So I am a little bored at work and figured this would be a good time to send out my first little blog of the college pre-season. I have some things you should look to work on while you scrimmage and play this fall, as well as a bunch of drills that you can try during practice or after on your own to better your game. Also I am going to be writing this assuming that the people who are reading it understand basic ultimate (i.e. IO flick, the force, breaks, etc...). So as a coked up mrs boterin would say, "Okay, here we go"
The mark is base of an entire defense. If a team has poor marks it becomes almost impossible to create turnovers. I know that when I was in college playing, I would use the mark as a time to catch my breath. Now I find the mark to be one of the more exhausting parts of the game.
Like most things in ultimate, it is best to learn from the ground up. So we can look at your body position and movement first.
-When in the mark you want to be on the balls of your feet the entire time. It takes a lot more time to move if your entire foot is in contact with the ground.
-Your feet should also be only a little more than shoulder width apart. This is important because it keeps your center of gravity even with your hips. The easy breaks come when the mark leans on way to far.
-As most of us already know, breakside hand high and force side hand low (lower than you think)
-You will want to have your knees bent to help get your hands lower and help with the following point.
-When moving, you will want to make small shuffling movement. It is not a slide! Your feet should never come together! Also the majority of your weight should be on your trialing leg. This gives you the ability to kick the front foot in order to get a foot block, and change directions easier because you are not leaning out. This is the most important aspect of a mark. Too many people try to get the hand block by leaning over... All good blocks come from moving your feet in order to get you hands into a position to make the block.
Drill: The ability to shuffle is something that you can work on and get better/faster at. Setup cones about 10ft apart from one another. Get into a marking stance (knees bent, hands in position, etc...). Shuffle back and forth between the cones, making a foot block (kicking motion) with the lead foot. This will help you get use to keeping your weight on your trailing leg. Do it for 30 seconds and about two sets. This is great to throw into your normal warm up.
Drill: Get a partner and a disc. Stand about 5-10yds from your partner. Run at your partner and set a straight up mark (thrower must let the mark set). The thrower can then pick a side to fake to (try to extend as much as your normal limit). The mark should shuffle their feet and either get their hand on the disc or make a foot block attempt on the disc. The thrower and mark should then come back to a set middle position. The mark then back peddles about 5-10yds. You should look to repeat this about 5-10 times and do two sets, switching spots with your partner.
Now we can look at actually marking someone in a game scenario. For this section assume we are forcing flick. The number one job of the mark is to not let any throws go to the breakside. The best way to look at this job would be to take away the greatest threat at that time. So what does that mean: Triangle!
-When we first set up on a thrower, the mark is going to look to take away the IO flick opportunity. That means your moving your feet and getting your body in a spot that makes it near impossible for someone to throw that IO.
-Assuming your down field D is doing their job, the thrower is then going to look for a backhand break. It would be very difficult to move your feet in a straight line and cut off that throw, so what you will want to do is shuffle back as well as to the backhand side. This greatly cuts away at the throwers angle. You should really only have to move off 2-3ft to make this effectively. After taking it away you will want to start to close back in. Be careful not to over pursue to one side or the other.
-And the last side of the triangle... When the thrower comes back to the force side, you look to shuffle back into your original spot, sitting on the IO flick. You may want to give them a little bit more room in case they are looking for a foul call, but if it is an inexperienced thrower you should get right in their face.
Drill: need a thrower and a mark. Mark will setup on the thrower covering the IO position. The thrower will then move to make a backhand break, the mark will look to prevent like mentioned above. The mark will then begin close the space. The thrower goes back to flick and the mark covers as mentioned above. It is good to do about 5 triangles on both a flick and backhand force.
Advanced (Elite Level)
Some of this practice you may not want to use at the level of ultimate you play, but I figured I would share it none the less. The first is something that you will definitely want to do as a team. That is active sidelines. There should be someone talking with every mark on the field as to where the threats are on the field. (No IO, No Around, No Dump, No line) This simple talk makes life some much easier. The second might be a bit above the college level so I won't get too involved with it (you can ask me if you want to know more about it). The aggressive mark is a great way to disrupt an offense. A small bump on a thrower early in the stall count is a great way to slow an offensive flow and make a thrower thing twice. Now I am not talking about leveling the guy... just making contact... getting in his disc space and making him uncomfortable. This should be done early in a stall count, and then should be backed off by stall 5. It only benefits the defense if a foul is called early in the stall count. Downfield defenders can usually move slightly to get in better position for the next cut.
Drill (The best/worst drill ever): The marking gauntlet is a great drill that puts all of the above skills into one drill. It can be done with or without the bump, so either way you should be able to run it this year. You start off with two even lines parallel to one another. There should be about 15 yards of space between the two lines. There should also be about 5 yards of space on either side of a person within a line. One of the two sides should have discs while the other should not have any. The drill starts with someone marking the first person on the side with the disc. The thrower will throw fakes for at least stall 3 and and then throw to the person across from them. The mark will then run across the space and set another mark. The thrower will fake for at least stall 3 and then throw the disc back to the person that threw it to him. The mark will then run to mark the 2nd person in the line with the discs... The mark will continue to work down both lines until the come out at the bottom (exhausted). As the first mark reaches about his 5th mark, the first person in the line without discs will run to mark the 2nd person in the line with discs and go through the whole line. Then the first person in the line with the discs will peal off and make his way through. When two people get to the end of the line the will become throwers like the rest of the team. It is a great drill that works on marking when dead tired. I hope i explained it well enough... if not please feel free to ask.
Alright that is finally it. Hope you enjoy all that... and as always please feel free to ask questions about anything.