Jugular (a.k.a. Conceptual Ultimate)
For years our team has had play calls. We walk up to the line after a pull goes out of bounds and we run a play. Someone calls a foul, we run a play. The disc stalls near the endzone, we call a play. For the most part, however these plays have all been by position. The next developmental phase for Ultimate will combine these positional plays with more conceptual movement and strategy.
More than five years ago, the top teams began running four person plays on an inbound pull: someone catches the disc, then each of three guys cut one after another. If one of these guys doesn't get it, then there was a short-fill, a long-fill and a seventh man to bail out the O. At the same time, for years many defenses have run a two person play on transition: simple, someone picks up the disc, throws it to the first guy who then hucks it to the second.
I can sit here and rattle off endless situations where Ultimate is dictated by position. I believe he next wave of innovation for the sport is more conceptual. Like soccer, we can will offenses designed by movement and situation rather than by specific X's and O's on a chalk board. Already there are a number of strategies that demonstrate my point.
When the D gets a turnover and the they knows to 'fast break' , this is conceptual. DoG's call for this is jugular, which told the players on the field the following things: the other team is bummin' because of the turnover, the other team has a weak D in since this was their O originally, your own team is weak on O so score fast, scoring fast will break the other team's heart. So DoG (and New York) are very good at moving the disc quickly just after a turn; teams should also be good at recognizing when the 'fast break' is over giving way to some other 'standard' call for the goal. This is conceptual O. No one person is called to do any particular cut, and yet everyone benefits from hearing the calls. Sure you need handlers and goal scorers; I take it for grated that we are all doing the basics already.
Another example is when DoG calls 'who wants to score'. This is something we use to say: "Hey guys, we've shrunk the field by clogging, we're all doing cutback cuts and the D is overplaying us bigtime... we need some AWAY CUTS!!!". Now we are saying that we want handlers to set up close and cut away to the flat for leading passes. We want middles to clear to one side and create space to run onto 20 or 30 yard passes. We want the deeps in to create space for the final huck into the endzone. The whole team hears a call like 'who wants to score' and changes its mindset. No positions are called, no specific play.
If you figure that your team has a default O, the one you naturally run, then these calls will complement that O. You cannot win without adjusting to your opponent (unless they suck, and that means you suck worse... OUCH!). Ideally, you want to be one step ahead, forcing them to react to you.
It has taken teams too long to see that MOST of their turnovers come near the endzone. How many times can you recall your team getting into the redzone (within ten yards of the goal) only to throw some lame pass for a turn? Why is that? Did the field get smaller (yes)? Did the D get better (yes)? Did your team get lazy and complacent (yes)? Does the D know that 90% of goals are scored in the corners (yes)? Is the O on the field aware of all of this (NOT A CHANCE)? A simple call of 'endzone' from the sideline says a few important things to the team. It says: hello, we're near the endzone so chill... the O is not the same in the red zone as the rest of the field... concentrate 'cause it's harder to score than you think. Our play calls on the endzone are regenerative; you can call them ten times in a row and ten different guys will cut. It's as simple as someone coming out of the stack for a dump while the last guy in the stack cuts to the come for the goal. Do it over and over again: dump, cut, dump, cut, dump, cut.
What about an isolation? You see a mismatch and you want to tell your team that you see it so clear some space. This should be a single word with eye contact to that player.
While some defenses depend on positions to work (a zone for example), they are all conceptual by nature able to change and FLEX during a point. A good 2-3-2 zone might give up the dump for a time and then change to take it away just when the handler is getting dependent on that pass. A team can be in a force two-finger man-to-man until any stoppage (foul, pick, travel) when they change to clam (which encourages zone-like poaching and risk taking).
It is during the stoppages in particular, that both the O and the D can 'see' things--bad match-ups, favorable positioning, high stall count--that demand a concept call to take advantage of the situation. We're not automatons out there, it's not obvious to everybody what's going on. We like Ultimate for its looseness, but we should learn to communicate with our teams at certain times during a point, take advantage of the situation. Look at it this way, it's a whole lot easier to cover a man down field when you have faith that the mark will be very tough to break. What if all of a sudden you know that the mark will switch to force back hand, while the O is expecting force two-finger? What side of the cutter are you going to cover?
Most of these concepts are simple, the trick is to play together as a team enough to learn how your group can shift and flex. The more you practice, the easier these things come and the more fun you'll have. Every team will develop different concepts. At the highest level, you can feel a subtle control over the flow of the game. In the best case scenario the opponent is left having to react, often leaving you ahead at the end.