GB Throwing Regime

Sion “Brummie” Scone divulges the throwing routine that GB Open started using back in 2011. 

Last year, Dan “Colonel” Furnell and I put our heads together in order to come up with a throwing routine that we felt stressed the most important throws; having spent the previous two years teaching throwing skills to GB Open, we took the bits from Burruss’ KFT  that we found most useful, added/tweaked a little (including some of Wiggins’ Zen Throwing), and split into four chunks to make it easier to fit them in before or after other practices or fitness sessions. Each should take in the region of 20 mins, probably slower the first few times you try them until you know the routines.  

GB Open 2010-2012. Photo Courtesy of Dominic Clark.

Warm up

If you’re going out just to throw, then make sure you warm up. Jog a lap with your partner, throwing the disc back and forth.  No further than 2m, catch it as you caught it, minimise the amount of time that the disc is in your hands, and make sure it spins when you throw it!

Part 1: Toolbox Consistency

Try mixing this up by aiming to the receiver’s left hand, or right hand, as well as hitting them in the gut.  One set of each is ideal.

Part 2: The Kung Fu
At comfort distance, throw 10 forehands and backhands:

  1. As low as you can release

  2. As far as you can release from your body
  3. As high as you can release

Completion rates should drop in this section. The point is to challenge your technical and physical limitations, not to be perfect. Your throws in this section should feel awkward.  For advanced level, perform standing on one leg (opposite to throwing arm).  *Balance is vital*

  4. Catch-and-throw: complete 10 backhands, then 10 forehands, where you need to attack the disc and quickly return the disc to your partner. Make small cuts *just as your partner catches the disc*, so they can catch, see you move, and throw to you over a short distance. Distance will vary as you throw; when you get too close, “reset” your position via a lead pass away from you.  *All throws must be thrown hard if thrown directly to partner; the exception is if you throw a lead pass*.  Try to resist the urge to just move directly towards each other; change up the angles.  

Incorporate “Strobe Catches” if you want to make life more difficult while catching; essentially, blink fast while the disc is moving towards you, or – even better – blink *slowly* so that you are unsighted slightly and are able to adjust to the catch faster. 

Part 3: Hucking

Below is a diagram that shows 1 hucking to 2; the numbered flight paths denote the throws above.  Not all are displayed; the thrower starts on the other sideline for the unmarked throws.  Throws 1 & 2 are to the same 1/3 of the field as the thrower; 3-6 are to the far sideline.

Note the start position of the throw (marked by a solid black dot) indicates the release point; pivot sideways for 2, pivot forwards for 5, pivot backwards for 6.

Part 4: Compass
Imagine your pivot foot is at the centre of a compass. This section is split into two parts, and for each you should stand offset to each other as shown below (where you are the player marked by the big arrow, your partner’s position is marked by the small arrow, and where your pivots in each part correspond to the compass points shown above it). For Part 1, your partner should be in a north east direction, for Part 2, your partner should be in a north west direction…   You should be 10-15m apart.
It can help to place cones at each of the points you need to pivot to, as you will want to be as accurate as possible on your pivots while you’re learning this routine.

Optional: While your partner is throwing backhands, put out the hand that is furthest from them, and stick up some of your fingers.  Get your partner to call out the number during the throw.  Don’t show the fingers until they pivot to the backhand side, and the thrower should try to avoid pausing in this position.

Fake, pivot, throw. You are working on a snap fake and quick grip transition. Speed is important, so try to push your limits as fatigue sets in while maintaining accuracy.  You should therefore pivot and fake to the opposite side prior to each throw, and you are aiming to pivot *directly* from one side to the other, without needing to take an additional step in the middle of your pivot.  In the diagram above, you are the big arrow, your partner is the small one.  Face the direction shown, not each other.

(NOTE: “Throw” is for a righty, reverse if you’re a lefty).  Do Part 1 five times, then switch to Part 2.

