Horizontal Stack in Ultimate Frisbee
Horizontal stack is extremely common when it comes to offensive Ultimate Frisbee plays. In my opinion, it is the most widely known and used offensive play, ever. This is because of its extreme simplicity and effectiveness. In addition, this play works best to break through a Cup Defense.
There are two main positions in the Ho Stack which are the Handler and the Cutter. The definitions of these two positions are located at the bottom of the page.
So let’s get started. A ho stack usually has three handlers but can have two if need be. In the picture to the right there are 3 handlers which are represented by the 3 circles at the bottom. The handlers act as a unit by handling the disc through dumps, swings, up-line passes, etc until a cutter gets open.. A team will designate a left, middle, and right handler. The middle handler is sometimes called the “ratchet” because they turn and swivel to pass to the other two handlers.
The 4 cutters are split into two groups (the red dotted line splits them). Each group will stay on their side of the field and not cross the line. The two cutters on the left side simply cut toward and away from the left or middle handler, whichever handler has the disc. The play works best if the left cutters cut opposite of each other. So when one cuts in the other cuts out like pistons in an engine. The right cutters will do the same if the middle or right handler has the disc. It is extremely important the the cutters cut at the right times. When the middle handle passes the disc to the left handler a cutter should be cutting-in and the other cutting-out ready to receive a quick pass.
If the cutters are sufficiently defended the left handler will dump or swing the disc back to the middle handler. If there is still no play they will swing it to another handler and so on. Every time there is a swing the defense has to reassemble causing for open players. A cutter will become open eventually. It is the three handler’s job to maintain possession until a cutter becomes open.
When a pass is completed to a cutter the cutter then throws a short dump back to the hander and the whole play restarts. So basically, the handler will throw about 10 meters upfield to a cutter, then the cutter will dump back to the handler about one meter gaining a total of nine meters up the field. This is repeated multiple times until a point is scored. Ho stack revolves around a 3 step forward, 1 step back basis.
The faster Ho Stack goes the better it works. So I recommend checking out TurboDisc since Ho Stack is one of the many plays that can be TurboDisced.
The Ho Stack is so common that basically the entire Ultimate world knows the play like the back of their disc. So adding some custom variation is always a good thing. When teaching your team Horizontal Stack try to change it up to confuse your future opponents. Designate a cutter, or two, to cut in different patterns or do an old fashioned switch-a-roo with a cutter/handler mid play.
The picture to the left is another variation of Ho Stack, also pretty common. It shows a middle cutter cutting to the middle handler, if the cutter cannot get open they will out-cut and another cutter will cut in. This process repeats while the outside cutters do their regular job. This variation works very well when defending against the Cup because the middle cutters become the poppers.
Handler: A handler usually is an experienced player that is comfortable throwing the three main throws which are backhand, forehand, and hammer. I say they should be experienced because they have to calculate which throw to use, who’s open, wind speed, where to throw, and how hard to throw all within 10 seconds while being stalled by a defender. They stay back to receive dumps from the cutters and rarely go up field to score a point. They typically assist points more than they score them.
Cutter: The cutter has two jobs, to cut and to dump. They cut towards and away from the handler, never side to side. The cutter is not supposed to advance the disc up field unless someone is WIDE open. After receiving the disc they dump it back to the handler and go back to cutting.