I'm a geezer now, but when I played competitive ultimate, a specific type of isolation play was very popular. Near the end zone, the handler would call out "Iso bob" (or whatever they wanted to signify the play), and everyone except bob would clear the end zone. Bob's defender would then have the choice of either facing bob or facing the handler. If he faced bob, the handler would throw, and bob would have a step on him for a crisp throw. If he faced the handler, bob would cut and have a step on him for the cut. If another player ran in to help, his mark would cut to a corner of the end zone.

If a team ran a zone defense, this didn't work.

Is there a good way to run a man defense and shut down isolation plays?

And, as an aside, are they still popular?

  • To answer your aside, iso plays are still popular. You'll see them even at very high levels, especially when the offence thinks they can exploit a mismatch (an offence player who is faster or can jump higher than their defender).
    – hunse
    Nov 21, 2014 at 22:44

2 Answers 2


Simplest solution is to go for a strict force-a-side defense. There's at least some chance the defender can watch both the disc at the current handler and keep track of Bob's actions in the corner of the eye. If the marker on the handler enforces one closed side, the defender can put himself clearly on the open side and watch both. Of course, there's no ideal world, and no side is always 100% closed, and there's overheads and hammers and such. But it does work rather well, especially if the team is trained well in forcing a side.

A system my team once played is rather hard to do: We called it the "buddy system": Every player on the field has a buddy on the outside. Before the game the team agrees on active players either watching the handlers or watching the respective marked offense player. Let's say for example the team agrees to always watch the handler. Then each buddy on the sideline watches the marked offense player and shouts his direction of movement to his active player on the field. There are several points to this:

  • The active players on the field must trust their buddies and must keep the eyes on the disc to not miss the throw.
  • They must trust that their buddies shout correct instructions
  • They must listen to their buddies.
  • In turn, the buddies must shout correct directions ("left", "right", "fore", "back" or similar) and they must modulate their voice to the urgency/speed/speed change of the marked player
  • The buddy pairs of active and sideline player must know the voices of each other well. Obviously there's no point if there's no 100% understanding.

The result is a cacophony of voices at the match which can be quite intimidating. Some teams may consider this foul play because they mistake this system for an aggressiveness. The point really is that there's no possibility for any kind of trick play such as the "iso bob" mentioned in the question.

Imho iso plays will always be popular, but they cannot be used to win a game. It's one of those tricks an experienced, competitive team should have up their sleeves and pull out of the hat once in a while.

Disclaimer: I'm a geezer now, too ;)

  • The buddy system sounds fascinating, and probably maddening for the opposing team. +1. Aug 31, 2014 at 20:32
  • I've seen something like the buddy system where teammates on the side help those on the field (usually the mark, but possibly other players too). If you get used to listening for these calls, I think they can be helpful.
    – hunse
    Nov 21, 2014 at 22:46

One team I played on--which won UPA collegiate back when I wasn't a geezer--practiced defending them thusly:

  1. Forces must be absolute. Nobody breaks force. Ever.
  2. Man-defender faces iso-player and plays hard-and-tight man defense. We were often accused of playing "physical" defense just because our standard was to never allow more than two feet of separation when playing man. Many cutters aren't used to having real trouble shaking a defender, so got flummoxed.
  3. When the disc goes up, the call from the sidelines wasn't "DISC!" but rather was either "LEFT!" or "RIGHT!" This indicated to the defender which direction he should turn to acquire and intercept the disc.

All three of these points were practiced/drilled extensively on a daily or near-daily basis. Points one and two I've seen plenty of other teams practice very well. I've never seen another team drill point 3 like we did: stand with one's back to the disc, fifteen feet away, with two cones ten feet to either side of you, like below. ('c'=cone, 'X'=defender, 'O'=thrower)

c     X     c


Thrower throws to one cone, spectator shouts "LEFT!" or "RIGHT!", and you turn-bid-acquire-block as quickly as possible. That's right, you lay out mid-torso height before you've really spotted the disc, and midair reach out with an arm or leg if you have to. And you catch some in the face.

But getting that muscle memory drilled is key--with practice you'll lay out and start looking for the throw before you realize you've even heard the call.

  • 1
    That probably would have been cool to watch. +1 Jun 17, 2016 at 4:50

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