ACL Positions: The Flanker

Intro– Quick introduction to Roles and Positions

Find part 1- The Guard at this link

Part 2, The Center can be found at that link.

Hey we’re back again with another edition of Ringo pretends he know something about this sport. Today I’m pulling shit out of my ass about Flankers. But hey, at least this time I’ll have played the position so you know, I probably get something right. Nah for real though, The last two were a lot of conjecture based on watching the sport and talking to the people who play the position. Here, I am fairly confident in what I’m saying as the current best practices for position. I flank on the best Regional team in the ACL, Won two chapter war seasons with the Knightmares, look like I’m leading my Monarchs to a championship season, and was an alternate pick for the striking eagles when I weighed 180 pounds…I actually know a thing or two about this subject so if running is your game, pay attention.

The Flanker is, in general, the most individualistic and improv based position on the field. It may seem at first that its just about moving fast but it’s even more about thinking fast, making the right decision fast. It’s why Jaye, a moderately fast guy, but no speed demon, can actually flank pretty well. Being a flanker is about movement and speed is at best half of movement. You need to be able to move to the right spots, at the right time, and sometimes that requires a lot more agility and deception than just running straight really fast. Don’t get me wrong. A certain level of speed is a prerequisite, just like a certain level of size is a requirement for Center. But once you hit that, while speed is helpful it provided diminishing returns compared to a person’s ability to think and move creatively and their ability to read the state of the field and how plays are about to develope. A flanker has two main jobs, create opportunities…and capitalize on opportunities.

I know that seems somehow both contradictory…and obvious. But really its the key. A flanker’s movement needs to open something up on the field that allows other people to make big plays. Generally moving the opponent out of good position. And then because the Flanker is free floating they need to be able to see either the opportunities others create, because more than anyone else they are likely to be able to be free enough to go capitalize. If a flanker leaves his position it generally doesn’t fuck his team, because that’s what he’s supposed to be doing. Floating around creating chaos and looking for the weakness of the other team.

So how does one do that? Well I’m break it down into 3 parts. The necessary things, the optional things, and the prohibited things. If you want to Flank you need to be able to run fast, read the field well or have what I call a good “Melee Sense,” and you need an excellent check. Some nice to have features for a flanker are the ability to punish with an Axe, To be able to draw aggro from multiple sources and keep your feet, and those sweet trick flash moves. What a Flanker can not do is stand still in the open field, Grapple with people, or over focus on one goal or thought. Lets break these down further.

The Flanker Necessities, unlike the Bear Necessities, require alot of work and dedication to build up. You might think that coming into this with a sports background you already have alot of it down. You can run fast, cut well, read the field in an instant, and have developed a mean hit. Turns out most of that goes in the trashcan when you put on armor. Running in armor is an entirely different thing. You will be significantly slower and cuts cannot be done at full speed or you go ass in air, face in the dirt, completely by yourself, the most embarrassing of falls. (yeah…i’ve done it…more than once). Those rules you learned about how to read the field in your sport? Completely different. Plays develop way different, the reduced vision means you’re working on much less information that is usually outdated by half to a full second because you’re peripheral vision just isn’t there, and worst of all the general strategy of either try to get away from a dude or try to get close to him…that don’t play. And don’t get me started on checks. I don’t know how many football players I seen line up a dude all on their lonesome, with no clue they about to get merked, only for the football player to drive themselves straight into the ground with their target. Remember suicide is not painless. Don’t do it.

So you got spend time learning these skills all over again. And sadly the melee one is basically impossible to practice except to go fight a bunch of melee’s. If you don’t want to fuck up your kit too much outside of matches (I don’t), I suggest going and trying you’re local larp. Particularly SCA or Dag. Its much lower stakes but the field moves much more similar to how a melee develops than anything else. Also each melee develops differently. A 16 v 16 is kinda like the begining of a football play really drawn out, before becoming like 6 different rugby scrums. The 10 v 10’s is more like a soccer match, where moving into space will almost always open an opportunity, with alot of open field to run in, a few 1 on 1’s, and one big clusterfuck somewhere. 5v5s are pretty obviously basketball in set up but you’ll find hockey movement will actually serve you better. 3v3’s don’t have a sport analogue. Sorry.

Alright, so now you know what you need to work on. And maybe you have one of these things down pat or all of them down a little, and you really want to add something else to up your game. First and foremost I’d say pick up the short axe. It’s quick, easy to swing, is great on the run at both checking and turning the momentum of a run into a strike. It also doesn’t get bound up as much, which is great, because a flanker needs to be free to move. If however the axe isn’t your cup of tea or you have some trouble getting the needed power on it, You can also multi-class into center. If a flanker pulls 2-3 fighters off the line to follow him he may end up taking a beating, but they are no longer paying attention to the rest of the field. Its quick work for his team to mop up the rest or the cavalry comes and catches all those people from behind ending them fast.

