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There are seven players on each Ultimate Frisbee team, which means that during a game, there is a total of 14 players running around on the field at all times.

This may look chaotic from the outside, but each player has a specific role they are playing and a goal they are working toward in that position. 

These positions can be difficult to follow, though, if you don’t know what you are looking for. 

In this article we will discuss the different Ultimate Frisbee positions, how they function in the game, and what qualities the players in those positions need to have in order to be effective. 

This should help you not only understand the positions better to be able to play them but also to better understand the positions when you are watching an ultimate frisbee game so that you can more easily follow along. 

Ultimate Frisbee Positions

In order to discuss the different positions in Ultimate Frisbee, we first need to understand that there are both offensive and defensive positions.

When playing offense, a team is in possession of the disc, and they are attempting to advance the disc up the field to score as many points as possible. 

When playing defense, a team is trying to prevent the opposing team from scoring and trying to gain possession of the disc.

Because the players are in both offensive and defensive roles during the course of the game, each player has two different positions during gameplay, one that they play during offense and one that they play during defense.

Offensive Positions

The two main offensive positions in Ultimate Frisbee are the handler and the cutter.

Which players are assigned to these positions is partially decided based on skill level. 

Handler

The handlers are typically the more experienced players who have mastered all of the basic throws; they also have more practice with field awareness than the cutters. 

The handlers are the ones that have the disc the majority of the time. They pick up the disc at the beginning of a point and after the turnover. 

Handlers stay back while the cutters try to get open and then throw to the cutter in an attempt to advance up the field. 

Additionally, the handlers also stay back so that they can pass to one another easily to reset the “stall count,” which is the 10 second period that the handler has to pass the disc.

If the handler does not pass the disc within 10 seconds, their team must turn over possession of the disc to their opponents. 

Handlers are usually split up between a dump and the swings

The dump is the handler that runs behind the player with the disc to provide any easy passing option for the purpose of resetting the stall count.

The swings are the other two handlers, which are in charge of throwing longer passes to make progress up the field.

This is especially important since dumping the disc loses yards. 

Handlers should be able to aim and throw accurately and should have confidence in their ability to throw consistently.

They need good communication skills to be able to communicate their intentions to the cutters. 

They also need quick decision-making skills to help them decide who to throw to under the pressure of the 10 second time limit. Handlers should take initiative easily.

Handlers also need good awareness of the field so they can quickly tell where the defense is and where their own teammates are.

This field awareness also helps them make safe throws that are not going to lead to injuries.

Cutter

If you are brand new to Ultimate Frisbee, you will likely be a cutter.

Beginners typically start off as cutters because they have not fully developed their throws or their field awareness, two skills that are extremely important for a handler to have. 

The cutter’s job is to find an open space so the handler has options of where to pass the disc.

Creating space is really important to the game because ensuring the handler has someone to pass to also ensures that the disc can advance up the field.

The cutters catch the disc and then throw it to the next cutter or a handler as soon as they receive it. 

Within the category of cutters, there are also strikers and poppers.

A striker is basically a cutter, but this position runs longer down the field to catch the long throws.

On the other end of the spectrum, poppers are also essentially cutters, but they “pop” into the middle of the field for short passes.

Poppers also give an alternative option to a dump when the handler needs to reset the stall count. 

Cutters either play a horizontal or a vertical offense, which are called stacks.

A stack is the structure that the offensive players form as a strategy to advance the disc toward the endzone. 

In a horizontal stack, the cutters form a line across the width of the field facing the handlers.

The cutters run in and out of the line to try to get away from the defensive players that are guarding, or marking, them. 

Similarly, in a vertical stack, the cutters form a vertical line in the center of the field facing the handlers.

They run side to side trying to beat their markers and creating an opening for the handlers to pass to.

The cutters that are furthest away from the handlers are the first ones to run to try to receive the disc. 

Ideally, cutters should be fast and should have good stamina, as they do the majority of the running on the field. 

While they are not required to have a strong throwing ability, they need to be able to catch because they will be the ones receiving the disc from the handlers. 

Also, cutters should be aware of the other players on the field and pay close attention to the player with the disc.

They should be trying to predict the handler’s next move based on body language and the general scene and be should be ready to catch if the disc is thrown to them. 

Being aware of the other players on the field is also vital for safety.

Cutters should always pay attention to where they are running and should not make a cut that causes impact with another player or has the risk of causing injury.

Defensive 

When it comes to defensive positions, the players take on different positions depending on which defensive strategy is being run.

In some cases, the players will be one-on-one defenders, marking specific opponents; but in other cases, the players will defend specific zones of the field and mark any opponent that happens to be in that zone. 

Man-to-man

In man-to-man strategy, the defensive players each choose a player from the offensive team that they will be marking.

After the pull, each defender goes to their designated opponent and tries to prevent them from catching the disc; the defenders that are marking the handlers also try to force them to throw a certain way so that the defensive team can intercept the throw. 

The players continue to mark their designated opponent for the entire point.

Players on the defensive team typically try to choose an opponent to mark that they are evenly matched with in terms of skill.

Zone Defense

In zone defense, players guard a specific zone of the field rather than a specific player.

While there are many ways to play out this strategy, the most common is to have a three-person cup with a popper stopper, two wings, and a deep.

The three-person cup is in charge of covering the handlers.

The three defenders form a semi-circle shape and mark the person with the disc; their goal is to stop the offensive team from advancing the disc and to try to force the handler to throw in a specific area of the field.

The popper stopper guards the middle of the field, trying to intercept the short throws.

The wings each take one side of the field and try to stop the throws up the sidelines.

The deep marks the long throws and tries to intercept them. Because of their position on the field, the deep is also able to oversee everything that is happening on the field and communicate to the other defenders where they are needed and where the biggest threats are. 

As you can see, while there are designated names for the offensive positions, this is not always the case for the defensive positions.

It largely depends on what defensive strategy is being run. 

In general, players on the defensive team are simply referred to as “markers” or even just “defenders” because they are marking their opponents, trying to prevent them from advancing and scoring. 

While watching a game of Ultimate Frisbee may look a little confusing, the players are actually very organized into their designated positions on both offense and defense and are using careful strategy to try to win the game. 

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