Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Guest Topic: Catching

I have invited one of the best people I have coached to write about catching. When I say best, I by no means imply the most athletic. I mean it strictly on a coachability and student of the game standpoint.

Pete makes up for being, um, being dealt the short, squat card in life for having a great mind for the game, and for learning how to milk every bit of his athleticism out of his body. He definitely isn't the quickest or fastest on the field, but he rarely gets blown up on an in cut because he shields the disc well and catches the disc fully out in front of him.

It is a great read.

Claw Catching: It’s Ergonomic

The purpose of ultimate is to score goals, by passing and passing alone. Passing is throws and catches. The "best practice" of catches is the claw catch. Let us set that aside momentarily and slam down the basics of catching.

Circumstances will require receivers to make plays by whatever means are necessary. It is correct to catch the disc however you can. It is wrong to habitually use bad form. In general these rules apply. First, two hands all the time; be professional. Second, run through the disc. Never slow down to catch a disc. Slowing down before possessing the disc is how defenders run past or layout and get blocks on you. Think about running through the disc like this - your fastest stride should be the one immediately after the catch. This guarantees that you are moving as fast as possible and have reduced to a minimum the defender's efforts and window to break-up this pass. Third, greet the disc. Do not stab, slap, smack, or punch the disc. Do not wait for the disc to come to you. Catch the disc firmly with the whole of your hands. Fourth, watch disc while catching it. This basic rule of all sports is as deadly as it is simple. Taking your eye off the disc will cause you to drop it; not every time, but every time you do lose it it's a soft turnover - a stupid, preventable drop that fucked the team

The claw catch, put bluntly, is the way Frankenstein's monster would play ultimate. However, please promise to play with the athleticism, coordination, fluidity, and grace that Mary Shelley's classic monster cannot summon. What follows are the basics. Form your hands like sock puppets - fingers together, thumb opposite them forming a 'C'. Fully extend your arms away from the body at chest height. Catch the disc in front of your chest keeping your thumbs down. If the disc is below your chest bend your knees and drop your hips to keep the disc in front of your body. When the disc is too low to catch like this, flip your hands such that your thumb is up and your fingers are down. If the disc is in danger of hitting the ground either layout or baseball slide with your thumbs up to meet the disc before a turnover. Claw catching is the best catching form because it is aggressive and fast. Aggressive and fast makes good ultimate.

Aggressive: Attack the disc and keep it away from the defender. Shoot both hands out and snare the disc at the earliest possible moment at the point furthest from your man. When claw-catching, I end up with the disc, snug in both hands, facing the path it flew; in shooting out and grabbing the disc, my wrists rotate through the catch and point the disc's edge towards the ground. Claw catching is ergonomic. The disc fits right into the padded palm, the fingers mold to the disc's face, the thumb latches onto the rim. Fast: the claw catch's form keeps you moving fast and prevents you from slowing down. Proper sprinting requires a runner to pump his arms, adding momentum. The claw catch extends one's arms forward to make the catch. This is close to proper sprint form and is an easy motion/transition in a full sprint. Keeping your arms forward moves your center of gravity forward. All human motion is essentially a controlled fall. The claw catch helps keep the body moving forward.

A word on clap catching: Clap (or pancake or alligator) catching is a good way to catch a disc, especially in wind. In wind, clap catching is the superior catching form. When cutting, however, the clap catch suffers. First, the clap catch is close to the receiver's body. This decreases the distance between the defender and the disc, and increases the chance of a block. Second, my considered and corroborated observation is that almost all receivers slow down to clap catch. Receivers perform a hop a half-step before clap catching. This hop steals that last step's push from impelling the receiver toward the disc and spends its energy on a slowing hiccup to make the mechanics and position of the clap catch a little easier. The claw catch improves upon the clap catch by making the receiver faster, increasing the distance between defender and disc, and catching the disc earlier in its flight If you have any questions, thoughts, barbs, or criticism please leave them in the comments. My thanks to Will Hall, as told by Josh, for the title.


October 28, 2008


Gabe said...

I have heard the "ergonomic" claim by Mr. Hall many a time. Nicely done Pedro.

Pete said...

Thanks Gabe.

Gabe said...

I posted this for the Columbia kids. Naturally I was met with resistance, until at practice 3 kids did the half ass jump clap, and promptly got D-ed. How come nobody listens to me?

parinella said...

I think this is overstating the value of the claw catch. Both methods have their advantages and the right catch depends on the circumstances. In the absence of defensive pressure, the pancake is generally the surer catch, especialy in wind, especially on fast throws. Again, ignoring the defense, you want the relative speed of the disc to be as slow as possible, which is why people slow up to catch. You can also curl your body around the disc.

But Pete does a good job at elaborating why the claw catch is preferable when a defender is near. If you want more info, you can go to pages 33-35 of Zaz' and my book, Ultimate Techniques and Tactics.

Pete said...

As a short, fat ultimate player I have yet to experience the absence of defensive pressure. I agree with your points, especially the importance of catching at the disc-receiver's slowest relative speed. My ultimate experience is at the mid-tier college level. In coaching, I prefer to put the onus of disc speed on the thrower (a veteran). Too many novice players slow down to catch, resulting in blocks. Certainly you are correct that the body-backstopped clap catch is safer absent defensive pressure. I advocate claw catching because I assume defensive pressure's presence.

Thank you for the comment. I'm a long-time reader (book and blog), first time guest-blogger.