The Forehand is actually ‘The Forehands’
For several years I have come around to the conclusion that players should not just develop one stock forehand but rather develop the ability to throw a variety of different forehands. It is important for several reasons, first being that the force at almost every level of Ultimate is largely forehand. Second, every time you throw a forehand it is slightly different. Variables such as the distance, the angle of your cutter, the speed of your cutter, the wind, and the marks positioning can play a large role into the release and flight shape you need. Those variables have led me to practice throwing a flick from a variety of stances. Stepping forward, sideways, backwards and everywhere in between. I have developed different releases, dropping my hand down to give the disc more float and touch, following through to get it to the target faster. The edges and angles of the disc are also constantly changing, so developing control over different angles goes a long way. Even when it comes to hucking there are different shapes, speeds and angles to get the disc downfield optimally. My recommendation to anyone working on their flick is to throw it a million different ways. Once you get a nice confident release and snap, start manipulating your arm and stance to play with different flights.
Raw strength and power can help throwing distance and ability, but they are grossly overestimated. Throwing boils down to timing and efficiency. Learning to be an efficient thrower not only helped me with my power but completely changed the game when it comes to consistency. I remember talking with one of the greatest throwers I’ve seen, Jonathan Nethercutt about this very topic. He said boxers do not waste any motion throwing a punch, it almost looks like they aren’t putting any effort into it. It comes down to timing and practice. If we put this idea behind throwing we should make our hucks as effortless as possible. Rather than huge windups, tons of movement, and big step outs to reach 75 yards, it is far better to have a very compact throw that hits 65. With less moving parts, the odds that you make a little mistake somewhere in the windup or follow through is limited, resulting in more consistent releases. And since the angle of the disc correlates to how well it flies, the loss of a little extra power is erased by a cleaner release, resulting in almost the same distance traveled. Next time you go out and throw, see how little movement you need to drive the disc downfield 30-40 yards. The results will surprise you!
Video Doesn’t Lie
I do believe that every player’s throws will look a little different. Many players have slightly different grips, windups, follow throughs on the flick side as well as the backhand. And to a large extent you need to feel comfortable with your own style. However there are very important ‘musts’ that need to be in your mechanics. Here is a tip. Find a top thrower on YouTube and watch their throwing style. Ultiworld has an archive of many different players throwing in slow motion. Next, film yourself and compare. Find parts of the throw that look completely different and work on aligning your form with the player that can throw full field with ease. The more you can eliminate discrepancies in the mechanics the more efficient and powerful you will become as a thrower. Modeling is a great learning tool. It can be challenging and frustrating at times and I recommend if you see several major differences in your throw on video work on one at a time! On a personal note, I still do video work to help my mechanics to this day.
Find a way to get more spin on your throws. Start today. Spin on a disc does miracles against the wind. It helps hold flight paths, adds extra time for the disc to float in catching windows. It unlocks the ability to put touch on throws and adds distance to pulls. So how do we do it? Quick tip: throwing with spin is not a gentle motion. There is a snap on the forehand and backhand side. Your wrist actually accelerates through the release. Second, you need a firm but not tight grip on the disc. If you are not holding the disc firmly the snap will create more problems than solutions. Once you have a firm grip and start really snapping, the third most important tip is to snap on the same plane as the disc. For a flick, we don’t want to snap our wrist upwards, that results in the disc turning over and blading off early. Instead, snap the wrist with your palm up parallel to the ground. The backhand snap is different, the palm is close to perpendicular with the ground as you release the disc with snap.
You Control the Mark
As a thrower, you are in control of the mark, it is not the other way around. You should never feel like you are on your heels, leaning backwards to get space and comfort against an active mark. The first thing you need to do is get into a ‘ready-to-throw’ stance similar to a triple threat in basketball. From here, you are already looking more confident and threatening which is important because a lot of marks will lock in on a player who they feel can’t handle a good mark and turn up their pressure. A second small piece of advice is that pivots are important and useful, but don’t get in the habit of going back and forth, back and forth. This hurts your vision downfield, it doesn’t clearly communicate to your reset or dump, and while you might be controlling the mark by making them go back and forth, it is at a cost to you. Remain upright, balanced, and when you need to shake or move the mark, have go-to moves like the shimmy, fake shimmy, half-pivot and other break throws we have on Excel Premium. Marks can be scary, but once you start to change your mindset that you are in control, you will see your ability to throw against them increase rapidly.
I fondly remember learning about the inside-out (io) and outside in (oi). I also played around with the nose angle, the angle of the leading portion of the disc controlling the height. It was incredibly fun to curve and bend the flight of the disc. Since then, I have stumbled upon a couple of more insights to the angles of a thrown disc and their relationships with each other. The first insight is to manipulate the angles within the physics of the flight. For example, if I want to throw a flick huck as far as I possible can, I’ll add a steep io to the disc, but aim way out to the right and give the nose some lift angle so that it starts off very steep io, but as it goes way up to the right it flips over to get the maximum flight. The increase on the nose angle also helps fight gravity for longer throws, you can’t throw a flat disc 70 yards! The second way I have worked on the angles of a disc is by using my torso and body as the mechanism to add an edge on the disc instead of my arm. This keeps the throwing motion from the elbow to the wrist fairly consistent. With that consistency comes power and accuracy. The tilt in my torso doesn’t sacrifice much. When I am throwing full field io hucks I can really tilt all the way down on the forehand. For my oi throws, I release fully upright. Try it out!
Creativity and Imagination
Some of the biggest lessons and breakthroughs for me as a thrower came when I simply was curious and tried out random ideas. I have said this many times before, go experiment! See what happens when you use an io angle but the arm mechanics of an oi, see what it feels like to really visually snap your wrist on release, find the fine line of a throw flipping over and gliding vs flipping over and blading off. Grab a stack of discs and an empty field and get to work!