Wednesday, May 24, 2006

junk throws

Bane, or boon? Bad fundamentals, or a nuanced grasp of advanced concepts?

By junk throw, I mean anything that if a rookie threw away, he’d be immediately benched or cut. Depending on your environment, it could be a push pass, lefty backhand, or a thumber, or possibly a scoober, backhand to the forehand side, or hammer. It’s “If you throw that again, you’ll never play in this town again” throws. It’s “What the hell are you thinking?” throws. You get the picture.

(For that matter, it can also be one-handed catches, claw catches, and gratuitous layouts or failure to lay out.)

We all grew up with conventional wisdom about what works and doesn’t work. Someone recently mentioned to me how a younger player was complaining about why they were playing force middle, and this guy said, “A few years ago, we used to call that ‘defense’.” Things change. Sometimes the old strategy was a sound one but new strategies were built to adapt, other times the old strategy was a bad one that just happened to be the best one available at the time, and occasionally the old strategy was the best one but players just wanted to try something different. The point is that the favored strategy becomes “the right way to play” and is never again critically examined to see whether it makes sense.

So it is with some throws, too. I’m seeing more push passes these days, and we had a discussion last fall about lefty backhands. I’m prepared to say that these are acceptable throws, with the followings caveats:
  • Don’t fall in love with the throw.
  • Don’t use it to show off. I’m still ticked at some CU punk on Bravo who went out of his way to throw a thumber huck against us in the finals of Colorado Cup last year when they were up by 4.
  • Don’t throw it because you don’t want to make the effort to try another throw.
  • Be able to justify why you threw it instead of another throw.

The justification will be different in ultimate than it is in goaltimate, where quick decisions and creative throws are more necessary, and the cost of an incompletion is much less.

So, think of the push pass as a sand wedge or as a rescue club. Most of us should consider these as specialty clubs tailor-built for specific situations where our normal clubs might not work well. Just don't use them off the tee.


Edward Lee said...

Lefty (off-handed) backhands?

Is it really that hard for elite club players to throw a steady 5-yard flick?

parinella said...

Well, that's the question, isn't it? If anything, the better player is the more likely one to throw these junk throws, since he realizes that it's difficult to get much touch on the 5 yard flick, and the off-handed backhand can be easy to execute.

If you prefer, consider instead a backhand dump on the flick side. Junk throw or not? If you can get it off without getting blocked, it's a better throw.

Anonymous said...

It is not really about a player's ability to throw a steady flick. The lefty backhand can be used as a quick break throw on the goaline that often catches markers off guard and is almost less dangerous than the standard invert. This throw seemed very popular with certain Condors a couple years back.

pgw said...

> Lefty (off-handed) backhands?

> Is it really that hard for elite club
> players to throw a steady 5-yard
> flick?

First of all, for a pretty large number of players - even elite players - the answer is yes. Secondly, the two throws serve different purposes. Can you throw a high-release, inside-out flick - of any distance? If so, you're a better man than I.

The off-hand backhand is valuable largely for two situations, both of which are very common, hence its usefulness. First, throwing dumps against a mark who's forcing you (on-handed) backhand when you are facing upfield. Once you turn to the dump, if he heads behind the mark (now forcing you sort of forehand-ish) and the mark effectively cuts off your regular backhand, you'll want to be able to throw some kind of touchy pass from the other side of your body that's either flat or inside-out. Pretty challenging flick, very easy lefty backhand. The second situation is basically the same but facing upfield - space throws to the front of the stack when the force is forehand. Can be an easy goal-scoring throw, a high-stall bailout, or a way to jump-start the offense with an initial break. Again, few have an inside-out forehand with enough touch on it to make this a reliable throw, while it is easy to develop such an off-hand backhand. Also, it comes from a different release point, and if the mark is all up on you with his hands low, it's a simple matter to reach over his shoulder and throw this pass uncontested. A few people can do this with a high-release flick, but most find that a much more difficult throw.

