What makes a monster? – Men in Mixed Ultimate

So, with the mixed season over, I thought it was worth a little think about what makes great players in the mixed division, or rather the areas where most players could think about developing to be bigger and better mixed players. Definitely got a future post planned for domination of the women’s game in a few weeks – and of course some thoughts on double-double nationals – but all in good time…

Ultimate is still ultimate in the mixed division. Just thought I’d make it clear that I don’t think that there are no transferable skills. However, the value of different skills changes in the mixed division, and stuff which is ‘a bonus’ in open or women’s suddenly becomes essential for your team’s success.

This was originally going to be one post – but turns out I’m talking too much again. As such, I’ll deal with men and women separately (not that I approve of segregation…). So, gents first, for a change!

Advice piece 1: adjust your bids. Try not to kill anybody. It’s pretty obvious, but in mixed you can’t always make the same bids you could in open. There is far more potential for breakage.

Obvious point aside (and provided you’re not an injury machine at open, you probably won’t be at mixed), I would argue there are two skills that are essential for every male member of a successful mixed team: throwing finesse, and pitch awareness.

Women are smaller targets – sure, they get free by the same amounts as the men, sometimes more so, but throwing to a free woman is more challenging than throwing to a free man. Your margin for error is narrower. In open, distance is a big winner on hucks – you need to be able to get that disc into space in front of your speedy receivers. In mixed, it’s easier to get the disc in front of your receiver, but harder to then get it within a window they can actually reach. Enter finesse.

Two of the best mixed players I have had the pleasure of playing with (Pencil and Steve Balls if you’re wondering) are not the biggest throwers (Pencil might be if he stopped injuring himself…), but it is the quality of their throws that sets them apart: accurate, with touch, and weighted to the speed of their receivers. Obviously, these abilities are pretty damn handy in open, but they are crucial in mixed. In open, there will always be the Ashley Yeos to leg it after your discs – you might even have a few on the same line. In mixed, your completion rates will plummet without touch and accuracy.

Equally important for throwers (ie. everyone) is the mental ability to trust your female players. In an ideal world, everyone on your team is able to throw to your women, deep or under, and has the confidence to do so, even your goons. Another great mixed player to highlight this: Dyno. Ok, he’s a great open player as well (see above re. “ultimate is still ultimate”), but at mixed, his great throws combined with unfaltering trust in his female team-mates is what sets him apart, not just his ridiculous grabs. In lanes with Dyno, you know he’s going to get free, and you know that wherever you happen to get free afterwards he is going to throw it to you. Sounds pretty basic huh? But let me tell you, that’s some motivation for cutting right there.

Pitch awareness is the second skill that pays big dividends in mixed. Having great female deep cutters doesn’t mean a thing, without having male cutters who can keep their big goony defence away from the lovely weighted hucks thrown to those women. Again, pitch awareness is handy in open and can dramatically reduce the number of poach ds opponents get on you. In mixed it is vital to enable you to complete hucks to your women.  Yes, if the disc goes up and you can bid on it as a male cutter (or handler!), by all means go get it – because your man probably can too. The impulse you need to fight is the one to run deep without cutting, with your man right on your shoulder, because you’ve just seen one of the women go past you five feet free of her mark and you’re pretty sure it’s going to go. Maybe it is, but your job isn’t to catch it – it’s to make sure your mark is too busy D-ing you to go get a bid on it.

Pitch awareness is recognising who else is free where, while you’re trying to get free yourself. It’s a challenge in itself, a critical piece of the ultimate skill set. The easy place to start is conditioning yourself to spot other players going deep and dragging your man under or break, before they even know they could go poaching. Think of it as aggressive clearing out.

Pitch awareness and throwing finesse. If you want to be a big male player at mixed, you’re gonna need these.


Next week: Mixed Skills for the Ladies.


  • ShimmyJohn

    Very good. A lot of valuable advice for boys there.

    I do have a comment on just one bit:
    “Women … get free by the same amounts as the men, sometimes more…”

    In terms of absolute distance I don’t think this is true. An adjustment I have to make playing mixed is to the fact that the distance between a cutting female team mate and her mark are generally less than between a cutting male team mate and his mark. This can put off a conservative thrower (like me). But it helps to remember that the speeds involved are generally lower, and that women are capable of putting in proper fake cuts to get free. But because the speeds involved are lower the distances between the two female players will never be as high as those between two male players (all other things being equal – agility, reactions etc). I.e women do get as free as men, but only relative to their speed, which is less, so it looks like less distance, but it’s no less free. Clear?

    So what this means, for boys, is that the tight cut you mightn’t throw to in open you CAN throw (to ladies) in mixed. You have to throw some run-through D’s to get there but once you work it out it is liberating.

    1. Meg

      Sorry for delay – major log in issues! I think Shim has a very solid point about undercut distances for women – you can definitely get away with throwing to someone who has less separation than in open. What I was meaning about women sometimes getting *more* free was more related to deep cuts – in women’s you can get away with marking under much more, so defenders habitually give more slack on deep cuts.

    2. Dude

      I think this is a really good points since I’ve looked of so many women because their marks were too close to them for my convenience, and told them after the point that that’s why I looked them off. But I never thought about the speed to distance relation of women, which probably means 95 out of 100 of those throws could have gone out..

      Both you guys should keep posting for years to come, so many things to learn.. 🙂

  • Tag

    In paganello, and that might be why with the beach and all, I found women got free by larger distances but it could be relative to maybe our girls were just a lot better than theres

  • Fetu

    That ‘finesse’.. This year I’ve made a conscious effort to handle more and its been wildly apparent how A) important that finesse is and B) how bad I was at it.

    Anyone in the Hawks hoping to play Mixed next year should definitely practice it.

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