The best teams in the world are all great throwers, top to bottom (or if not great, then at least very solid). By contrast, most representative teams and clubs in Australia lean heavily on a few exceptional throwers to facilitate disc movement around the field. If you look at teams that have come close to challenging the US of late: Canada, Japan and more recently Colombia, all of these countries have a strong focus on throwing ability from a young age and it’s evident in their play.
We are definitely catching up but put simply, if Australia ever wants to win a world title, we need to develop more world-class throwers.
Over the next few months, IOU wants to lead a huge push on throwing, building a bible of drills, technique pointers and thought pieces on throwing - stay tuned.
To start, I want to highlight a few simple cultural adjustments that I think might help boost our country’s trajectory on the world stage.
Gym routines and track workouts have meant we have caught up athletically. The next step is being able to field a team with strong throwers across the board, not just relying on a couple of talented handlers to get the job done. We are faster and stronger, now we need to become more skilful.
We need to emphasise the importance of throwing skills from a young age.
The simple truth is that once you’re out in the workforce, you usually don’t have the spare time required every day to put the necessary hours into throwing, especially if you’re focused on other elements of your training, like gym or running. It’s at high school and university where we really need to be instilling the right habits and taking advantage of spare time like gaps in classes, breaks and long holidays to put in reps, on reps, on reps and build the habits and movements required for world-class throwing.
This is where a real focus on throwing at grassroots Ultimate needs to come into play.
Coaches, encourage your young athletes to keep a disc on themselves at all times. Empower them to expand their throwing limits and equip them with the tools to do so. Ensure your team doesn’t just rely on a couple of stronger throwers, make it a priority to build up throwing technique in your team.
Don’t let young athletes fall into bad habits throwing just because it allows them to get a flick out. It can be hard, for both the athlete and coach, but be vigilant in weeding out poor form early and you’ll be doing the player a huge service in the long run.
Focus praise on finesse not highlight reel plays
When I was in Japan for Dream Cup in 2016, it wasn’t the big skies or layouts that the crowd was looking for. It was the perfect break throws of the Buzz Bullets that would draw gasps from the sideline. Japan has a culture where they admire tightly honed skills and finesse, something we can look to emulate more.
So how do we shift this focus? Layouts D’s and big skies are definitely still cool and deserve your praise but also, next time you see someone nail a throw perfectly, give them credit for it, even if it’s just a routine swing or break throw. There are small throws all over the field (not hucks) that require a high degree of skill and coordination. By recognising this, we can change our focus towards one of finesse and skill.
Fall in love with throwing again
There is a strange, not-often-talked-about beauty to throwing a frisbee. It’s calming in a way that tossing few other objects is. Re-tap into the hippy origins of this sport and just love watching the disc fly. Marvel at how you can make it curve through the air.
Remember the feeling the first time you nailed a flick? The key to becoming a truly great thrower is loving the process. Tap back into this child-like joy and just have fun with throwing again.
It’s ok to be obsessed
Jimmy Mickle and Chris Kocher, two of the best players in the world, are unabashedly obsessed with Ultimate. They live and breath the sport. They watch footage in their spare time and soak up knowledge from everyone around them. That’s why they’re the best.
In fact, I asked them recently and they were happy to admit it:
Australia’s deeply ingrained tall poppy syndrome is hurting us internationally. You might be called a nerd for always having a disc on you, sometimes even by people in the community.
Disregard these little people. Keep throwing, playing, watching and loving this sport. Then, watch them come to ask you for help when you’re throwing dime ball hucks for days.
Australia, if we want to win a world championship we need to become more skilled throwers. We are blessed with amazing weather almost all year round, a luxury afforded to so few other countries and one that we must start taking advantage of.
Text your mate, it’s a great day for a throw!