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Layers of Advantages in Sports

Layers of Advantages in Sports

There have been many, many misconceptions about Dribbling, Motion Offense, Triple Threat Principle and it's clear that nobody is really getting it so let me try to bring more clarity to what is called "My Offense".

There are several distinct layers of types of advantages a player or team has in competition, the main ones being:

(a) physical (b) intellectual (c) mechanical/balance (d) tactical (e) strategic (f) structural/formation and (g) philosophical/mental. 

I've tried to order these specifically from the most gross to the most refined as they all layer one upon the other.


This is obvious; faster, quicker, more endurance/stamina, stronger, height, condition should always provide an advantage over a player who is lesser in any of these.


A player could be physically superior to you but if you have an intellectual edge over him/her, that may be enough to trump their physical advantage.


Clearly a player who has superior body mechanics and better balance has the advantage over the player who doesn't.

Tactical (this is one of the main focuses of this article).

How to define tactics?  Tactics are the basic building blocks of a game.  In this case I'm going to focus on Offense in Ultimate.

A flick is a tactic, a pivot is a tactic, an in cut is a tactic, a fake is a tactic, yes?  Sound reasonable?  So in that context, we can say there are many, many tactics and that it may be useful to categorize these into classes of tactics.  All throws can be in a tactical subgroup, all cuts in a tactical subgroup, etc.   With me?

I also like to think in terms of compound tactics.  A dump-swing is a compound tactic as it involves more than one player, usually at least on pivot, two cuts and two throws.   A dump-swing isn't a strategy, per se, but a chain of individual tactics sequenced together as a single tactical unit.  Each individual tactic in the chain of events is a building block and the entire chain can be considered like a pre-fab group, but thought of as a single, larger building block.

So, in this definition, dribbling is simply a tactic.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It's obviously a compound tactic as it involves a couple of throws, some cuts, pivots, etc. and it is an extensible compound tactic.  In other words, unlike a dump-swing, which is a fairly finite short chain sequence, dribbling can be a very long chain sequence of sub-tactics, but it's just a tactic.

Tactics are only as good as the person executing them.  Questioning the efficacy, legitimacy or validity of a tactic is sort of a waste of time. If a player can consistently and successfully pull off any tactic, that's great but to judge any tactic on theory is a waste of time.  There's a reason I say this and that's because players frequently question the use of dribbling and it's basically the wrong question in the wrong place.

It should be obvious that the player and team with the largest toolkit of serviceable tactics has an enormous advantage of those that don't.


For the sake of this article, I'm going to define strategy (on offense especially) as a way of making decisions on how to incorporate tactics in a game to win it.  The tactics are the building blocks and the strategy is how to assemble and use those building blocks.  You can have a strategy to only throw flicks, or scoobers (the Matt Bennett offense) or just hucks.  Those are simple strategic examples but they serve the purpose of delineating between tactics, strategies and structure.

Again, a strategic advantage is greater than a tactical advantage as the strategic advantage dictates how and when to deploy the tactics.


This is next level up from strategies.  You can put vert stack, ho stack, motion offenses, etc. into this layer of advantage.  This is the architectural layer of the game.  The tactics are the brick and mortar building blocks, the strategy is how you assemble them together and the Structure/Formation is the blueprint for how you're going to build your house.

Again, a structural advantage (layered on top of all the other advantages) gives you a tremendous advantage over your opponent.


This is the holy grail, the most refined of all the advantages.  This advantage utilizes all of the underlying advantages and at the same time transcends them all.  This is where checkers becomes chess.  This is where ultimate goes from being a 2D game to being a 3D sport.  The triple threat principle is nothing more than a philosophical or mental advantage.  You can have two identical players, take identical twins, who've trained together their whole lives so there is no physical advantage, no intellectual advantage, no tactical advantage, no strategic or architectural advantages but one understands triple threat and the other one doesn't. 

What's the difference between these two players?  Almost nothing except for one thing, philosophically one of them knows to their core something the other one doesn't and the application of this knowledge provides the biggest advantage of them all.

