Sub-calling is one of the most difficult parts of being a team leader, be it as a coach or a player. As coach of Kali (the University of Colorado Women's team), I have employed several different strategies throughout the years depending on the team. In this article, I'll try to give young players some insight into one coach's perspective of sub-calling.
My sub-calling strategy begins in the organization of my sub sheet. I split players into pods, generally four or five.
Pod 1—Veteran Handlers: As a coach, I realize that our chances of scoring increase significantly if there are at least two confident throwers on the line.
Pod 2—Veteran Cutters & Defenders: These are my athletes who I trust in their knowledge of the game and defensive ability but may not be as comfortable with the disc.
Pod 3—Young Handlers: These are the next generation handlers who may not have all the skills or confidence yet to touch the disc all the time, but are likely to develop into good handlers given enough touches.
Pod 4—Young Cutters & Athletes: These are my first or second year players who seem to "get it" and have an idea of where to go on the field and when to go there, but aren't consistent yet with their skills.
Pod 5—Rawest rookies: This pod contains the players who are very new to the sport and may tend to get a little lost or confused on the field at times due to the game being so new.
My use of the pods changes based on the opponent. In games against inferior opponents where the score is unlikely to be close, I tend to sub liberally and pull 3-4 players per line from Pods 1-2 and 3-4 players from Pods 3-5.
In games that are more competitive, I try to not have more than one player from Pod 5 on the field at one time. I tend to give more points to Pods 1-2 with 5-7 of them on the line at a time for offensive points. Occasionally I'll mix in pod 3-4 players with veteran throwers or cutters to give some rest. More frequently, I would put in an entire line of young players to give rest to all of Pods 1-2 at the same time. They play defense and are given chances to work together as a unit at practice prior to the tourney. Their job is to make life difficult for the opposing O and hopefully score, but making the other O work hard was the primary goal. If we can steal points with this line, all the better. Basically, I "go for" some D points by loading up with Pods 1-2 and then hope to get a couple of points out of the younger D line throughout the game.
By using this pod system, I attempt to keep my veterans fresh for late in the tourney when they may have to play multiple points in a row while keeping young players involved in the action and giving them an opportunity to take ownership of making a difference in the game. The best way for a young player to increase playing time in this system and move from say Pod 4 to Pod 2 is for her to exert effort on D, catch the disc, and complete the next pass consistently.