During my rookie season at UMN, I saw a teammate throw a high-release flick, the first I had ever witnessed. Being the young, bright-eyed frisbee enthusiast I was, my I was soaked in admiration. Naturally, I asked said teammate to show me how he did it.
He laughed at me and said something smug about how I probably shouldn't add another bad throw to the ugly set I already had. I was insulted and dejected and I gave up on the throw at the time. The guy in question was arguably our best offensive handler that year, a presently dying breed of frail, slow and huck-less, but with incredible finesse on both sides. I really wanted his skillset. Ultimately, he didn't really teach me much that season, but that memory has stuck with me.
Now, I find myself playing the opposite role in that situation pretty frequently, both as a coach and as a more veteran player. Lots of times, I'll catch guys with atrocious forehands or backhands trying to summon a big hammer, a thumber, a scoober, or any number of other "special" throws while we're warming up or at throwing practice. I'm pretty inconsistent about how I respond. For some guys, I react pretty much in the way that the condescending handler did in my story. Sometimes I comment on the inadequacy of their other throws, sometimes I don't. For other guys, I'll give them tips about how to throw that "special" throw better.
Jim Parinella has a decent discussion of "junk throws" and whether or not they should be used here. What I'm interested in discussing here, though, is when and whether they should be taught.
To return to the personal anecdote: The following year, my flick was coming along nicely, my backhand had plateaued at mediocre. So I started throwing some hammers, taking a ton of advice from Charlie. Needless to say, I very quickly developed an addiction that haunts me to this day. From the push pass to the behind-the-backhand, I love 'em all. For me, having a very good scoober and a variety of release points and speeds on my backhand is a necessary thing. While my flick is excellent, my step out mid-to-low release ~20 yard backhand just stopped getting better, despite hours and hours of drilling and asking for help. Hence, I compensate for it by throwing weird, but 95% completed stuff.
So,"special throws" have become a very important supplement to my game. For others? Hard to say. Thus far, my opinion is as follows regarding how I approach my players who are experimenting with drugs...I mean unconventional throws:
-Special throws are vaguely tiered, with some (Hammers, scoobers, high-release backhand) sitting at generally nice to have but dumb to use all the time, others that are cool to know how to use but do you really have to? (lefty, push-pass, thumber) and finally absolutelynotImeanNO (corker chicken wing and friends). I encourage a healthy knowledge of upside-down throws SO LONG AS...
-The player can consistently complete a forehand or a backhand to a moving target 15 yards away. This is usually assumed at higher levels of Ultimate, but sometimes that kid was REALLY fast at tryouts.
-Finally, if I feel like there's a lot of room for growth in the basic throws, I'm more likely to encourage experimentation with angle, io/oi, and release point than I am to teach the finer points of the blade.
Still, I lean more toward teaching kids how to throw weird stuff better than chastising them for doing it at all. The jury's still out, though.
Future of Ultimate
2 months ago