In general, my feeling on "junk throws": throw them once you have developed them to the point where they're no longer junk for you. Brand new players probably shouldn't be throwing hammers - or maybe even forehands. Experienced players often have perfectly reliable push passes, lefties, blades, scoobers, etc. and should use them when appropriate. Some (e.g. Parker, and I'm sure he was the "CU punk") even have pretty damn good, and reliable, thumbers.

Of course, this doesn't answer the question of when such throws are appropriate. It'll be different depending on the the setting. At club nationals, yeah, don't use it to show off and don't do it unless you really are sure it was the best decision in terms of risk/reward given the situation. At a non-series tournament, you need to use your own judgment and consider whether your team will approve. I think a little pushing of the envelope is justified if you are truly developing your skills for future, more important games -- that is, if you actually think you might be carrying that throw in your bag come Regionals, you are going to have to throw it in some game situations prior thereto to know for sure how good an idea it is. If you're just fucking around, though - probably best to save it for Potlatch. Still, if your team doesn't mind, I don't think you owe your opponents any favors. Showing off and pissing off your opponents aren't necessarily evil.

luke said...

i'm kind of partial to the 'off hand' back hand dump... it's nice to be able to shield the throw with the body, and if it's down wind... and really short... well you get the idea... and... ahem... the really short righty pusher (i'm lefty)... down theline is a favorite... it seems like a pivot on the goal line leads to a good ole' fashioned tackling by the mark... where the pusher is ignored until too late... i should stop before i get to my love of the off hand thumber...

Idris said...

The problem with the emergence of various throws is that it has happened to the detriment of other basic throws. I know many college kids who throw more off hand backhands (and feel more comfortable with them it seems), than short forehands. Even when a forehand is the correct throw. But they never developed the required forehand.

And while they can be effective, its only as you play more that you understand just how specialized each throw is (sand wedge).

Most people teach forehand and backhand, maybe hammer... anything after that, you're on your own. What needs to happen is all throws (lefty, righty, push-pass, scoobers, etc) need to become part of the normal education of a player, so that you (the coach, teacher, teammate, friend) can qualify the when and where of these throws.

Left to their own, players find that, "wow, I can just throw a little high release over this guy's head... no need to step out, get low, be balanced", or "jeez, just tossing a scoober over the marker is much easier to break the mark". Not knowing how this approach will backfire later on.

There is no reason to not develope your off hand's ability to throw some, just don't let it happen at the expense of your dominant hand. Same with a good scoober/high release/etc. Just not at the expense of solid "traditional" throws.

Throwers gotta Throw said...

I seem to remember a number of Kaos guys who would toss that lefty backhand over your shoulder for a break, and there are a large number of players who use the scoober very effectively.

There are times when I've thrown things that I had never even considered before in game situations. Including, but not limited to: Lefty backhand, hip-height scoober, 4 finger flick, pinchy backhand and others that I don't even recall. I think what it boils down to is that you see space X and need to get the disc there at time Y on path Z. Your brain then tells you what you need to throw to get it there. More often than not it is a flick or backhand. Sometimes it is a scoober/hammer. And then there's the "other" category. Some players let themselves throw these oddities, some players work on them to be more prepared, and some ignore them entirely.

Personally, whatever gets the disc there at the right time in a catchable manner is obviously the right throw.

Tarr said...


Firstly, of course, you're right that Parker was the "punk" in question. I'm pretty sure he would throw that on double game point, too. Maybe he shouldn't, but he would. When I saw the cut, I knew what was going to happen.

As for your two scenarios - the first one also applies to a forehand force if the dump cuts upfield toward the force-side passing lane. And in addition to the advantages you note, you shield the disc from the marker, like Luke said.

But this throw only works if the marker "stays home" on the upfield throws, and doesn't rotate around to contest the dump. If they do that, then you are forced to pivot and break just like against a trapping mark, generally by throwing a traditional extended righty backhand. (Or you can turn around and look for something upfield, but that's asking for trouble.)

This begs the question, though - why not just pivot out and throw a righty backhand every time? Honestly, is the pivot that big of a deal? I always teach players to address the dump with their hips (a far more general bit of advice than "face your marker"), at which point pivoting out to throw the backhand is hardly any additional time/effort at all. So, personally, it's very rare for me to be in the situation where I wish I had a better lefty backhand. (Not never, just rarely.)

