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The seven players on offense are divided into two groups of three players, plus one full-time dump player. The two groups are designated A and B and each player within a group is given a number 1, 2 or 3, so the seven players on the field are 1A, 2A, 3A, 1B, 2B, 3B and X (the full-time dump). A group is active when one of the three players in that group has the disc, and inactive otherwise. Each player normally cuts when, and only when, he is in the active group, meaning there will only be two cuts at a time. A group remains active as long as they are able to continue passing the disc among the players in that group. When neither cutter is open, the thrower dumps it to X (the full-time dump), who then looks to throw a swing pass to the 1 from the inactive group to restart the flow. Once the disc has been swung to the 1 from the inactive group, that group becomes the new active group and the flow continues.

The player in the active group in possession of the disc is the thrower. The two other players in the active group are the cutters, and are designated the primary cutter and the secondary cutter. A player is the primary cutter in two situations:

(1) When a group has just become active but no pass has been made within the group yet (e.g. the play is being started after a pull, turnover or stopped disc; the 1 just received a swing pass from X; or someone in the group caught a pass not intended for him), the primary cutter is the player who follows the thrower numerically. For example, if 1A starts with the disc, 2A is the primary cutter; if 2B has the disc, 3B is the primary cutter; and if 3A has the disc, 1A is the primary cutter.
(2) When the disc is passed between two members of the group, the third player in the group (the one who neither threw nor received the disc) becomes the new primary cutter.

A player in the active group is the secondary cutter if he is neither the thrower nor the primary cutter. A player in the active group is always the secondary cutter when he has just passed the disc to someone else in his group. For example, if player 1A passes it to 2A, then 3A becomes the new primary cutter and 1A becomes the secondary cutter. If player 1A instead passes it to 3A, then 2A becomes the new primary cutter and 1A again becomes the secondary cutter.

Each player in a group only needs to remember his number plus the numbers of the other two players in his group, and then he will always know when to cut. Each player will always have two players cutting when he has the disc—one primary cutter and one secondary cutter—plus a dump. The order of the cuts is preordained, so players clogging passing lanes, making unnecessary cuts, and cutting each other off should be minimized. Since other players are not cutting, the primary cutter has more room in which to get open. There is always a dump available so there is no need to try to force throws downfield, making it possible to emphasize longer, higher-percentage passes.

Stack Options

The groups can be set up in a single stack or double stack, depending on circumstances (See figure). Players do not necessarily have to line up in strict numerical order; in fact the order should be mixed up somewhat so that it doesn’t become obvious which cuts will come from which part of the stack. The 1’s should be toward the front of the stack, however, since they need to make themselves quickly available for a swing pass after the disc is dumped.

The single stack disguises the positions better, especially if the other team becomes aware of how the offensive system is structured. The single stack also discourages poaching by the defense since offensive players have more room in which to cut away from the defender.

The double stack has the advantage of spreading out the field, giving the 2’s and 3’s more room in which to work, since the inactive group is on the other side of the field. It also makes it easier for the 1’s to get open for swing cuts and makes the swing pass open up the field more.

The Offensive Flow

Starting the offense

The offense should normally begin with the disc in possession of one of the 1’s. This means they catch high floating pulls, bring out-of-bounds pulls to the sideline or the middle of the field, and pick up the disc after a turnover. However, if the pull is low enough to get off an uncontested throw then X would catch it and pass to 1A or 1B before the defense can get set up. The corresponding 2 would then normally be the first primary cutter.

Primary cutter

The primary cutter always has the freedom to choose whether to cut long or short, whether to cut to the force side or break side, etc. and thus has a large portion of the field to work with. Since there will always be a dump available, it doesn’t make much sense for the primary cutter to receive a very short pass, so the primary cutter should try to cut for passes which gain at least 15-20 yards. Note that, by definition, once a player becomes the primary cutter he remains the primary cutter until he receives the disc or until the group becomes inactive.

