The Stack

In your first few games, you might notice everyone on offence running higgledy-piggledy. Because you don’t know what to do, you just run randomly too; getting the disc seems to depend on chance. But the voice in the back of your head says, “There has got to be a better way.” There is, and it’s called the stack.

The stack is the most simple organized offence in ultimate. Your team stands in a line facing the thrower. The line begins about fifteen metres away from the disc and stretches away from the thrower. There are about three metres separating the receivers in this line. The stack is usually parallel with the sidelines and in line with the disc. However, if the disc is near the sidelines, the stack will be angled diagonally across the field.

What the stack does is create open space. When everyone stands in a line down the middle of the field, the sides of the field become open lanes. However, this open space tempts ultimate players. Everyone runs at once and, again, it’s the higgledy-piggledy offence.

Making good use of the space provided by the stack takes discipline. One by one, the receivers make their runs for a pass (cuts). For each receiver to have an open space to cut into, the other five receivers have to stay out of the way. Knowing who will cut and who will stay requires the players to be aware of each other. Look up and down the stack. Is anyone about to cut? If not, go for it. If there is someone already cutting, wait for that receiver to finish their run, then make your cut. to cutting section

If you cut, you will either get the disc or you won’t. If you do, then it’s your turn to throw. But if you don’t get thrown the disc, what should you do? Clear out.

Stack Flow

The animation below demonstrates how a stack allows room for players to cut, and how a stack must be dynamic and adjust according to the disc’s position.

If you make a cut but don’t get thrown the disc, clear out. Run as fast as you can to the back of the stack. From here you will be able to watch for your next opportunity to cut.

Clearing out is important. The thrower has only ten seconds to find a receiver. If you cut in but don’t get the disc, the thrower might have only five seconds left to find someone. Get out of the way so a teammate can cut in before the ten seconds are up.

When a receiver cuts from the stack and catches the disc, this usually moves the disc up the field. (Sometimes the disc moves backwards or sideways.) Because the disc has moved, the stack has to move. If the stack does not move, it will be left behind.

Because the disc flies faster than people can run, the stack is usually in motion and trying to stay ahead of the disc. As they move, the people in the stack watch each other to see who will cut next. They also watch the disc and try to anticipate where it will go.

It is very easy for a stack to go higgledy-piggledy as soon as the disc moves. People lose their minds and all want to make the next cut. Again, discipline is your friend. Resist the urge to cut, move with the stack, and watch your teammates. When you see your chance, take it.

Vertical Stack: Angling the Stack

The animation below demonstrates how a “vertical” stack can adjust according to the location of the disc. There are many different ways for a vertical stack to stay active and moving down the field. One method is to tilt or “angle” the stack.

  1. 13 Responses to “The Stack”

  2. Guys,

    Could you please also publish some more schemes like horizontal stack. I have only heard aboud the but have no other chances to learn them except this site

    By stuffy on Jun 2, 2008

  3. thank you for the infor.. this is a good place to lear ultimate… my tean is started to play but we have corage to play thans again and show more information

    By guss on Jul 11, 2008

  4. Just curious – why does it show the defender at the end forcing the backhand of the handler? Wouldn’t it be more affective to force forhand and trap against the line?(sorry if this is a dumb question, im still new :p)

    By Kyle on Sep 30, 2008

  5. To andreliem:
    Probably, my comment is off-topik, but there is indoor season in Russia and we converted most of Your tactics for 5 on 5 mode.

    What do You think about creating a small item on this useful 😉 website about 5 on 5 tactics?

    By Alexander on Nov 19, 2008

  6. To Kyle,

    The force of the game is backhand so the first defender stands on the right of the handler forcing backhand.

    All the other defenders instead stand on the other side of the offence players to cut off all in cuts.

    Hope it helps you understand

    By LK on Dec 1, 2008

  7. i think there’s a mistake in the animation, at the end the defence is on the wrong side. The marker on the handler is still forcing the backhand but all the other defender are on the open side

    By ecscionmen on Jan 9, 2009

  8. Hi Kyle,

    That’s a great question and also a good follow up by LK.

    You’re onto a good strategy, though, that can work depending on the situation – known as a “sideline trap”.

    Making the adjustment to go from one force (i.e. backhand in this case) and then switching the force in order to do the trap requires strong field awareness and communication among the defensive players.

    In general, new players will find it easier to keep the same force throughout the whole point, but your idea of switching to trap sideline is a great defensive tactic to try — you just want to make sure that (a) All your defenders are aware of this tactic and are prepared to expect it, and that (b) You have strong communication when the changing force happens.

    By adrian on Jan 22, 2009

  9. Adrian: Great point. I asked exactly the same question when I first started playing. The answer I got was exactly what you said, and in hindsight it makes perfect sense.

    I’m still a beginner, but as my awareness of what’s happening on the field (and what should be happening) slowly improves, I get and continue to get the impression that a good Ultimate team (and even a good game of Ultimate) really is centred around keeping at least some order to the way you play. Otherwise, it’s way too much down to chance.

    By Daniel on Mar 10, 2009

  10. Well said, Daniel. Indeed, Ultimate at its best does in fact have a lot of order to it…it may sometimes look like chaos, but it’s really all about the flow of *structured* chaos :)

    By beebs on Mar 16, 2009

  11. In the end of “stack motion” shouldn’t the defense be marking on the away side in the end of the video?

    By froshdisq on Nov 28, 2010

  12. well it really depends on what the defense has set. In this case, they are forcing away the whole time regardless of where the disc is on the field. It probably makes sense to force sideline though as you mentioned.

    By Anonymous on Nov 28, 2010

  13. hi. sorry kung off-topic, pero considerable handler to cutter pass ba ang hammer? scoober? at push pass? haha. thank you.

    By imba_ultimate_skills on Jul 21, 2012

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