As for your second scenario, I'm having trouble figuring out what you mean. I have a hard time imagining how I can break the mark upfield with a lefty backhand without pivoting off my right foot. Is that (pivoting like a lefty) the suggestion? If so, that severely limits the usefulness of the throw, and I don't see how it could be a "high stall bailout" as I will generally have pivoted sometime in the first 5 seconds of the count.

parinella said...

Personally, whatever gets the disc there at the right time in a catchable manner is obviously the right throw.
Yes, but you have to be careful with how you interpret that, because it leads to "if it's caught, it worked". I'd add "and if you are sure you could do it again the next time."

Idris, most coaches probably can't describe sufficiently the when and where, either because it's too complicated to describe or simply because they don't know, so they give strict rules like "no high backhands" or "no hammers."

Luke, on the thumber in question, it may have been the best choice, but he was planning on throwing it even if no one cut. It was a walk-in on an OB pull, he looked only at the end zone, he threw it despite not having a good cut, and he laughed about it. (In fairness, I think many of his team were displeased.) And while he's free to throw it, I'm also free to use it as bulletin board material, and to spike it in his face if I could pick him out of a lineup, if it were in me. I know that I have thrown non-optimal passes just because I could, back when I could, but the timing of this one seemed inappropriate to me (possibly only because it was against my team).

Wow, all these West Coast responses. I guess next time I ought to write about the 70 yard inside out huck when my guy appears to have 1/10 of a step on his defender. That ought to satisfy you all.

Idris said...

Jim, that't the point. Coaching/Teaching needs to catch up with the throws people use. "Don't do it" doesn't cut it. Players like "throwers gotta throw", who are playing for what I can only assume are some 2nd or 3rd tier teams, need guidance. That's why we're here.

Tarr, I've seen Parker throw that thing a zillion times, never once during a point that mattered.

Edward Lee said...


In pgw's first scenario, it seems like the marker is standing closer to 9 o'clock than to 10:30, which would almost completely take away the righty backhand. I think I agree that an inside-out lefty backhand would work here, although I would be unhappy that the dump is set up such that the only cut is into the marker's dead zone (assuming I am interpreting this correctly).

In the second scenario (which I think anonymous also mentioned), it seems like the throw being described is quickly thrown over the marker's shoulder without a pivot. However, I think it would be hard to throw this inside-out without clocking the marker in the jaw. It seems like it is more likely to float outside-in and give the defender a shot at the D. I'm not quite sure why the scoober isn't better here.

Throwers gotta Throw said...

Assume whatever you like.

Jim's point about having a result be easily replicated is valid and important. That being said, situations arise where the throw that needs to be made is not something that you have practiced a thousand times over. My point is that you should not feel constrained by the notion of something being a standard throw. How effectively you improvise when presented with a non-standard situation helps determine how dangerous you are as a thrower.

If your throw results in a relatively easy completion which puts your teammate in a strong position to complete the next damaging pass, you have done your job well, regardless of what you threw.

Anonymous said...

Good topic and discussion that I think covers all of the valuable aspects of the lefty backhand. I'm just curious Jim, did you really not have a discussion about the merits of the lefty backhand until last year? We started practicing this throw 10 years ago after we learned it from Kaye Nakae who had been throwing lefty backhands for 10 years before that. For someone who wrote the book on advanced concepts, it sure took you awhile to grasp this one. :)

pgw said...

Tarr --

Ed's got it, the lefty inside-out is thrown without a pivot. Instead, you either stay still or step out with the right foot. Not too hard to keep it flat or IO.

For the dump scenario, you keep the mark from rotating too far around toward 12:00 by sealing him off with your hips when you square to the dump. And if you can do this effectively, then you WANT your dump going behind the mark -- not because it makes it an easier throw, but because it gives him the disc in a more dangerous position.