Secondary cutter

The secondary cutter provides a second option for the thrower in case the primary cutter fails to get open. He has the responsibility of making sure that his cut does not interfere with the primary cutter, either by cutting into the same area or by cutting off the throwing lane. A player always becomes the secondary cutter immediately after passing the disc to another player in the group. If the current primary cutter gets the disc, the secondary cutter always becomes the new primary cutter, so he can time his cuts so that what starts out as a secondary cut can then be turned into the new primary cut instead.

The dump and swing

Player X always follows the disc up the field so that he is available for a dump pass if it is needed. If any player has the disc and neither the primary nor secondary cutter is able to get open, the thrower dumps it to X. At this point, the 1 from the inactive group cuts across the field for a swing pass, and the play is reset with the other group. The 1 from the group that just had the disc also makes a secondary cut so that he can receive the disc if X is not able to make the swing pass. This secondary cut must not interfere with the swing and may even be another dump. For example, if 1A, 2A or 3A dumps it to X, then 1B cuts across the field for a swing and 1A makes the secondary cut. Once one of the 1’s receives the disc from X, the play continues normally (e.g. if 1A gets the disc then 2A becomes the new primary cutter, or if 1B gets the disc then 2B becomes the new primary cutter).

Inactive group

The inactive group is the group of three players who are not in possession of the disc. Players in the inactive group must keep their defenders honest with little fake cuts. The defenders will normally not know how the offense is structured, so if everyone acts like they are currently involved with the play, the defenders won’t be able to tell which of the five receivers will be cutting. When the defenders start to recognize how the offense is structured, their first move to counter it will usually be to start poaching the active cuts. Players in the inactive group should watch for poaches by the defense and be prepared to take advantage of them (even though they’re not in the active group) by cutting to an open area and yelling “poach!” The inactive group must move the stack downfield as the play progresses so the stack stays ahead of the disc, if possible. The 1 from the inactive group must also pay close attention to the play so that he is prepared to cut for the swing pass whenever the disc is dumped.

Assigning Players to Positions

The players that play each of the four position types (1, 2, 3 and X) should be chosen based on their abilities and experience. The X and 1’s are the players who would traditionally be called the “handlers”, the 2’s are the “middles”, and the 3’s are the “deeps”.

Player X should have very good short-range touch and break-mark throws. The X will not huck very often, so long throwing ability is not as important. The X does not run very much so this position is suited to players who are in worse shape or who need a breather.
The 1’s should have good all-around throwing skills and hucks and good decision-making. They should also be fast, squirrelly and in good shape.
The 2’s should be the players who have the best ability to get open in space through straight-line speed or effective cuts. They should also have relatively good throwing ability.
The 3’s should be the players who are best at catching deep throws, such as those who are fast and tall. The 3’s don’t make very many difficult throws, so this position is suited to players who are athletic but are inexperienced throwers.

The players in each position should be shuffled frequently to keep the offense from becoming predictable, especially after a long point when the defense has had multiple opportunities to see who cuts after whom. Even if the same seven players stay on the field and everyone plays the same position, the groups can still be mixed up to have different combinations of 1’s, 2’s and 3’s.

Using Common sense

The offensive is a only a method for determining who should cut at a given time for the purpose of eliminating clogging and redundant cuts; it should not be viewed as a rigid set of rules which can never be broken. The structure of the offense should never be taken as being so inflexible as to prohibit players from using their common sense during a point or from taking advantage of mistakes by the defense. Players in the inactive group should feel free to cut if a defender leaves them to poach another offensive player, even though the inactive group isn’t normally supposed to be making cuts at that time. The thrower should be prepared to throw the disc to anyone who is open because of a poach or defensive mistake, not just the players he is “supposed” to throw to. If X receives a dump and sees a player wide open downfield, he should feel free to send it deep rather than always being forced to throw the swing. The normal passing order can always be abandoned during a fast break after a turnover.

Simplified Version

In first learning the offense, it may help to simplify the offense by leaving out the distinctions between primary and secondary receivers. In this case, the two receivers in the active group should use their instincts more to decide when to cut. The 2’s should tend to make the first cut and the 3’s should tend to favor the longer cuts.


