Thursday, March 31, 2005

Random Thought of the Day - It's all about the throwers

The longer I play and coach the more convinced I become that it's all about the throwers. Big Dumb Athletes are a dime a dozen, but it takes time to cultivate a great thrower. I am interested to hear how everyone goes about teaching throwing. We tend to spend not quite half of practice on individual throwing drills. I honestly, feel like this is not enough. We should probably spend more time on it. In terms of mechanics, we never gather everyone around and say this is how you throw. We usually walk around and correct things that we see. I wonder if it would be better to start talking mechanics as soon as the players show up. I've always been afraid of running people off by being boring, but maybe it's a better approach. Any thoughts? Anyone still reading this thing?


miriam said...

Hi. I've been reading your blog for a while now and like it alot.

I have to agree that cultivating great throwers is hard. And seemingly harder to do with women although once you've done it, they are often better throwers than men.

After years of being less strict, we started this fall right off the bat emphasizing proper technique. We made this decision because too many people developed bad habits early and it we spent a lot of effort trying to undue those bad habits. We figured that if we started right away with a heavy dose of good form, we wouldn't have to reteach so much later.

We had everyone line up and go slowly through the motions of throwing with good form. We didn't even give them discs at first. We moved their arms to the right places, we corrected their stance. We worked on balance. Then we gave them discs and spent a long time on grips. It was really boring.. but I think it was worth it. Many women start with us having never thrown a frisbee and they get very discouraged when they can't do it. With such explicit instruction, they got off to a better start. We repeated this exercise about 4 times just to make sure it stuck.

We start with just basic flat throws. Then after a few weeks we add the bender and then after a few more the IO. A lot of people tend to have one of the two curves on their throws. So it helps them to see that their natural throw belongs in the repetoire but they need to be able to do the others ones as well.

So, how did this work out? I'm not so sure yet. Most of the rookies are on the B team and I don't get to seem them too much. But we have a few rookies on the A team and I think they are doing better than some folks that have been playing longer. It's still necessary to work with folks one on one because they all have different problems. But I do think that having that starting point helps them.

And a word about me... I coach the U of Michigan women.

And in regards to the last post about secrecy... rather than worry about divulging secrets, I think it makes more sense to share so that we don't all have to re-invent the wheel.


Ewald said...

I think if you want to cultivate throwers you have to focus on it. I'm stealing this from lori, but Iagree with her that people always practice throws A. Too far away and B. not nearly enough. Also when you're warming up on those closer throws.. I think you need to really focus on the placement,speed and rotation of the disc. Most people just chat and throw crap.

aj said...

Welcome Miriam:

It's nice to have you with us.


Martin said...

I guess I have a different mentality on thorowing than some. There are the basics of throwing, which I agree should be taught as soon as you get players, and then there are throws that make a player deadly. Those come from a different type of training.

The basics start at your feet, balance , grip, and body movement. When I was working with AJ I taught the Emory girls a wierd Tai Chi method for developing throws. I'm still not sure that was entirely successful (AJ knows better), but it was a good idea and had worked in the past. The basics do a good job of developing people who can throw moderately hard throws.

When in school the way we learned to throw was to throw hard throws in drills. We would do all of our drills using every throw in every situation. Fred (coach) would tell us to run the three-line drill, and would dictate the throw, and it wasn't always the one that makes sense. But that is how you get good with your throws is being forced to use them in wierd fashions. Catching a disc while moving to the left, then and the end of your movement having to lean to the right while throwing a IO flick back to the left is wierd, but you get good at it. While at Tech I felt like we had lots of players that could throw lots of throws that made them dangerous.

In my opinion a team doesn't just need decent throwers, they need a few people who are dangerous with the disc. These people are the point guards of the sport. They damage oponents by throwing through holes no one noticed, seeing the field in a whole different way. I worked on this at Tech for a while, with a good bit of success. I forced my players to take the motions of their already decent throws and push them even harder. Putting a cone a certain distance from their pivot foot and forcing them to throw from outside the cone was one example of what we did. Perhaps the best thing (worked on vision) was forcing people to throw through a walking crowd of student w/o hitting anyone.

Those are a few of the things that I have done at different stages of my life to improve people's throws. I've never really had enough time to work with anyone to know for certain if these ideas are always applicable, but those are some options.


Noah said...

I feel pretty strongly that it is NOT all about the throwers.

Obviously, every team needs at least some people who can put it deep and break the mark with pretty good consistency.

However, in my experience a thrower becomes deadly only to the extent that: a) the thrower has good cutters to throw to, or b) the team has a good offensive concept. Or both.

The best connections you will ever see between a thrower and a cutter occur when either the thrower knows what the cutter is going to do, or vice versa, or both. A good example of this is DoG, who is not a dominating team athletically, but is a team that finds its success from communication/synchronization and the mental aspects of the game.

When a cutter times a deep cut perfectly, it makes the thrower's job ten times easier. The best teams in the country are also the teams that do the best job of setting up their deep cuts: timed properly, isolated from other players, and with enough separation that the thrower does not have to make a perfect throw. An excellent cut does not require an incredible thrower or an incredible throw.

Note: these views are a result of my personal experiences (basically, playing primarily on teams that do not have good offensive strategies).

aj said...

I really like Martin’s idea about not just having good throwers but having dangerous throwers. At open club nationals, every team always has a couple of guys out there who can crank it and break the mark. The team’s that seem to be in the semis every year are the teams that have one thrower that goes out there and creates things. I think Chain has a couple of guys who could become that player (Crawford or Frito), but I don’t think we’ve ever given them free reign to make mistakes.

