The Art of Coaching Youth Ultimate: Catching [Sponsored Preview]

Tools to help players build the fundamentals catches.

The following is a preview of Elevate Ultimate‘s book, “The Art of Coaching Youth Ultimate.” If you like what you read, consider buying the kindle or paperback edition! To buy it, and for other free resources, visit their website. There have been only small modifications applied for formatting and style.

Chapter 21 – Catching

Catching is often the first skill kids feel confident doing, which is likely why coaches often fail to explain why we catch a certain way. “Why do I need to catch with my left hand when I can catch really well on my left side with my right hand?” It’s a great question that you should be able to answer with ease to motivate your athletes to learn new skills.

Catching Styles

Below are the most common types of catches and their applications.

Pancake / Crocodile Catch

The most common style of catching. Using two hands, you ‘high five’
yourself with the disc in the middle.

Pros: Safest, easiest catch and typically the most familiar for people.

Cons: Needs to be in the right spot to be caught this way. Sometimes can
be blocked because the disc is close to the catcher’s body.

Crab Catch

A great two-handed catch to attack the disc up high, down low, or out in front.

Pros: Harder to defend when the receiver is able to attack the disc they’re catching. Easier to catch high or low compared to the pancake.

Cons: More likely to drop this when the receiver is learning. Harder to catch in the wind.

One-Handed Catch

Thumbs high or low depending on where the disc is. You try to get your hand ‘behind’ where the disc is going rather than stabbing at it.

Pros: The athlete can stretch out farther when the disc is out to the side.

Cons: They are more likely to drop it at first. Athletes will avoid using their non-dominant hand at all costs. Break them of this habit.

Common Errors and Corrections

Athlete X keeps pancake-dropping the disc. They’re cutting super well and getting open but as soon as the disc gets into their wheelhouse — plop — on the ground it goes. What is going on? What are some cues or things you can do to increase their likelihood of catching and not giving up or getting frustrated?

  1. Often the athlete is legitimately not watching their hand or disc. They may be looking straight at the thrower and aren’t properly tracking the disc. Tell them to make eye contact with the disc all the way into their hands.
  2. They keep using their dominant hand even when it’s on the other side. Tell them to hold their arms out wide, then have them reach with their opposite side to see how far they can go. Then have them do that with the correct side. They will see that the correct side will go way farther.
  3. An athlete is ‘in their own head’. Everyone is different, but often all they need is some supportive sideline chat focusing on the things they are doing well or the things that they can do in that moment. Once they are off the field, do not tell them they dropped it (spoiler alert: they know). Grab a disc, throw some passes to them, allow them the space and time to ‘get it back’, and then positively reinforce them in some way.

Your Turn – Improve Your Team’s Catching

Scenario: Your team consistently gets blocked when they’re trying to catch the disc. Whenever the athletes are running to catch a disc, they stop to ensure they can pancake it. It’s the safest catch for them and the one they’re most comfortable with. You note that this is something to work on for the next practice.

Next Practice: You are doing a pretty basic drill. There is throwing, a small out-and-under cut, and then a catch while running.

  1. What would you focus on in this drill?
  2. How would you communicate that when explaining the drill? What would you say to the athletes to ensure they understand the goal and are comfortable trying?
  3. How would you give feedback to them during and after the drill?

Being able to answer the questions above will help you set your team up to learn the skill and transfer it into games.

This is how Elevate would run that drill (yours could be different, and even better!):

“Hey everyone, great game yesterday. I really loved how everyone was trying to use their safest catching style when trying to get the disc. That’s very smart. Today I want to push us to step outside of our comfort zones a little bit. What’s one way you think we could do that with regards to catching?….. Great! Catching with our arms extended. Anything else? Awesome… running while we catch. Cool. I think that’s a great place to start.

In this next drill, I really want everyone to focus on running through the disc as fast as you can. I want you to try to see if you can actually run faster as you’re trying to catch. I do not care at all if you drop it. I just want to see how fast you can go! Sound good? Alright let’s give it a go!”

Catching may be the most basic skill in ultimate, but it provides a world of opportunities to work on a growth mindset and resilience.

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