Part 4.1

Part 4.2

*replace with offhand backhand if preferred

Get out there and get throwing! Brummie has more to say with commentary on Clapham’s recent performances coming soon … DP @ tSG. 

Something Different … team cutting.

David Pichler tells us how less is more when cutting.

Speed. Explosive Acceleration. Footwork. Ups. These attributes would probably top a Family Fortunes style list to the question ‘What makes a good cutter…?’ Certainly these are the attributes that we focus on when drooling over our favourite cutters like Josh “Zip” Zipperstein and Beau Kittredge. But really, are these the skills that young cutters should be focusing on in order improve?

Before I played Ultimate my sport was Karate and like any teenage boy I loved to fight. When I fought, I was Shinobi incarnate (if Shinobi used kicks to score points in a controlled manner rather than ninja stars and swords to destroy his foes). Time and time again I was told to focus on distance, combining strikes and attacking off line. Never were we told to punch and kick as fast as we can (really, a room of 15 boys needed no encouragement).

Looking back I am struck by how much these lessons apply to Ultimate and many other team sports. What makes a strong cutting offense shares much with the only testosterone fuelled boy in the dojo able to avoid rushing in limbs flailing.

Being tall I could keep the distance from my foe a little further away than they wanted. Close enough to strike, far enough to defend attacks. Likewise when cutting, think about the distance between you and the disc, you and your mark and you and everyone else on the field. You don’t want to be too far from or too close to the disc when not cutting, you want to generate separation from your marker when you do cut and you want to be on hand with that cut when the team mate gets the disc. It’s a difficult balance, even harder as the disc moves through your team mate’s hands around you. It takes years of sparring with various opponents to execute correctly. The fastest way to learn is get your head up and try to cut less.

Cut less? Yip. Cut less. If you’re the kid who’s always rushing in headlong trying to beat down your opponent’s guard, you may start to wonder why you’re ribs are bruised, why you lost. Stop. Edge back and see what they do, they way they move.

After a moment’s thought you think about a high punch and then a leg sweep. Or maybe just step the left. See what they do. When you see some space open up, it’s time to attack.

Teams, organic or ‘structured’, will each generate this in their own way. Some will have set pieces to be used in certain scenarios, others will defer to their stars with the role players filling in. However they’re produced, there’s an ebb and flow to space creation that’s easy to identify from the side line: an area in the field has one or more player in, then it’s empty, then someone’s cutting into it. When done properly it looks easy.

For me, this element of being a cutter is the most fun, and the easiest. The only difficult part is recognising whose space that is and the best way to exploit it. A lot will depend on aesthetics; the handler driven offense will want to run one-twos through the space, cutter lead teams will want to isolate a big receiver for a nice V cut. It doesn’t matter, you’ve pulled the defence’s guard around. You’ve attacked high, kicked low, feinted right and shimmied left. You’ve generated your opening and struck quickly.

So enough foggy theory and analogy – Watch the video (courtesy of Ultiworld). All of it. And enjoy it too because it’s the best Ultimate on the planet. It’s the World Games match up of Canada v the USA at the recent Poultry Days tournament in the US. Watch it once and go wow. Then watch it again and watch the cutters and follow the empty spaces around the field. Even Canada, who kind of get it handed to them, are cutting well, they’re just not connecting.

This requires unity and understanding between the players on field the same way the karate student needs to co-ordinate their hands and feet to strike in sequence into the right places.  Cutting is as much about making space for team mates as those dummy strikes are about shifting an opponent’s guard until they open up.

Ultimate is a sport about spacial awareness and timing more than it is about blistering speed, 60 yard bombs and shoulder high blocks. Sure, the latter look epic on film and will get your friends to buy you a pint on Saturday night, but they’re not the first skills cutters must learn, they’re the last. Learning to cut with the ebb and flow of the space created by your team mates’ movement will be what keeps you free all weekend long and your legs fresh in those long points.

Want more? Well contribute, like, share and retweet! DP @ tSG. 

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