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The Basics of Throwing

The specifics and mechanics of throwing are the subject of much debate; everyone has their own technique. However, there are undoubtedly core elements, which are key to making good throws; the fact that these may be achieved by a wide variety of styles and approaches means that throwing is more of an art than a science.

The elements that are key to throwing are:

  • Stance/balance:
    • Feet should be apart (shoulder width) and knees slightly bent (soft)
    • Weight should be distributed evenly on both feet
    • The thrower should feel relaxed and comfortable
    • In truth if a thrower can control the angle of release under all circumstances then balance is much less of an issue. For the majority of throwers, through, being off balance will seriously detract from the quality of the throw.
  • The angle of the disc
    • The angle of the disc at the point of release will determine the path of the disc through the air
    • A thrower must understand how the disc will fly given a certain release and then just learn to control that point of release in order to achieve the desired outcome
      • During its flight the disc will always try to turn itself towards one side or the other as it loses forward momentum; the direction is determined by the rotation of the disc i.e. a disc spinning clockwise will fade to the right and counter clockwise to the left.
      • This effect is more noticeable when throwing directly into a strong wind, as the wind robs the disc of its momentum very quickly. To counter this effect, the angle of release of the disc must be exaggerated towards the opposite side, the amount of exaggeration is determined by the strength and direction of the wind
  • Putting spin on the disc
    • Spin helps to stabilize the disc and keep it in the air for longer.
    • Throwers should impart sufficient spin by ensuring that the wrist is cocked well back before delivering a sharp snap of the wrist and a smooth release of the disc
    • Throwers should maintain contact with their fingertips until the last possible moment to gain the best results
  • Knowing the wind
    • Throwers must learn how a disc reacts to different wind conditions, i.e. its strength and direction relative to the throw.
    • It is something of an intangible and therefore difficult to teach to beginners; it comes with experience and practice. Poor throwers need to be encouraged to practice throwing outside of team practices to hasten their improvement; there is no substitute for repeated, sustained throwing sessions.
    • Try to help beginners by advising them about the effects of the wind and how best to counteract them.
    • Practicing throwing in the wind is key to becoming a better thrower.

Understanding these factors is crucial to being a good thrower; conversely most good throwers rarely need to, consciously, consider any of them because they have sufficient experience to simply identify a target and get the disc there without having recourse to all the specific details! This of course will be possible only with a lot of practice and for the body to have muscle memory. This will take many hours to deliberate practice to be a master at throwing (roughly 3,000 to 5,000 hours). The beginner, however, must pay due attention to all of them if they are to make a successful throw.

Once players are comfortable with their ability to propel the disc they need to consider the specific demands of throwing for ultimate. This means the acquisition of an additional skill set. Parinella and Zaslow (2004), identify four “basic principles of good passing”, these are:

  • Lead the receiver
    • A good thrower will throw the disc in front of their receiver. This can be developed with practice and will depend on the receiver (the speed of the receiver, the position of the receiver). It’s important to put the disc in front of the receiver so the defender will not be able to get a hand on the disc or intercept the pass.
  • Make the disc catch-able
    • Ideally, the thrower should make the throw such that the receiver can catch the disc. This means that the disc shouldn’t be higher than the receiver can catch by jumping and it shouldn’t be too far in front or behind the receiver such that they can’t make the catch. Also, the disc shouldn’t be thrown so hard that the receiver won’t be able to make the catch.
  • Put the disc where no defender can get it
    • This relates to leading the receiver but another point to keep in mind that by leading the receiver, although it makes it such that the defender can’t get it, but the thrower has to be aware of other defenders on the field so the thrower doesn’t want to lead the receiver too much
  • Avoid risky throws
    • The thrower should avoid risky throws, which relates to the previous point about putting the disc where no defender can get it. The thrower needs to develop the ability to know where they should put the throw so that the receiver can catch it, that no defender can get it, and so that the receiver won’t be running through other players to get the disc

These principles should be applied by every player and to every throw, in an attempt to minimise turnovers; players flouting these principles show a lack of respect for their teammates and will compromise the strength of a team. Introduce these concepts early to new players and stress that it is the responsibility of all players to observe them for the sake of the team.

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