World Class Throwing

Photo Copyright © 2013 Micah Tapman/CBMT Creative

I’ve thought a lot about building throwing abilities and how people get to be great throwers. First and foremost, everyone should always be throwing more than they ever thought they could or would want to and their throwing sessions should be focused and goal oriented. From there I have started working out a progression of skill sets related specifically to throwing: teach basic techniques, work on increasing strength, spin and power, develop edge control –specifically the IO edge— and finally work on developing touch and finesse. Beginner throwers, especially women, should be encouraged to practice throwing harder and farther than they would typically feel comfortable doing to push their boundaries, build strength and to get past the fear of making mistakes and not having the disc go exactly where you want it to go every time.  Throwing with people that are better than you or that you want to emulate can be very instrumental for novice throwers to improve their own skills.  My first few years in college I frequently arranged throwing sessions pre-practices with the best throwers on our team because I wanted to throw like her and this paid off immensely.

My number one priority throughout any season is to throw a whole, whole lot. Rarely am I doing any sort of workout without a disc involved at least a little.  I try and get a throwing focused workout in at least two or three times per week outside of practice and often in place of a traditional “track workout”.  But just because they are throwing focused doesn’t mean they are not physically demanding.  Even while doing more traditional “workouts”, I am always trying to throw during the rest and recovery times or between exercises.

A typical throwing workout for me consists of getting together with one or two other people and starts with warming up for 10-15 minutes with just throwing while moving and cutting. There is no set pattern, and we focus on mixing up the directions, speeds, and distances that we cut at and work to build up how fast and hard we are cutting as we get warm.  I like this because it forces me to react to an unknown based on what the other person is giving me, because you are always throwing to a moving target, and because you can focus on specific throws at different angles, speeds and distances.

From there we usually grab another disc— or two if I am with two other people— and work on throwing two or three discs at the same time; it’s less cutting but lots more touches and we usually move in a slight circle in both directions and again at different distances. I like to focus on faking and forcing myself to continue to step into my throws even as I start to fatigue.  This usually lasts anywhere from 10-20mins and often we will set goals of 50-100 completed throws in a row without stopping. Then we move into longer throws, with one or two discs depending on how things are feeling, and from there we finish with a session of short random throws in all directions and with both hands again moving and working to create different looks for the thrower.  If there are three of us, we then work on throwing against a mark, and I’ll have the people I’m working on do certain cuts or marks that I’m trying to work on throwing to or breaking.

Throughout a workout, I set various challenges to reach, focus on my catches as much as my throws, and visualize various game situations that I want to work on. I always want lots of touches, minimal breaks, and to mentally push myself as I start to fatigue.

Practicing throwing with a mark on is also a crucial skill to get lots of reps with and again this time needs to be focused and goal oriented. I was recently doing some 3-person marking drills with a few local Madison ladies and it became very clear to me that the more inexperienced players had no idea what they were going to throw when they got the disc. Instead of approaching the mark with a plan, they just tried to move the mark however possible and then throw whatever might have opened up.  This tactic often led to frantic and unsuccessful throws.

Every time I have the disc, I have a plan in mind before I even have a mark and I would say that the vast majority of the times I catch a disc, my very first look is to the break side. I think that having this as my go-to game plan every time lets me catch my mark off-guard or before she has set, which makes break throws that much easier. Practicing various ways to execute this plan is always a focus of mine. Even in simple throwing and marking drills, I think about what I want to work on. It can range from varying the heights of my release points to speeding up my release to how quickly I pivot from backhand to forehand. Whatever it is, I have a goal and I have a plan with what I want to throw.

As one gets better and improves at knowing and executing the plan, which takes a lot of reps, the goal needs to shift away from actively thinking about the throws and the plans and instead letting muscle memory and our subconscious take over. Muscle memory is built on reps.  The more reps the stronger the muscle memory and the less one has to think about how they are going to execute the plans that they have.

With this being said, a lot of the time if you asked me about specific marks, like who was marking me or what they were doing, I couldn’t really tell you. Truth be told, when I’ve reached my “flow zone” I’m barely aware of my mark, and if I am, it usually means something is off with my game. The less I am actually thinking about my throws and how I am going to throw the disc, the better.  A common task I do when I find myself over thinking my throws or when I want to get back to letting my muscle memory take over is picking a random big number in my head, say 753, and start counting down by 7s from there.  I think most people are familiar with that feeling related to being in your head about your throws and this can be a nice way to “reset” and get back to letting your muscle memory take over.

In summary, if you want to be a better thrower, you need to throw more, regardless of how long you have been playing for. Be an active learner when you are working on your throws, make plans and goals, set up scenarios, challenge yourself and don’t just spend 20mins rehashing your day with whoever you might be throwing with.  Throwing workouts should be both physically and mentally challenging and consider that there are many ways to incorporate more throwing activities into both traditional workouts and practices.  Remember that more touches builds stronger muscle memory which in turn allows you to think less about the execution of your throws and more about the game and what your plans with the disc are.

Happy throwing (and catching).

Issue No. 2 | World Games

October 2, 2013