The score is 16-16 in the final of the championship game. You’re trying to ignore the gnawing nervousness and the hum of the crowd as you see the opposing team’s pull go up. Automated movements carry your legs forward as your teammate stops the roll and the opposition charges towards you with to intent to snatch away the title you’ve worked so hard for, that you’re so close to.
As the offense gets the disc moving, one of your top deep throwers comes under to collect an open side throw. Another teammate hustles deep down the forehand sideline, trying to open up space as you drift into the middle of the field to set up your cut. You can hear the breathing of your defender, and you can imagine the tension in their legs as they prepare for your move. As your teammate clears the deep lane, you shove two hard steps under. As soon as you sense your defender giving chase, you plant your right leg and shove off into the deep space.
The huck goes up. It hangs but you’ve got steps to size it up while your defender plays catch you. Your muscles fire into action, your subconscious knowing every button to push, and you leap into the air. Your soar above your defender and haul the disc down from over their head. As your feet near the ground, it dawns on you that your team is the champion. You’ve done it.
That’s the story of Darren Wu, whose sky to win the 2014 World Junior Championships for Team Canada has become a legendary game winning goal. But before the sky, Wu had to get open for his thrower. All it took was two steps, timed correctly, from the right spot, cohesively aligned with his teammates, to set him up with the advantage he turned into a gold medal play.
During this series of modules, we are going examine cuts from different angles:
We’ll go over some drills and techniques to help you not only remember the answers to these questions, but practice applying them to your game. And I’ll highlight examples of great cuts for you to review.
Maybe you’ve heard of this drill, maybe you haven’t, but either way, it can make you a better cutter. Created by legendary Seattle Sockeye cutter Mike Caldwell, and popularized by equally legendary Oregon Fugue coach Lou Burruss, the Cutting Tree is a simple effective drill that challenges your body and mind to continue to operate efficiently even as fatigue starts to wear.
Four cones arranged in a trapezoid demarcate the change of direction points. Starting at Cone 1, accelerate into Cone 2, chop step and divert back across the tree to Cone 3, and then accelerate back out into Cone 4, before chop stepping and driving back under to Cone 1. It’s that simple.
What we’re replicating here is a series of hard in cuts followed by equally hard deep cuts. This pattern of cutting is specific enough to be common in nearly every offensive setup. In cuts toward the discs flare wide while deep cuts move away the middle of the imaginary field to increase the space our thrower has to target.
By creating a pattern, you let your mind and body form familiarity, and provide opportunities to hone in on how to increase efficiency of movement. As you work through the tree, teaching yourself to make each cut hard and each change of direction decisive, you’ll begin to tire. You can practice cutting hard even as that sets in, and maintaining good fundamentals. Those fundamentals are physical - clean chop steps, getting low and bursting out of turns, pumping your arms, etc. - and they are mental - moving decisively, keeping your head up to see the field, pushing through until the cut is finished, and presenting a target to the imaginary thrower.
Or, if you have a partner, have them act as a thrower, faking throws to you (which you can call out the throw the fake is mimicking to confirm you are paying attention), or if you have a lot of discs, throwing them to you (ignore them if inaccurate, mostly try to stay in the tree, just toss the disc aside after you catch it).
This month in The Ultimate Skills Project, we’ll be taking a look at some footage, considering what kind of cutter we are and want to be, going over drills, and finding cutters to watch to get better, and more! It’d be great to have you along on our journey to find out more about how to take this element of the game to the next level.