Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nomenclature for Alternatives to the Stack

This post is inspired by yet another conversation that went roughly as follows (liberties taken):

"I haven't seen many teams playing the German anymore."

"Is that the one with the 4 cutters horizontal downfield?"

"No, that's the Swedish, its that one with the iso in the middle of the field."

"Right, that works well. I also like that one in which there are 3 handlers in a horizontal line near the disc and then there are 2 pairs of cutters near the sideline on opposite sides of the field."

"Don't some teams call that Brown?"

"I have no idea....I just call it 'the 2 pairs of cutters on opposite sides of the field'."

"Yeah, that's easy to call on the line......"

I propose that we lose the terms "German" and "Swedish" in terms of the everyday vernacular unless someone can write a paper that documents exactly which stack goes with which country. I mean no disrespect to the teams and countries that could have invented these stacks, but our ability to communicate is severely hampered by rumor and misinformation. I just don't want to slog through it anymore.

I need to say that I think teams should call these whatever they want internally. I am just speaking about general conversation.

So how about:

"Pairs"- This is the offense with 3 horizontal handlers back and a pair of cutters close to each sideline.
"3-1-3"- 3 horizontal handlers back, 1 iso cutter downfield, 3 horizontal cutters downfield.
"3-4"- 3 horizontal handlers, 4 horizontal cutters downfield
"T-stack"- 3 horizontal handlers, 4 vertical cutters downfield

Now that I am on a roll, I don't think "2-3-2" is a good term for a standard cup zone. I have played on teams in which we had a "2-3-2" zone (meaning a cup zone), and a "real 2-3-2" zone. This is just too confusing. I don't think that "2-3-2", when referring to a 3-person cup, accurately describes this zone either from a functional or visual perspective.

I tend to call a standard, 3-person cup zone a "cup zone". I think the case could be made to call it a "3-3-1". I call a 4-person cup zone a "4-person cup". Are there any practical versions of a 2-3-2 zone? I haven't seen any, but if there are, let's call it a "2-3-2".


Tarr said...

I think the origin of the term "German" is fairly well documented, and does date back to a German team. It could be roughly stated as a 4-1-2.

I thought "pairs"="Swedish". At least, we referred to it that way at Brown, pre-1998. I'm pretty sure Fort and Andrew Schwartz first learned the offense while spending a summer in Sweeden. Once we started running it as an offense we started calling it the "iso", which is obviously a bad name for it given all the other isolation offenses out there (works for one team, but not as a general name). DoG started calling it "Brown" when they started using it, since it came from the Brown guys. Brown doesn't use it all that much any more, ironically enough. I think that's the extent of that etymology.

I've always liked "split stack" as a descriptor of pairs/sweedish/iso/Brown. After all, there's no rule that it can only be used with three handlers and 4 cutters split evenly. If you have 2 handlers, and 5 cutters split on the sides, that's a 2-5 split stack.

I like "3-1-3" and "3-4". The default in any "numbers" offense is a horizontal stack, and this reflects that. My team this fall referred to these two offenses as "H stack" and "ho stack", which was about as bad an idea as it sounds like it would be.

(I've also been on teams that used 3-1-3 and 3-4 to refer to the number of handlers, middles, and deeps in a center stack offense, with 3-4 meaning no middles. This is a strange way to call things, and one that I would not try to get to catch on.)

The problem with "T-stack" is it could be confused fairly easily with 3-1-3. I've played on teams that have used the T-stack term to refer to such a formation. I think the better way to refer to this is "3-4 center stack". Again, all numbers offenses specify if they are not horizontal stack.

I agree that a standard cup zone is a 3-3-1. A 4-person cup zone could be a 4-2-1, or just 4 person cup. A 2-3-2 does exist, for sure. Again, we used it at Brown, and I've seen it since.

gcooke said...



I can see how one could call a 3-1-3 an H stack, but I don't see how a 3-1-3 could visually spark a "T" label. I am not disagreeing that teams call it this...I just don't understand the connection.

"Split Stack" works for me as well.


Edward Lee said...

I could be wrong, but I thought the original 2-3-2 was so named because it had two points, three across the middle (wings + MM, maybe the MM was a little farther back instead of being part of the cup) and two deeps in the back (instead of the deep deep/short deep).

Tarr said...