Noah – I agree that I was probably overstating it when I said it’s ALL about the throwers, but I do believe that’s really what separates the best teams from the not so best teams. I think it’s interesting that you bring up the example of DoG. I’ve been playing competitively since 2001 and it seems to me that the game has actually become less like the DoG style of old. In other words, I think the top teams play a much more high-risk high reward style of play. Also, I think the DoG example is interesting because, while it is true that they have better offensive structure/discipline than most teams, it’s also true that they kept working to get the frisbee into the hands of their best thrower and let him do what he wants with it. I re-watched our prequarter match-up against them recently. The thing that I kept saying to myself is how in the hell does DeFrondeville keep getting the disc on us? In that game, their offense is one isolation cut up the open side, we usually shut down the next isolation cut up the open side with our marks or downfield d, then DeFrondeville somehow gets open on someone 47 times more athletic than he is, then he shreds our mark and they flow up the break side. I guess that’s what I mean when I say it’s all about the throwers. Granted their cutters did a great job of making continuation cuts on the break side once he shredded us, but really I think we lost that game because we couldn’t stop DeFrondeville (and we offensive folks choked, but that’s another story).


ps I think the only thing jojah is missing is someone with a full tool belt who’s not afraid to use it.

Alex de Frondeville said...

Hmmm. How does he do it?

To continue on the DoG thread, I agree that the game has definitely moved away from the DoG style that won in the '90s, and for the most part, that is probably a good thing, at least for the spectators/hecklers. The current top teams are definitely more high risk/high reward. I think Pike probably has the best mix of risk and steadiness right now, but they don't have as many athletes as the other top teams, although if they stay together and get the familiarity with each other, that will carry them a long way.

I also agree with Noah that the best connections are when you have that communication between thrower and receiver, and too much structure can often squelch that. For DoG, considering that there are only 2-3 of us left from '98, much less '94, that means we have lost a lot of that familiarity/communication, and the resultant emphasis on structure has inhibited the ability to recapture that with the new guys. Over in Idris' blog talking about hammers, Jim talks about knowing exactly what situations that I'm looking for the hammer and always putting himself into position to get them, but he is basically the only person left that I have anything approaching that level of communication with (granted, playing on the same team with him for the last 16 years helps).

I find that the emphasis on throws may be slightly misplaced, but I'm not sure how to train people for this skill. How many times have you seen someone warming up and said to yourself that person has GREAT-looking throws and maybe you get a little worried about them. And then it comes to the game and they are nowhere to be found, or can't complete a pass to save their lives, or about the only thing they can do is swing the disc. The thing that differentiates a good throwers from the great throwers is not their actual throws, but 1) the ability to see the field, and that means seeing past the actual cutter, letting the offense come to you, maybe getting eye contact with somebody that you know can get open with one step, and 2) being able to deliver it to the open spot, no matter what is in the way. And this doesn't always mean a hammer, scoober, or something fancy. Frankly, my throws are not even remotely 'good'-looking, my inside-out forehand turns over the wrong way, but I am more focused on getting the disc to the receiver than how the throw looks.

As for the pre-quarters game, if I'm getting the disc that much, that means the offense is breaking down. Frankly, if any handler is getting the disc that much in a point/game, then the other team is doing something right. When an offense is playing well, no player should be getting the disc more than once or twice a point.

PS So the guy/s who were covering me in the pre-quarters must be SUPER athletes, cuz 47 times even a small fraction of athleticism still addds to quite a bit.

Alex de Frondeville said...

Also, aj, is there any chance I can get a copy of that video that you apparently have of the pre-quarters?

Alex de Frondeville

aj said...


You say that the game has "definitely moved away from the DoG style that won in the '90s, and for the most part, that is probably a good thing, at least for the spectators/hecklers."

You say that the new style is best for the spectators, but I wonder if it's the best for winning. In other words, do you believe that the old DoG way is still the best way?

Or to put it another way - if DoG had the athletes of some of the west coast teams what offensive style would you use?


ps i'll see about making a copy of the (low quality) video.

Alex de Frondeville said...

Keep in mind old-school DoG did not mean unagressive. On offense, it was more a function of taking what the defense gave you. It was rare that we were forced to impose our will on a team when we had so many ways to score. In the '95 semifinals against Cojones (NY), we scored well over half of our points on close to full field hucks, still one of the greatest, most exciting games I have ever played (It is a HUGE disappointment that no video was made of that game). And in the final that year, we had 3 turnovers in a game to 21. We did what needed to be done. I just find that now, the west coast teams are emphasizing the huck too much. It's all well and good to have great athletes to take advantage of, but if the other team has great athletes also, does it become a wash? Probably not, but I think there is more of a happy medium than these teams are doing right now. I think the problem is that when the huck isn't working, these teams don't have something to fall back on and just keep firing it up. Unfortunately, we don't have the athletes, or the offensive composure these days to take advantage.

If we had the athletes I imagine we would huck more, but definitely not to the extent that these other teams do (at least until the team gets rid of us old guard, although I think we have imprinted possession O on the new guys). Our biggest issue isn't not hucking, we're just not completing nearly the same percentage (and not nearly as spectacularly). We are much farther down the risk/reward curve than the west coast teams.

And to follow up on the video piece, don't worry about me analyzing it trying to find something. I'm always interesting in having video of our games, and the last video that we have is from the Worlds finals in Hawaii. Of course, it also helps that I had a good game...:) But seriously, I would very much like to get a copy, so let me know.