Sunday, March 8, 2009

The importance of throwing the swing....

I think that completing the swing pass is a hugely under-valued skill, yet it separates the good handlers from the bad handlers, and the great teams from the average teams. There is little doubt in my mind that Jam's success in the finals (and the rest of nationals) this year was due in large part to their ability relentlessly swing the disc and constantly change the field giving them easy, low risk throws.

This year's version of MIT is pretty young and inexperienced, and we really only have two handlers who have played a handler role in our system for more than two years.

With that said, I am having trouble getting across the huge value of swinging the disc. We have worked a lot on dumping the disc (since being able to consistently dump the disc the most important skill you can possibly develop), and we add the swing component into that dump swing drill, but, for some reason, in real game situations we struggle to throw the swing.

I feel there are 3 reasons for this:

1.) Front of the stack isn't paying attention.

2.) The dump feels it is better to have the disc in his hands than the swings hands, so he greedily holds onto the disc.

3.) The dump is slow in the transition from the catch to the throw.

I will address each scenerio:

1.) The front of the stack (in our system, the front of the stack gets the swing the majority of the time) should always, always be looking at the thrower. I can't possibly think of a reason why he shouldn't be.

If the thrower turns to the dump, there are only 2 possible situations that the front of the stack is going to do: a.) be the swing, or b.) be the other dump option if the first dump doesn't get the disc.

Both of these options are easy to see and time if you are looking at the thrower. Always, always be making eye contact with the thrower as the front of the stack. Period. If you always make it a point to do this, you will always be ready to cut.

Nothing is more crushing to a coach than when you see a rookie work really hard to get a great dump throw off that goes to the dump, and the dump catches it and is in perfect position to throw, and there is NO ONE cutting to the break side. Crushing.

2.) Lack of trust with the front of the stack, not being prepared to throw, not thinking about throwing to the break side.

for some reason, especially in tight games, MIT's handlers this year, when they catch a dump, are not looking to swing the disc. They simply catch it, and make no effort to even look to the swing side immediately, some go in-so-far as to pivot back to the open-side.

This, as a whole, helps no one, and leads to an inordinate amount of turns. For one, you are turning back towards the person who just threw you the disc, and he, generally is already covered by the way the mark was set up on him. he is typically clearing out, which forces the thrower to have to either throw around him and his defender to an in cut, or, to hold the disc for an extended amount of time to wait for the throwing lanes to open again. All this does is lets the defense set up again.

If you are a good thrower and the swing cutter for some reason is not, it still should not stop you from throwing that pass. What you are doing is opening up the field by moving the disc horizontally, making the defense have to adjust, and, chances are, you are going to be the dump for the next throw.

A bonus to completing swing passes is that for every swing pass you complete, your mark is going to have to respect that swing throw more and more which will lead to the mark playing off of you more and more to try to stop the around. This will lead to some i/o looks to the front of the stack, some give-n-go opportunities, and easier throws all around.

3.) I think a lot of people think swinging the disc requires break throws. It actually doesn't at all. Most of the time, if a proper dump is given, you will have enough separation where all you have to do is throw a very simple, uncontested throw to space.

I think the trick comes in the preparation. When you catch the disc, you want to come out of the catch and be in proper throwing position, so, if it was force flick, when you pick your head up to look at the breakside, you want to already have your backhand ready to be released. What I mean by that is that you should NOT catch, look, windup, release. It should be catch, windup, lookup, release. this minor difference in the order of those things is HUGE.

Also, remember as well, you are throwing to the space where you want the swing cutter to be, you are not waiting for the swing cutter to get to a space and then trying to drill the disc at him.

I could go into the minutea of which foot to try to come down with first when catching and the angle you should attack the disc, or how to minimize the windup (something my club coach constantly tries to have me work on since I have tennis style backswings which no one needs), but, all you need to do is do what is mentioned above, and completing the swing pass will be really simple.

There are two things that really helped me learn how to swing the disc. When I played on a club team in philadelphia, the captains stressed the importance of moving the disc horizontally on the field and would swing the disc even if we lost some yards on it. They would stop drills if you didn't try catch the dump and come up ready to throw the swing.

The second thing was that I have practiced decoupling my lower half of my body from my upper half when throwing. This helps throwing on the run and I don't have to be fully planted to releasing the disc. I practiced this after reading something idris nolan wrote about him practicing throwing with his non-pivot foot off of the ground when throwing. Try it sometime; it will change the way you look at throwing.

Anyway, I am very hungry and it is food time. We are going to continue to work on this at practice, and I think that the kids are starting to understand the importance of swinging the disc because when they do it, they are starting to score much easier and they are opening up the field a lot more.



Mackey said...

100% agreed with you.

Some of it is just comfort making that pass--generally speaking, we can get away with throwing that swing pass with much smaller margins than we realize--getting comfortable throwing on the move like you said helps a lot with that. I read that same post by Idris back in summer '05 and throwing off of one foot was one of the things that made a big difference in my throwing when I got back to playing that fall.

Stephen Hubbard said...

Absolutely excellent writing.