Skip to content

Frisbee Skills Wins Games*

*Having good fitness will help but ultimately frisbee skills are more important

Far too often, I read about players spending all of their time in the gym and barely any on the field spent practicing. I don’t mean being at practice with your team. I mean going out on your own (or with a partner) practicing throwing and catching. Throwing and catching are a huge part of the game. If you are the fastest player on your team but you can’t throw or catch, then you won’t be very useful.

All things being equal, fitness is a big part of the game, but I would argue that disc skills are more important. Knowing where the disc is going, knowing where to put the disc, knowing how to outread a taller, faster defender will go a long way in ensuring your team wins games, although some people is more into competitive video games, with the help of sites like that help them improve their skills and achieve new level in the games.

I’m not saying don’t work out. Weights should be part of your practice for sure. And not just pushups and situps. Rather, Olympic style lifting. Avoid Crossfit. Unless you’re doing it at a Crossfit gym with trainers who are helping you with technique. Because, it’s too generalized and not focused enough on specific strength gains. Talk to a personal trainer and get set up on a power/core/speed program and spend a few days in the gym every week. Or listen to Tim Morrill at Morrill Performance. Or talk to Melissa Witmer at the Ultimate Athlete Project.

But the rest of the time, get out and throw. Throw hundreds of throws every week. Even throw 200-300 throws per day. The more you have your hands on the disc, the more comfortable you will be on the field, the less errors you will make and the better you will be for your team.

There are many ways to get better practicing. There are also some great articles from Ben Wiggins and his article Zen Throwing (video walkthrough) and also from Lou Burruss called Kung Fu Throwing (video walkthrough).

There are 10 disciplines governed by the World Flying Disc Federation and all of them use different discs. You can find out more about the sport of flying disc and it’s various disciplines and games at Ageless Game.

I would especially recommend practicing MTA (Maximum Time Aloft) and TRC (Throw, Run & Catch).

Learning to throw golf discs and light dog discs will help your throwing more than you ever imagined. Not only because they fly differently but by playing disc golf, you will discover the right way to throw a forehand – by stepping with the foot opposite your throwing hand. In ultimate that’s not possible since we have a pivot foot, but it’s an important concept to understand and will help you improve your hammer, scoober and forehand pull.

In short…get out and throw more. But make sure that you’re not a fat slob either.

26 thoughts on “Frisbee Skills Wins Games*”

  1. Looking forward to the ways to improve throwing. Would appreciates some videos. With some of the zen throwing it was hard for me to understand what the activity was.

  2. I feel like it takes a balanced approach to win. We’ve all seen the old vets who can throw extremely well but have lost their fitness be very effective players at summer league and get lit up at tourneys on the weekends. While I’m not trying to under state the importance of throwing and practicing throwing, I think you may be selling fitness short. Frisbee Skills AND fitness win games.

    1. @DarrenClark I am selling fitness short a bit because I think the majority of players will be in shape simply by practicing and doing training with their team. From my experience playing high level ultimate, there doesn’t seem to be an issue with being in shape – it’s that people overtrain or don’t spend enough time on the frisbee skills. I wrote this article in an attempt to have players think more about the game itself than just about the fitness.

      1. @ultimaterob@DarrenClark I think overtraining is quite prevelant in-season with two practices per week, league, and tournaments. I think teams are better off running a full 2.5- 3 hour practice once a week and then having a short 10- 20 minute HIIT session + lots of throwing for the second weekly practice, but thats just me. Also, pylometric training in-season = bad news. That is off season stuff.

        1. @TannerPhillips @DarrenClark That’s a great point Tanner…I was talking to one of Sockeye’s main guys a few years ago and they would have a 4-5 hour practice on Saturdays and then during the week they would get together and throw with a few guys and do some fitness stuff. Great idea and it was obviously working for them 🙂

  3. When you say “Far too often, I read about players spending all of their time in the gym and barely any on the field…” those people are most likely spending less time overall working on their game than those better than them. Although the difference maker is the skills, I think it is irresponsible to say one is more important than the other. How about “Fitness AND Skills wins games” because that’s what is really happening.

    I know that within your article you say to go ahead and get fit, but overall the article really downplays the importance of being fit. I agree, throw more, but don’t workout less. If you suck at throwing, throw even more, but still workout.

