Tips for throwers by Ian French

Pure throwing technique is only part of the equation of becoming a better throwing. Here are some areas I think you should work on once you have a decent grasp of the basics.

Tip #1 Understanding the “Catching Pocket”

I like to call the height between hips and chest the ‘catching pocket’, and it’s both easiest to make the catch at this height but equally importantly it’s going to make the transition from catch to throw quicker

Throws below waist height need to be scooped up and your receiver may need to regain their balance, while throws caught higher than chest height may require the receiver to reach up or jump and regain balance before they can throw.

Throws that arrive in the catching pocket can be more easily caught and thrown in a single fluid motion.

Over the course of a game, tournament, season, this will add up to cleaner offence as you are getting throws off quicker, keeping the defence off balance, and aiding flow in your offence.

The intermediate skill here is to start judging your throws by this metric: “are you setting up the next thrower for success?” You need to move beyond the thought that just getting the disc from point A to B is the perfect outcome. Unless you are throwing an assist, you should consider if you can make the pass after yours easier by setting your receiver up with easy continuation.

Tip #2 Quicker Throwing After Catching

The sooner you can get into your next throw, the more opportunities your offence has to move the disc. I want to be clear that I’m not advocating rushing or blindly trying to hit the first option you see, but rather highlighting that improving your ability to get into a throwing motion quicker will give you more opportunity to advance the disc.

Defence is really difficult when the disc is moving too quickly for a defender to set a force or check in on the disc and reposition. The better your capacity to play in this sweet spot of being able to move the disc quickly, the easier offence becomes.

(obviously getting more throws into the catching pocket as per tip #1 will help a lot with this)

Here’s some examples of the immediate advantages this can open up for you.

Short Quick Backhand After the Catch

This is probably the first gain you’ll see in your play when you start working on this skill – the ability to catch a disc and immediately dish it to a nearby player to put the defence on their heels. Here it comes in transition from defence to offence to really emphasise the advantage.

The rest of this possession is pure Aine Gilheany magic.

Quick Forehand Huck

This is a relatively straightforward catch for the goal but if the huck is thrown a split second later it’s going to be contested by 3 defenders. This is a perfect example of the extra opportunities you can get when you can throw quickly after the catch.

Quick Backhand Huck

This looks very simple – Kelly Hyland is an incredible player so it probably seems easy to her – but it’s an excellent example of being able to throw quickly after release. Kelly’s momentum is going horizontally across the pitch and she needs to reach down and back to catch the disc, but still smoothly dispatches it without a hitch or wasted movement. You have to be good to make things looks this easy.

What can you do to practice?

Well, first and main thing is to stop practicing at a low tempo. The majority of throwing practice I observe is done very slowly and deliberately, with 3+ seconds between catching and throwing. Speed this up. When are working on your throws, do it at a faster tempo. Catch the disc, get as balanced as you need and throw. Spend some time throwing faster than you can handle. Catch the disc awkwardly and get your throws off quickly. Make all this normal.

For coaches, avoiding the use of drills where the disc is picked up and checked in each time will help stop the forming of bad habits – naturally having as much of your sessions as possible in dynamic game form will encourage quicker play. You can also specifically encourage this behaviours with modified rules – lowering stall count is a classic adjustment to encourage this behaviour.

Tip #3 Increase Variety

Don’t make the mistake of believing that there is a single ‘correct’ way to throw a forehand and backhand, and the way to become a better thrower is to perfect this technique.

Not only is this not accurate when you need to hit different spaces at different speeds at different times in a game, you’re also going to come up against defenders that are disciplined and agile and will be able to take away the ‘best’ angle for throws. It’s a fallacy to think that you can just look off free passes that are difficult and keep the disc forever until easy scores happen – you absolutely need to be able to take a high percentage of open throws when they happen.

(there is a balance to this – you also don’t want to go to the other extreme and feel panicked into hitting every single forward pass – you can’t be completely passive or completely aggressive. The more options and counters to strong marks you build in the more forward throws you can throw without feeling like you’re taking a risk really – but you need to actively work towards that)

The best throwers get the disc where it needs to go when it needs to get there and that’s really what is important. Having repeatable outcomes is important, not repeatable technique.

Here’s some examples of good throws that probably break some rules you are taught when you start playing.

Single Leg Break

Definitely not the type of pivoting that you’re taught, but Ferdia Rogers sees the open cut and finds a way to get it there.

High Flip Backhand

DEFINITELY not the way this is drawn up. Once the forehand option isn’t taken, Fiona Mernagh realises the front of stack is doubled so the handler cut is the only option really – and gets it there.

High Release Backhand

Aine can throw to this space at least 3 different way (low backhand, scoober or this high backhand) so she doesn’t really even need to break the mark actively – just pick the space where the marker isn’t.

Scoober Break

Not only is a scoober unquestionably the coolest option here, I think it’s the best option – if you can throw it like Aine anyway. Flat, gentle and never in danger of going out of bounds as it curves back into the pitch.

Lefty flip backhand

This is a tricky cut to hit for most right handed players – but not if you can flip a gentle lefty into the space. I have seen, with no exaggeration, at least a million turns in this scenario when someone tries to throw an inside forehand.

‘Handing’ the backhand

Another situation that I’ve seen turnovers in far too often – less experienced throwers stand with the disc too rigid and ‘jab’ a quick backhand at the uprushing cutter…which can be difficult to time. Here, Sarah Melvin removes all doubt by using her pivot to drop the disc off into the cutter’s path.

How to improve

Well – literally throwing random stuff in games isn’t really going to work. So you’ll need to be intentional about this.

Figure out the situations you are in a lot – or struggle in – and list out and experiment with alternate options and counters.

For example, if you’re forced backhand in the middle of the pitch when someone gets free on the breakside in the endzone. You might like your low backhand but what to do if that is taken away? Maybe a high release backhand would be good, or a scoober?

If you get trapped on the flick sideline a lot, and are struggling to get the around backhand off, maybe you need to develop a soft inside flick to the back space. Then if the mark starts biting on that, you have the backhand. Developing counters to the defense is critical.

(During my playing days I worked up to 9 different options to hit the breakside when forced forehand – not all interchangeable to plenty of options for different scenarios)

Weighted High Leading Flick

On universe point in the EUCF final, for Sam Murphy to be on a high stall count and have the awareness of space and the touch to put this into the space only the offence could get is a staggering display of coolness under pressure and probably the highest skill moment I’ve seen from a player I coach.

(an outrageous claim, but this is where understanding the distinction between technique and skill is important. A skill is a technique applied in context. Sam’s technique here is nothing astounding, nothing you couldn’t do yourself – but having the courage and vision to execute it under this pressure is)

Also to follow, an extravagant hammer fake to lefty leading pass for the Euros win. Just totally conventional stuff.

This is important – nobody actually wins championships doing the basics really really well. You need the basics as a foundation, but you need other solutions to problems too. The earlier in your career you experiment and practice and refine unconventional solutions until they are conventional for you, the higher your ceiling is going to be.


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