Learn to Play – Catch and Throw

This is the first entry of a series to help new Ultimate players learn the basics of the sport. Ultimate is a game of running, catching, and throwing a flying disc, so the first thing to get down pat (assuming you have already learnt how to run) is the best way to catch the disc!

Catching the disc is a key skill to have when playing Ultimate. Because the game is possession focused (you can’t win without scoring points, and you can’t score points without possession of the disc), everyone on the team needs to be able to catch the disc confidently and reliably. The most reliable way to catch the disc is the crocodile catch.

The Crocodile Catch

1. Keep your eye on the disc as it comes towards you. Try to predict how it is going to fly, and run to meet the disc.

2. Open your arms to catch the disc like a crocodile's mouth

  • Keep your elbows close together and in front of you
  • Raise one hand up so that your forearm will stop the disc hitting you in the chest (or nose)

3. As the disc arrives, close your hands together one on top of the other to firmly trap the disc.

A good catch will trap the middle of the disc between your hands making a nice clap sound.

Those are the basics for a good reliable catch, now all you need is some practice and some friendly pointers from your team mates.

crocodile catching
Crocodile catching technique

Once you have caught the disc, the next thing to do is pass it (unless you have just scored in the endzone, in which case you can celebrate by carefully spiking the disc). The first pass to learn is one you will recognise, but will now know as a Backhand.

The Backhand

Backhand grip
Backhand grip

Grip
Grip the disc with your strong hand, with your thumb along the top, and your fingers gripped under the rim. Hold it firmly as this will give you power and control.

Stance
Starting off facing your target, step your right foot (for right handed throwers) across so that you are standing side on to your target, with your feet apart and your right shoulder closest to your target.

Wrist
Draw the disc back in front of you. Cock your wrist like you would if you were about to crack a tea-towel at someone.

Snap and Point
Keeping the disc flat, bring the disc through in front of you towards your target. Snap your wrist to put lots of spin on the disc. You should finish with your throwing arm pointing at your target.

Backhand throw
Backhand technique

The importance of spin
Flying discs don’t move through the air in quite the same way a cricket ball or soccer ball might, but this does not mean they can’t be thrown accurately, even when there is wind about. To help the disc cut through the air and remain steady when throwing, it is important to put spin on the disc. Key things that help put spin on the disc are:

  • A firm grip
  • A short, simple throwing action
  • A strong, controlled snap when releasing the disc

Also known as a sidearm or flick throw, the Forehand is the second important throw to master to have fun playing Ultimate. Once you have mastered the forehand and backhand throws, you will be able to get a good pass away no matter how hard your defender tries to prevent it.

The Forehand

Forehand grip
Forehand grip

Grip
To hold the disc with a forehand grip, first make a two-fingered pistol with your strong hand. Place the disc on top of the gun ‘barrel’ and clamp it in place with your thumb. Your index and middle finger should come to rest on the inside of the disc, with your middle finger leaving a finger-print on the inside rim. Grip the disc firmly using your thumb to clamp it in place.

Stance
Starting facing your target, hold the disc out to your right side (for right handed throwers) between hip and elbow height. With hips and shoulders square, step out with your right foot.

Wrist
If your grip and stance are good, the disc should be tipped away from you. Cock your wrist, bringing your knuckles back towards your forearm.

The Snap
Keeping the disc tipped away from you, lead your elbow into the throw and quickly snap your wrist forward. Be careful not to ‘throw’ the disc, this throw works best when your wrist does most of the work, with a firm clean snap.

Forehand throw
Forehand technique

The importance of spin
As with the backhand, spin helps the disc fly well. And as with the backhand, the key things that help put spin on the disc are:

  • A firm grip
  • A short, simple throwing action
  • A strong, controlled snap when releasing the disc