Monday, February 19, 2007

What's in a Name

As a team advances in quality there’s a point where plays are called. Plays, or frameworks as I prefer to call them, are designed to create space with expected cuts or lanes. In the current state of the game, for the most part plays initiate movement with expected openings.

The topic is not plays, but play calling. Let’s assume your team has a playbook of some sort, and you have your sets of plays. Now you have to call plays in two situations:

  • On the line - play call where you can choose what is going to happen. These calls can be initiated with an “as called”.
  • The audible – play call in the heat of the game where someone has to audibly announce what the play is.
In the first case, on the line, there are a few options that you can setup. On the line, you need to call your plays. There are many ways and I’ll list some of them here with some pros and cons:
  • Some teams just call one play that can be referred to as “as called”. The risk is you only have one option.
  • Some teams call two plays which can be referred to as A or B. Now you have two options.
  • Some teams call an “as called” for each type of offense like for example, horizontal and vertical. Again, not a bunch of options.
In the second case, the audible, they’re seems to be a basic setup. Usually, there is a code with a name that describes a play and there is a number which might be needed to describe who initiates the cuts.

Pictured Above: Alex Vickers back in 2003 at CUC in Montreal.

Regardless of how you choose to call the play, you do need a plan. The trick is to get your players to sell into a system that they can learn, understand, and communicate, but the language needs to be complicated enough that it can’t be decoded easily.

This is where the football gurus might be able to help us. Football players learn a huge book of plays compared to what I’ve seen in any Ultimate playbook. Also, I have no clue what “blue 42” means, and I assume that the pros must have developed a number of systems to call online audibles. Unfortunately, my football experience is almost exclusively through the television, so maybe someone out there will enlighten us.

From a team’s perspective, the audible and coded communication are valuable tools to have. It’s worth the coach’s time to think about a language and system.



Tom said...

I think the simplicity of play-calling in ultimate stems from ultimate's role as a second-chance sport... people tend to pick up ultimate at a fairly mature age and these people tend to have a wide-range of backgrounds. For those who've played a lot of play-based team sports, such as basketball and football, learning plays and reacting appropriately to play calls is something that's intuitive and natural. For people coming from backgrounds in individual sports or no organized sports background at all, learning plays is incredibly difficult. I think almost all players at the highest levels of the game have had the necessary background, and we see a lot of play-calling at this level, but when there's very little use of complicated offences and set plays at lower levels, the world of play-calling within ultimate is very small and isolated, which probably hinders its development.

In basketball, we started learning how to run plays in primary school and by the time we were in the latter years of high school (which is as far as my basketball-career went) we were pretty comfortable learning whatever system our coach came up with. In ultimate, however, many players have never run a single ultimate play by the time they try out for their first touring team, which makes learning the plays, let alone learning a complicated play-calling system, much more difficult.

MLT said...

"blue 42" and the like are actually protection calls, not audibles. (meaning, whether the QB thinks the ILB/OLB is going to cover/blitz, if the DE is going to stunt and who needs to pickup, etc). Teams don't use their entire playbook as audibles. (not even Manning does this). Most teams get 1-4 plays in the huddle from the O-Coordinator. A primary and then options. Most teams use celebrities, animals, or cities to distinguish audibles. They are easy and recognizable and don't sound like anything else in game.

Couldn't you combine both on the line and audibles? Call a primary on the field. Or call a huck sequence. Then call 3 other plays, one vert stack, one H stack, one zone O? Would it be tough to remember? Then start out with a traditional stack (if the "as called" huck doesn't materialize) and have the dump view the field and audible. Seems like Celebs would be an easy way to go. Singers = Vert stack, Actresses = H stack. Just a thought.

luke said...

i find that the yell and point is as effective as anything. most of the time, the opponent thinks you are coming up with some kind of clever deception.

parinella said...

Even at the elite level, most players are not good audible-callers. But even at the elite level, players do not usually have to be.

While a team might have 10 audible calls on offense, they aren't equally good in all situations, so they should stress which ones are best in which situations. Then a player just has to recognize the general situation (e.g., trapped) and know that he really only has to choose from 1 or 2 plays.

Even the good play-callers are just going to be doing a fancy version of what Luke says. Scan the field and find out which player you want to cut, and either call him by name (or girlfriend's name or town of residence or anything that uniquely identifies him) or call a play for his position in the play or his role in the set play that was called on the line.

Check out Zaz's book, chapter 14, "Set Plays", pages 147-152.

LittleOrphanAnnie44 said...

Zaz's book.

Come on, Jim. The Testosterone Man would never be this humble.