    1. @SpencerJolly I think in some cases, people do need to workout less. I’ve seen two ultimate players in the last 2 years from my men’s team alone tear their achilles because they were training too hard. As I mentioned in my comment to Darren, I think players will be in good shape just from playing, practicing and doing training with their teams. Outside of that, spending even more time on fitness will be a detriment to their game I believe because if they’re not throwing hundreds of throws every week and working on their game, then they won’t be a good ultimate player. I’ve seen some great players who didn’t train much outside of playing/practicing but they would go out and throw almost everyday.

      1. @ultimaterob I agree with you on a lot of your points. Yes, getting throwing (and therefore catching) reps is essential. And yes, there are dangers of over training relative to your recovery ability and current fitness level. I guess where we disagree is that extra time on fitness is well spent. Also, it’s unclear whether we are discussing the off-season or in-season. During the off-season there is rarely team training and if one isn’t playing a lot lower chance of injury, which makes room for a lot of fitness work along with the throwing work.

        Either way, it’s important to think about this stuff and we both agree that it takes a lot of work to become great at ultimate.

        1. @SpencerJolly I agree extra time on fitness is well spent…when done correctly. Unfortunately, too many people try to be their own personal trainers (or trust a program like Crossfit) but don’t have the right technique, don’t know how to train to peak at the right times and in general are doing more harm to their body than good.In the off season I agree with you that is when you should really have a focus on fitness but it’s also a good time to work on your mechanics of throwing and playing and get them solid so when the season starts, you’ll be ready.

        1. @paintrainrollin When done incorrectly sure. But done properly, they’re the exercises that will give the most power, speed, and strength. There’s a reason NFL players are such great athletes. And why Olympic weight lifters have so much power.

        2. @ultimaterob most nfl players don’t do any snatch or jerk lifts, and the vast majority of the ultimate community lacks resources to effectively learn the movements

        3. @paintrainrollin Most ultimate players don’t have access to a personal trainer? I don’t agree with that statement at all. A team can easily hire a trainer to learn the movements.And what would you recommend ultimate players do then? I’m talking about the fundamental movements – mostly squatting and deadlifts. What else can you do that will generate the power and speed from those movements?I’m not telling people to go do olympic lifts without first learning the movements. People are smart enough that they’ll learn very quickly if they’re doing something incorrectly and take the steps to correct that. In this case, working with a trainer.

        4. @ultimaterob @paintrainrollin I completely agree that squatting and deadlifts are the best exercises for an ultimate player.

          Those are not olympic lifts.

        5. @paintrainrollin I realize that…however, doing those exercises can lead into doing Olympic lifts. I agree that when done incorrectly, there’s a risk of injury. However, I compare it to barefoot running. It’s the right way to run and it’s how we were born to run but many running stores aren’t recommending barefoot running since many people are jumping into it too quickly and injuring themselves. Instead of dissuading people away from what will give them the most benefit, we need to instead encourage and focus on education/teaching the proper way to do it for the most benefit.

    1. @sludgebrown I like that although I think too much emphasis is placed on knowing the rules. Yes it’s important but in the course of a game, knowing the rules doesn’t come up as often as the number of times someone is catching/cutting/etc. But I agree that knowledge is essential.

  4. I want to ask about throwing by oneself (no partner). Any best practices? Get like 30 discs and then throw it to one point, walk over, collect the discs, and repeat?
    Also, practicing with a mark is important, but how do you emulate that with just yourself?

  5. szzzzzzz There are some great drills that I’ve done and the best one would be to get a soccer net, a stack of discs and throw, throw, throw into it from various spots, with different throws ( You can vary the distances and the speed at which you throw. I would recommend putting the stack on the side opposite where you will release the disc so you can practice stepping back and forth.
    To practice without a mark, I would recommend standing in front of a big mirror (the mirrors in a fitness/dance studio work really well) and work on stepping back and forth, faking throws on both sides. It will help your balance, your fakes and your timing. Just don’t release the disc!

  6. robmcleod szzzzzzz (This is szzzzzz’s other account): Thanks for the tips. do you have any tips for quantitatively keeping track of progress in drills like this, or even playing ultimate in general?

    Do you just keep a notebook with number of throws and distance and try to increase that over time?

  7. A turn-over is a two-point swing in score.
    In any point with any turnovers, if you take away just one, the score differential improves by two for the team that now didn’t turn over. Instead of going down two points to the bad guys 12-10, you are now tied 11-11.
    When ultimate gets Moneyball stats, throwing turn-over percentage will be more predictive of player value than baseball’s OBP and hockey’s Corsi combined.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *