Sub-calling is probably the least rewarding aspect of Ultimate. Not only will you rarely be recognized for good sub-calling, but instead sub-calling is the easiest thing for many people to blame for problems on the field. Additionally, problems (real or perceived) with playing time and sub-calling are often the number one issue affecting team dynamics and player satisfaction. In my experience, the easiest way to avoid issues with subcalling is to have a plan ahead of time and to communicate as best as possible to individuals where their role fits into that plan. A good plan can then be passed along to someone else who needs to fill in for sub-calling in a pinch (like losing your voice in a freak scenario). Here's a basic checklist of questions you can answer when devising your plan:
- Which handlers do you want playing primarily offensive points and which do you want playing defensive points? Who do you want to be able to go both ways?
- Which downfield cutters offer a competitive advantage on O lines or D lines?
- Which defenders primarily guard handlers? Which are especially good at covering downfielders?
- Who fills special niche defensive roles on the team? For example, an especially tall defender to neutralize the deep threat or an especially good marker to put on a big thrower.
- Divide your handlers up into groups of those who generate offense with their throws (big breaks and/or big hucks) and those who generate offense with their legs (effectively get the disc up-the-line and are always open for resets). You'll want some players from each category on every line.
- Divide your downfielders into groups of those who can get open with jukes off of a stopped-disc and those who are great at getting open in flow with timing and filling spaces. Again, you'll want some players from each category on every line.
- Are there players who have especially good chemistry on the team together?
- Who are on your special teams? Who are your top zone D players, zone O players, clam defenders, and so on.
- Who are your clutch players? Who do you put in for critical points that are must-score situations on O and/or on D?
- What are the situations that your bottom of the roster performs best in? Being able to utilize your bench players effectively is often the difference between winning and losing in the long run.
Obviously, there are a number of different questions you can ask yourself about your team and its players. The important part is that you are creating an accurate assessment of your players and how they fit together in various different situations, so you can create a subbing structure around that and communicate it to the team. Subbing structures don't need to be super sophisticated, but having guidelines on how to choose players for each line will greatly speed up the process for your subcallers, enable them to call better lines under time pressure, and allow players to better expect when they are likely to go in or remain on the sideline.