Handler Weave: How do we beat it?
First up, a quick point on tactics – FM vs. One Way.
Force middle is often suggested as an option against this offence, but I tend to dislike this as an option. When playing D against handler weave, you want to be able to predict where they’re going, and whether you need to beat them there (because it’s the open side) or if you just need to track them closely (because it’s the break side). FM switches the force too often for you to be able to fully ‘sell out’ to either direction of forcing, reducing your ability as an upfield player to know where to run hard to and where to just shadow your person to.
Having said that – if other stuff ain’t working, try it. If your one way force is sucking, something else might work better. Equally, there is nothing wrong with switching force mid-point (but staying one way), if they’re picking up a turnover on a sideline. This offence runs smoother when the up line cut is to the open side, so forcing them OFF the line that they’re on (and back into the pitch) is a very good idea. Make sure this is communicated loudly and clearly to your whole team however.
Ok, tactics over – they’re useful to think about, but they’re not what beats this defence. Two things will beat handler weave: discipline and pressure. I’ll explain what I mean by each of these separately…
Handler weave is an offence which, against a defence who are all trying to do different things, will mostly win. Discipline is about taking the tactics you’re using and focusing on your element of it. It’s about remembering your job right this second on pitch, not trying to do anyone else’s job, and executing on that job. The key points of every job are 1) don’t get broken on force and 2) don’t get beaten to the open side.
Sounds simple, huh? But when your mark is running around like crazy, it’s difficult to remember these.
On force, it’s important to be aggressive towards anything that might be a break, but leave the open side the hell alone. Going for point blocks open side, or trying to cover the open side to stop someone being beat is going to screw up the rest of the team. Playing D against this, you need to know that your force is going to if not stop all break throws, at least make them difficult and a little bit rubbish – perfect for you getting blocks on.
Where you’ll see Skunks fail in the video (currently uploading!) is that their forces often forget where they’re forcing and let out cheap unpressured breaks, mostly by over-biting on the open side.
Upfield, you have to trust the force, and remember it. Always assume that they’re going to be running at the open side, and give yourself enough of a cushion or buffer to stop it – this is most important on the upline cuts. Take away the open side with your body positioning, and shadow them when they cut break side – breaks are still sometimes going to go (even if they are rubbish) so be as close as you can, without being able to be toasted back to the open side. The key here is anticipating their next move, so that you’re ready to react, without over-anticipating it and biting too hard on stuff you shouldn’t be going for (break side!). Again, you’ll see Skunks players in the video run too hard with the break side cut, because their forces have been letting it out, and then get toasted back to the open side. Remember the force. Take away what the force does not.
When I talk about pressure, I’m meaning not necessarily getting run through Ds or flyby layout blocks (although those are always handy), but being incredibly close all the time to your mark (note that this means NOT bidding on breaks that you have no chance of Ding, so that your force is set as soon as they’re ready and you don’t let out a cheap break), so that the offence have no rest and no easy passes.
Important note on ‘poaching’: if you’re marking a handler, don’t even THINK about poaching. When I say ‘poaching’ I mean leaving your own mark *before* the disc is in the air. By all means, if they throw a pass close to you meant for another player, D that thing. But poaching is especially important NOT to do in the first few seconds of their offence – if you poach off the swing handler (ie. the one that’s going to run up the line), you give them a free pass. This is in direct opposition to the idea of PRESSURE – no free passes (you’ll see Skunks get this wrong in the video and let that swing out by poaching several times – naughty Skunks).
You’ll see in the video clip that Skunks (D team, black shirts) get turns not always through actual blocks – often it is from wayward passes or errors from Ro Sham (O team, white). These look like unforced turnovers, but they’re not. By being close to the handlers the whole time, and gradually piling on pressure, Skunks unsettle the Ro Sham offence and break up its flow. The Ro Sham women’s adrenaline increases with every ‘almost-D’ and every hotly contested catch, which makes them nervous and jittery. Jitters and nerves are going to make you overcook throws and make bad decisions. Get close to your mark, even if you can’t get the block.
Obviously, discipline and pressure are two pretty important components of playing defence on any type of offence. Against handler weave they are crucial. Against other offences, fast players can compensate for poor discipline by running after their player and being fast enough to get blocks; slightly lazy marking or being a bit dopey is punished less severely. Against handler weave, you will be punished for laziness, and you will be punished for dozing off.
Homework: Again, we’re going to visualise the cuts the offence are going to make. But now, we’re going to imagine we’re playing D on each of them, and apply the principles of discipline and pressure. Imagine marking someone making each of those cuts and taking them away – work with your force to apply pressure, stay close to them. Imagine them getting a closely contested undercut catch and putting the force on right away, giving them no rest.
Next post: The Nitty Gritty Details (and the video – hopefully!).