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Teaching Effective Clearing for College Players

I am a college coach and our team runs a spread offense. One of the biggest problems we are still struggling with is effective and consistent clearing (players tend to hang out close to the middle of the field or gravitate to where the disc is). Players tend to get better at this with time, experience, and getting active feedback when they aren’t clearing, but are there any drills to help work on this? Or any tips to help players grasp the concept better?

Appreciate the help.

I have run a drill in the past with varying degrees of success that requires cutters clearing to the rails to high five a teammate on the sideline before they can cut again --out or in. It’s a good drill for teaching players spatial awareness and realizing how far away the sideline actually is. It doesn’t always work well in a controlled scrimmage.

It pairs best with having a set of cuts prescribed for getting the disc off either sideline --clearing to the rails by nature emphasizes the middle of the field as the active space and I’ve had newer players struggle with adjusting their cutting when the disc isn’t centered.

I’m a huge advocate of The Cutting Tree, and the endless amount of variations you can add into it.

You could spread the cones out, or add two more to create the “positions” in a spread offense, and have players run though possible cutting progressions, or countless other changes.

The main reason I like running something like this as frequently as possible is because it drills the idea of running through certain progressions into the mind, allowing players to eventually follow through with it without having to consciously remember it all the time.


I’ve used the cutting tree as well. Our cutting out of a spread has certainly improved, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped. Might have to start with it earlier in the season.

Great question, which I am often trying to solve.

For me, it starts with teaching our Horizontal Stack. I refer to the middle of the field as “workspace” and often say “We do work in the middle.” This terminology allows me to tell players “If you’re not doing work, you can’t be in the middle of the field.”

I also took to clarifying clear spaces recently. I explained that cutters who have made a cut in the middle of the field and are clearing have 3 options: near sideline, far sideilne, or deep. I requested they ask themselves where they are going, and decide quickly.

Finally, I have done both the Cutting Tree (also an exercise to show how hard running a player should be during the flow of offense) and basically a relay race that takes a player through a cut and clear.

I’m not 100% on the effectiveness. This is the least experienced college team I’ve coached so it is no surprise they are struggling with this. Tough to say if these tactics are really working or it is mostly just additional reps.


The tricky thing about emphasizing the middle in a HO stack (which I do as well and I think is standard) is that I find that the rails spend too much time just chilling and don’t spend their time on the sideline trying to occupy and set up their defenders for when they need to be active. (The lack of assertiveness from my secondary cutters is pretty much the bane of my existence as an offense-oriented coach).

Currently working on this exact issue by installing an offense with my HS girls team. We’re running a set of initiating cuts from our standard set that activates the break side rail for the first continuation throw. We’re teaching the force side rail to respond to the play as a develops. Admittedly, the force side rail has the toughest assignment here.

I struggled with this for a long time with my high school team. The biggest thing that helps is having guys on the team who enforce on the field what is said on the sideline. Vocal upperclassmen is key. When I didn’t have that last year, I ran a stop start scrimmage where the first few points I had my handler swing the disc a ton, even going so far as to have the handler defenders let it off. Stopping the scrimmage to tell people where they are, how it is good or bad, and where to go based on where the disc is made a bigger difference in offensive production than almost anything else we did that year.

A few things come to mind here.
-Try some set plays where the middle cutters start by actively clearing space, and then the sideline cutters are actually the first looks. If it’s a confidence problem with the secondary cutters, maybe this helps.
-If the secondary cutters are just the less skilled/experienced cutters (as many offenses have), maybe it’s too much to expect them to have good timing and awareness to cut off of the primary cuts, at least early on. One thing you could do is switch roles. Have the less experienced cutters be the primaries (even if only in practice). This can often be easier for new players. In addition, have younger cutters on the sideline watching the experienced cutters and how they operate as secondary cutters. Sometimes you just have to see how a good secondary cutter moves, and then take that with you onto the field.

Let me know what you think.