Vertical Offense

Vertical offense has a straight-forward structure that is easy for new players to learn. It is also easily adapted by teams to create more sophisticated offensive plays.


Vertical offense typically comprises of 2 handlers and 5 cutters. You’ll mostly set up in vertical at the beginning of a point or after a turnover.  The first player in the vertical stack stands 5-10 yards from the handler with the disc, while the other cutters stand in a vertical line behind that first player; there should be about 3 yards between each person in the stack. The other handler should stay out of the way of the play, on what we call the break side. This will allow cutting lanes to remain open for all the cutters in the stack.  

The following graphic will give you a better understanding:

Perfect vertical offense

The goal is to move the disc down one side of the field. When that starts happening, the stack should adjust to create more space on that side by swinging the back of the stack over to the opposite side of the field.  Once momentum down that side stops because there are no longer open cutters , the new goal is to re-set the disc to a handler in the centre of the field and the vertical stack returns to the centre in order to create more options again. Remember to always make safe cuts that avoid risking injury to you or other players!

The Reality

In reality, it’s often messier than that. Cutters don’t always get open and throwers don’t always feel like they can throw the throw that’s needed. That’s why at about stall 5, throwers need to stop looking upfield and make the decision to dump it to one of the handlers. This is a handler responsibility: they need to get open promptly for these critical dump passes in order to reset the play. The stack adjusts to the new handler getting the disc and the person who threw the dump clears out and gets back into the stack – unless the person who threw the dump was a handler, who returns to the break side handling position.

At the end of the day it’s about being able to adapt on the fly, communicate with your teammates, and keep working hard to make the play happen.

Handler Responsibilities

  • Start in the middle. When you start the offense at the beginning of the point or after a turnover, start in the middle so you have more options.  
  • Throw to the open player. Wait for one of your cutters to get open and throw them the disc – and don’t panic!  You’ve got time.
  • Dump at 5. If you do not have any cutters open by stall 5, you should begin to look for a dump. Even if you lose a few yards, this is a good play because it resets the stall count and allows your team more time to have an open / easy throw.
  • Be the dump. If you are a handler who does not have the disc, you need to be watching the thrower so that you (or the other handler) are available to provide a safe dump option to reset the stall count.
  • Make safe throws to ensure that nobody on the field gets hurt.
  • Be spirited. Always play with SOTG in mind!

Cutter Responsibilities

  • Sprint to get open. Your job is to get open in an area where your handler has a throw they are capable of making. Don’t jog! Be sure you sprint.
  • Make sharp ‘V’ shaped cuts. This is very important in order to get open. Most new players make round banana shaped cuts, which makes it very difficult to get open as your defender will easily follow you. See the diagram below for examples of good cuts and bad cuts.
  • Don’t give up on your cuts.  This is especially true if you are making a deep cut to the endzone – this can be a long run, but commit to the long run before clearing out and returning to the stack.
  • Sprint to clear out. As soon as you realize you are not going to get the disc, clear out by sprinting back to the stack. This will open the cutting lane so a second person can cut.
  • Watch your teammates. Don’t cut to the same side or at the same time as one of your teammates. This can clog up the cutting lane and make it more difficult for the thrower.  If your teammate is not clearing out though, take initiative and yell to clear out while making your cut to their space.
  • Time your cuts. If you see that one of your teammates is open and going to catch a pass, try to time a cut so you are open when they catch the disc and have someone to throw to right away. Ideally, you shouldn’t wait until your teammate catches the disc to start your cut.
  • Rest in the stack. If you are tired, rest in the stack. Never rest or jog in the cutting lane.
  • Adjust the stack. If the disc swings to the other side of the field, make sure you and the rest of the stack adjust to clear out that side of the field so a cutter can get open, as that becomes the new cutting lane
  • Make safe cuts to ensure that nobody on the field gets hurt. You should NEVER make a cut that causes contact or risks injuring another player. 
  • Be spirited. Always play with SOTG in mind!

How it comes together

There are a lot of moving pieces and many things to remember. You should read this page over and over as you continue playing, putting the skills into practice. When everyone on your team works together to advance the disc, it looks like a well conducted orchestra.  For a moving graphic of what vertical can look like, follow the link to the Ultimate Handbook.

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