As a quick aside, if your team doesn’t give some sideline assistance to the marker, then you’re missing a trick. There are few situations on the pitch where you’re performing a more important job than on the mark, and there is probably no situation where you are less able to glance behind you for the information you need. All you have to go on is the movement of the thrower, and he’s deliberately trying to fool you. Help from the sideline, from someone who can see all the cuts developing, can make all the difference.
Some teams just give occasional shouts when they need to make major adjustments (e.g. to cover the up-line pass for a second or so, or maybe to watch out for that guy’s high-release flick). But many teams give a more or less constant stream of information about which side of the mark the thrower is currently likely to break. I think there’s some value in this information for the marker. And even if it turned out that it’s not possible to communicate threats fast enough to make much difference, I still like the encouragement it gives me to have someone talking to me on the mark.
Anyway – whether or not you like to do this yourself – for today, let’s assume you’re on a team which communicates with the mark fairly constantly, and think about what you should say.
There are lots of ways you might try and tell the mark which way to move to block the dangerous throw (given your much better view of where the threatening pass is) but the two most common I’ve heard in the UK are:
- ‘Left hand’ & ‘Right hand’ – telling the marker which hand to use (or which way to move his body) to block the expected throw
- ‘I/O’ & ‘Step’ – telling the marker to watch out for the inside-out break or the step (or around or outside-in) break
[If you use something else, add it to the comments below and say why – this post isn’t really about describing the best way to do it; more about thinking it through and trying to start a discussion.]
Both of these options are good from a verbal recognition standpoint – the first sound is very different in each (as opposed to ‘No I/O’ and ‘No step’ which would just waste time on the same syllable for each message) and so the marker can start to react as soon as they hear anything.
But personally, I’m not a huge fan of left hand/right hand. The question is whether that’s because I have never got used to it (my new team use that one, and it confuses my old brain) or whether it’s actually an inferior way to communicate.
My biggest problem with left and right hand is the mirroring issue. It’s very easy to make a mistake on this when the marker can be facing either towards or away from the sideline, since his left and right is sometimes the same as yours and sometimes opposite (and it’s not great at all with dyslexic team-mates). Even if you don’t make a mistake, perhaps you hesitate a fraction of a second while you work it out (I certainly do) – and a fraction of a second is everything when someone’s trying to break the mark.
With I/O and step, it doesn’t really matter where you are on the pitch, or which way anyone is facing. Anyone who’s played for a while will know instinctively what the different break attempts look like and can move quickly to stop them.
But that rather brings us on to the big advantage of left/right, which is that it makes more sense to beginners. Apart from the severely dyslexic, it’s quicker to teach someone to move left or right than to teach them about the different types of break they’ll expect to deal with.
But then again, I very much like that I/O and Step have an external focus, on stopping a throw by the opponent, rather than an internal focus on moving my own hand. Marking is a two-player game, where you can’t afford to ignore what the opponent is doing; I like terminology that reminds my subconscious of that. I haven’t done my job if I move my right hand when told to; but I have if I block the I/O throw. I feel more likely to move my feet and body when reacting to the opponent than when focussing on what my hands are doing. But of course that’s partly because I’m used to one style rather than the other, so I can’t really say much about whether one is intrinsically better.
I guess I don’t know. I instinctively feel that I/O and Step are more sensible calls, but having got used to that terminology I’m hardly in an unbiased position.
What do you think? Should teams talk to the mark a lot, or just for major threats? And if they talk a lot, what terminology should they use? What does your team do, and why?