Something Different…

David Pichler takes on break throws with his first (hopefully of many) skills based posts.

Callahan season has been and gone and once again we were blessed with an array of ridiculous personal highlight videos for the candidates, which show off both their skills and the amount of free time they and their friends have.  I think most of you have seen eventual winner Dylan Freechild strutting his superb stuff and demonstrating what made him a worthy winner (the blood thirsty give and goes, remarkable field awareness, technique perfect backhands, the shirt spike).
Oregon’s Nex Gen star however, didn’t produce my favourite video, nor was it the 8 minutes of skying and Ds from ‘TDG’ or Jay Clark’s video edited by 2012 winner Nick Lance.  That honour was reserved for a player not from the Skyd 5 candidates but for Brice Dixon of Arizona Sunburn.  What?  Seriously?  First impression from everyone I’ve watched this video with is ‘this guy’s a bit heavy for a Frisbee player’.  Indeed, Brice’s video is special for 2 reasons:
1)      Not only does the viewer soon forget the candidate doesn’t have your standard ultimate physique as he launches his sumo torso around the field like a svelt ninja; and
2)      Invariably people’s lasting impression, the one that counts, is 3 words: High Release Flick.
OK, some of you are thinking ‘shut your mouth Pitchler, you can’t compare this guy to Freechild.  He’s good, but not Freechild good.’  You may even point out that Dylan unleashes the HRF in his own video, so why make the fuss?  Well, Sunburn #3’s use of this throw, and general throwing ability, makes a point that I think is often missed about throwing – it opens up areas of the field that the defence thought were closed.  Look again at the shot placement; breaking the mark, getting the disc to up line cuts, putting the disc in the endzone, dropping the disc into space away from the defenders.

Again, there’s a refutable argument here: fine, but he could easily just throw a regular throw in these situations and achieve the same results. ‘Why not throw a low release flick, or break around with his backhand?’ And to that I say a flat out no.  I’m ready to throw a childish tantrum here, stamping my feet, hands over my ears screaming ‘la la la la la’ so I don’t have to listen to this.  Because not only does Dixon hit the right parts of the field with this throw, but it’s very uniqueness, the fact that it is a high release flick, means the regular throws become easier and more effective as the embarrassed defender becomes worried about the show pony pass.
The most important part of breaking the mark is just getting the disc out there any way you can because, like the team that only cuts to the open side, you’ll become too predictable to be effective if you only have one look.
Players on my team will know how comically irate I can become if we miss an opportunity to throw against the force.  Primarily because the thrower has so many ways to do so: around, IO, scoober, hammer, high release, low release, pivot forward through the mark, pivot back away from the mark, throw early with touch, throw later with force, roll curve around, the ‘IOOI’.  Breaking the mark, and throwing in general, is a creative business.  Any captain or coach worth their salt is going to encourage everyone to break a mark, even if it’s just to reset the disc.  But at the repeated insistence of the guy in charge, mark breaking can lose its inherent joy: tossing a Frisbee past someone who is trying to stop you.

Justin Foord lets rip. Photo Courtesy of James Threadgill.

Am I advocating people go out and practice all the novelty throws they can think of?  No, that would be a waste of time.  But I do advise players to practice any throw that does have a practical use on the field: scoobers, lefties, hammers, high releases, no looks.  Not only do these throws make life tricky for the mark, but their flight path often makes them unexpected and difficult to read for person marking the receiver. The first time you throw one at training, don’t give up if a team mate drops it from surprise; persevere and soon your team will know exactly what’s coming, and will even cut for it.

In 2009 I can remember Brummie going on about how useful the lefty scoober was to anybody who would listen.  Especially useful, apparently, when playing mini.  I thought he was talking nonsense until he threw one over my shoulder for a score.  It didn’t fly particularly smoothly but it connected none the less.  So I backed off next time he got the disc but couldn’t put any pressure on his flick.  Now I was stuck; back off and give him the easy throw, or get tight and he’ll throw another lefty.  What can I do?  As an O player, if this is going through your mark’s mind, they’re toast.  And that is all you can ask for.

Like what you read? Invented a new way to the break side recently? Like, share and comment, and look out for more skills based content from Pichler soon… JCK @tSG

4 thoughts on “Something Different…”

  1. Well said David. Every year there's one video I keep coming back to over and over and this year it was Brice's. What's unreal, though, is that seemingly *every one* of Arizona's handlers can throw the high-release flick and they do so often in games. I don't know if it's something they specifically emphasize in their program or if they're all just subconsciously imitating each other. I've never seen anything like it before. Check this video out at minute 15:

  2. Liam, I think what you're suggesting is not only evident in Arizona's program but also in many others at the college level. Teams tend to emulate the style and proficiencies of their star players. Oregon work a lot of give and go with high release backhands, Carleton handlers mimic Montague in their pivot and fake movements (and IO backhand breaks) and I'm sure there are other obvious examples.

  3. Pichler, it seems our similarities aren't limited to our choice of waterproof jacketing… Brice was my stand out winner; it's not just his breaks, look how far he pivots!

  4. I really like the point about the inherent joy of throwing. When I started coaching, I understood that some throws were more useful than others, but forgot about the fact that people learn best when a) they're choosing to learn what they're excited about and b) they're having fun. I actually told people not to waste time on some throws – which is wrong. If you're spending all day on the lefty flick huck and not practising more common options, then maybe there's an issue, but if you're just using these weird throws as variation and to break up your throwing practice then the coach should be delighted. And when you pull them out in a game, the question is not 'did it work?' but 'was it worth the risk?' (considering all the possible advantages, including getting inside the mark's head).

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