The examples on the following pages show how the offense might progress during a game. For each example, it doesn’t matter too much where each of the players cuts to, since the type of cut to be made is entirely up to the cutter. Instead, pay attention to which player is the primary cutter and which is the secondary cutter, and why. Also, notice what the 1’s do after the disc is dumped.

Example 1:

Player 1A starts the play with the disc, so player 2A makes the primary cut. Player 3A delays his secondary cut for a couple of seconds to see whether player 2A is going to get open. Player 2A is open, so 1A passes it to him.

Scenario A: Player 3A is now the primary cutter and makes a cut deep. After passing the disc, 1A catches up to the disc and prepares to make a secondary cut after waiting to see whether 2A is going to huck it. Player X sets up behind 2A for a dump. Player 3A is open, so 2A hucks it to him.

Scenario B: Same as Scenario A, but 3A is not open, so 1A makes a secondary cut into the flat and 2A passes it to him.

Example 2:

Player 1A starts with the disc, so 2A makes a primary cut for him. After a few seconds, 3A recognizes that 2A is not getting open, so he makes a secondary cut to the other side. Neither player is open and the stall count is getting high, so 1A dumps it to X.

Since the disc has been dumped, player 1B cuts across the field for a swing pass. 1A curls back in case the swing isn’t open. 1B is open, so X swings it to him. Since Group B is now the active group, 2A and 3A are no longer in the active group and they return to the stack.

Since player 1B now has the disc, 2B makes a primary cut. 3B prepares to either (a) make the next primary cut if 2B gets the disc, or (b) make a secondary cut if 2B can’t get open. X sets up behind 1B for a dump. 1A is in the inactive group and returns to the stack. 2B is open, so 1B passes it to him.

Example 3:

1B has the disc, so 2B makes a primary cut by faking in and going deep. 2B is well-covered, so 3B makes a secondary cut toward the disc. 3B is open so 1B passes it to him.

2B is still the primary cutter since 1B just passed the disc. 2B comes back toward the disc and 1B comes up from behind 3B for a secondary cut, making sure that his cut doesn’t interfere with 2B’s. X sets up for a dump. 2B is still not open so 3B passes it to 1B.

2B is still the primary cutter since 3B just passed the disc. 2B turns around and cuts deep again, and 3B cuts up the line for a secondary cut. X catches up to 1B. The A group moves the stack downfield to try and stay of the disc. This time 2B is open, so 1B sends it deep.

Example 4:

1A starts with the disc, so 2A makes a primary cut out of the stack. 3A also makes a secondary cut, but neither player is open so 1A dumps the disc to X.

Since the disc has been dumped, 1B cuts across the field for a swing and 1A also cuts back in case the swing is covered. While this is happening, 2A goes back to the stack and 3A clears up the sideline and toward the back of the stack. 1B is not open so X passes it back to 1A.

Seeing that 1A has the disc again, 2A cuts out of the stack once more. 3A quickly stops and comes back to the disc for a secondary cut which he can continue as a primary cut if 2A ends up getting the disc. 1B is not in the active group so he returns to the stack, and X sets up behind 1A for a dump. 2A is open this time so 1A passes it to him.

Example 5:

1B starts with the disc, so 2B makes a primary cut from the back of the stack. 2A’s defender sees 2B cutting in and steps out to poach his cut. 2A is in the inactive group, but recognizing the poach, cuts to the opposite side of the field and yells “poach!” 1B sees 2A wide open across the field and passes it to him.

2A has just received the disc from outside the group, so 3A becomes the primary cutter and fakes deep before coming back to the disc. 1A starts to sprint deep on the other side of the stack for a secondary cut which can be continued as a primary cut if 3A gets the disc. 1B and 2B return to the stack because their group is no longer active, and X sets up behind 2A. 3A is open so 2A passes it to him.

1A is the new primary cutter and continues his deep cut. 2A comes up from behind 3A and prepares to make a secondary cut if 3A doesn’t huck it. The B group moves the stack downfield to try to stay ahead of the disc, and X catches up with 3A. 1A is open deep so 3A hucks it.