I can say without a doubt, with 100% certainty, that I'm the only player in the history of Ultimate that has attained this layer of advantage.  That's not ego or anything else, it's just a fact.  Frankly, it wrecks the game and if any other player understood this advantage, they'd want the rules overhauled too.  The rules for ultimate are ridiculous.

Dribbling, Motion Offense and Triple Threat.

OK, hopefully that wasn't too long winded but I needed a context to be able to differentiate between these three because everyone seems to want to conflate all three of these things into something that doesn't exist, "Frank's Offense".

So from a tactical perspective and from the definition above, there are a lot of players that have some rudimentary dribbling tactics; Freechild obviously, Nutt, Bennett, Gibson, etc. but it's (without sounding like a dick) about the level of a elementary school basketball player.  In the tactical class of dribbling, they are maybe at about 5% accomplishment in terms of the total number of individual dribbling tactics.  I make this statement to diffuse the question of what is, and what isn't dribbling.

Dribbling is simply a tactic and I've done my best to speak about it specifically here

Motion Offense, on the other hand, is a structural, architectural framework to play the game in.  You can easily play a motion offense without anyone on your team possessing a single dribble tactic.  The Hex offense is an example of this.  That said, here is a page I wrote in 2005 that undeniably outlines a hexagon with a center post so this offense is neither new or novel.  Just a regurgitation of the motion offense I've been playing for 25 years.  Kyle Weisbrod also has been running a motion offense off and on with his college girls and they don't dribble so it's very important to separate these two concepts.  Dribbling is a basic building block and motion offense is just an architecture, they are not mutually dependent.

Clearly, a motion offense that is based on dribbling has a huge advantage over one that doesn't but they aren't necessarily linked.  You can dribble in a stack offense and run a motion offense without dribbling.  Both are kind of brain-dead to do, to be honest, but they are not exclusive and that's the salient point to make here.

Finally we get to the philosophical advantage.  In hearing people attempt to describe "Frank's Offense", there is an easy explanation for why they they come up short.  Every time someone tries to re-frame or re-bracket the conversation do talk specifically about the offense I espouse, they are doing so primarily by talking about tactics and sometimes on strategic/structural terms but never philosophically.

That's because philosophically, there's not a single player on the planet who has the same philosophical reference frame that I do.  No ego, no smack talk, just the simple truth. Without my reference frame to understand my offense, how the hell are you going to be able to describe it.  How can you describe something you don't even begin to understand?  Bode says this, Liam Rosen says that, Idris punks me, Isaac Saul says something or other but it's kind of like arithmetic and calculus. 

Again, it's the age old question.  How do you explain to someone who doesn't know the meaning of the words sweet what sugar is.  Well, it's like this, or it's like that, or ...... Sound familiar?  In listening to people trying to talk about my offense that's all you hear, it's like this or it's like that but that's simply not going to get you to where I'd like to take you.  At the end of the day, you've got to put the sugar in your mouth and taste it.  There simply isn't anything in conventional ultimate to compare this to because it's an abstraction far and way significantly more philosophically advanced than any concept you're going to attempt to compare it to.  It's futile to attempt.

Newton invented Calculus to talk about how the planets moved through the heavens because there was no other mathematical language at the time to accomplish what he needed.  In other words, you couldn't use simple arithmetic to describe New's Laws of Motion and you can't use the framework from conventional Ultimate to understand the superior advantage the Triple Threat Principle gives you in Ultimate.  You need a new reference frame, not a way to reframe your description or questions.

The Triple Threat principle needs to be applied over an extended period of time before it changes the Calculus in your brain.  Take the example of the identical twins above.  It's not like I can just explain triple threat to anyone and they'll understand it.  It has to be learned by utilizing it until it becomes part of who you are and you can't begin to start on this process until you learn how to dribble.  Dribbling is mandatory.  The three threats are passing, scoring and penetrating/dribbling so without all three as legitimate threats, you won't have the mental advantage you're looking for.