That might still not be enough. Perhaps you want that highlight reel footage, with flashy jumping take downs or slick moves that embarrass opponents. These are doable too, but they are very high risk high reward. If you can catch someone’s helmet while jumping through the air, they are almost guaranteed to drop. A person charging at you at full speed is almost never ready for you to just stop and drop, which will turn you into a pivot point that they will rotate over flipping onto their back. Jumping kicks and knees, hit with a ton of force and destabilize fighters with ease. However all these things make it incredibly easy for you to go down if you fuck up. So you need to master two things Measure/Time to target, where you practice runs at moving targets, and stablity/balance. Pistols, balance beam work, jumping onto small ledges, basically anything you see parkour guys doing…Thats the type of shit you should practice if you want to get flashy. Also a word of advice…don’t. It works great for the likes of Jake Omer and Dale Saran…but there’s alot of really safe maneuvers that work just as well.

Regardless of whether you decide to be a diva or not, there are few things you absolutely cannot do as a flanker. You cannot afford to get tied up and grapple. Don’t go for throws, because if you fail the take down you are now tangled and can’t do the thing you are supposed to do, move around, be the free safety, create chaos. Grappling is dangerous for any position, it is absolutely verboten for Flankers. Even worse than Grappling though, standing still, particularly in the open field. Movement is life for a flanker. If you don’t know where to go or what to do, run to rail, get your ass to it. Because if you don’t you’re getting run over. Standing still, you’re not a fighter, you’re a target. Even on the rail where, you’re relatively safe, you can’t stand still. Because that means you aren’t doing anything to help your team. Get moving, get people chasing you, dust them in space. Do not ever stop….And lastly make sure you aren’t putting all your attention into one thing or person. A flanker is meant to move around, change targets, exchange victims with others on their. It’s easy to get horse blinders and only see the thing in front of you, but your job is to keep situations fluid and take advantage of that fluidity. If all you’re doing is focusing on one area, you’re unable to utilize the rest of the field. Confession time, I’ve done all of these things. And not in the exception to the rule way. I just fucked up. You’re going to do it. We all do. But try to focus on not doing these things and you’ll greatly improve your game.

Unlike other positions the flankers role doesn’t really change in different sized melee’s. You still want to move. You still want to penetrate into the back field. Make runs to confuse people, check people not paying attention, and keep moving. How the field develops will change, which changes how you use it, but your job is the same everywhere. The biggest difference is how big the list is and what the footing is like. So before every fight go out and pace the area. Learn how many steps or how long it takes to run from side to side, corner to corner. Check how well you can cut. Look for hills, divots etc. Get used to moving in that arena, so that your brain doesn’t have to think on it, your body just knows.

Ok, Thats alot so we’ll focus a bit more on the key skills, how to work them and then close out.

  1. Key Skills 1-Speed and agility in armor

Speed and agility are not enough to be a flanker. You need speed and agility IN ARMOR. Armor changes so much. It changes the way you see and breath. It changes your center of balance, your acceleration, even the way your legs move. So before you try flanking, get used to your kit. I highly suggest putting on at least legs and helm and doing some sort of foot agility drill, like ladders, tires, etc. You need to adjust for the new movement, the way it binds, the extra weight and also moving without being able to see as much.

  1. Key skill 2-Checking

Having a killer check is essential as most of a flankers take downs come from someone not seeing the run he made and giving up their back. Hitting them at full speed is a great easy win…if you do it right. You need to make sure you don’t expect their weight to hold you up after you hit. There is a great chance you’ll drive right through them and if you’ve extended too much of your weight forward, guess who’s eating dirt? You. So head up and use your arms to drive them. Right before you hit make sure you explode out with your arms, pushing slightly up to get under and drive their weight off axis. If possible, hit at an oblique angle not straight on with the back as people are great at running forward but really shitty at running sideways. If you hit them in the back they may just be able to run out of it…and if they try.. Don’t let them. Keep running with/through them after a hit and if they are up just put your hands on them and put a little pressure. That should be enough to drive them down.

How to practice this? Look up hockey and Foot ball checking drills. Get yourself a tackle dummy if possible but if not a punching bag or one of those Bob punching targets works. At the run, try to explode through with your arms, and keep churning the legs and running through.

  1. Key Skill 3-Keep your head

This one is way harder to master but basically make sure you are always thinking and reading the scene. Practice running and turning ass to rail. That way whenever you are caught somewhere without a plan you know what to do. Make sure you always know your dude potential. If it’s more than 1, you about to get run over. Fix that shit. And just constantly check the field conditions, who’s where, who’s up, who’s down, where are they fighting, where’s the other flanker, wheres the axeman, what match ups are happening. Make sure your information is always fresh.

Alright, think that’s a pretty good start for you would be flankers. Hope it helps, like, comment, share and have a good day. I’ll see you in the lists.

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2 thoughts on “ACL Positions: The Flanker

  1. Pingback: ACL Positions: The Center | Life As A Swordsman

  2. Pingback: ACL Melee Positions: The Guard | Life As A Swordsman

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