Anonymous said...

i've had a couple of conversations with a couple of very respectable duders on bravo, in regards to parker's thumber. Idris is correct in that it is never thrown during a point that matters or would potentially cost his team the game. tarr, i'd take your bet that he throws it on double game point and bet he doesn't. course, that depends if it's at GRUB or ECC too. hell, even then, parker loves winning and he won't be the goat to throw a thumber huck because the fans love it, but still cost him a victory. in fact, because the fans love it is why he throws it when it's not a big point.

having a conversation with a couple of his teammates - mid point i should add - there is an air of frustration cause they know it's for entertainment value and maybe even to show up an opponent, but with a very low completion rate. don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful throw to watch, but i'm always happy to see it get dorked or fall helplessly to the turf below. and everytime parker has ever thrown that against us, i tyr to remind of of the great decision he just made...always returned with a smile. and i'll have to admit, i'm entertained a bit by the throw as well as a player cause the completion percentages are so low that should it get caught, it's better than exciting.

so, on the topic of junk throws, when does such a junk throw become a more 'taunting' throw to your opponent? and does it really cross any sportsmanship or spirit boundaries? duders spike all the time after a big catch and sure there a a few who take exception. is a junk throw really any different? personally, i'm not sure it is. i figure the thrower of these junk throws realizes the consequences of such a throw, and perhaps if they don't and can't make the most basic throws when called upon, you can figure they won't be on a roster long. for a player like parker, he makes those essential throws with regularity and therefore, feels like it's alright to entertain himself, fans, perhaps even opponents from time to time. i'd guess that, though a push pass up the line isn't as glamorous as the full-field thumber, there is something more to the throw than 'i have this throw and it's absolutely the best decision at this time'. i think there's a thought of if completed, a message being sent to the opponent along the lines of 'oh yeah, that's kind of how easy it is for me right now'.

again, i'm not trying to say that that makes it right or wrong (though i have expressed my opinion i suppose), but i think it adds to the dynamic of the game. then again, i'm not someone who really has junk throws, or looks to play that kind of headgame with an opponent (though i attempt to do this in other aspects of my game). is it acceptable to pull out a junk throw earlier or later in a game? should it matter what the score is? was will deaver being a prick when he nutmegged tommy in palm springs so many years ago, then caught the score and gave us his best high-step routine?


Marshall said...

It says something that the off-hand backhand is getting so much play in this thread: it's almost not a junk throw, at least in certain situations. Though I have been yelled at by one person who seemed to think that the unexpected spin might cause a drop. That said, in most cases where a "junk" throw is an acceptable throw, it also doesn't draw the same attention to itself. Even traditional throws can be used in junk ways, and in those cases they also tend to draw attention to themselves. I bet most of the throws I've seen from tryouts begging to be cut were backhands...

Tarr said...

Ed/pete, I get what you're saying about the backhand dump. My point was that the vast majority of the time, I could face my dump (say, hips pointing toward 5:30 or 6:00 from an upfield perspective), pivot by stepping to my left, and throw a righty backhand. If the mark was at 9:00 or 10:30, he's now on the opposite side of me from my release point (around 4:00). I'm not saying this works every time (which is why I don't always not regret not having a good lefty backhand dump) but it does work most of the time.

As for the second scenario, I agree with Ed. Unless the marker is selling out on high backhands and scoobers, I don't see the point.

dar/Idris, I'll concede the point that maybe Parker lays off that throw in the big games. My expectation in that moment was probably colored by the fact that Parker had already had a lot of turnovers in that game.

Anonymous said...

The push pass is not a junk throw when used in the right situation, eg on the goal line with a cutter sprinting towards you ahead of his man.

Great thread, and the golf analogy is strong...

pgw said...

Tarr -

Re the dump, I think we're talking about different field position situations, or your team's dumps set up and cut differently than the ones I've played with. What I'm talkin' 'bout (turns out that's only shorter to say, not to type) is you have the disc in the middle of the field, being forced backhand, and then you turn to face your dump who is set up behind you on the open side, and he starts heading behind the mark. Even if the mark rotates around pretty substantially, I can't picture throwing an around backhand, at least not until your dump has run WAY behind the mark and maybe even upfield some. At which point ... stall?

