Breaking the mark will forever be a focus of any good Ultimate club or player. However, most of the drills we use to teach breaking the mark, like the ‘thrower-marker drill’ (three people take it in turn marking, two throwing catching, one marking) give the thrower too much time to get the throw off, teaching bad faking/throwing habits from the get-go. Given ten seconds and half-decent throwing skills anyone can break the mark by pivoting and faking enough.
But we know this isn’t how break throws work in a game. In game, you probably have a 1 or 2 second window to get your break throw off before the defensive player catches up, your mark covers the throw or your receiver is too far out of position and the throwing lane is gone. This is why you need to be practicing breaking the mark quickly.
If you watch the best throwers break the mark, it happens in the blink of an eye. A quick shimmy here, a no-pivot release there, and bam - it’s like the mark was never there. But this doesn’t just come naturally to these athletes, they would have practiced these moves over and over again.
In this article I’ll outline four ways to quickly break the mark that you can rote learn by integrating them into your current throwing practice.
First, some preliminary tips:
Your fakes must be believable, not some over-the-top flourish. Practice them in front of the mirror. Have them follow your normal throwing motion as much as possible, but keep them short, sharp and efficient.
Apply force through your pivot foot to make the pivoting movement faster.
Adding speed to the following movements will often reduce balance and throw quality. Practice, practice, practice to make them quick and balanced.
Keeping it simple to start. Hold the disc in a neutral stance (not too wide) on the throw side then quickly pivot wider and release the disc as far from your body as you can. Most marks play too static to stop this move if it is quick enough.
Wide fake to wide release
Put in a big, believable wide fake, then pivot quickly to a wide throw on the other side. This move works well if you’ve been beating the mark with the wide release move above, and they’ve clued on and started adjusting to cover that throw. The challenge here is to be balanced and fast as you extend to the opposite side. Measure this by whether you are able to hold your position after your release the throw. If you fall in either direction after throwing, you are unbalanced and this will impact the quality of the throw.
Wide fake to quick release
Similar to the previous movement, but with a shorter movement off the pivot. Put in a big wide fake, then either a no-pivot throw or a quick release throw (before your foot is down on the opposite side). Here you are looking to beat your mark with quickness, and not width.
Made famous by Joye and Mickle, the shimmy is one that needs practice to be believable. Set up in a neutral stance on the throw side. To shake your mark, move your hips, shoulders and the disc as though you were going to pivot the other direction, then snap back into a wide release throw on that same side. Note that this is not just a head fake. The mark will usually follow the disc, so be sure to move it in the same manner as you would at the start of your pivot movement. This works best on the forehand side.
How to drill these movements.
Initially, practice the above movements in the mirror and while you’re doing throwing practice. Work to move your body efficiently, quickly and with balance, while faking in a believable manner. Once the movements feel natural, you can drill them during the thrower/marker drill but with the stall count starting at 8. With only three seconds to get the throw out, you’ll be forced to employ one of the above in order to make the throw happen against a strong mark.
Remember, once you’ve increased your speed of movement and release, look to do it with balance. The best throwers are not only fast, but make it look effortless by maintaining poise and balance through the entire motion. If you build these four movements into all your throwing training, you’ll be breaking marks like KitKats in no time!