Throwing Tips For Tryouts, Presented By SAVAGE

Throwing is going to be one of the most important parts of any tryout. Are you doing enough to get your throws ready before trying out for an elite team?

Nick Lance throws a backhand in the 2014 South Central Regional final.
Johnny Bravo’s Nick Lance. Photo by Daniel Thai —

This post is sponsored by SAVAGE Ultimate. Ultiworld was compensated for writing it, but all opinions are 100% those of the author. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Ultiworld possible!

When you’re getting ready for tryouts, it’s important to get your throwing sharp. Whether you are a handler or a defensive role player, you might be feeling anxious about your throws if you’re stepping up and trying out for a more competitive team than you have in the past. Here’s a few important considerations and ideas to keep in mind with your throws:

Scout the Team

It’s really important to have an idea for how the team operates. Particularly, what is the offensive structure? Is it Sockeye’s small ball or Ironside’s big lane cutting? The bulk of your effort should be practicing the throws that you will expect to use the most; for a handler-heavy offence this means quick decision-making, lots of resets and short, sharp throws. For a team of big lane cutters it means being able to throw further, putting the disc into space earlier.

Equally, what are their defensive looks? Scandal’s lane-clogging poaches, or the physical grinding person defence of Riot? You can expect to see these same defences at tryouts, so devote time to the throws that will get you out of jail. Look at video of them playing and work out where they get most blocks from. If the team relies on hard person D to generate blocks, make sure you have the right receiver, matchup, and level of separation when you throw in scrimmages at tryouts. If they get Ds from poaching the lanes, you can’t just assume someone will be open in under space that is usually there in league play. Containing defences will try to frustrate opponents into eventually taking poor choices, and you’ll need to be ready to be patient and deliberate. Likewise, watch how other elite teams have tackled these defences and try to replicate the movements and throws that were most successful. Half of the battle is positioning, so set up your cuts to get yourself into the right spaces to make throwing easier.

Get In Throwing Practice

The more touches, the better. Confidence must be high going into tryouts. It helps to be prepared for the main areas you expect to be tested on, so try to identify a few key areas that you think you’re likely to see at tryouts. For argument’s sake, let’s say they are:

  1. Sideline resets
  2. Long throws
  3. Quick release throws

You’ll want to get extra practice on those three areas since you know they figure to be a big part of (most) team’s offences. Still, be prepared to be thrown a curve ball. Nothing says “unprepared” more than an athlete who turns up to tryouts expecting to show off a huge flick bomb but who is incapable of adjusting to a lane poaching defence. It is for this reason that getting some gameplay — any gameplay, at any level — is useful. Mini, goaltimate, pick-up, whatever. You want throwing practice, so the more touches, the better.


Now you’ve established the key situations that you think you’re going to need to deal with, you have to analyse your own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s say that you’re really confident with your ability to get the disc off the line, and also confident with your long backhands. You’re far more concerned with your ability to keep the disc moving quickly, particularly with a flick, and also worried about your longer forehands. So these are the throws to focus on. Devote at least 50% of your time to the key weaknesses, and use the other 50% for generic throwing (why not use an established throwing regimen like KFT or Zen throwing?)

Find another player to help you; they don’t have to be a world expert in throwing mechanics, just getting some feedback from another player is extremely valuable. For example, is the disc going too high on your deep throws? Look for the player leaning back during the release, or the disc being tilted up during release. It can be hard to tell that when you’re throwing, and much easier for a throwing partner to provide. To practice your quick release throws, get used to catching and throwing. Toss the disc up to yourself, then catch and get into a throwing position ASAP. Balance is key, so it’s better to increase the speed slowly but surely than to just rush through the motion with no control.

There’s no space in this article to go over every possible throw you might want to work on, but by identifying your problem areas as accurately as possible, you should be able to understand how to replicate that scenario. For example, if your forehand technique is generally fine without a mark but you struggle with a mark, then you should focus on throwing with a mark, and with a realistic pivot and fake first.

But it’s tryouts… shouldn’t I try to refine what I’ve got and ditch the rest?” Should you just hide what you don’t have? Absolutely. During tryouts, you want to shine. But becoming a world-class thrower is only possible if you engage in a process of continual improvement. Any time that you’re engaged in structured throwing, you should be working on your weaknesses. Always. When you’re scrimmaging in the period before tryouts, take the approach of switching into different ‘modes’ during each point; are you going to be super conservative? Or take on some of the more aggressive throws? Being able to control your temperament is a huge asset.

During tryouts, confidence is crucial. If you make a mistake, the solution is to start small and build your confidence back up. Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances try to recover from one mistake by doing something “special.” If it means catching and throwing dumps for the next two or three throws, fine. Just control what you know you can control: focus on cutting hard, clearing effectively, being a great teammate. Put your mindset back into its usual mode by repeating familiar actions.

Be Realistic

If you’re currently struggling to throw your forehand further than 40 meters with any consistency, then is tryouts the best time to try to throw that flick bomb? No. Categorically not. Sure, there might be a drill which involves throwing a long flick…just aim to throw it early and within your range. A perfectly executed 30 meter flick lead pass might not blow the opposition out of the water, but you’d better believe that the people conducting tryouts would much prefer to see that than a ropey 50 meter throw.

Practice To Build Confidence

Throwing is also largely about confidence. Start small and build up. It’s great to work on increasing the range and consistency of your long forehands. The best way to do this is to begin in a range that you are confident, and where you get consistent results. From this point, slightly increase the range – no more than 5m at a time – by making exactly ZERO changes to your throwing technique.

By far the most common mistake players make is to think that they need to completely alter their throwing mechanics when throwing for distance. Far better to get feedback on what you can already throw – let’s say a 40m flick – and tweak from there. Slightly tighter grip, more relaxed shoulder, bigger follow through, leading with the elbow more…try a few things. What you’re looking for is increased spin and speed. When you establish how to apply that, then look to control it. But only ever use it when you have the control. It’s perfectly legit to spend your off-season working on “new” throws, and only incorporate them into game scenarios once you can throw them consistently.

Maybe Don’t Throw Big

I’ll save the most important point for last. The majority of elite clubs don’t want new players to come into the team to throw ‘big’ – they already have experienced veterans to do that – they want people to come in, work hard, and be safe. Your throwing practice needs to reflect that. If you want to ‘impress’ at tryouts, then do it by showing good decision making by being confident about what you can throw, and knowing what you can’t. Don’t try to be a hero; be a good teammate. Spending a season working as the dump, restricting yourself to throwing swings and resets, is no bad thing! When it comes to selection, knowing that you have two people to choose from, one with consistent short range throws & who rarely turns over, and the other with occasional brilliance but prone to a few turns…it shouldn’t be surprising that most teams will opt for safe options.

Be realistic about what you can consistently achieve and you’ll get noticed for all the right reasons.

For more coaching tips, Flik has a library of detailed drills for ultimate, practice plans and theory to learn more about ultimate. Train Better. Play Better.

  1. Sion "Brummie" Scone

    Sion "Brummie" Scone coached GB Open from 2010-2012, and also coached the GB World Games team in 2013, and the u24 Men in 2018. He has been running skills clinics in the UK and around the world since 2005. He played GB Open 2007-12, and GB World Games 2009. He lives in Birmingham, UK. You can reach him by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@sionscone).

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