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From time to time I have people e-mail me asking about improving their throws. I figure I'd permanently post my thoughts on it here. This is from a conversation with an aspiring golfer:

Before I begin, I think I should give you some insight into my abilities so you have an idea of how valid the info I'm giving you is:
- I've been playing disc sports since 1993, Disc Golf at the Open level since 2000, with a handful of local victories and top finishes.
- I was the top Canadian finisher at the 2003 World Disc Games, 11th overall, finalist in Disc Golf and Self Caught Flight.
- I am predominantly a backhand thrower, with an average long drive ranging from 350 to 420 feet, although I have broken the 500 ft mark on turn-around distance lines (very high s-shots).
- I have a dependable and accurate sidearm, but my range is only about 300 ft.
- I think my knowledge and opinions of the game and technique are well respected on the BC scene.

There you are... Take from the following what you will and remember this is only one players opinion.

I always like to start these things off by mentioning what I think you're doing well before I start dissecting your technique. I really like the fact that you are committed to being proficient at both backhand and sidearm throwing. For a new player, which I'm assuming you are, this is rare. Knowing both throws will help you immensely and definitely give you a leg-up on the competition! Secondly, you're open minded enough to seek the opinions of more experienced players, which will without a doubt make you a better player quickly and give you a leg-up on your competition (if you care about that). Anyway, on with the critique...
I think disc throwing is broken down to a few main components, which I'll use in describing your throw:

Disc selection- Based on what I see in the videos and the fact I am assuming you're fairly new to the game, I think you should be using less stable (i.e. straighter flying), lighter plastic. To give you an idea, the Banshee and Wraith, especially at 175 grams, would be equivalent to the most overstable discs I throw. I think this is true for most Pro players. Switching to lighter, less stable discs will be frustrating at first, as you'll probably flip them badly, but in the long run they'll improve your form, control, and arm speed or overall power. If you're an Innova thrower I would recommend the Valkyrie, which I should add is very similar in flight to our own Helios but a bit slower. I hear the Monarch is a nice fast, straight disc too, but haven't tried it myself. Sidearm throws often require a slightly more stable disc. I'd say a Tee-bird is a good match to the Valkyrie in terms of sidearm-backhand counterparts. Secondly, my advice on weight is don't be afraid of light plastic. Most of the distance records have been set with discs in the 160s, many of which are DX plastic quality. I like throwing 150 class once in a while just to keep things clean in my throw. In short, my recommendation of discs is light weight, straight to understable (i.e. a straight finish in the flight), of DX plastic quality.
Grip- What grips do you use? This is very important. At the very least it should be firm, but not to the extent where your arm is really tense. www.kenclimo.com has some good notes on grip, and I know that the best players in the world use his grip. For sidearm grips the same goes in terms of firmness, but there are a couple of widely used grips. Google the two finger grip. World Champ Nate Doss has a good sidearm, and I think he talks about it in a video on www.Discraft.com.
Mindset- Stay relaxed in your thoughts. Think about a smooth release and most importantly picture in your mind's eye the flight of your shot and imagine how the throw will feel. Most importantly, don't tense up with thoughts such as "I'm gonna hammer this drive out there". A good thought would be "I'm gonna smooth a shot out there that's gonna glide forever". Looking at your videos you seem nice and relaxed on your sidearm, but far too tense on your backhand.
Run up- The run up is essential. I've noticed you have a slightly unorthodox last step, which I've only seen a few of the oldschool players use. If it works for you then go with it, however, keep in mind that the purpose of the cross over step is to facilitate the reach back. Secondly, the steps need to be fluid and most importantly balanced.
Reach back- The reach back ultimately determines the distance you create to generate arm speed. It's widely accepted that the longer your reach back the faster your arm speed will be at the release point. This should explain the purpose behind the turnaround throws used by distance competitors or why guys with long arms seem to throw the furthest. At the same time, the farther you reach back the less control you have and the more you turn your eyes and body away from the target. This said, it looks to me that you could reach a little further back in your sidearm shot, but you may be reaching too far back in your backhand. Ultimately, you need to find a comfortable balance here which yields good results in terms of distance and accuracy.
Arm acceleration- Without slowing your videos down or seeing you in person I can't say much about this other than to give you some general rules of thumb here: When coming through the throw I always think of generating speed with my arm as apposed to throwing hard. Speed is a product of arm, shoulder, and back strength, but it's also affected by how close your arms are to your body. I've often heard this point likened to a figure skater in a spin. When they pull their arms in they spin much faster. This said, your throwing arm should come quite close across you chest, while your non-throwing arm should be tucked against your body. Achieving both is most possible for a backhand throw, which I think is the main reason for it generally being the further throw of the two styles. Secondly, the throwing arm should swing through on a nice level plane. Think of this in terms of swinging a baseball bat and trying to eliminate "holes" in the swing, which are dips deviating from the level plane. In both of your throws I see dips, which you should try to eliminate. This can be helped by shadow throwing (mock throws without a disc), working on swinging your arm nice and flat throughout.
Release- A clean release determines distance and accuracy equally. This is largely dependant on a good grip with the right grip pressure. I find thinking nice relaxed, positive, calm thoughts about a smooth throw and what I want my throw to look and feel like instinctively tells my body when to release the disc when I actually throw it. For me harnessing this thought process is key. If I'm too amped up and determined I cling on to my drives, whereas if I'm too calm and relaxed I release too early. Somewhere in between I am perfect. In words I'd describe this as: relaxed, flowing thoughts of heightened awareness. Everything should be smooth. On a different note, it is generally accepted that a hyzer release with a disc that will flip up to flat or perform an 'S' shaped flight provides the longest flight. In both throws your release appears to be slightly anhyzer, which I imagine has developed from throwing overstable discs. This is something you might consider working on and strongly relates to disc selection as I mentioned before.
Follow through- This refers to how your body carries through after release. Not only does this encourage greater arm speed through the release, but it also prevents injury due to a jerking stop to the throwing motion. From what I see you have a good follow through, but you could work to exaggerate it even more. Doing so will only help your distance and prevent injury as you become a stronger thrower. The key to good arm speed relating to a follow through is turning your hips as your arm comes through the throw. All of the best throwers have an exaggerated follow through.

I don't know what else to say. It seems like I've said a lot but the truth is, throwing discs is a very dynamic motion which can take a lifetime to master. Honestly, I think very few people have. Just keep working on your technique and watch better throwers closely. I think the throw analysis videos at www.discgolfreview.com are a great resource too. Lastly, there's no substitute for practice, which entails going to an open field and throwing a ton! Anyway, good luck. I hope I've helped...

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Comment by Terry "the Pirate" Calhoun on January 15, 2009 at 6:18pm
Good lessons in here.

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