And for the second scenario I would much rather throw something IO than something around the mark. Gets there quicker, doesn't typically end up as close to the sideline, sets up the next break better, doesn't tend to float as much and maybe get D'd ... Ask yourself: if the mark were reversed (i.e. force backhand) and you wanted to throw to the front guy in the stack on the break side, would you ever throw an around flick? Of course not, you'd throw an inside-out backhand right off his left hip.

Anonymous said...

Hey this is that CU PUNK who threw a thumber against you in the Colorado Cup finals. I have two things to way about that. The first is this, I didn't mean any disrespect to you or your team by doing that. I got a little carried away with the crowd on our home court and played to the audience a little. I have the deepest found respect growing up watching DOG kick some ass, so I am sorry you misinterpreted my intentions.

The second is this, SUCK IT Jim. Don't call me a punk because I threw a thumber. I am a spirited player in the game of ultimate, ask around. You don't know me, so don't judge me. A punk to me is someone who talks poorly about someone without knowing who they are. So deal with it, Punk.

Parker Krug #19 Johnny Bravo

parinella said...


Fair enough. I apologize for calling you a punk based on one throw.

Idris said...

Don't buy it Jim, he is a punk. There's a reason all his friends call him "Fudge Parker".

Oh wait... or is it just me?

Maybe I'm his only friend? Maybe he has no friends? I'm confused.

Anonymous said...

I started a team at a small college. In our first season we went to a tournament with 9 players, 1 was a girl, 1 had a bad knee, and one is 5'8 220+ lbs (not real fast) and 2 were playing in their first tournament ever and were not from our team.

In the second round, we ended up against a club team from KC. We were already tired and they kicked our butts. By the second half they were calling throws (thumber, hammer, scoober, push) from the sideline. Final score 13-0. While I felt like a loser (because we just lost) we managed to have a fun time getting our butts kicked by junk throws. After the game they made their players who had mistakes run "The Gauntlet" which involved jumping a camp chair while the rest of us threw discs at their head.

We won the spirit award for that tourney. It was fun.

This is not relevant to the conversation, but a mildly entertaining story nonetheless. My apologies for the degradation away from a truly meaningful conversation regarding throwing techniques and practices.

Bobus said...

One man's junk is another man's gold:

Salt on the wounds... What was the score when this throw was made?

I think Jim touched upon an interesting point worthy of another thread. How will the game evolve? For example, will no look passes become a regular occurrence in some future?

There's a 15 year-old in our local league who makes some of the most "instinctive" throws I've seen. Just last weekend, I witnessed a play where he was being forced back-hand. He threw what appeared to be a regular back-hand, but at the end of the throw, he snapped his wrist at this awkward angle, throwing a perfect pass to a teammate who was standing 30 yards behind his mark, breaking his defender completely and drawing lots of "oohs" and "aaahs" from the crowd.

I wonder how this new generation of players, born with a disc in their hand, will innovate and change the game?

Dan said...

"I wonder how this new generation of players, born with a disc in their hand, will innovate and change the game?"

To be honest, I find it incredibly exciting. If you look at football (sorry, soccer for you lot) then you've only got to witness the sheer beauty of Brazilian tricksters to want to play yourself. I see no reason why the same shouldn't occur in Ultimate. At the end of the day, we play sports for the love of the game, not for the love of winning. If you can throw a trick-throw without too much risk, then why not chuck it in every now and again?

While I'm 99% behind the 'safety first' mentality, there is that 1% screaming out for more junk throws, which can captivate the crowd. Surely we want kids to watch our games, see something neat, and spend hours trying to do it for themselves...

Jake said...

I have only been in Ultimate for about a year now, so I am what you would call an inexperienced player. I am a handler and love the forehand but I use "trick throws" often.

When I firsted started playing I only faked the thumber and scubber to break the mark, and it worked... for about two games. Now I have to toss in the thumber or scubber so the mark/D will fall for the fake later. (We have a small Ultimate community and I end up playing the same people regularly)

While I still resort to forehand and a pivot for most situtations, I can use trick tosses to get to a dumb, or go through/over the mark.

Trick tosses have there place, changing it up helps to break the defense. Obviously don't sqeezing these tosses between defenders though.