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Pulling the Disc in Ultimate

Why is pulling so important?

You want your team to start on D in the best possible position. This happens when the best puller on the team (NOTE: not the best thrower) pulls. Every pull is huge no matter if it’s to start the game or if you’re pulling on universe point (game tied – next point wins). A bad pull will give the other team an advantage before they even catch the disc so you want to have the best pull every time.

A good puller will practice hundreds of times before they ever pull in a game. If you consider how many times someone pulls in a regular practice or league game, to get a consistent pull, you need to work on your pulls outside of practice/league (much like a golfer goes to the driving range or practices putting on the putting green).

As an aside, it’s been written that in order to master a skill, you need to repeat that skill 3,000 to 5,000 (some say up to 10,000) times so the best way to become a better puller is to practice pulling.

A good puller does 3 things well. They:

  1. Throw the disc far
  2. Throw the disc high
  3. Throw the disc accurately

Tips for pulling

I’ve had a lot of people ask me for tips when pulling and there are several I can offer:

  1. If you’re pulling up wind, I would recommend pulling a few before the game to see how the disc will move in the wind. Pull with an inside out edge on the disc as this will cut through the wind better than an outside in edge. If you find that the disc is being pulled to the left sharply, then aim to the right of the field (and pull from the left of your end zone if you’re right-handed). This will give you the most chance of having the disc not brick and since you’re pulling diagonally across the field, this will give you the longest possible field in which to throw. Really, when you have one brick, you should adjust and not let it happen again.
  2. If you’re pulling downwind, you can quite easily throw the big blady pull which will land in the endzone and roll out the back. I’ve pulled this many times before and it’s effective for being able to set up a zone defense. However sometimes when you try and throw that, the wind will carry it out of bounds. An alternative to this is to again throw an inside out (start on the left side of the end zone and throw at the right side – if you’re right-handed). This will go high and come back and land in the end zone but the key is that it will go high and give your defense a chance to get down the field and setup and most of the times, this will happen in the end zone; not at the front like with the blady pull.
  3. Command your D line. You’re pulling so develop your approach and communicate with the other 6 players on the line. Since in high level games offsides matter, you will want the other players to start behind you and they should be crossing the end zone line when the disc is releasing from your hand.
  4. Don’t overthink – keep it simple. Know what you’re trying to do on the pull and throw it. Don’t overthink the position of your arm, your footwork, etc. Practice pulling in practice, league and on your own and then make it happen everytime you pull in a game.

Getting the maximum power release

Much like a discus or shot putter works on their footwork to have the most power upon their throw, so too should a puller. Work on developing which approach works best for you. For me, I have 2 step crossover approach (video coming soon) and this helps me release the pull with the most power. Some pullers have a spin but I don’t prefer this approach since you lose sight of the field and I find that a good, consistent pull will be one in which you have a target in view the entire time. Check out this YouTube video of some of the best shotputters of all time. Most of their approaches are a spin but since a disc is more variable in the air than a shotput I would recommend on an approach like the slide approach.

How to become a better puller

  1. Increase your distance – play disc golf with a regular ultimate disc
    By playing disc golf with an ultimate disc, you will develop the ability to figure out how you approach a pull. The approach is the most important factor in having maximum power on your pull. I developed my approach from my experience with shotput/discus and how the approaches work for those throws. I would recommend watching athletes throwing the discus/shotput to see what I’m talking about. You’ll notice that a lot of those throwers spin on their throws but I find that when I pull I like to see the field at all times and on a spin pull you are losing sight of the field as you spin. I use a two-step (or X step) approach. With this approach I am able to reach back as far as I can and when I plant my leg, I transfer the maximum amount of power into my throw. When I play disc golf I focus on this technique and work on improving it to make sure that I am getting the maximum amount of power each time. It’s important to note that you should bend your knees as you can get lots of power from your legs as well.

> Video coming soon…

  1. Increase the height of your throw – do MTA’s (Maximum Time Aloft)
    By doing MTA’s you develop the ability to throw the disc far and high into the air. You learn to develop a much flatter more consistent release point and as an added bonus you can work on your catching skills. A few key points to keep in mind when doing MTA’s:
    • Make sure you’re in a large open field as the disc can easily travel 100 yards+ with a strong wind
    • Start off with shorter throws before progressing to longer throws. Your focus is on having the disc come back to you like a boomerang and not have the disc veer off sharply to either side – this is a sign that you’re not releasing the disc along an even plane.
  1. Increase your accuracy – Throw at a target (such as a soccer net)
    By throwing at a target (I prefer a soccer net) you develop the ability to be more accurate and consistent. You should start close and gradually move further back as you show consistency (much like a golfer practicing putting). You can also take a set of pylons (5-7) and place them in a line either perpendicular/diagonally/parallel to the target and start at the closest pylon, advancing to the next closest one only after you’ve completed a certain percentage of throws (5 of 6, etc). By doing this you develop the ability to not only have the same release on each throw but you develop your consistency and accuracy from each distance and the ability to gauge the wind and adjust accordingly.

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