The "T" in this view of a T-stack refers to the arrangement of the cutters, just as it does in "split stack" and "ho stack" and "straight stack". Actually, at Georgia Tech we sometimes ran a "T-stack" that would be best described as a 2-1-1-3. This was used exclusively for stopped disc set plays.

Mr. Pickles said...

Ok, I'm working on the Level II Coaching Manual, so here's what we're calling things in there (and the Basic Skills and Drills Manual):


Standard Zone: Your standard, force-middle zone.

4-2-1: 4 person cup zone

1-3-3: Well, it's a 1-3-3

We do not cover the 2-3-2 in the manual or clinic but we used it at Brown as a standard zone with the MM pulled out playing a match-up zone position as Ed had said.


Vertical Stack (with one or two cags): I believe T-stack is what George calls a vertical stack with two cags, but I've heard what Adam calls a 3-1-3 a T stack.

Spread: What George is calling Pairs/Brown/Swedish and Adam is calling Split. Split is also mentioned as a possible name for this offense.

Horizontal Stack: 3-4

Modified Horizontal: An offense that has one side (typically two downfield cutters) in a spread formation (back to front on the sideline) and two cutters in horizontal. Still three handlers back.

The manual doesn't talk about the 3-1-3/German/T-stack because as far as I can tell it's a stunt off of a turn or pull, but not an actual offense that mantains it's form once it's primary look(s) get shut down. I've also heard this offense called Hangtime, Panther, and Downfield Dom(inator).


Julian said...

Let's see. My two cents (probably worth less than that):

Spread = 3 handlers flat + two sideline pairs of cutters.

Ho-stack = 3 handlers flat + 4 cutters flat

German = 4 handlers, 1 main cutter, 2 cutters waaaaay downfield (this is more of an artifact than an offense--I've never seen it in the states)

Straight Stack or Standard Stack or just plain Stack = vertical stack

As for defense, I like:

Standard Zone = 3 person cup

2-4-1 = MM pulls out to share SD responsibilities

1-3-3 = 1-3-3

And 2-3-2 I don't like. Confusing for newer types or the dense guy/gal because it doesn't reflect actual positioning.

Variations on any of these are generally team-specific, right? So the community as a whole probably doesn't need names for them.

Told you I had a lot to add.

Wicks said...

When Snapple (actually, I think it was when we were calling ourselves roQ, in 1997) played a Swedish, it involved 3 handlers across the field and 4 receivers across the field (so, I guess, a Ho Stack). Mike Jones brought us this offense from Anders, long-time member of the Swedish National Team (he played for DoG for a year also).

When the Swedes played it, it was fairly handler-focused. That is, the handlers actually moved the disc down the field, in a weave of sorts. The cutters just occupied defenders for the most part, and sometimes found themselves wide open (I actually don't know what those guys do downfield in any offense, to be honest).

When teams play it now, it seems more cutter-focused, with the handlers primarily resetting and dinking it around until a cutter is open.

As for the "spread" or "Brown", the only comment I have is that Fort and Andrew spent the summer in FINLAND, not Sweden (nor "Sweeden").

David Lee Paraguay said...

Bad Larry has been running a spread O for about 5 years that Beeby named the Austrian because it is variant of the German (or at least what we thought the German was).


parinella said...

In our book, Zaz and I tried to put some labels on things. We have a three-page glossary, some of which you can see on google, and I sent it to Tiina and Michael to see if they could use the same terminology but don't know if they did.

From memory,

"center stack" = standard stack (would also accept "vertical stack")
"spread" = any stack with non-standard alignment of receivers, don't care about handlers
"L-stack" or "T-stack" = standard alignment or receivers, variation on handlers
"horizontal stack" = 4 receivers straight across the field

I don't think we used these other terms, but I would say:
"German" = any offense with a 1 on 1 iso and a throw to space that the receiver runs down. I guess in the 3-1-3 that the 1 actually cuts and then the thrower throws, so I don't know how I would refer to that. In keeping with other offensive labeling, I would choose something besides numbers, maybe based on what the "1" is called.
"side stack" = "brown", which I don't believe that anyone except DoG or its derivatives run

Zone terminology:
We used 2-3-2 to refer to the "standard" zone that has 2 points, 3 middles (one of whom is in the cup, leading to the alternate (probably more common) term "3-2-2"), and 2 deeps. The deeps can be either short/deep or side-to-side, and I don't think there is a big enough philosophical difference between these to merit separate names. Offensive set is either "2-handler" or "3-handler"

parinella said...

