The Key To Throwing Improvement Is Consistency And Visualisation

The measure of a good thrower does not just lie in the range of their throwing ability but also in the consistency at which they are able to execute.

Sounds obvious, right? But are you using this observation to accurately measure your throwing improvement?

Consider the Triple Check rule:

“In order for a throw to be useful in a game, you must be able to exactly replicate the throw three times in a row when practicing.”

Confidence lies in consistency

As you develop your game, you will always find yourself experimenting with different throws to add to your repertoire. Unconsciously, they probably fall into a few categories:

  1. unexplored

  2. not quite game ready

  3. pick-up ready

  4. game-ready

Different throws probably also migrate around these brackets somewhat randomly, based on your current throwing preferences. But if you employ the Triple Check, you can be confident that a throw you’re trialing can be either promoted to ‘game-ready’ or subbed to the bench.

Why three? Exact replication of a throw twice in a row could be a fluke, but three in row is a reliable indication of the skill

Applying this to the basics

Let’s start with a flat forehand/backhand to the chest, probably the most used throws in the game. At 10-20m apart, have your throwing partner hold their hands (in crocodile catch form) at chest height and try to hit a flat throw three times in a row without them moving their feet or hands. If you’re at the stage of throwing development where you’re working on spin and snap, find a level of execution that is challenging for you, but not un-achievable, and hold yourself accountable to that standard for all three reps.

For most athletes outside the top throwers in the country, this will probably prove more difficult than you’re imagining.

Visualise game realistic scenarios

Congrats, you’ve managed to hit a flat chest pass three times in a row. Now things get interesting. How often have you messed up a throw in game that you’ve been able to nail while just tossing with friends?

It’s rare in games that you are presented with an unmarked option standing still 10-20m in front of you. It’s also rare to find a throwing partner willing to run 100x10m sprints for your skills development. So when you find yourself applying this rule to more advanced throws, an active and accurate imagination is essential.

Apply these steps to your each throw while practicing to ensure your movements stay game realistic:

  1. See your receivers starting position (not where your throwing partner is standing)

  2. Move to shake your marker

  3. Pivot wide as though you're being marked

  4. Visualise your receiver moving with the appropriate cut (ending at where your throwing partner is standing)

  5. Apply the appropriate shape or touch to your throw

Let’s use a couple of throws as an example.

Visualising an up-line touch forehand

Your focus for the next throwing session is a 2-5m touch forehand. You’ve been turning them over by throwing them too early or late when presented with an open up-the-line dump cut. You might start by just standing still and working on consistently executing a 2-5 touch forehand to your static partner. But that’s not all that’s involved in this throw, let’s look at what might be involved in throwing this during an in-game situation.

First, before the throw goes up, it’s likely you’ll have just turned to square up to your dump in the mid-field. You also might have just thrown a backhand fake to let your dump know that is not a valid option. As they’ve charged upline, you would normally turn your head to survey the space and make sure there are no poachers ready to snap up any errant throws. As you’ve turned to size up the up-line space, the defensive mark may have moved forward into the space you’ve created to deny the throw, forcing you to step backwards or further out to release the throw. Then you need to execute a 2-5m touch forehand.

So next time you’re out practicing your touch forehand remember the setting and movements that usually accompany it then seek to emulate that in your practice. If you’re throwing with a static partner this would look like - start turned away 90 degrees from your partner, fake a backhand, see your imaginary dump shoot up the line, turn to check the space, step away from your imaginary mark, deliver the throw. Three times in a row, all exactly the same.

Visualising an OI backhand huck

Let’s take another common throw - an outside-in backhand huck. In this scenario you’ve already managed to get off a few successful backhand bombs, so the mark has adjusted more straight-up to prevent them coming out. You’re shooting from your backhand force sideline (depending on whether you’re left or right handed) and the receiver is striking deep from the far third of the field.

In this situation in-game, you might initially hold your forehand to encourage your mark to move out of your backhand huck space, maybe even throw a fake to get them to jump to that side. As you step across to the backhand side, you’ll step wide, away from the mark and have your head slightly turned to track your receiver out of the corner of your eye. You’ll want to release the disc when you see your receiver hit an appropriate speed and distance from the end zone.

Now mimic exactly this motion in your drill. Hold flick, throw a fake, turn and pivot out to the backhand side, keeping your head turned to ‘see’ the receiver out of the corner of your eye. Measure up your throw to hit the receiver in stride, exactly where your throwing partner is, three times in a row.

When you’ve got the basic shape and throw down, with longer hucks it’s worth challenging yourself to throw them at different heights, speeds and angles, to replicate a later huck when the cut is starting deeper or there is a different wind impacting your throw.

In summary

When striving to improve your throwing, use consistency, paired with visualisation to really focus during your sets. Commit to this method for just one set with your throwing partner and see how you feel about it. You might look/feel silly feinting at shadows, but the more times you’ve executed the skill in a game-realistic situation in your mind, the more likely you are to execute in real life.