Mixed ultimate has come a long way in learning how to strategically use the strengths that the best of single-gender ultimate has to share. Men's ultimate can be characterized as a very fast-paced game with hard direct throws, streaking deep cuts and tight person defense. Whereas, women's ultimate typically employs more touch and finesse throws, creative cutting and strategic defenses. In mixed, the best teams integrate all these aspects into their game.
On offense, the best mixed teams incorporate men and women in all roles—cutting and handling—increasing the variety of cuts and throws available. While there there is a much greater range of speeds on the field in mixed, the individual speed of an offensive player only matters in relation to the person defending you. The range of speeds does mean that prior to every throw, the thrower needs to have the skill to quickly assess a much greater range of speeds differentials than they would need to in a single gender game.
Many of the best mixed teams play a horizontal stack offense to capitalize on the variety of cutting styles and throws available in the mixed game. The vertical nature of the cutting in this offense, as well as the tendency for the defensive team to look to poach, usually means there are frequent open cuts. Taking advantage of this increased tendency to poach is effectively done when poaches are recognized early. Also exploited to a greater extent in a horizontal offense are mismatches, which tend to be more common in the mixed game both around the disc and at deep looks.
The spread out handlers in a horizontal offense and field space left open by the cutters in front of the disc typically means that the disc stays in constant motion allowing the cutters time to catch their defender off guard. Both the men and the women handlers on the good teams are skilled at seeing and taking these opportunities.
There are times on offense when it is advantageous to separate the genders on the field. Either having an all-female handler (dominator) set or all the women as the deep cutters. The decision to separate the genders on the field typically is made to exploit a weakness or to marginalize the opponent's strengths.
The best mixed teams use a wide variety of defenses and employ transitions to set-up defensive opportunities. On defense the large differences in speed and height can be very exciting to watch. During person defense, there are many opportunities to get poach D's by both men and women. The men can capitalize on their speed and height to run down a huck. While the women often get poach D's because they are less conspicuous on the field, especially during transitions between different defenses. These poaches occur both around the disc and down field (see the UPA Magazine picture sequence from the 2007 Semifinals, Seattle Shazam vs. Bay Area Brass Monkey). These D's can also come with the use of switches, which is a common defense for the horizontal stack for both the men and the women.
For zone and other more team-oriented defenses, one strategy can be to get the biggest/quickest person marking the disc. We all know how tough it can be to throw around a very large mark. This gets even tougher when the mismatch in size is as large as it can be in mixed. Off the pull, the range of speed can also be taken advantage of to get quick D's. Often the men can get down to the first pass faster than anticipated. Additionally, the women's speed can be used to position players in lanes that might otherwise be open initially in the zone.
As with all teams, in all divisions, at all levels of play, an individual person's role on the field primarily depends on the strengths of that person. Mixed is no different. A strong handler will play that role no matter if they are male or female. A fast defender will be in the cup or on the mark, no matter if they are male or female. However, in the mixed game, the team as a whole has the opportunity to utilize the strengths of women's and men's ultimate in ways that are unique to the division.
Pam Kraus started playing at Carleton College in 1984 (captaining the first Carleton women's team at college nationals in 1988), and played in the club women's division from 1984-2001 on various teams including Satori (Washingtion, D.C.) and Women On The Verge (Seattle). She has competed at 5 World Club Championships, winning 3 of them. Pam began playing in the Mixed division in 2003, winning Nationals in 2004 and 2007 with Seattle Shazam.