Oh, and we started to run something called the "Swedish" because Finland played it, back in 1999. I don't think any of the Snapple/Brown defectors were playing with us, but Bill was in cahoots with them, so maybe that was part of it. I referred to it then as the "offense of the future (and it will always be the offense of the future)". Also want to point out that we call it "brown" instead of "Brown", so that those with a fine ear can tell that we're not paying homage to a college team.

Richard said...

Seems like everyone is offering their own experiences regardless of what others have said. Real quick though my experience has always been that on O the terminology is similar for vert stack (traditional stack), ho stack (3 handlers, 4 cutters in a horrizontal line), and spread (3 handlers, pairs of cutters on either sideline.

There are two other offenses I have seen/been a part of/defended.
The 3-1-3 (German) is an offense and don't be surprised when a mixed team uses it at Nationals this year with success. They run it well and have it fairly well perfected (for them) they call it "the fist", the fist being the 1.
The other O is the star stack that BRU ran for a number of years with some success. Its the same as the spread but instead of 3 handlers its 2 handlers, an iso in the middle, and 2 pairs of cutters on the sidelines - a combination of the 3-1-3 and the spread.

Defensively 3 map cup seems to be the most common nomenclature. Everything else it seems like every team has their own name for it: junk, variations of a 2-3-2, 1-3-3,4 person cup.
Rumor has it that Brass Monkey has some sort of zone they have been hiding all season as well (don't know if they used it at NW Regionals, but given the weather I would imagine not) so fans can be left to assume its "new", or at least a variation on old zones.

The only offensive zone variations seem to be 2 or 3 handler, and I don't see a lot of 2 handler.

I only offer these comments as someone that used to play on the East Coast (DC/VA) and now am in the Northwest.

KC said...

richard, BRU called what you call the "star stack" the spread. I want to say they got it from Ring at some point? (That's stretching my memory) Backhoe was using that exact offense the last time I saw them play... 2 years ago? And I think Nate Miller brought it to Brass Monkey for at least a little while. the UVA men's and women's teams ran it for a while as well.

The Rutgers women's team used to run a really slick German. (they might still run it, I don't know) It's pretty much what got them to Nationals repeatedly despite only having like 10 players or something.

I tend to call anything that puts most of the cuts to the middle of the field a spread and anything that puts most of the cuts to the sidelines a stack. Ahh, over-simplification.

Richard said...

my bad, it had been described to me (in Cville) as a star and that it was a variation of the spread.

apologies for confusing anyone...

jtflynn said...

i guess that puts PDX as the only locale where anyone runs a 4 handler - 3 cutter spread. the system (which includes a unique cutting system) was designed by Peter Ritson and was used extensively by Whor$hack, Fever, Pigs in Space (Mixed '99&'00) and maybe some in NoCal before Peter arrived in Portland. since teams have become better at defending the spread, we've made some tweeks and rarely use the original formation.

btw ... i have seen the 2-3-2 used in limited situations (mostly trying to force dumps in a tough wind) but 1-3-3 is a fair bit more common out here.

another 2 cents,
whor$hack #2

Sideline Engineer said...

A couple that haven't been said:
Wall Zone: Another name for 1-3-3
Wedge Zone: 2-3-2 (not Cup!)
U Stack: Another name for Spread (Pairs)
Flood Stack: All receivers except one stacked down the sideline and the last receiver iso'ed on the other side of the field.

And my votes:

And most important:
2-3-2 is not cup, it's a zone with two up front, three across the middle and two deeps side by side, hence the name 2-3-2. And it works very well when the O is going downwind so the hucks and long hammers are more dangerous.

Tarr said...


I've run 4 handler, 3 cutter spreads before in the midwest. I think the idea was independently invented in the east and brought there.

THe problem with 4 handler spreads is that once a cutter catches the disc, you have four people behind the disc. I think a 4-handler spread is more useful for set plays or as a quick strike formation off of turns, then as a regenerative offense.

gcooke said...

I think I'm ok with SE's suggestion:


plus 3-1-3