable; e.g. once you’re too far from the disc for a viable throw, the defender will slow down, anticipating that you’ll have to come back under, and you lose any advantage.
But the overall message is: Don’t ever waste an unsuccessful cut by jogging to a stop. An unsuccessful cut is an excellent basis for a successful one! Nothing is more effective for getting free than being nearly free in the other direction – being close enough to being free that the defender is at 100% effort to make sure you don’t gain another inch. That’s a situation you cannot afford to waste.